Are we SPIRITUALLY ‘LEPROUS’ inside?
February 4 Bible Reading: Leviticus Chapters 13-15
"Now the leper on whom the sore is, his clothes shall be torn and his head bare; and he shall cover his mustache, and cry, 'Unclean! Unclean!' He shall be unclean. All the days he has the sore he shall be unclean. He is unclean, and he shall dwell alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp." (Lev. 13:45-46)
Leprosy was one of the most terrible skin diseases in the ancient world that was supposedly incurable, believed to be highly contagious, and was therefore greatly feared by the general populace. Anyone who appeared to have leprosy was immediately banished from the mainstream society. Actually, the disease of leprosy was caused by a bacterium that spread across the skin, creating sores, scabs, and white shining spots. There was also a loss of sensation in the affected parts of the body that led to injury, infection, deformity, muscle loss, and even paralysis. This may be the reason why God gave in great detail the law concerning leprosy (13:1-46), the law concerning leprous garments (13:47-59), the ritual for cleansing healed lepers (14:1-32), and the law concerning leprous houses (14:33-57).
These laws and rituals were geared towards recognizing and quarantining the lepers from among the Israelites. It is interesting to note that in the absence of medical doctors in those days, it was the temple priests who diagnosed this ailment (see chapters 13–14), isolated the confirmed lepers (see 13:21; 14:30), and sanitized the environment through purging/cleaning both the clothes (13:47–59) and the homes (14:33–57) of the lepers. God’s law required that lepers be isolated from the rest of society (13:45–46), wear mourning clothes, leave their hair in disorder, keep their beards covered, and cry out ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ so that people could avoid them. If anyone even touched a leper, that person would be defiled as well…!!!
In the Old Testament, we read about some lepers who were miraculously cured, for e.g. Miriam, the elder sister of Moses (Num. 12:10) and Naaman, the captain of the Syrian army (2 Kings 5:1, 10). In the New Testament, Jesus intentionally healed the sick, but ‘cleansed’ the lepers as a sign to vindicate His ministry. On one occasion He cleansed ten lepers at once, even though only one returned to thank Him (Luke 17:11–15). Also, throughout the Gospels we read that Jesus had compassion on the lepers, touched them, and made them clean (Mark 1:40–45); and He also gave His disciples power to cleanse the lepers (Matt. 10:8).
When we take leprosy on to a spiritual application, we can see that it symbolizes sin (see Psalms 38:3–8; Isaiah 1:4-6) as it portrays the internal nature of sin (James 1:14), and the depravity of sin in separating us from God’s holy presence (Rom. 7:13; Isaiah 59:2; Rev. 21:27). Like leprosy, sin grows progressively worse (James 1:15), is contagious in nature, often is difficult to diagnose, and is incurable without divine intervention. Sin is also analogous to leprosy in its insidious growth, difficulty of removal, and its association with decay. Ultimately, sin isolates its victims from God and His worship, and even from the community of faith!
Just like leprosy is “deeper than the skin”, sin goes deep inside of us and pollutes us completely. In the light of God’s Word, can we check our hearts today and see if we are spiritually ‘leprous’ inside? Let us be clear that we can never be ‘cleansed’ from our sins by our own good deeds, which are like filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6). Instead, we must confess our sins to Jesus so that He will forgive and cleanse us completely (1 John 1:7, 9). Today, can we go to Jesus Christ, who alone can completely cleanse us from all our ‘leprous’ sins?