Fit for God – Leviticus 11-15

How can anyone be fit for God? The Bible has much to say about how we’re unfit to approach him and how we can be changed. Leviticus chapters 11 to 15 speak about the many things in normal life that would make you unclean. Last time we looked at what it meant for someone in ancient Israel to be “unclean” – and why it matters.

Uncleanness cut you off from community and from God.

  • If you were unclean, you weren’t fit to approach God.
  • If you were clean, you could approach with sacrifices.
  • Israel’s great gift was access to God – and uncleanness cut you off from community and from God.

But when you read Chapters 11 to 15 you find that the things that made someone unclean seem pretty weird (to us). You might be pretty pleased that you don’t have to avoid church because you’re on your period or have eczema. You might be really pleased you can eat a bacon buttie.

But understanding what these laws actually represent does have an impact on how you live today. What you have for lunch, even.

These notes accompany a sermon on YouTube and you can find others in the series in our Sermon Index.

What was unclean?

In Leviticus 10:8-11, God told Aaron the High Priest that he was to teach the people the difference between clean and unclean, and holy and common.

  • Everything is either holy (belonging to God’s presence) or common
  • Common things are either clean (fit to be brought to God) or unclean (unfit to be brought to God)

Sin and sin’s pollution leads you towards uncleanness and death. Sacrifice and worship leads you towards cleanness and God. Aaron was to teach this stuff. So, in Chapters 11-15, God first taught Aaron clean & unclean.

Food laws

In Leviticus 11, all kinds of animals, birds, insects and fish are labelled ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ as food.

  • E.g. clean: “any animal that has completely split hooves and chews the cud”, “anything from the water if it has both fins and scales”, “all kinds of locusts”, many birds
  • E.g. unclean: “the camel”, “Any marine animal that does not have both fins and scales”, “falcons of all kinds, ravens of all kinds”.


In Leviticus 12, we see that a woman would be unclean after childbirth – the amount of time varied whether she had given birth to a boy or a girl.

Skin disease

In Leviticus 13 & 14, there’s a lot said about uncleanness from having a skin disease – anything from a mild skin complaint to something like leprosy. And that idea extended to mould on the walls of your home too.

Bodily emissions

And then Leviticus 15 lists all sorts of bodily emissions like sex and monthly periods that made someone unclean.

Some of these things were fairly minor and your uncleanness might last to the end of the day when you’d wash and be clean. You’d have to self-isolate while you were unclean though.

Other things were more serious and possibly life-threatening (leprosy, even childbirth) and they required sacrifices to be offered to be declared clean again. Serious leprosy got you expelled from the camp, cut off from community and (therefore) from approaching God.

Some New Testament examples

In the New Testament, Jesus met various people like this.

  • He met lepers, cut off from society and community (Mark 1:40-44).
  • He met a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years, unclean and cut off for 12 years (Mark 5:24-34).
  • Philip met an Ethopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40) – his physical disfigurement would have kept him away from Tabernacle worship even as a convert to Israel.

Why were these things unclean?

Some people think the laws are just arbitrary, put in place by God to show how his people are to separate from the other nations. Many people speak about “wholeness” – how clean things are somehow “whole” or “pure”. This is getting closer, but still not quite there.

The Tabernacle was where God dwelt on the earth among people. It was a deliberate reconstruction of Eden: God on earth.

  • Think back to Adam. He sinned against God.
  • He was expelled from the garden, away from God.
  • Separate from God, he was a “dead man walking” – his life was a “living death” – because God is life.

God is life. When Moses asked God’s name at the burning bush, God said “I AM WHO I AM. Say this to the people of Israel: I AM has sent me to you.” (Exodus 3:14)

He “is”. He is life and existence. Perfect in holiness, purity, and light. And unclean must not touch holy or it will die. So if you’re unclean, the journey from uncleanness to holiness is a journey from death to life! The journey to come to know God is a journey into life. Things that make you unclean are a journey into death.

The whiff of death

Unclean things… have a whiff of death about them

Unclean things aren’t necessarily sinful – but they do have a whiff of death about them, a pollution of sin (which brings death).


The life of an animal is in its blood and so Israelites were not to eat the blood of any animal.

  • Predators and carrion obviously eat blood, so they weren’t to eat predators or carrion (or scavengers).
  • Vegetarian animals didn’t eat blood; they were clean.
  • Life and death don’t mix. Even the law not to eat a young goat cooked in its mother’s milk is probably about not mixing death and life.


Notice that the child isn’t declared unclean but the mother is. It’s the loss of blood (and all the rest!) that makes her unclean.

  • Not “dirty”. Not “sinful”. Ceremonially unclean; no more than that.
  • Why is the timescale doubled for a girl? No-one’s sure, but it may have something to do with the boy’s loss of blood at his circumcision.
  • All this loss of blood is, in an important sense, a loss of life. Even in birth, the loss of blood has a whiff of death.
  • Worse, childbirth has the potential for actual death. That risk of death meant sacrifice was required for cleanness.

