pure and free

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Leviticus 14:48-53

Lev 14:48 “But if the priest comes and looks, and if he notices that the disease has not spread in the house after the house was plastered, then the priest will pronounce the house clean, because the disease is healed.
Lev 14:49 And for the cleansing of the house he will take two small birds, with cedar wood and scarlet yarn and hyssop,
Lev 14:50 and will kill one of the birds in a clay pottery container over fresh water
Lev 14:51 and will take the cedar wood and the hyssop and the scarlet yarn, along with the live bird, and dip them in the blood of the bird that was killed and in the fresh water and spritz the house seven times.
Lev 14:52 Thus he will cleanse the house with the blood of the bird and with the fresh water and with the live bird and with the cedar wood and hyssop and scarlet yarn.
Lev 14:53 And he will let the live bird go out of the city into the open country. So he will provide reconciliation for the house, and it will be clean.”

pure and free

What is true for an individual is also true for a household and family. There is no freedom without purity. The bird set free speaks of all the potential and power of freedom for the household, whose home is now cleansed of its contamination. The price for this freedom was the death of the other bird. Likewise, God offers deliverance and freedom for your family, and its cost has been paid by the death of Christ on the cross.

Purity without freedom is legalism, freedom without purity leads to bondage again. God’s grace offers us the one chance to get it right. Our Lord wants us to be pure and free.

LORD, thank you for your grace.

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domestic demolition

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Leviticus 14:43-47

Lev 14:43 “If the disease breaks out again in the house, after he has taken out the stones and scraped the house and plastered it,
Lev 14:44 then the priest will go and look. And if he notices that the disease has spread in the house, it is a persistent leprous disease in the house; it is contaminated.
Lev 14:45 And he will break down the house, its stones and timber and all the plaster of the house, and he will carry them out of the city to a contaminated place.
Lev 14:46 Moreover, whoever enters the house while it is shut up will be contaminated until the evening,
Lev 14:47 and whoever sleeps in the house will wash his clothes, and whoever eats in the house will wash his clothes.

domestic demolition

When the Israelites encountered a house with contamination that resisted all attempts to purge it and restore it, there would be no other recourse but to demolish it and build again. The LORD warned them that there would be such houses.

Likewise, there are some lives that are so ravaged and transformed by sinful lifestyles and addictions that a radical reconstruction will be necessary before knowing God’s peace and purity. If we do not have the courage to tear down our old house, the LORD will have to destroy us — soul and body — in Gehenna.

LORD, sanctify us by the washing of your word. If our sinful habits persist, break down every offending wall. We want to be pure habitations for your Spirit.

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domestic renewal

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Leviticus 14:33-42

Lev 14:33 Yahveh spoke to Moses and Aaron, and this is what he said,
Lev 14:34 “When you come into the land of Canaan, which I give you for a possession, and I put a case of leprous disease in a house in the land of your possession,
Lev 14:35 then he who owns the house will come and tell the priest, and this is what he should say, ‘There seems to me to be some case of disease in my house.’
Lev 14:36 Then the priest will command that they empty the house before the priest goes to examine the disease, or else all that is in the house be declared contaminated. And afterward the priest will go in to see the house.
Lev 14:37 And he will examine the disease. And if he notices that the disease is in the walls of the house with greenish or reddish spots, and if it appears to be lower than the wall,
Lev 14:38 then the priest will go out of the house to the door of the house and shut up the house seven days.
Lev 14:39 And the priest will come again on the seventh day, and look. If he notices that the disease has spread in the walls of the house,
Lev 14:40 then the priest will command that they take out the stones in which is the disease and throw them into a contaminated place outside the city.
Lev 14:41 And he will have the inside of the house scraped all around, and the plaster that they scrape off they will pour out in an contaminated place outside the city.
Lev 14:42 Then they will take other stones and put them in the place of those stones, and he will take other plaster and plaster the house.

domestic renewal

This instruction had to do with houses, which were not yet a reality for the Israelites, because they lived in tents in the wilderness. But the LORD wanted the Israelites to be protected after they settled, because infestation would still be a problem then.

