Leviticus 13 ~ 20160828 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
08/28 Leviticus 13; More Than Skin Deep; Audio not available
How many of you have broken out in a rash, you have a skin irritation, itching, inflammation, discoloration, any bumps, lumps, pimples, swelling, skin that is sunken, raised, or reddened, dried or flaking, dandruff, fungus, any hair loss, you have a wound that is oozing, a scratch or a burn or a boil that is healing, any kind of infection? Why don't you line up in the aisles, and I will take some time to inspect each one of you.
Welcome to Leviticus 13. Leviticus 13 is all about skin abnormalities. Imagine you have been rescued by the Lord from Egypt. You are now camped around the tent of the Lord grouped in your tribes. One morning you wake up, say “Shalom!” to your spouse, and then you see it. “Honey, looks like you've broken out again. I really think you should get that looked at. Shall I message the walk-in clinic to see if any of the priests have an opening today?” Leviticus 13 must have been very well known in Israel, as it would have to be consulted literally daily. I imagine that this would be one of the most time consuming duties of the priests. “Eleazar, you're home late again! Oy vey! You wouldn't believe what I had to look at today! 42 people in the camp of Issachar had rashes. And this one lady had a puffy reddish-white oozing sore with thin yellow hair in it! I need a shower!”
We learned in chapter 10 the hard lesson of Nadab and Abihu, that God will be treated as holy by those who are near him. We learned in Leviticus 10 that it was the responsibility of the priests to:
It may have been a pain to go visit the priest over every bump or lump or rash, but to enter the presence of the Lord in an impure or unclean state meant death, so this was a big deal, and God intended for his people to take him seriously.
For the sake of time, we are not going to read all 59 verses of this chapter today, but we will get a good working overview of this chapter and look at how it applies to us today, and how it points us to Jesus. Chapter 14 deals with a curious ceremony for someone who was healed of a skin disease, and Lord willing we will look at that next week.
The Word Of The LORD
Leviticus 13 starts out with an introduction:
This is a word from the LORD. YHWH spoke this chapter to Moses and Aaron.
Leviticus 13 is literally breathed out by God and profitable for New Covenant believers for our training in righteousness. May we have ears to hear what the Spirit would say to his church today!
Outline and Overview
Leviticus 13 lays out 7 cases of skin abnormalities and how they are to be identified as clean or unclean.
1. Verses 2-8 deal with swellings, eruptions, or spots on the skin.
2. Verses 9-17 deal with chronic skin issues with raw flesh
3. Verses 18-23 deal with boils that become infected
4. Verses 24-28 deal with burns that become infected
5. Verses 29-37 deal with itching skin in the hair or beard
6. Verses 38-39 deal with white spots all over the body
7. Verses 40-44 deal with baldness
Then verses 45-46 explain the exclusion from the community that is necessary for the person who has been declared unclean.
The last section, verses 47-59 deal with diseased spots in fabrics and how they are to be treated.
As is clear from this overview, the issues covered in this chapter are much broader than what we may think of when we hear the term 'leprosy', which we tend to limit to the clinical diagnosis of Hansen's disease from the bacilli Mycobacterium leprae.
Each complaint has specific criteria by which to objectively determine what category it should be placed in. There is protection here for the people. Remember, this information is available to all the people, not just the priests. This would protect against one priest just declaring every issue that is brought to him unclean. Some of the common criteria of uncleanness are hair that changes to abnormal colors, an infection that appears deeper than the skin, raw flesh, spreading, and swelling. Common criteria for healed complaints are issues that are not deeper than the surface of the skin, the spots not spreading but fading, normal hair returning, raw flesh scabbing over and healing. Some cases were indeterminate; for these cases there was a 7 day quarantine period with re-inspection, and sometimes an additional 7 day quarantine if the issue was still unclear. Some normal changes that could bring concern are listed, such as baldness and a normal change of pigmentation in the skin.
God the Healer
It is important to note that the priest did not serve as a physician. He was merely an objective inspector. He offered no cures, he prescribed no treatments. He simply made a determination based on what he saw. Just as diseases ultimately came from the Lord, healing must come from the Lord. When Naaman the Syrian was sent to the king of Israel for healing, the king “tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy?”” (2 Ki.5:7). God says in Deuteronomy 32:
Some diseases were punishment for sin. But not all. Miriam's jealousy of Moses' position was punished with a temporary case of leprosy in Numbers 12. In 2 Samuel 3, David cursed Joab's house with leprosy or other misfortunes for his violence and vengeance in time of peace. The greed of Elisha's servant Gehazi's was punished with leprosy in 2 Kings 5. King Uzziah's pride was punished with leprosy in 2 Chronicles 26. But not all leprosy or skin disease was punishment for sin. The book of Job is written to prevent us from assuming that all maladies were the consequence of sin. Job is declared “blameless and upright... who fears God and turns away from evil” (Job 1:1, 8, 2:3); yet he was struck with “loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head” (Job 2:7). Job's response?
