TODAY’S READING: LEVITICUS 14-15
Like we saw yesterday with the law of the clean and unclean creatures in Leviticus 11, the last verses of Leviticus 14 tell us what the chapter is about. Leviticus 14:54-57 says, “This is the law for any case of leprous disease: for an itch, for leprous disease in a garment or in a house, and for a swelling or an eruption or a spot, to show when it is unclean and when it is clean. This is the law for leprous disease.”
Therefore, Leviticus 14 is about knowing when someone has been cleansed from their leprous diseases. So, what, or who, cleanses the leper? How does the cleansing occur? What is the result of the cleansing?
LEPROSY: A DISEASE OF THE FLESH ROOTED IN THE HEART
Leprosy is a disease of the skin, or the flesh.
Romans 7:16-20 says, “Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do, the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.”
Paul recognizes that there is nothing good that dwells in his flesh. He can see the outward manifestation in his flesh of whatever this thing is that dwells in him that produces evil even when he desires to do good. What Paul sees in his flesh has its root somewhere else within him. Paul comes to see that what dwells within him is sin. And, it is sin that produces nothing good in his flesh.
In Matthew 15:18-19, Jesus says, “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.”
Jesus says that the evil that appears in our flesh comes from the inner condition of our heart. Genesis 6:5 says, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” And, Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Because the condition of our heart is evil, wicked, and desperately sick, sin manifests itself in our flesh.
Therefore, we should understand leprosy as the manifestation of sin in the flesh, the external reality, of the evil intentions, or uncleanness, of our hearts, the internal reality. While Israel cleansed the outward manifestation of leprosy in the Old Testament, Jesus came to cleanse the internal root of leprosy, the manifestation of sin, in our hearts.
CLEANSED ON THE EIGHTH DAY
Leviticus 14:1-9 deal with the first seven days of the process of being cleansed from leprosy. But, I want to focus on just the eighth day of the process in verses 10-32.
Eight is the number of new creation, new life, and resurrection in the Bible. All four gospels reveal that it was the on the first day of the week, the day after the Sabbath, eight days after Jesus was selected as the Passover lamb, that Jesus was resurrected. On this day, he had a new, glorified body and a became a life-giving spirit. It was as if, in the resurrection, the old body Jesus had was circumcised.
In the New Testament, circumcision is equated with baptism. And, both circumcision and baptism are linked with resurrection, or new life. Here are three scriptures that show the connections.
“Do you no know that all of use who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” – Romans 6:3-5
“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” – Galatians 3:27
“In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.” – Colossians 2:11-12
So, in Leviticus 14, when the leper is cleansed on the eighth day, the above scriptures give us the picture of what is happening to the believer. The believer, the leper, is dying with Christ in baptism. This death removes the old self, the flesh, which manifested sin from the heart through leprosy. But, the believer is also raised with Jesus to newness of life. Indeed, on the eighth day the leper was cleansed, which meant he could now enter the sanctuary to worship. He could live for God. For the believer, this lets us abide in Christ and he in us, thereby sharing life together.
HOW CHRIST AND THE HOLY SPIRIT CLEANSE AND EMPOWER
The process of cleansing the leper on the eighth day is a picture of what Christ does for us to cleanse our hearts and the Holy Spirit does to empower what Christ has cleansed.
On the eighth day, the leper brought to the priest three animals to be offered. One was for a guilt offering. One was for a sin offering. And, one was for a burnt offering. Leviticus 14 shows that the offerings took place in that order – guilt then sin then burnt. The guilt and sin offering belonged to the priest but the burnt offering belonged wholly to God.
I believe this shows that Jesus first deals with our guilt. We acknowledge that Jesus has taken the guilt for our sin even though he was without sin. Second, Jesus bears the weight of our sin in the sin offering. We put all our sin, all our violence, upon him. These two offerings belonged to the priest, to Jesus. But, the third offering, the burnt offering, belonged to the Father alone. This is because the burnt offering was about acceptance by the Father. Jesus, as the burnt offering, is the only one that God accepts. But, when we are baptized in Christ’s death, God accepts us through Christ.
When the guilt offering was slain, the priest took some of the blood and put it on the leper’s right ear, then the thumb of his right hand, then the big toe of his right foot. The order is important.
The blood that cleanses our guilt first touches our ear. Romans 10:14-15, 17 says, “How then will they call on him whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to her without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” It is the blood of Jesus that opens our ears to hear his voice that gives us faith in him. Our ears hear the voice of the Lord, which cleanses our hearts
Then the blood touches our hand. Now that our hearts have been cleansed by hearing the word of Christ, the work of our hands is cleansed by the blood too. We now work for God and not men. Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” And, Psalm 90:17 says, “Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!”
After the blood has cleansed the work of our hands to be for God and not men, the blood is applied to our feet to cleanse the way in which God sends us. Romans 10:15 says, “And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” And, as part of the armor of God, Ephesians 6:15 says, “And, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.” Our feet, our way, is cleansed by the blood so that we can preach the good news, the gospel of peace. No longer will we learn and teach war and violence. Now, having died to ourselves, we are sent to preach peace, literally dying in the process if we must.
But, the leper to be cleansed had more than the blood of Christ applied to him. On top of the blood on the ear, the hand, and the foot, oil was applied. Oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Having been cleansed by the blood of Christ, we are anointed by the Holy Spirit.
The blood of Christ opened our ears to hear the preaching of the word of Christ that would bring faith. But, it is the Holy Spirit that teaches us through what is preached. According to 1 John 2:27, “But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie – just as it has taught you, abide in him.”
Having been taught Jesus by the Holy Spirit, our hands are anointed to work with power. The Holy Spirit is the power we need to do the work God has called us to, the preaching of peace and the ministry of reconciliation. In Luke 24:49, Jesus says, “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Jesus again says in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Finally, Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Not all the things that we want to do, but all the things that God has created us for and called us to do. No matter the situation we maintain the preaching of peace and the ministry of reconciliation.
Having received the power of the Holy Spirit to the work God has called us to, our feet receive the anointing of the Holy Spirit as well. The Holy Spirit now leads us to where God wants us to work. Galatians 5:16 says, “Walk by the Spirit.” Galatians 5:18 says, “If you are led by the Spirit.” And, Galatians 5:25 says, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.”
On the eighth day, we are made a new creation. Our ears, hands, and feet are cleansed by the blood of Jesus. And, our ears, hands, and feet are anointed by the Holy Spirit. We have been cleansed from leprosy, the manifestation of the sin that dwelt in our hearts, and have been powered to live for God, to do everything as if we were doing it for the Lord.