Francis of Assisi was terrified of leprosy. And one day, full in the narrow path that he was traveling, he saw, horribly white in the sunshine, a leper! Instinctively his heart shrank back, recoiling shudderingly from the contamination of that loathsome disease. But then he rallied, and ashamed of himself, ran and cast his arms about the sufferer’s neck and kissed him and passed on. A moment later he looked back, and there was no one there, only the empty road in the hot sunlight. All his days thereafter he was sure it was no leper, but Christ Himself whom he had met.1 In last week’s podcast, we took a look at the who and what surrounding some of the Bible lepers. Today in Part two, we continue to look directly at the cleansing law of the leper found in Leviticus chapter fourteen.
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The Lord is set against all sickness and disease. It is all unclean to Him. That’s how He sees it. Thank God for Jesus. Thank God for His precious blood which gave God the Father a different viewpoint. Set yourself to see life on planet earth just as the Father views it.
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Emery committed his life to the Lord Jesus Christ over 40 years ago and has served as both a full-time pastor and an itinerant minister. Both he and his wife Sharon of 35 years emphasize personal growth and development through the Word of God. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is both the focus and the hallmark of their mission. Read more about them here.
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The Cleansing Law of the Leper
- So, let’s go through it.
- Let’s look at the cleansing of the leper.
Leviticus 14:1–2 (KJV) — 1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 2 This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing: He shall be brought unto the priest:
- Before the leper could come to the priest and be cleansed, he had to have been healed by the power of God because leprosy, at the time, was incurable.
- As previously alluded to, leprosy is one of planet earth’s oldest diseases, like try 4000 B.C.
- The first known written reference to the disease was found on Egyptian papyrus in about 1550 B.C 2
- Today, the disease is extremely rare; only 63 cases worth in the United States in 2015.
- You might say, ‘I didn’t even there was even one case of leprosy’ in the United States.
- Yes, there are, but it’s exceptionally rare.
- In our day, they have the medicine to combat this bacteria.
- After the leper was healed, he had to show himself or herself to the priest for cleansing.
- After which came an extensive list of ‘Old Testament law’ steps he had to take.
- These steps are spread over fifty-seven verses in Leviticus fourteen.
Three Areas Concerning the Cleansing of the Leper
- The fifty-seven verses which cover the lepers cleansing in Leviticus fourteen can be grouped into three areas.
- The first involves reiterating the connection between sin and sickness.
- That’s the whole deal with the two birds.
- The second involves being reintegrated into the community.
- That’s the whole deal with the washing and the shaving and the seven day waiting period we are going to read about.
- The third involved restoring fellowship with God.
- That’s the offerings presented to God.
- The first involves reiterating the connection between sin and sickness.
The Lepers Cleansing and the Symbolic Connection between Sin and Disease.
- Let’s take a look first at the two birds.
Leviticus 14:4–7 (KJV) — 4 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: 5 And the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel over running water: 6 As for the living bird, he shall take it, and the cedar wood, and the scarlet, and the hyssop, and shall dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water: 7 And he shall sprinkle upon him that is to be cleansed from the leprosy seven times, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird loose into the open field.
- The list of Law items to do starts with two living birds, cedarwood, scarlet stuff, and hyssop.
- One bird is killed over in an earthen vessel over running water.
- The living bird was dipped into the blood of the slain bird.
- And the blood dripping off the living bird was then sprinkled on the former leper seven times.
- So, here’s the person standing there with the blood from the dead bird on his person.
- The next words he hears is the priest pronouncing him clean.
- The Hebrew phrase ‘then he shall pronounce him clean’ is two words and it means to declare as ceremonially pure.
- After this, the living bird with the blood still on it is released to the open fields.
- What does all this mean?
What Does the Symbolism of the Two Birds Mean?
- Two chapters later, there is another ceremony called the Day of Atonement.
- The Day of Atonement is the holiest day in Judaism.
- The modern twenty-first-century version goes by the name of Yom Kippur.
- The feast falls in September.
- It is a national day of fasting, praying, and attending the synagogue where the nation of Israel and each individual looks to God for the forgiveness of sins.
- One part of the day of atonement ceremony in the Old Testament was the taking of two goats.
Leviticus 16:7,9,15 –22 (KJV) — 7 And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation… 9 And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the LORD’s lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering. 10 But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness… 15 Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the vail, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat… 18 And he shall go out unto the altar that is before the LORD, and make an atonement for it; and shall take of the blood of the bullock, and of the blood of the goat, and put it upon the horns of the altar round about. 19 And he shall sprinkle of the blood upon it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it, and hallow it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel. 20 And when he hath made an end of reconciling the holy place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat: 21 And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: 22 And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness.
- Now, compare these two birds in Leviticus fourteen with the two goats of Leviticus sixteen.
Blood, Birds, and Goats
- Look at the similarities between these two accounts.
- One bird dies in Leviticus fourteen. One goat dies in Leviticus sixteen.
- One bird goes free in Leviticus fourteen. One goat goes free in Leviticus sixteen.
- The blood of both is sprinkled for cleansing.
- The bird’s blood is on the leper.
- The goat’s blood is on the mercy seat.
- Both the living bird and the living goat receive freedom in the wilderness.
- The scapegoat carries away the nation’s sins.
- The living bird carries away the polluting skin disease 3
- The symbology around the goats has to do with the forgiveness of sins.
- The symbology around the birds has to do with the healing of disease.
- In both cases, blood is shed and a death occurs.
- One bird and one goat die to make it right in the sight of God.
Without the Shedding of Blood
Hebrews 9:22 (KJV) — 22 And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.
