Food and Clothing; Christ in You and You in Christ

Two of the great themes that run through the Bible from beginning to end are food and clothing.

The first instruction God gives directly to man is to be careful what he eats. Man can eat from any tree of God’s garden, including the tree of life, but man should not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

God created man naked, even though man was not aware of this until he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Man then tried to clothe himself with leaves. Man attempted to cover himself with that which had revealed he was uncovered. God stepped in and clothed man with the skin of an animal.

The Bible closes with a wedding feast, the wedding feast that God gave man access to in the beginning before man rejected it for one piece of fruit from a single tree.

At that wedding feast is a bride, the bride of Christ. She is no longer naked but adorned for her husband, having the glory of God, her radiance like a most rare jewel.

In between the first few chapters of Genesis and the last few chapters of Revelation, the themes of food and clothing are seen over and over, each time from a different vantage point. While Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, God fed her daily with manna from heaven and her clothes never wore out. And, Paul says godliness with contentment is great gain. For, if we have food and clothing, then with these we will be content (notice he never even mentioned a home).

But, these themes of food and clothing are meaningless, unintelligible, without Jesus Christ. He, and he alone, provides the substance and the meaning to these two great metaphors of food and clothing.

Jesus says, “Abide in me and I in you.”

Jesus says, “Whoever abides in me and I in him.”

Jesus says, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you.”

Do you see who is in the center of those three statements? Jesus!

Jesus is at the center of life, of abiding. He has the place of preeminence.

But, look again at how Jesus expounds on abiding.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit.

Vine → Branches → Fruit

Jesus is the vine. You are the branches.

Who is the fruit? The Holy Spirit. The Spirit of Christ.

Vine → Branches → Fruit

Christ In → You → In Christ

The vine feeds the branches with its sap, its life. Christ in you is the epitome, the fullness, the truth of the theme of food that runs through the Bible. For this grand theme of Christ in you, we have been given an act to commemorate it. We call it communion. We partake of the bread, symbolizing Jesus as the true bread from heaven. We partake of the wine, symbolizing the blood of Christ in which is eternal life, the life of God. We do this as often as we get together. Eating and drinking must be done daily for physical life. So, must we eat and drink daily of Christ for his life to be in us. The vine feeds the branches. Jesus is our food. Christ in you.

But, as the sap of the vine, its very life, flows through you, it produces fruit. Fruit that is of the Spirit, the Spirit of Christ. You are now in Christ. The tree bears fruit. The tree is clothed with fruit. You are clothed with Christ. For this grand theme of you in Christ, we also have been an act to commemorate it. We call it baptism. In baptism, we put off the old man and put on the new man – a change of clothing. We are baptized into Christ, into his righteousness, into his clothing. But, unlike communion, this act, baptism, is done just once. We only need to change clothes one time as we eat daily of Jesus.

Vine → Branches → Fruit

Christ In → You → In Christ

Christ in heaven as the head of his body. You, the body of Christ in the earth. You are a witness of him to all the world, partaking in the ministry of reconciliation, through the bearing of fruit, which is the expression of the life of Christ in the earth. On earth you are his body, the expression of the life of Christ.

You are the priest, the mediator, of Christ between heaven and earth. This is how you participate with Christ in the reconciling of all things to God.

The vine is nothing to look at. But, the fruit is the glory of the tree.

Vine → Branches → Fruit

Christ In → You → In Christ

Christ in you is the hope of glory!

Food and Clothing

Communion and Baptism

The Vine and the Fruit

Christ in You and You in Christ

How impotent are the words. How powerful is the truth!

Jesus: “Whoever Drinks My Blood Has Eternal Life”

TODAY’S READING: LEVITICUS 16-18

In John 6, Jesus fed 5,000 men plus women and children with two loaves of bread and five fish. When this crowd came to Jesus the next day, he told them that they were seeking him because they saw a miracle and had their stomachs filled. So, Jesus told them that he is the true bread from heaven.

The Jews grumbled about this. Isn’t this the son of Joseph and Mary? Who does he think he is?

Jesus continued to tell the crowd that he is the true bread from heaven. He said that their fathers ate the manna in the wilderness and died, but anyone who eats his flesh, the living bread that came down from heaven, will live.

The Jews disputed among themselves. How are we going to eat this man’s flesh?

