Last week we began looking at high maintenance lifestyle vs. high maintenance Christianity. I confessed to being high maintenance-something I had never considered until my husband pointed it out, leading me to recognize all the little things I do to take care of myself. The more I saw high maintenance in my personal self, the more I wondered how much time I spend taking care of my spiritual self. I posed the same question for you as well, beginning with the overall body. This week, we'll look at being "washed clean."
The Body Beautiful/Physical
Wash and perfume yourself, and put on your best clothes. (Ruth 3:3a)
Tell my granddaughter that it's time to take a bath and she jumps up from whatever she may be doing, runs down the hall, and begins stripping out of her clothes. Bath time is fun time! Warm water cascades from the faucet and-with the help of some bubble bath-a river of soapy froth is formed. Her colorful alphabet bath toys (still there from a previous bath) float almost joyfully, anticipating the little cutie who will slip into the water and play for the better part of the next half-hour.
Bathing, in our American culture, is a daily ritual; designed to wash away the day's dirt and body odor. Unbeknownst to us, we're also scrubbing away dead skin cells. Sometimes a bath or shower is for the purpose of relaxation or mental renewal. "All I want to do is take a hot shower and go to bed," isn't usually said because we're dirty, but because we're tired or in need of stress relief.
Modern baths are often complete with both shower and tub, the latter more modern, lined with jets for pulsating water toward tense muscles. But this has not always been the case. Historically the bath was not as we know it today. We know from Exodus 2:5 that Pharaoh's daughter went "down to the river" to bathe. Many times, bathing for God's people in Ancient Middle East, was for the purpose of becoming ceremonially clean. Romans installed lavish "public baths" where citizens could exercise, bathe, and socialize. There was a time when Europeans "feared" the bath, with both nobility and commoners rarely washing but rather applying talcum powder.
Today we have entire stores dedicated to the bath where one can buy bath oils, gels, salts, bubble baths, and specialty soaps (made with extracts such as herbal, fruit and vegetable oils-canola, palm, olive, coconut, etc.), Vitamins E & C, etc. They come in a variety of scents designed to relax, stimulate, or even put you in a romantic mood. Consumers can choose to leave the bath smelling like flowers or fruit and just about everything in between.
Side Note: Georgia Shaffer, author of A Gift of Mourning Glories: Restoring Your Life After Loss, says her favorite stress reliever is a long hot soak. In fact, she considers it a luxury! Her favorite bath product is Chanel ALLURE Gel Moussant.
The Body Beautiful/Spiritual
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. (Psalm 71:7)
There is a popular song on Christian charts in which the singer states that he's "been to the water and come out clean." Like physical bathing, spiritual bathing takes on many purposes; namely, being baptized, daily cleansing from the world's impurities, and being washed by God in a sort of disciplinary action.
Before beginning His earthly ministry, Jesus went down to the Jordan River where John the Baptist was baptizing those who heard his message of redemption-of turning from the old self and back toward God. His request to John to baptize Him shocked the young evangelist. "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" John said to Him. How could John-who was sinful man-possibly "cleanse" one without sin? Jesus insisted, stating that it "fulfilled all righteousness." As Jesus came up out of the water-dripping, his clothes no doubt clinging to him-the Spirit of God came down as a dove, perched upon Him, and the Father's voice declared His pleasure at what the Son had done. Jesus' obedience to the ritual of baptism brought about joyous declaration from the Trinity, in revelation to the people.
Rejuvenated for the task ahead, Jesus headed out into the desert...and toward bringing about salvation for mankind.
As I stated previously, I walk in the mornings. Here in Florida, that bit of exercise takes on a whole new meaning in the summer months. I can barely stand myself as I head home in my car from the area where I walk. If my husband is still home upon my arrival I state, "Don't come near me. I stinketh!" A good shower later and I'm presentable.
Though we are not baptized by water on a daily basis, each and every day affords us the opportunity to be bathed in the "blood of the Lamb," purified from our sins-which cause us to stinketh-so that we may draw close to the Father.
David's cry to be "washed with hyssop," is more accurately read "purge me with hyssop." David had sinned "big time" and was in need of a cleansing that would not only wash away those stains which were obvious, but the ones that had bled down into his very soul. He had separated himself from the love of his life, the Lord.
There are times when we, like David, allow ourselves to slip into fleshly desire and out of the will of God. We know we've done wrong and we keep our eyes downcast. Knowing He is just behind us, we dare not look over our shoulders, lest we catch the look in His eyes. Our hearts are nearly empty of joy. As day drags into endless days, we become more encrusted with our own filth. We can sprinkle ourselves with all the talcum from all the stores in the world, and we'll still be rank. It will not be until we submit to a washing from God-a true scrubbing away of the old skin cells-that we can be presentable again.
(1.) Where and how were you baptized?
(2.) How did you feel afterward? Be specific.
(3.) Do you daily ask God to cleanse you of your sins, or only when you know you've sinned "big time?"
(4.) Define "purge." How does that differ from mere "washing?"
(5.) Have you ever felt completely isolated from the Lord? What happened to drive you away? What happened to bring you back?
Award-winning national speaker, Eva Marie Everson is the author of Shadow of Dreams, Summon the Shadows and the recently released and highly anticipated Shadows of Light (Barbour Publishing). She can be contacted for comments or for speaking engagement bookings at www.EvaMarieEverson.com