November 19, 2015
The Law of Moses foreshadowed Jesus who fulfilled the Law. Leprosy was a devastating disease and the Law gave directions on how to diagnose it and how to make one clean if they were healed. Leprosy destroyed a person’s life and symbolically it represents sin and judgment. For instance, King Uzziah was filled with pride and defied God by entering the Temple to burn incense upon the altar. God only allowed priests to serve in the Temple, not kings. The priest Azariah took 80 priests and withstood the king “Then Uzziah was wroth, and had a censer in his hand to burn incense: and while he was wroth with the priests, the leprosy even rose up in his forehead before the priests in the house of the LORD, from beside the incense altar“. 2 Chronicles 26:19. God judged Uzziah’s sin by afflicting him with leprosy and he lived in isolation the rest of his life. A leprous person had to be separated from everyone they loved and their only friends were other lepers.
It’s easy to see why leprosy is used in the Bible to represent sin and judgment. It started with a small spot that probably wouldn’t be noticed by anyone. Eventually the nerves became damaged and the person became desensitized. Hot water wouldn’t be felt and stubbing your toe wouldn’t hurt. Sin also starts small. First there’s a little white lie. Then it becomes easy to tell darker lies. The desensitizing process continues and the lies grow bigger. Pick any sin and it works the same way. Peeking at smutty magazines will grow to an addiction to pornography if unchecked. Swiping a candy bar from the store can easily grow into larger crimes. “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth for death.” James 1:14-15. Like the leper, a person fully engulfed in sin becomes separated from family and friends. Soon his only friendships are with others who are also desensitized to sin.
Leviticus chapter 13 describes the process of diagnosing leprosy. “When a man shall have in the skin of his flesh a rising, a scab, or a bright spot, and it be in the skin of his flesh like the plague of leprosy: then he shall be brought unto Aaron the priest, or unto one of his sons the priests” Leviticus 13:2. Priests were trained to know the difference between leprosy and a boil or other skin condition. If the diagnoses was leprosy, the person’s life was shattered. “And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip, and shall cry, Unclean, unclean. All the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be.” Leviticus 13:45-46. That seems drastic but healthy people needed to be protected. Isn’t it odd that today we embrace the lepers? It seems that people who are fully engulfed by the leprosy of sin are accepted by everyone, even by Christians. The disease is spreading to the point where many Christians have become desensitized to sin. Paul told the Corinthians to turn a chronic sinner out of the congregation, but when he turned from his sin they were to welcome him back. Chronic sin needs to be dealt with and each one of us needs to examine our own selves by the light of God’s word in order to cleanse the leprosy of sin from our life.
God gave Moses the process for how the priests were to determine if a person had leprosy. They could diagnose the disease but there was no cure. There are a couple of instances in the Old Testament where leprosy was cured, but those were isolated cases that God used in order to make a point. Miriam and Aaron had criticized Moses for marrying a Gentile…an Ethiopian woman. Miriam and Aaron were both very vocal against Moses and God became angry with them. Miriam was judged with leprosy. “And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them; and he departed. And the cloud departed from off the tabernacle; and, behold, Miriam became leprous, white as snow; and Aaron looked upon Miriam, and, behold, she was leprous.” Numbers 12:9-10. Aaron was the priest and he looked upon Miriam and saw the leprosy in her. “And Aaron said unto Moses, Alas, my lord, I beseech thee, lay not the sin upon us, wherein we have done foolishly, and wherein we have sinned.” Numbers 12:11. Like King Uzziah, the sin in Miriam took the form of leprosy. Moses made an intercessory prayer. “And Moses cried unto the LORD, saying, Heal her now, O God, I beseech thee.” Numbers 12:12. God did heal her.
Then there was a Gentile named Naaman. He was a captain in the Syrian army and he had leprosy. The Syrians had taken captives from Israel, and among them was a young girl who became a servant for Naaman’s wife. It was this servant girl who mentioned that the prophet Elisha could cure Naaman’s leprosy and a message was sent to him. Elisha replied with a message. “And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.” 2 Kings 5:10. At first Naaman’s pride got in the way of being cured. Elisha had only sent a message rather than coming himself and Naaman was miffed. Eventually he did what Elisha directed and he was cleansed of the leprosy. Pride is a sin and it gets in the way of our obedience to God.
