God wants His people to be set apart as holy, but within many of our churches is the unseen sin of leprosy. Will these spiritual lepers be identified and exiled that they might be healed, or will they continue to pollute the camp?
One Word –
The LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “When a person has on the skin of his body a swelling or an eruption or a spot, and it turns into a case of leprous disease on the skin of his body, then he shall be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons the priests, and the priest shall examine the diseased area on the skin of his body. Leviticus 13:1-3
Daily Bible Reading: Leviticus 12, 13, 14; Matthew 25
Big Idea –
Within the bible leprosy or tsara`ath in the Hebrew refers to a wide variety of skin diseases. This infirmity not only affected humans in a variety of ways, but also described molds or other impurities growing within a house. Leprosy in the bible was not the same as the leprosy or Hansen’s disease we think of today as it has very different symptoms than those described here in Leviticus.
The scripture makes it clear that any type of leprosy was to be examined by the priest. Let’s be honest, if you and I had some type of rash break out we wouldn’t think of visiting our pastor for an examination, but would make our way to a doctor. And if it was our house with a ‘growing problem’ we would call a contractor and not the church. This is probably why many of us would read Leviticus 12-14 with a yawn.
But why did the LORD go to such length to describe the examination of leprosy by the priest? Rather than focusing on the ‘letter of the law,’ could it be that a spiritual principle needs to be learned here? I think so.
Let’s not forget, one of the signs given to Moses proving he had met with the LORD was for his hand to become “leprous like snow” (Ex. 4:6), and then be cleansed again. Further, the only cause given in the bible for an outbreak of tsara`ath or leprosy was rebellion against the LORD’s established authority. Miriam spoke against Moses (Num. 12); Gehazi disobeyed the word of the LORD spoke by Elisha (2 Kg. 5:20-27), and King Uzziah challenged the priests right to offer incense (2 Chr. 26:16-23). Thus it seems the LORD viewed leprosy as more than just an inflammation of the skin or a growth on the stones or plaster of someone’s house. It seems leprosy was a physical condition growing from deeper roots within a spiritual problem.
Any suspected case of leprosy required a careful inspection by the priest. The priest was NOT called to heal the leprosy, but to determine if the individual (or house) was clean or unclean. All those the priest declared unclean due to tsara`ath or leprosy were put outside the camp. The leper was identified as one who polluted the community making it unclean; thus as the source of the corruption the leper was exiled. Lepers were further required to tear their clothes and cry out “Unclean, unclean.” (see – Lev. 13:45-46). Again, the LORD did not assign the priest the job of praying for the leper’s healing; rather, it is as the leper is put out of the camp that he/she realized their need to cry out to God for healing.
Leviticus 14 describes the purification of the leper who was healed of the disease. Again the individual had to be inspected by the priest. If the leper was healed he/she was required then to offer specific sacrifices. Other than the ordination of the priests this is the only sacrificial ritual that required blood from the sacrifices to not only be sprinkled upon the person, but some of the blood of the lamb sacrificed eight days later was also placed upon the lobe of the right ear, the thumb of the right hand and big toe of the right foot. Only then was the individual declared clean and could again be welcomed back into the community.
The LORD chose Israel as His “treasured possession” from among all the nations, and told them, “You shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:5-6). This helps to explain the blood ritual for the cleansing of a leper for he/she were being accepted back within the LORD’S set apart (or holy) kingdom of priests.
Now let’s make the spiritual application for you and me today. Peter tells us that you and I, “like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” He continues saying we “are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” (1 Pt. 2:5, 9). Just like Israel, as followers of Jesus we are chosen by the LORD to serve as a kingdom of priests set apart to be holy.
The only scriptural cause for leprosy was rebellion against the LORD’S appointed authority. You and I do this all the time whenever we gossip or talk about people within the body of Christ we don’t agree with. It’s not limited to just talking about pastors or other church leaders; all of us have been called to serve as priests. Thus if we talk about how a brother or sister in Christ has wronged us with others rather than going to them to be reconciled, we have polluted the camp with the sin of leprosy and should be exiled.
So why don’t we see leprosy today like Israel did centuries ago? I think there are two reasons. First, the church is far from the holiness the LORD desires. God wants us to come out from among them and be separate (holy), yet many within our churches today are still much like those within the world who are not following Jesus. Second, few pastors or church leaders are willing to accept the responsibility to inspect believers within the camp (or church) for signs of leprosy and expose the sin of rebellion, which begins as stories of gossip among us.
We may not see the lepers among us today, but I believe they are still marked by God.
I need to be careful about the things I say about other believers that I not become guilty of the sin of leprosy rejecting their place within the body of Christ.
Yes to Yield –
LORD Jesus, I thank You that YOU have made me holy and welcomed me into Your kingdom of priests. Forgive me of gossip and being critical of those You have cleansed and set apart as priest to serve along side me. Holy Spirit, empower me to guard the things I say and do so I am offering acceptable sacrifices through my daily life; keep me from breaking faith with other believers in what I would say. Give me a heart of reconciliation to talk with them and not about them.