It is interesting to me that the LORD has no problem taking the credit for the infestations (34). Some seem to recoil at the idea that God could be personally responsible for bringing any negative thing into their lives. While it is true that God desires our happiness, he has eternity in mind, so he is willing to inflict us with temporary harm if it will affect the mature love that will make us happy with him forever.

The lesson in this text is that houses (and households and families) need to be purged of their contamination. God loves us in our state of brokenness, but refuses to allow us to wallow in it. He demands change, and that change is difficult and uncomfortable for us, but it is necessary. To simply defend our own failures by saying that God made us that way is to disobey his will.

LORD, give us the courage to decontaminate and renew and reconstruct.

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in case of poverty

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Leviticus 14:21-32

Lev 14:21 “But if he is poor and cannot afford so much, then he will take one male lamb for a reparation offering to be waved, to provide reconciliation for him, and a tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil for a tribute offering, and a log of oil;
Lev 14:22 also two turtledoves or two pigeons, whichever he can afford. The one will be a mistake offering and the other an ascending offering.
Lev 14:23 And on the eighth day he will bring them for his cleansing to the priest, to the entrance of the conference tent, in Yahveh’s sight.
Lev 14:24 And the priest will take the lamb of the reparation offering and the log of oil, and the priest will wave them for a wave offering in Yahveh’s sight.
Lev 14:25 And he will kill the lamb of the reparation offering. And the priest will take some of the blood of the reparation offering and put it on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed, and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot.
Lev 14:26 And the priest will pour some of the oil into the palm of his own left hand,
Lev 14:27 and will spritz with his right finger some of the oil that is in his left hand seven times in Yahveh’s sight.
Lev 14:28 And the priest will put some of the oil that is in his hand on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot, in the place where the blood of the reparation offering was put.
Lev 14:29 And the rest of the oil that is in the priest’s hand he will put on the head of him who is to be cleansed, to provide reconciliation for him in Yahveh’s sight.
Lev 14:30 And he will offer, of the turtledoves or pigeons, whichever he can afford,
Lev 14:31 one for a mistake offering and the other for an ascending offering along with a tribute offering. And the priest will provide reconciliation in Yahveh’s sight for him who is being cleansed.
Lev 14:32 This is the law for him in whom is a case of leprous disease, who cannot afford the offerings for his cleansing.”

in case of poverty

This alternative to the former prescribed set of rituals and sacrifices was designed to accomplish the same thing without the high cost. Just like the former rituals, these speak of God’s love for the victim, and Christ’s sacrifice which will provide cleansing and restoration for him and all other victims covered in his atonement.

But this case manifests the fact that God is not so much concerned about his religious ritual as what it signifies. Neither of the sacrifices was a true reflection of the value of Christ’s death on the cross. There is no sacrifice that can truly compare to that. The poor victim was allowed to pay a lesser price for his restoration to the community, but each sacrifice was merely a reflection on the ultimate price — a price no one could afford but God himself.

LORD, thank you for the cross.

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the rest of the healing

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Leviticus 14:10-20

Lev 14:10 “And on the eighth day he will take two male perfect lambs, and one perfect ewe lamb a year old, and a tribute offering of three tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, and one log of oil.
Lev 14:11 And the priest who cleanses him will set the man who is to be cleansed and these things in Yahveh’s sight, at the entrance of the conference tent.
Lev 14:12 And the priest will take one of the male lambs and offer it for a reparation offering, along with the log of oil, and wave them for a wave offering in Yahveh’s sight.
Lev 14:13 And he will kill the lamb in the place where they kill the mistake offering and the ascending offering in the place of the sanctuary. For the reparation offering, like the mistake offering, belongs to the priest; it is most holy.
Lev 14:14 The priest will take some of the blood of the reparation offering, and the priest will put it on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot.
Lev 14:15 Then the priest will take some of the log of oil and pour it into the palm of his own left hand
Lev 14:16 and dip his right finger in the oil that is in his left hand and spritz some oil with his finger seven times in Yahveh’s sight.
Lev 14:17 And some of the oil that remains in his hand the priest will put on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot, on top of the blood of the reparation offering.
Lev 14:18 And the rest of the oil that is in the priest’s hand he will put on the head of him who is to be cleansed. Then the priest will provide reconciliation for him in Yahveh’s sight.
Lev 14:19 The priest will offer the mistake offering, to provide reconciliation for him who is to be cleansed from his contamination. And afterward he will kill the ascending offering.
Lev 14:20 And the priest will offer the ascending offering and the tribute offering on the altar. Thus the priest will provide reconciliation for him, and he will be clean.