- The salvation of any part of man, spirit, soul or body apart from the shedding of blood is unknown in scripture.
- We readily understand that Jesus shed His blood for our sins.
- But, do we readily acknowledge that Jesus shed His blood for our healing?
- If you can see healing in the types, as you do in the case of the leper’s cleansing, then you can readily understand that Jesus redeemed us from our diseases when He atoned for our sins.
- This concept is in the scripture and it’s in the types.
Cedar Wood, Scarlet Wool, and Hyssop
- With the birds, the priests took cedar wood, scarlet wool, and hyssop.
- These three items, when seen in this context, also symbolize cleansing.
- Do you remember King David’s adulterous encounter with Bathsheba after which he commissioned the murder of her husband Uriah?
- After David saw his sin by the mercy of God, he says these words…
Psalm 51:7 (ESV) — 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
- What is hyssop?
- Great question.
- With that thought here’s the historical background of the day.
- Probably “hyssop” refers to a group of plants like marjoram and thyme.4
- Hyssop was most likely an herb of some kind.
- It’s a plant.
- It’s a part of the vegetable kingdom.
- Can you see that it’s symbolic?
- There is no plant that can take away sins.
- Do you remember the role of hyssop in the Passover?
Exodus 12:22 (KJV) — 22 And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the bason, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning.
- Hyssop, dripping in the lamb’s blood, made it to the doorposts.
- When the death angel, who was coming for the firstborn sons of the land, saw the lamb’s blood on the doorposts he passed over that house.
- These types are very specific.
- They speak volumes about our redemption.
- They tell the story of our righteous standing with God.
- You had to take hyssop and dip it in the blood.
- You couldn’t just take a paintbrush and do it.
What About Scarlet Wool?
- Scarlet wool was another symbolic type for showing our cleansing from sin.
Isaiah 1:18 (ESV) — 18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.
- We just quoted Hebrews 9:22, without the shedding of blood there is no remission.
- Back up a couple of verses from that to verse nineteen.
Hebrews 9:19–21 (ESV) — 19 For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship.
What about Cedar Wood?
- Oh, man this is super cool when you look at cedar wood as a type.
- This type occurs twice in scripture in connection with sin and cleansing.
- Once in Leviticus fourteen four.
- But, also a second time in Numbers nineteen.
Numbers 19:2–6 (ESV) — 2 “This is the statute of the law that the LORD has commanded: Tell the people of Israel to bring you a red heifer without defect, in which there is no blemish, and on which a yoke has never come. 3 And you shall give it to Eleazar the priest, and it shall be taken outside the camp and slaughtered before him. 4 And Eleazar the priest shall take some of its blood with his finger, and sprinkle some of its blood toward the front of the tent of meeting seven times. 5 And the heifer shall be burned in his sight. Its skin, its flesh, and its blood, with its dung, shall be burned. 6 And the priest shall take cedarwood and hyssop and scarlet yarn, and throw them into the fire burning the heifer.
- The red heifer was an atoning offering for general uncleanness.
- There are several things which made an Israelite unclean before a holy God.
- Skin diseases like leprosy.
- Touching a dead corpse of any type human or animal made that person unclean.
- Discharges from the body like semen
- Menstrual discharges deemed one unclean for a designated time.
- Bearing children placed you also in this category.
Leviticus 12:1–2 (ESV) — 1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If a woman conceives and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days. As at the time of her menstruation, she shall be unclean.
- I used to read this and didn’t understand what was going on.
- After all, mensuration is part of the normal everyday life.
- God made the female body this way.
- Bearing children is a part of the normal process of life.
- Why is there an unclean element designation to something so beautiful as the birth of a child?
- If you had a relative and they passed away in your presence, you were unclean because you made contact with the dead.
- Why were you unclean when it’s your dad or your mom who passed away?
- It’s your parents, you have to be there?
- It’s the normal part of life.
- Why was it so?
- Because it’s a symbol.
- It’s a type.
- Physical death is a type of spiritual death.
- A person who is spiritually dead is unclean before God.
- You have to look at all these types from heaven’s viewpoint, not your viewpoint.
- View it from God’s standpoint.
- To God, death is an enemy.
- In His eyes, this enemy of death only exists because of sin.
- Now, to Him, death is still an enemy, an enemy He is waiting to have put under the feet of Jesus.
- This is the whole deal with leprosy.
- It’s a skin disease with connections to sin.
- So, if there was no sin, no one would ever have had a skin disease like this.
- What about the childbirth and the menstrual cycle?
- Well, childbirth is under a curse.
Genesis 3:14–16 (ESV) — 14 The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” 16 To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.”
- Childbirth and all its components are under the curse.
- And the curse comes from sin.
- So you see, all these parts have the taint of sin on them.
- And they are naked and open unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
Job 15:15 (ESV) — 15 Behold, God puts no trust in his holy ones, and the heavens are not pure in his sight;
- Thank God for Jesus!
Hebrews 9:11–1 (KJV) — 11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. 13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: 14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
- Jesus is a high priest of good things to come.
- There are good things coming your way!
- What did the Blood of Jesus do?
- It gave God a different viewpoint.
- Now, when He looks through the vile of the blood of Jesus, He sees clean instead of unclean.
- So, that’s why we don’t have to do these sacrifices anymore.
- G. K. Chesterton, Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc., 1996), 757. ↩
- https://www.medicinenet.com/leprosy/article.htm ↩
- Gordon J. Wenham, The Book of Leviticus, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979), 209. ↩
- R. K. Harrison, “Hyssop,” ed. Geoffrey W Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979–1988), 790. ↩