Miriam was Jewish and Naaman was a Gentile and these two instances are unique, but they foreshadowed the coming Messiah who would be the only cleansing for all people. Leprosy remained incurable, so why do we read in Leviticus chapter 14 the process to declare a leper clean? A leper who thought he had been cured was to be brought to the priest for examination. “Then shall the priest command to take for him that is to be cleansed two birds alive and clean, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop” Leviticus 14:4. One of the birds was to be killed in an earthen vessel over running water. Then the living bird, the cedar wood, the scarlet, and the hyssop were to be dipped in the blood of the sacrificed bird and the blood would be sprinkled on the once leprous person, then the bird was set free. After more rituals the leper would be isolated for seven days. On the eighth day he was to take two unblemished male lambs, one unblemished ewe lamb, flour, and oil. “And the priest that maketh him clean shall present the man that is to be made clean, and those things, before the LORD, at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation” Leviticus 14:11. One of the lambs would be slain for a trespass offering and the blood would be put on the right ear, thumb, and great toe of the one to be cleansed. The oil would then be sprinkled before the LORD then put on the right ear, thumb, and great toe. The remainder would be poured over the head of the one beinh cleansed. Blood of the lamb and oil were used to cleanse a leper. The other lambs would be slain for sin and burnt offerings.
This takes on a deeper meaning when we remember that leprosy, an incurable disease, is a “type” of our incurable sin. Pride, envy, and anger are just a few of the sins we need to take to Jesus every day. Only the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, can take our sin away. “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” John 1:29. Often a bird (specifically a dove) represents the Holy Spirit “And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.” John 1:32-34. God became flesh and entered His Creation. He is our sacrifice that takes away our sin. Just as the clean bird was killed in an earthen vessel as an offering to cleanse a leper, Jesus was sacrificed in the earthen vessel of His human body and shed His blood for a sinner like me. The Lamb of God was slain to take away the sin of the world, yet He lives. Our sin is cleansed by His righteousness, not by our own righteousness. We continue to fight the disease of sin, but by faith in the sacrifice of Jesus our sins are forgiven.
As Jesus was heading to Jerusalem knowing that He would be arrested and crucified, He came to a village where ten leprous men lived. Their disease isolated them from people, but when they saw Jesus they called out to Him. Could He…would He heal them? The hope within them must have been great. “And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” Luke 17:13. Leprosy separated them from Jesus, but they called out for mercy and Jesus gave simple instructions. “And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.” Luke 17:14. It was the priests who diagnosed leprosy, but as we learned from Leviticus chapter 14, it was also the priests who would declare them clean. These ten men were healed while going to the priest and should have been overjoyed with thanksgiving. Their lives would be restored; they could be with their loved ones again. Now, think about this. Jesus, the Great High Priest, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, sent these ten men to a mortal priest for examination. The blood that would be sprinkled upon these men was symbolic of the blood that Jesus would soon shed on the cross at Calvary. The men would be anointed with oil symbolizing the Holy Spirit which would soon be available for all of mankind. It would only take faith. The priest would present these men before the Lord (Leviticus 14:11), but in fact, it was the Lord who had cleansed these ten lepers and sent them to the priest!
Those ten men recognized Jesus and even called Him “Master”. They asked for His mercy and hurried off to the priest to be declared clean. “And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God. And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.“ Luke 17:15-16. God’s mercy fell upon all ten, but only the Samaritan expressed his gratitude. It’s easy to criticize these men for not expressing gratitude to Jesus, yet how many times do we take His mercy for granted? We all have the leprous disease of sin upon us. Only His mercy can completely cleanse a person who calls out to Him in faith.
Jesus noticed that only one of the ten thanked Him. “And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.” Luke 17:17-18. Have you been cleansed of the sin in your life by faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus? Do you thank Him? He notices. The Samaritan didn’t tiptoe up to Jesus and whisper “Thanks”. He glorified God with a loud voice and he fell at Jesus’ feet giving thanks. “And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.” Luke 17:19. Faith. Jesus told the man it was faith that made him whole. That’s how we are saved, cleansed, and made whole. Faith.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9. Only faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus can bring salvation. He willingly went to the cross for you. Take time right now to send a prayer of thanksgiving to the One who deserves all of our gratitude. He does notice.
God bless you all,
Ron Graham’s previous commentaries archived at http://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html
All original scripture is “theopneustos” God breathed.