the rest of the healing

Let’s think this one through. The victim of leprosy has just been found to be healed. His healing has been declared via the sacrifice prescribed, and he has shaved himself, so that all those around him now know that he has been set free from the bondage and shame of the disease. But, now, he must go through a second set of rituals, involving other sacrifices, and a ceremony where the priest anoints him with oil to “provide reconciliation for him in Yahveh’s sight”? This brings up many questions: Why the second set of rituals, if the victim is already free. In fact, why should a victim of a disease have to offer a mistake offering at all, since the disease is not a sin? Why does he need a reparation offering if the damage is already repaired?

Two realities help me to sort this all out. First, all of the sacrifices point to Christ, speaking of what he did for us on the cross. While it is true that the individual worshipper did not catch leprosy intentionally, so there is no culpable sin, it is also true that leprosy and all other diseases and problems are covered by the cross. The leprosy restoration rituals speak to the fact that all sin and shame will be eliminated by virtue of the cross. One day all sin and shame and sickness and sorrow will be eliminated, not because of humanity’s progress, but because of God’s love manifested on the cross, and the power of the resurrected and returning Christ.

The second reality has to do with the former leper. He has been healed, yes. But now he has to return to a society that has shunned him, isolated him because of a disease so repugnant it represented sin itself. The rest of his healing must now take place. He has to be restored to the status of full participant in the covenant community, and this elaborate ritual is designed to help him do that.

Both of these realities are rooted in divine love.

LORD, thank you for loving us so much that you will not only heal us, but you will show us complete and ultimate restoration.

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testimonies to healing

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Leviticus 14:1-9

Lev 14:1 Yahveh spoke to Moses, and this is what he said,
Lev 14:2 “This will be the law of the leprous person for the day of his cleansing. He will be brought to the priest,
Lev 14:3 and the priest will go out of the camp, and the priest will look. Then, if he notices that the case of leprous disease is healed in the leprous person,
Lev 14:4 the priest will command them to take for him who is to be cleansed two live pure birds and cedar wood and scarlet yarn and hyssop.
Lev 14:5 And the priest will command them to kill one of the birds in a clay pottery container over fresh water.
Lev 14:6 He will take the live bird with the cedar wood and the scarlet yarn and the hyssop, and dip them and the live bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the fresh water.
Lev 14:7 And he will spritz it seven times on him who is to be cleansed of the leprous disease. Then he will pronounce him clean and will let the living bird go into the open field.
Lev 14:8 And he who is to be cleansed will wash his clothes and shave off all his hair and bathe himself in water, and he will be clean. And after that he may come into the camp, but stay outside his tent seven days.
Lev 14:9 And on the seventh day he will shave off all his hair from his head, his beard, and his eyebrows. He will shave off all his hair, and then he will wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and he will be clean.

testimonies to healing

When the community of Israelites saw the second bird released, or saw clean-shaven and washed former victim of leprosy — then they would know that there was a God among them who cared for those who are outcast and isolated. Those testimonies were built into the system of priestly instruction in order to give former lepers a means of demonstrating that their healing was due to the power of God.

In the church today, we gather regularly to worship God, and that is only one opportunity that we have to testify to what he is doing in our lives. Say it, post it, print it. Tell the world what your Lord is doing for you.

