Summary: Due to this viral pandemic, people are obsessed with washing their hands! But, did you know the Bible also tells people to wash our hands? In Scripture people washed their hands for three reasons: sanitation, seperation, and sanctification.
Scott R. Bayles
Blooming Grove Christian Church: 3/29/2020
Good morning everyone and thank you for joining us online.
In the midst of this viral outbreak, the number one piece of advice I’ve heard more than anything else is: wash your hands. I’m sure you’ve heard this again and again over the last few weeks, too. The whole country is just crazy about washing their hands right now, which I guess is a good thing. But, apparently it isn’t enough to simply tell people to wash their hands. Oh, no. Public bathrooms, news sites, and social media have been bombarding us with visual aids, charts, and instructions on how to properly wash your hands. The thing I’ve found most entertaining is that experts recommend washing your hands for 20 seconds and there has been a whole host of recommended songs you can sing while washing your hands to help you keep track of time. Recommendations include everything from the ABCs and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to the chorus from Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees and (my personal favorite) REM’s It’s the End of the World as We Know It.
Of course, it doesn’t really matter what song you sing, as long as your hands get clean, right? This isn’t the first time we’ve been reminded to wash our hands, either. It seems like every flu season and every time there’s a viral threat, the media, health officials, and even the President go on national television to remind citizens everywhere to wash their hands. It such a simple, common sense thing to do, but it really does help stop the spread of germs and bacteria.
But, did you know the Bible also tells us to wash our hands? Given our nation’s current obsession with hand washing, I thought it might be entertaining and enlightening to see what Scripture says about washing our hands.
Now, you might be able to find more instances or examples, but as far as I can tell there are three different reasons that people washed their hands in Scripture: sanitation, separation, and sanctification. This morning, I’d like to take a look a variety of Bible verses about washing your hands and what they mean for us today.
Of course, one reason people washed their hands in Scripture was for sanitation purposes.
There are actually several places in the Old Testament where God commanded his people to wash their hands. Most of the time, it was symbolic or ritualistic in nature. But there are a few times when God instructed his people to wash their hands for sanitary reason. One example is found buried in what is often regarded as the most boring book of the Bible—Leviticus.
There are several chapters dedicated to dealing with potentially infectious diseases, including skin diseases like leprosy and unusual bodily discharges. God gave the Israelites several specific instructions for preventing the spread of these potentially dangerous diseases, including hand washing. The Bible say, “Anyone the man with a discharge touches without rinsing his hands with water must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and they will be unclean till evening” (Leviticus 15:11 NIV). Being ceremonially unclean, by the way, meant that the person wasn’t suppose to touch or have contact with anyone else and thus risk spreading the disease or infection.
In fact, the Bible even says, “As long as the serious disease lasts, they will be ceremonially unclean. They must live in isolation in their place outside the camp” (Leviticus 13:36 NLT). I don’t know about you, but I find this fascinating. Centuries, millennia even, before scientists discovered germs, bacteria and microbes, God was instructing his people to wash their hands and quarantine themselves. The Israelites were practicing social distancing long before that phrase even existed.
Additionally, when a person was healed or their infection cleared up, God instructed them, “he shall then wash his clothes and bathe his body in running water and will become clean” (Leviticus 15:13 NASB). It’s interesting that God specified “running water.” Until the 1800s doctors washed their hands in a basin of still water, leaving invisible germs that resulted in countless deaths. We now know to our wash hands under running water. Perhaps this is another example of scientific foreknowledge in Scripture.
Of course, God never gave the Israelites charts, illustrations, or a song to sing while washing their hands, but it’s clear that God understood something about dealing with diseases that human beings still hadn’t figured out, yet.
The point is—if God was instructing the Israelites on hand washing and social distancing thousands of years before we understood the reasons behind it, then clearly God knows more than we do and he’s always looking out for us! At the time, the Israelites probably didn’t understand why God gave them these rules. Just like them, you and I won’t always know why God gives us certain commands and instruction. But the best thing we can do in any situation is follow the instructions God has given us in the Bible because he knows more than we do, and he’s looking out for us.