Sometimes the obscure Bible verses catch our attention in ways that the normal Sunday Church readings don’t.
Jews call the first five books of the Bible the Torah. This document holds within it their people’s history and particularly two books, which speak about how to live and how to worship. There is one specific text in Deuteronomy, which speaks to the people on a campsite about how to conduct themselves.
Deuteronomy 23:9, 12-14
v9 “When you are encamped against your enemies, keep away from everything impure”.
v12-14 “Designate a place outside the camp where you can go to relieve yourself. As part of your equipment have something to dig with, and when you relieve yourself, dig a hole and cover up your excrement. For the LORD your God moves about in your camp to protect you and to deliver your enemies to you. Your camp must be holy, so that he will not see among you anything indecent and turn away from you”.
In ancient Jewish times God’s people would move from place to place in their canvas homes, going to war with the surrounding settlements, representing their God, ‘YHVH’ (personal name for God). When the sun went down, they would sit around campfires singing praises to YHVH and telling stories of what God had done for their nation and how he had created the world. These campsites would become their family and their home from the time they went to war until they arrived safely home. In all reality these camps would become the Jewish peoples life, it was all that they knew.
God understood the camp to be a place that was holy and the surrounding area to be unholy. These people represented YHVH and the text says that YHWH chose to move about the camp with his people and expected the camp to have a high level of cleanliness.
God said your camp is holy, so keep it holy. Don’t have anything in your camp, which would offend me and make me turn my eyes away from you. Don’t have anything in your camp which will damage my relationship with you to the point where I will not be able to protect you from all that the world wants to throw at you.
The message is “If you need to relieve yourself, don’t do it in the place YHVH moves, do it in the place where essentially other gods move.” God said take your shovel, dig a hole and leave your filth there.
In all my life I have never come across anyone who chose to go back to the toilet to have another look at his or her filth. This is why God says go outside the camp and leave your filth behind, coming back into the camp pure and holy. God wanted their filth to be a past event and not a present reality.
Are you starting to realise that this is confession language?
The bible was obviously given to us in written form but within it there are these wonderful images of how faith works out in practice.
Keep your camp, your life, holy as YHVH is holy so that he can move freely in all that you do. And when you need to dump your filth, those things that you carry which will offend YHVH, go to a place where you can dump your waste and leave it behind. It’s a past event so dump it.
What do you have in your camp that offends God; what do you need to dump?
Have you ever found yourself confessing your darkest sins and then, days later, going back over the path you have already trodden and picking up past filth and starting to lump it around all over again.
God says bury it, leave it, and never return.
Why not sit for a moment and write down all the things, which you know offend God. The things of the present and the things of your past, those private deep things you try and hide from yourself. Maybe you feel like you need to write down bits of your personality that just aren’t from God, the lust for authority, the yearning to be seen as someone who knows best, someone who knows everything. Don’t rush this process because some of our filth runs deep.
Now go and bury it. Find a spot where no one will ever dig it up and bury it. Use the edge of your garden or even in a graveyard but, for your sake, bury it! The burying is a symbol of where our sins go.
The reason we can be forgiven of our sins isn’t because we have buried a bit of paper but because of Jesus who died on the cross.
Galatians 5 tells us that it is for freedom from our filth that Christ has set us free. Therefore stand firm. Do not let yourselves be troubled again by the burden of that sin.
Can I hear an Amen?