The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Command the people of Israel that they put out of the camp everyone who is leprous or has a discharge and everyone who is unclean through contact with the dead. You shall put out both male and female, putting them outside the camp, that they may not defile their camp, in the midst of which I dwell.” And the people of Israel did so, and put them outside the camp; as the LORD said to Moses, so the people of Israel did. (Numbers 5:1-4 ESV)
There must be ritual purity in the camp where Yahweh dwells. He is holy so His people must be holy. Yet when ritual impurity occurs, such as here in the case of some skin disease, some unusual discharge from the body, or through touching a dead body, a designated time must be spent away from the camp until cleansing is accomplished. This would be a hard law to obey. Special tents would need to be erected on the outskirts of the camp where people could go to recover from their uncleanness. This could be a long term stay if the skin ailment or discharge did not resolve. Moses tells us that the people obeyed Yahweh in this command.
The implication for us is that whatever defiles us or makes us spiritually unclean must be dealt with radically. Jesus’ statement, that if your eye offends pluck it out, is along this line. Do whatever it takes to keep from sin. Being right in the presence of a holy God is the most expedient of priorities.
The other implication is that we must help others deal radically with their uncleanness. We have to adopt the inconvenience their uncleanness creates and compassionately help them become clean. This is a priority that we will be tempted to neglect. That’s their responsibility, we will think, not ours. But that is not how God sees it. He wants to dwell in our camp with blessing and calls on us to deal with what defiles. We are our brother’s keeper, and, we cannot make progress as a community without seeing to the progress of the individuals within our community.
Our cry should be much the same as those who have filled the ranks of our military: No man left behind! We will not abandon our wounded.