Then Jesus drops a proverbial bomb on them. In John 6:53-56, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”

Now Jesus had really done it. When the disciples heard this business about drinking Jesus’ blood they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”

So, in John 6:63, Jesus said to them, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”

It was at that moment that many of Jesus’ disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. Those disciples that turned away wanted the physical, having their stomachs fed, but they didn’t want, or couldn’t grasp, the spiritual, feeding on Jesus’ flesh and drinking his blood to give their spirits life.

Why was the teaching about drinking Jesus’ blood so hard?

ANYONE WHO EATS BLOOD WILL BE CUT OFF

This was a hard teaching because the Jews and the strangers sojourning with them had been strictly forbidden from eating any blood. If they did, then they would be cut off from the people of Israel.

Leviticus 17:10-12, 14 says, “If any one of the house of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn among them eats any blood, I will set my face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from among his people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life. Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, No person among you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger who sojourns among you eat blood…For the life of every creature is its blood: its blood is its life. Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off.”

The Jews took this literally. They believed exactly what it said. They were not to eat any physical blood of any physical creature. So, when Jesus said they were to drink his blood, they immediately called to mind this law from Leviticus 10. The Jews said to themselves we can’t literally drink his blood because we have been specifically forbidden by God not to do that. If we do what he says, then God will cut us off.

But, this was reading the law of God as a dead letter with a veil over it. It was a reading of the law of God, an understanding of what God had said, that was based on the natural mind.

This is why Jesus said in John 6:63, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” Jesus’ command to drink his blood could not be understood by the natural mind. His words were spirit. Therefore, they needed to be understood by the spiritual mind. Then these words would be life.

There were some that at least partially understood what Jesus was saying. The 12 disciples did not leave Jesus. It was here that Peter confessed that Jesus had the words of eternal life and the 12 had come to know that Jesus was the Holy One of God. Sure, they did not understand the full import of what Jesus was saying, and no one would until after his resurrection, but the 12 had at least some understanding of the spirit of Jesus’ command to drink his blood.

So, what was Jesus saying?

YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT

The spiritual nature of Jesus’ command to drink his blood is you are what you eat.

So, when Leviticus 17 says that the life is in the blood of the creature and the Jews are not to eat that blood, God is saying that if you physically feed on the blood, the life, of these creatures you will become like them.

Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Paul, and others in the Bible, many times alludes to these spiritual forces as beasts, animals, creeping things, living creatures, etc. Spiritually, therefore, if we feed on these evil spiritual forces ruling the world, their blood and their life, then we will become like them.

Nebuchadnezzar is one picture of this in Daniel 4. In Daniel 4:25, Daniel interprets the king’s dream, “That you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven.” Nebuchadnezzar fed on pride and his power, the pride of life, the spiritual forces of this world, believing that he had made Babylon great. As a result, Daniel 4:32-33 says, “‘And you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like on ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.’ Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.” Nebuchadnezzar had fed on the blood, the life, of the beasts, the spiritual forces of this world, and became like them.

Therefore, to drink the blood of Christ is to feed on his spiritual nature, light, love, and life, and become like him. But, this is to be done spiritually. How so?

DRINKING JESUS’ BLOOD = SETTING YOUR MIND ON CHRIST

Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” Our mind is renewed by setting it on Christ, the things above, not on the things of this world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.

Paul is telling us not to drink the blood of animals and beasts because the blood contains their life. Do not set your minds on the spiritual forces of this world or you will be conformed to them.

Instead, drink the blood of Jesus. Feast on his life. Set your mind on Jesus. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. This is how we become like Jesus – by eating him.

The Jews heard what Jesus said and took it literally. They were thinking of dead letters. They were reading Moses through a veil. But, 2 Corinthians 3:16-18 says, “But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

Jesus said his words are spirit and life. So, we need to hear them, read them, with the veil removed. Drink his blood. Set your mind on Jesus.

Why Is the Purification for a Woman Twice as Long for a Daughter than a Son?

Leviticus 12 gives the ritual of purification for a woman after she gives birth to a child. One issue that is particularly difficult to understand in this chapter is why the time for purification for woman is twice as long when she gives birth to a daughter versus when she gives birth to a son. In this teaching, I am going to offer a possible explanation that helps us see Jesus in this chapter.