LORD, show us how to pubicise your power.

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clothes and containers

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Leviticus 13:53-59

Lev 13:53 “And if the priest examines, and if he notices that the disease has not spread in the clothes, in the warp or the woof or in any container made of skin,
Lev 13:54 then the priest will command that they wash the thing in which is the disease, and he will shut it up for another seven days.
Lev 13:55 And the priest will examine the diseased thing after it has been washed. And if he notices that the appearance of the diseased area has not changed, though the disease has not spread, it is contaminated. You will burn it in the fire, whether the rot is on the back or on the front.
Lev 13:56 “But if the priest examines, and if the diseased area has faded after it has been washed, he will tear it out of the clothes or the skin or the warp or the woof.
Lev 13:57 Then if it appears again in the clothes, in the warp or the woof, or in any container made of skin, it is spreading. You will burn with fire whatever has the disease.
Lev 13:58 But the clothes, or the warp or the woof, or any container made of skin from which the disease departs when you have washed it, will then be washed a second time, and be clean.”
Lev 13:59 This is the law for a case of leprous disease in wool or linen clothing, either in the warp or the woof, or in any container made of skin, to determine whether it is clean or contaminated.

clothes and containers

The rules regarding rescue of clothing or containers infected by leprous disease show a balance between two extremes. Instead of requiring immediate destruction, or disregarding the external factors altogether, the rules indicate that these external things are important enough to be saved if possible. In the Israelite community on the move in the wilderness, possessions were highly valued. The concern about these possessions by the priests are a reflection on the fact that God cares about what matters to us.

LORD, thank you for caring about what matters to us.

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hope without compromise

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Leviticus 13:45-52

Lev 13:45 “The leprous person who has the disease will wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he will cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘contaminated, contaminated.’
Lev 13:46 He will stay contaminated as long as he has the disease. He is contaminated. He will stay alone. His dwelling will be outside the camp.
Lev 13:47 “When there is a case of leprous disease in clothes, whether woollen or linen clothes,
Lev 13:48 in warp or woof of linen or wool, or in a skin or in anything made of skin,
Lev 13:49 if the disease is greenish or reddish in the clothes, or in the skin or in the warp or the woof or in any container made of skin, it is a case of leprous disease, and it will be shown to the priest.
Lev 13:50 And the priest will examine the disease and shut up that which has the disease for seven days.
Lev 13:51 Then he will examine the disease on the seventh day. If the disease has spread in the clothes, in the warp or the woof, or in the skin, whatever be the use of the skin, the disease is a persistent leprous disease; it is contaminated.
Lev 13:52 And he will burn the clothes, or the warp or the woof, the wool or the linen, or any container made of skin that is diseased, because it is a persistent leprous disease. It will be burned in the fire.

hope without compromise

Because leprosy had been chosen by God to symbolise the horrible reality of sin and its effects, any clothing found to be persistently contaminated with the disease was to be burned up, consumed by fire. This is the exact judgement that God himself has reserved for sinners.

Yet, God did not command his people to execute that judgement upon those who had leprosy. There was hope for any person who had leprosy to be healed of the disease, and restored to the camp. So, God commanded the priests who had diagnosed a person with leprosy to send that person outside the camp to dwell. This command showed God’s grace toward those infected with leprosy, and implied God’s grace toward those presently infected with sin. Because God is a God of grace, there is hope for the lost. But because God is a God of holiness, there will be no eternal compromise with sin. The fire of Gehenna hell consumes utterly. Sinner, turn to the God of grace in repentance before he comes to judge your sin.

LORD, show us how to proclaim your gospel of grace without denying your condemnation of sin.