Just as Jesus taught, not all that seems 'bad' to us is punishment for sin; some illnesses are “for the glory of God” (Jn.11:4; cf. Jn.9:2).
Separation from God
Regardless of the source or reason for the disease, the consequence is the same. For someone declared unclean,
This is similar behavior to mourning for the dead, and in reality the diagnosis of one of these unclean diseases meant a living death, separation from the covenant community, and worst of all, separation from fellowship with God. Although there was some hope that the disease might be healed, this was rare, and often the declaration of uncleanness was a life sentence of isolation and ostracism from all family, social, and religious life.
Although skin diseases are not necessarily linked to sin, they offer a powerful illustration of the consequences of sin. Sin destroys relationships, steals life and kills joy. Sin is disfiguring, distorting the image of God we were created to bear. Sin damages our fellowship with people and most importantly with God. As a consequence of their sin in the garden, Adam and Eve were exiled, driven out from the presence of the Lord.
Skin Disease and The New Testament
What can we as New Testament believers learn from this? If you have a contagious skin disease, an itchy scalp or an oozing sore and you call me, I will encourage you to go see a doctor, and I will pray for you – over the phone! But the law is our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ (Gal.3:24). What 'training in righteousness' can we receive from Leviticus 13? First, we begin to appreciate the holiness of God. If we are to approach him, we must care about our own holiness. The law was training that there is such a thing as clean and unclean. The Israelite would spend much of his conscious time concerned about making proper distinctions between clean and unclean. Can I touch that? Can I eat that? What about that? Will this defile me? Do I need to see a priest about this? How can I be purified from this? Is this good or bad, right or wrong, pleasing or displeasing to God?
This also teaches us the pervasiveness of sin. The whole creation is warped and distorted from sin. Every weed that I pull, every zit I pop, every insect bite that leaves a welt is a reminder that I live in a fallen, broken, sin cursed world. Sin is everywhere. I can be contaminated by things I touch or interact with, things outside of me. But the more serious, the more dangerous things are things that come from inside. Jesus taught that it is the things that come from the heart of man that defile, “evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mk.7:21-23).
The priests did not prescribe cures, they were fruit inspectors. And they were looking for symptoms of deeper issues, things that were more than skin deep, things that spread and had the potential to infect others. They were responsible for guarding the purity of God's house, and they had the authority to quarantine or even exile a person who threatened that purity. In a similar way, God demands that his church be pure and holy. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 5
Those who claim to be brothers and sisters, believers in Jesus are expected to live transformed lives, to live discernibly different from those who don't know Jesus. There can come a time when it is appropriate for us to defend the reputation of Christ and the purity of the church.
Paul warns in Romans 16:17-18 to watch out for and avoid “those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught”. Paul commands in 2 Thessalonians 3 in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that we 'keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness' (6), 'not busy at work, but busybodies'; we are to 'take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.' (11-15). Timothy is warned to be on guard.
In 2 Timothy 3, we are told
Titus 3 says
John warns in his second letter
We are to be on guard against false teaching, teaching that does not result in godly behavior. We are to avoid those that are quarrelsome, idle, busybodies, divisive, slanderous, proud. We are to confront, to warn, and when one who claims to be a believer is persistently unrepentant, we are to have nothing to do with him.
Jesus gives us clear instructions on how this is to be done.
The desired end is always forgiveness and reconciliation. We learn something about the patience and mercy of God in this passage. Notice that the least severe response is preferred. A diseased garment must be burned; but if tearing out the diseased part will do, the rest of the garment can be spared. It might be easier to just burn it all and start over, but instead every effort is made to preserve it. Non-threatening abnormalities are declared clean. When there is doubt, time is given for a clear and accurate decision to be made. That which is not spreading or deeper than the skin, or raw and open is clean. There is never unnecessary harshness. Even after the difficult decision to expel someone from the community, the door is always kept open for cleansing and restoration if there is healing.
It is normal in this fallen world to have irritation, an abrasion, to get scuffed or burned. But it doesn't have to go deeper than the surface. It doesn't have to spread. Let it heal. Ask God to heal your hurts. Receive his grace. Be careful 'that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled' (Heb.12:15). Don't continually tear off the scab and allow it to fester.
The goal is always restoration and reconciliation. The motive must be love and care for a brother or sister. It is always wise to keep in mind the context of Jesus' teaching in Matthew 18. It immediately follows the story of the man with a hundred sheep, and one goes astray.
God's heart is to pursue the lost, to restore them to safety and wholeness and fellowship, and to rejoice over their restoration. Jesus pursued the broken, the hurting, the lepers. Jesus touched them and he healed them. If you are unclean, unfit to enter God's presence, don't hide it, don't pretend. Come to Jesus. Come as you are. He will touch you, heal you, restore you, transform you. He will make you new!
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org