Why Is the Purification for a Woman Twice as Long for a Daughter than a Son?

LEVITICUS 12

Leviticus 12 gives the ritual of purification for a woman after she gives birth to a child. One issue that is particularly difficult to understand in this chapter is why the time for purification for woman is twice as long when she gives birth to a daughter versus when she gives birth to a son.

As when we looked at Genesis and Abraham’s offering of Isaac, most of the commentaries are not very helpful in truly understanding what this passage is about. Many of the commentary writers even admit they are stumped as to why the ritual of purification was different for a daughter than for a son.

In this teaching, I am going to offer a possible explanation.

COMMENTARIES: NATURAL OR CULTURAL EXPLANATIONS

The New American Commentary: Leviticus provides a typical view of Leviticus 12. It says, “The reason purification needed to be made after childbirth is not given in the text. Some in fact find it curious in view of the fact that God gave man the mandate to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. Calvin believed that the existence of a depraved offspring in the womb created uncleanness. While there may be truth to this assertion, a more likely explanation would be that it was the contact with the blood of childbirth that defiled. The latter explanation is supported by the fact that being in the menstrual state rendered one unclean. The similarity of this condition to giving birth is explicitly made in the text.”

When one sees that menstruation is the shedding of blood, which I believe is linked to the crucifixion of Jesus, then the need for purification is pretty obvious.

Again, The New American Commentary: Leviticus provides a typical view on the longer time of purification for the mother after the birth of a daughter. “Common explanations include: (1) females were understood in some sense seen [sic] as inferior to males, (2) the longer amount of time involved for the formation of the male and female embryo, (3) the fact that the blood discharges after the birth of a female last longer or have greater toxicity than they do after the birth of a male, and (4) the fact that women are associated with the pains of childbearing that come as the punishment for sin. With regard to the uncleanness of the mother after the birth of the son being only one week as opposed to two, the difference of this length of time may be found in the text itself. The length of uncleanness after the birth of a son is interrupted by the command to carry out the circumcision on the eighth day. If the mother was considered ceremonially unclean on the eighth day after the birth of her son, it could be conceivable that she would be able to witness her own son’s circumcision.” The commentary continues that there is no consensus. It details other cultural issues that may speak to the longer time of purification at the birth of a daughter.

In another commentary, the author admits that he has no idea why the time of purification is double for a daughter versus a son. The author simply chalks it up to the whim of God. At least he’s honest.

Take note that virtually all the commentaries focus on natural or cultural explanations for the uncleanness of the mother and for the time of uncleanness lasting twice as long for a girl than for a boy. Hardly a one considers any “supernatural” explanation of Leviticus 12. Jesus is almost never mentioned. But, before we get to Jesus, let’s get a handle on the surface understanding of the Leviticus 12.

MOTHER, SON, AND DAUGHTER

The focus of this short chapter is on the mother who gives birth. The chapter details how the mother is to become clean after giving birth. There are two different cleansing rituals: one for the birth of a son and one for the birth of a daughter.

UNCLEAN AND CLEAN

The words unclean and clean appear a total of five times in this short chapter.

The first half of the chapter details the woman’s uncleanness and the length of time she is unclean.

If the woman conceives and bears a son, then she is unclean for seven days. After this seven day period, the son is circumcised on the eighth day. Then, the woman continues in the blood of her purifying for another 33 days, which includes the eighth day.

If the woman bears a daughter, then she is unclean for 14 days. After this 14 day period, the woman continues in the blood of her purifying for another 66 days.

Therefore, the time periods are twice as long for the birth of a daughter as they are for the birth of a son. The time of the woman’s uncleanness is 7 days for a son but 14 days for a daughter. The time for the blood of the woman’s purification is 33 days for a son but 66 days for a daughter. The total time of uncleanness is 40 days for a son but 80 days for a daughter.

We are also told what it means to be unclean. While the woman was unclean she could not touch anything holy and she could not come into the sanctuary. This means that the woman could not worship with the rest of the congregation of Israel. The issue at stake was worship. It is important to note that the son or daughter was not unclean. Therefore, they were able to worship while the mother was not.

The second half of the chapter details how the woman becomes clean after the 40 or 80 days of uncleanness. The process for becoming clean is the same regardless of the child born being a son or daughter. This shows that the difference in the length of time of the woman’s uncleanness for having a son or daughter does not have to do with the sex of the child. If it did, then we would expect there to be a difference in the process of becoming clean for a son or a daughter.