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false diagnosis

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Leviticus 13:38-44

Lev 13:38 “When a man or a woman has spots on the outer layer of their skin, white spots,
Lev 13:39 the priest will look, and if he notices that the spots on the outer layer of their skin are of a dull white, it is leukoderma that has broken out in the skin; he is pure.
Lev 13:40 “If a man’s hair falls out from his head, he is bald; he is pure.
Lev 13:41 And if a man’s hair falls out from his forehead, he has baldness of the forehead; he is pure.
Lev 13:42 But if there is on the bald head or the bald forehead a reddish-white diseased area, it is a leprous disease breaking out on his bald head or his bald forehead.
Lev 13:43 Then the priest will examine him, and if he notices that the diseased swelling is reddish-white on his bald head or on his bald forehead, like the appearance of leprous disease in the outer layer of his skin,
Lev 13:44 he is a leprous man, he is contaminated. The priest must pronounce him contaminated; his disease is on his head.

false diagnosis

We have seen that the priests had to be very cautious not to allow leprosy to remain in the Israelite community, without taking action to prevent it from infecting others. As such, leprosy served as an apt analogy for sin, and is used as such elsewhere in the Bible (2 Corinthians 6:16-17; Revelation 21:27). As the covenant community, the Israelite camp had to avoid all appearance of evil, so when something threatened the purity of the camp, action had to be taken to remove it.

Yet, there were conditions (as we have also seen) that mimicked the symptoms of leprosy, but were not to be treated the same way as leprosy. Two more such conditions are highlighted in today’s text: leukoderma (a pigmentation irregularity), and mere baldness. The priests were held responsible for correctly diagnosing each case, so that someone with only the appearance of leprosy would not be unfairly treated and isolated from the camp.

Here, as well, we find some helpful implications for those of us seeking to represent God’s holiness in the new covenant community. There are some who, simply because they appear different that other Christians, are often unfairly judged and criticised. We must learn to stop judging people by their mere outward appearance, and accept those whom God has accepted, because he sees the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

LORD, give us a discerning mind, so that we can welcome all those whom you have welcomed, and avoid any false diagnosis of their spiritual condition.

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fortnight itch

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Leviticus 13:29-37

Lev 13:29 “When a man or woman has a disease on the head or the beard,
Lev 13:30 the priest will examine the disease. And if he notices that it appears deeper than the skin, and the hair in it is yellow and thin, then the priest will pronounce him contaminated. It is an itch, a leprous disease of the head or the beard.
Lev 13:31 And if the priest examines the itching disease and notices that it appears no deeper than the skin and there is no black hair in it, then the priest will shut up the person with the itching disease for seven days,
Lev 13:32 and on the seventh day the priest will examine the disease. If he notices that the itch has not spread, and there is in it no yellow hair, and the itch appears to be no deeper than the skin,
Lev 13:33 then he will shave himself, but the itch he will not shave; and the priest will shut up the person with the itching disease for another seven days.
Lev 13:34 And on the seventh day the priest will examine the itch, and if he notices that the itch has not spread in the skin and it appears to be no deeper than the skin, then the priest will pronounce him clean. And he will wash his clothes and be clean.
Lev 13:35 But if the itch spreads in the skin after his cleansing,
Lev 13:36 then the priest will examine him, and if he notices that the itch has spread in the skin, the priest need not seek for the yellow hair; he is contaminated.

fortnight itch

Another problem that tended to be misdiagnosed as leprosy is itching skin on the scalp. When people walked around scratching their heads raw, it tended to cause concern. So, the priests were instructed to isolate these victims of (probably) lesser skin conditions as well. After a period of seven days’ observation, the victim was instructed to shave all his hair, except the part on the scalp where the itch was located. After another seven days, it would be clear whether it was actually leprosy, or some lesser irritation. The whole thing — especially the shaving part — was an ordeal of humiliation and shame for an Israelite, but the seriousness of leprosy made it necessary.

Is there some problem you are having that is making you and those around you wonder about your spiritual health? Maybe you are not sure whether you should bother getting help for your problem, wandering whether it is really cause for concern. Why not try seeking help? A counsellor or pastor or Christian friend might be able to help you, and all it will take is a bit of humbling.

LORD, give us courage to seek help when we need it.

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