Over the last few months during the COVID -19 pandemic, the number one piece of advice has been ‘wash your hands’ – and to do it for at least 20 seconds. There has been a host of recommended songs we can sing while washing our hands that help us keep track of time.
The ancient Jews were serious about clean hands – they had all kinds of baths and washing rituals. These are set out in the book of Leviticus. Sometimes washing was necessary: if someone had a potentially infectious disease, they would be considered unclean and were forced to live in isolation. The Israelites were practising ‘social distancing’ long before that phrase even existed!
Pontius Pilate found no reason to execute Jesus. As he didn’t want to share in the guilt of the angry mob, he washed his hands in front of them, as if to say, ‘His blood is on your hands.’
Often throughout the Bible, washing hands was symbolic of purifying the heart and mind. The ritual of washing was an important step in preparing the priests for service in the tabernacle. David picks up on this in Psalm 24:3-4, where he writes ‘Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart.’ (Psalm 24:3-4NIV).
Sin is a far more serious epidemic than COVID-19, because it separates us from a holy God. The song, ‘What can wash away my sin? is answered by the next line, ‘Nothing but the blood of Jesus.’
The best soap that I know of to get us right before God is 1 John 1:9 – ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’