In either case, the woman needed to bring to the priest a lamb a year old for a burnt offering and a pigeon or turtledove for a sin offering. If the woman was too poor to afford a lamb, then she could offer two pigeons or two turtledoves, one for a burnt offering and one for a sin offering. The priest would offer these before the Lord and make atonement for the woman.

BLOOD

The words blood and menstruation appear five times in the chapter.

In the first half of the chapter, the word menstruation, which is the shedding of blood, and the word blood, as in the blood of the woman’s purifying, occur four times. The process of giving birth is linked to menstruation, or the shedding of blood. Therefore, it is the shedding of blood that makes the woman unclean.

In the second part of the chapter, the word blood is mentioned just one time. When the priest has made atonement for the woman, the woman is said to be clean from the flow of her blood.

A LITERAL FULFILLMENT BY MARY AND JESUS

Luke 1 and 2 records the literal fulfillment of Leviticus 12 by Mary and Jesus.

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to Mary. Mary was a virgin betrothed to Joseph. In Luke 1:31, Gabriel said to Mary, “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son.” Leviticus 12:2 says, “If a woman conceives and bears a male child.” Notice that in both cases the woman conceives a child and no father is mentioned. This is about the woman.

Luke does not specifically say that Mary was unclean for seven days. But, Luke does write in 2:21 “at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised.” This is in fulfillment of Leviticus 12:3, which says, “And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.”

Luke 2:22-24 says, “When the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, ‘Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, ‘a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.’” Here we have Mary and Jesus completing the fulfillment of Leviticus 12.

Mary and Joseph were taking Jesus up to the temple to set him apart to the Lord. This was in fulfillment of Exodus 13:2, which says, “Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine.” When Jesus was presented in the temple before the Lord, he would be consecrated, set apart, holy to the Lord. But, Leviticus 12:4 said that Mary, as the woman who bore a son, could not touch anything holy or come into the sanctuary until the 33 days in the blood of her purifying were completed. So, we know that Jesus was not presented in the temple, which would have made him holy, before this 33 days was completed, otherwise Mary would not have been able to touch. Also, Luke 2:27 says that Mary and Joseph brought Jesus into the temple. Mary would not have been allowed to enter the temple if the 33 days in the blood of her purifying had not been completed.

Another confirmation that Mary’s 33 days were completed was that they offered a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons at this time. This was what those who could not afford a lamb offered when the mother’s days of purifying were completed according to Leviticus 12:6, 8. Interestingly, 2 Corinthians 8:9 says that Jesus was rich but for our sake he became poor. We know this because Mary and Joseph offered two turtledoves or pigeons instead of a lamb.

So, Luke 1 and 2 gives us a literal fulfillment of Leviticus 12 by Mary and Jesus. The only problem is that this doesn’t address the woman who bears a daughter and the times of her purification being doubled because she had a daughter instead of son. Therefore, I think there is a greater fulfillment to be found.

A GREATER FULFILLMENT – ISRAEL, JESUS, AND THE CHURCH

According to the Passover, Jesus was selected as the lamb of God on the 10th day of the month, which was the first day of the week. He was crucified on the 14th. The seventh day would have been the last day of the week, Saturday, or the Sabbath. This speaks to a week of uncleanness.

Luke 24:1 says, “But on the first day of the week.” The disciples went to Jesus’ tomb the first day of the week, eight days after he was selected as the lamb to be sacrificed. When Jesus was resurrected on the eighth day he had put off his natural body and taken on a spiritual body. We know this because nobody was able to recognize him right away after the resurrection. It was as if his natural body had been circumcised on the eighth day.

Acts 1:3 says, “He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.” In Leviticus 12, we know that the woman that bore a son had seven days of being unclean, on the eighth day the son was circumcised, and then she continued in the blood of her purifying for 33 days. The total time of her purification was 40 days.

Therefore, in Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension we can see a second fulfillment of Leviticus 12, which I believe speaks to a greater fulfillment.