Skin & walls

Things like mould, skin disease, skin cancer, eczema, etc are suggestive of decay – maybe even a reminder of decomposition in death. They may even cause death.

  • They can be very contagious uncleanness.
  • Serious cases meant exclusion outside the camp.
  • Less serious cases might be cleansed with washing; more serious, life-threatening things, took sacrifice once gone.

Bodily emissions

With each one, you’re physically diminished – less alive than you were a moment ago.

  • Corpses lose bodily fluids.
  • Again all these things are a normal part of life to humans, and even in the midst of sex and reproduction there is a whiff of death, of the pollution of sin.

So, to repeat: The journey to come to know God is a journey into life. Things that make you unclean are a journey into death.

Unclean things aren’t necessarily sinful – but they do have a whiff of death about them, a pollution of sin (which brings death).

Cleansed by Christ

To be unclean was to be unfit to approach God. That was the normal state for the nations, but the normal state for Israel was to be “clean” – fit to approach God. To be holy was to be set apart from the world and separate to God. The priests, the Tabernacle, its utensils etc – all holy.

You, me, and everyone are naturally tainted by sin – both your own rebellion against God and the sins of others. Our whole world and society is damaged, broken, and tainted by sin against God. As are you. Unfit. Unclean. Naturally, you are unfit to approach God. Jesus, on the other hand, had no taint of sin about him.

He touched the leper, and the leper was clean.

The woman who was bleeding for 12 years? She touched him and she was healed and made clean.

That’s his touch. But we’re more like the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-40. Cut off from approaching God, but interested, curious. You don’t get to touch Jesus directly. But someone can tell you, just like Philip told that eunuch all those years ago.

Declared fit for God through forgiveness

Jesus is God, come down to earth as human. Jesus did no wrong and did not deserve death. But he chose to die. He chose to die in place of sinful people who do deserve to die and be separate from God forever in hell – you and me. A Christian isn’t someone who has lived a pure, clean life, and therefore deserves God’s blessing. A Christian is someone who has realised they’re sinful before God and can never, ever be good enough – clean enough.

He takes away the whiff of death forever – and gives you life.

But today, if you call out to him for forgiveness, he will forgive you your sin. All of it. Everything you’ve ever done or will do. At that moment, you’re declared “clean” – but there’s more!

You’re declared holy, because the Holy Spirit of God comes and dwells in you. You become a walking, talking Tabernacle – a mobile temple of God on earth. He takes away the whiff of death forever – and gives you life. Eternal life. Life to be lived:

Cleased for Christ

If ‘unclean’ meant unfit to approach God, then shouldn’t a Christian want a life that is basically clean? Shouldn’t you want to remove the whiff of death from everything you do? Remembering how normal the things are in Lev 11-15!

Obviously, the Bible tells you to put sin to death. You’re to love others and do good. But what about the ordinary, ‘neutral’ things about what you eat and how you live day to day?


Avoid the whiff of death.

  1. Everyone knows that smoking kills. It literally says so on the packet. Avoid the whiff of death about you.
  2. Everyone knows that speeding when driving kills. Avoid the whiff of death. Stick to the speed limit.
  3. Single-use plastics kill wildlife and are killing the whole planet. Avoid the whiff of death. Recycle. Lead in it.
  4. Our global meat consumption and general food waste are directly driving global warming. People will die. Avoid the whiff of death. Eat less; waste less; go green.
  5. Eating meat is permitted; hunting for fun delights in death. Avoid the whiff of death.
  6. Your body is a gift. The human body was honoured when our Creator became like us. Jesus is still a man (and God!) – you will be like him.
    1. Honour your own body. Look after yourself.
    2. Take care of your weight and general health.
    3. Get the treatment you need for mind and body.
  7. Even so, don’t fall for the world’s idea of ‘perfect’ people:
    1. Jesus cleansed the leper, the woman bleeding for 12 years, the eunuch – they are in his kingdom.
    2. To be given life and declared clean and holy by Jesus is the path to life, holiness, joy.

In avoiding the whiff of death we seek life in Christ.


“Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.”

2 Corinthians 4:16
  1. Jesus gives life – not dreary obligation. John 10:9-10 Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved… My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life (that they may have life and have it in abundance CSB)
  2. To enjoy that life, he calls you to continue to be rooted and connected to him. He’s the vine, we’re the branches, and all your life is derived from and sustained by him.
    1. Cut flowers are lovely for a while, then die.
    2. Avoid the whiff of death and live! Abide in Christ.
  3. Life means growth and fruit. 2 Corinthians 4:16 Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. Galatians 5:22-23 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

God is life. Nothing polluted by sin and death may approach him. If you’re a Christian, he has given you life. He has cleansed you and made you holy and now dwells within you.

So cast off sin; purge impurity; avoid the whiff of death. Pursue purity in everything. Live in Christ, for him, and to him.