Throughout the Old Testament, Israel is pictured as God’s wife. In Leviticus 12, I think we can look at Israel as the woman who bore a son. Jesus was the son that came forth from Israel. Israel was unclean for seven days, or a complete period of time. The woman in Leviticus 12 was unclean for seven days as at the time of her menstruation. Menstruation is the shedding of blood. So, Israel, as the woman, was unclean for these seven days because it was the time when she shed the blood of Jesus.

Jesus, as the son, was resurrected, or circumcised from his natural flesh, on the eighth day. Baptism, circumcision, and resurrection are linked together at different points in the New Testament.

Then, Israel continued in the blood of her purifying for 33 days. The number 33 speaks to the complete time of Jesus’ work. Also, the total time of 40 days for Israel’s purifying represents the complete time of her testing.

But, where does the woman who had a daughter come in?

Like Israel, the church is pictured as a woman throughout the New Testament. The church is the bride of Christ. But, where did the church come from? Well, the first believers were Jews. They were from Israel. It’s as if the woman, Israel, gave birth to a daughter.

If the woman, Israel, had a daughter all the times of her purification were doubled. Why were the times doubled? The number two in the Bible represents union. Genesis 2:24 says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” The two became one.

Paul quotes this passage in Genesis when he says in Ephesians 5:29-32, “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” Jesus, the bridegroom, was joined to the church, his bride, and the two became one.

So, the seven days that Israel was unclean for shedding the blood of Jesus became 14 days for shedding the blood of the church, which was Jesus’ body. When did this happen? In Acts 7:54-60, we are told of the stoning of Stephen. For the first, but not the only, time, Israel shed the blood of a member of the church. But, not just a member of the church. This was a member of Christ’s body.

When Saul was converted on the road to Damascus in Acts 9, Jesus said to him, “Why are you persecuting me?” Saul asked, “Who are you, Lord?” Jesus responded, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Saul and Israel weren’t just shedding the blood of the church, they were shedding the blood of Jesus and the church, the two that had become one. Therefore, the time of uncleanness, which was likened to the time of menstruation, again for the shedding of blood, was doubled from 7 days to 14 days.

Of course, daughters were not circumcised in the Bible. Plus, unlike Jesus, we have not been circumcised of our flesh yet. We have been baptized into Christ and have had a circumcision of the heart. But, we have not had our flesh circumcised and received our new bodies like Jesus did. Therefore, there is no doubling of the eighth day.

But, the woman, Israel, does need to continue 66 days in the purifying of her blood for the daughter that she bore. The number 66 is twice the number of the time of Christ’s finished work, 33, because the two have been made flesh. In Luke 21:24, Jesus says, “They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” The finished work of the Gentiles, their time, was double because they had been joined as one with Jesus. Remember, Jesus’ bride is generally pictured as a Gentile woman throughout scripture.

So, the total time for the woman’s purification because she bore a daughter was 80 days. Again, the period of testing was doubled because the church, the daughter of Israel, had been made one with Jesus.

An interesting side note to all of this, is that Leviticus 12 pictures Jesus, the son, and the church, the daughter, as having the same mother. But, there’s the sense that Jesus and the church have different fathers. With the son, the woman conceived and bore a son. But, with the daughter, the woman just bore a daughter. Therefore, Jesus and the church are step brother and step sister.

Why is this interesting? Because that was the relation of Abraham and Sarah. Genesis 20:12 says, “Besides, she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father though not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife.” Abraham and Sarah were step brother and step sister.

WHEN THE TIME OF PURIFICATION IS COMPLETED

Whether a son or daughter was born, when the time of the woman’s purification was completed she brought an offering to the priest. The priest would offer the offering to the Lord and make for atonement for the woman.

I think there’s a possibility that this pictures the time when Israel reaches the conclusion of her test and recognizes that she has crucified her Messiah. Israel brings this recognition to the priest in acknowledgement of the offering that Christ made for her. Then, Christ presents Israel’s recognition of his sacrifice for them and makes atonement for her.

Having been atoned for, the woman is now clean from her menstruation, which is to say that Israel, having recognized her crucifixion of the messiah, has an offering presented by the priest to the Lord. This makes Israel clean from shedding the blood of the savior.

Perhaps others will see Leviticus 12 differently, but this does seem to be a way that this law as fulfilled by Jesus and bearing witness to him.

Jesus and the Holy Spirit: Cleansing and Powering the Leper on the 8th Day

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.