Friday, October 20, 2023

2023.10.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ Leviticus 13–14

Read Leviticus 13–14

Questions from the Scripture text: To whom does YHWH speak (Leviticus 13:1)? What situations is he addressing (Leviticus 13:2)? Who are supposed to handle it? What about the hair and the penetration indicate uncleanness (Leviticus 13:3)? What if he is not unclean yet (Leviticus 13:4)? What happens after the seven days (Leviticus 13:5)? If it’s going away, what must the patient do (Leviticus 13:6)? But what if it’s getting worse (Leviticus 13:7-8)? What condition establishes unclean leprosy immediately (Leviticus 13:9-11Leviticus 13:14-15)? What type of spread shows that it is not an unclean leprosy (Leviticus 13:12-13)? And what can happen to raw flesh for him to be restored (Leviticus 13:16-17)? What conditions can cause an unclean leprosy (Leviticus 13:18-20Leviticus 13:24-26)? In the case of a boil or a burn, what is to be looked for after the probationary period (Leviticus 13:21-23Leviticus 13:27-28)? Where is the skin different (Leviticus 13:29)? What indicates an unclean leprosy here (Leviticus 13:30)? And if inconclusive, what must he be examined for after quarantine (Leviticus 13:30-32)? And at this point, if inconclusive, what must be done (Leviticus 13:33)? And what do they look for after the second quarantine (Leviticus 13:34)? What must he do if he is clean? But what must still be watched for (Leviticus 13:36-37)? What may indicate an unclean leprosy (Leviticus 13:38)? What must be looked for (Leviticus 13:39)? What does not indicate an unclean leprosy by itself (Leviticus 13:40-41)? But what may appear in his baldness to make him unclean (Leviticus 13:42-44)? Whenever someone is unclean, what must he do (Leviticus 13:45)? Where must he dwell (Leviticus 13:46)? With whom? What indicates that spot in a garment is a leprous infection (Leviticus 13:47-49)? What must be done if this happens (Leviticus 13:50)? And what sort of leprosy is it if it has spread (Leviticus 13:51)? What must be done to this malignant leprosy (Leviticus 13:52)? But what if it hadn’t spread (Leviticus 13:53-54)? And after seven more days what needs to have changed (Leviticus 13:55)? If not, what must be done to the garment? But if the infection has faded, what can be done with it (Leviticus 13:56)? And if it comes back (Leviticus 13:57)? If it passes the tests, what must be repeated (Leviticus 13:58)? How does Leviticus 13:59 summarize and reinforce the seriousness of this? Whereas chapter 13 covered determination of uncleanness, what does chapter 14 now cover (Leviticus 14:1-2)? Who must examine the patient, where (Leviticus 14:3)? What will be needed if the leper is healed (Leviticus 14:4)? What is done to one bird, how/where (Leviticus 14:5)? What is done in that bird’s blood (Leviticus 14:6)? What does the priest do with the blood (Leviticus 14:7)? And what does he do with the living bird? What does the patient do (Leviticus 14:8)? But what mayn’t he do for 7 days? What must he do on the seventh day (Leviticus 14:9)? And what does he bring to whom on the 8th (Leviticus 14:10)? What is the priest in Leviticus 14:11 called? What does he present to Whom? What does he offer, where (Leviticus 14:12-13)? What does he do with the blood (Leviticus 14:14)? With the oil (Leviticus 14:15Leviticus 14:17-18)? Where does he sprinkle oil, and how many times (Leviticus 14:16)? What does the priest make for the patient (Leviticus 14:18)? What else is to be offered (Leviticus 14:19-29)? What accommodations can be made for whom (Leviticus 14:21-32)? What part of these laws will only need to be applied later (Leviticus 14:33-34)? What must a homeowner watch for (Leviticus 14:35)? What are they to do if there is plague in the house (Leviticus 14:36)? What constitutes an unclean plague (Leviticus 14:37)? And what if they find it (Leviticus 14:38)? What does the priest check for on the 7th day (Leviticus 14:39)? And if it has spread (Leviticus 14:40-41)? What must be replaced (Leviticus 14:42)? And what if it comes back (Leviticus 14:43-44)? Now what must be dismantled and carried away (Leviticus 14:45)? And who become unclean (Leviticus 14:46)? And who else must do what (Leviticus 14:47)? But what if the infected spot has not spread (Leviticus 14:48)? What procedure is then repeated for the house (Leviticus 14:49-53, cf. Leviticus 14:4-7)? For a house, what does not have to be repeated (cf. Leviticus 14:10-20)? How does Leviticus 14:54-57 conclude chapters 13–14?

What do we learn from the ceremonial uncleanness of 116 verses about skin diseases? Leviticus 13–14 looks forward to the evening sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these one hundred sixteen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that our susceptibility to infection in our flesh shows us the susceptibility to sin in our remaining fleshliness, and our great need for our Great High Priest to cleanse us until we are clean. 

Marks on the flesh that witness to our remaining fleshliness. If an Israelite contracted an infection (“leprosy” in our version can be any sort of skin disease) on his skin (Leviticus 13:2), it would be a lack of wholeness that would threaten to make him unclean. Since the priests are tasked with leading Israel in distinguishing between clean and unclean (cf. Leviticus 10:10–11), it’s their job to determine the depth and infectiousness to see if it is a leprous “sore” (plague/affliction/mark), and if the patient is in fact unclean (Leviticus 13:3Leviticus 13:7-11Leviticus 13:14-15Leviticus 13:18-20Leviticus 13:22Leviticus 13:24-25Leviticus 13:27Leviticus 13:29-30Leviticus 13:35-36Leviticus 13:42-44). 

A blemish is always a reminder that we are still sinners, whose condition and conduct deserve judgment; there will be none on the Bride in glory (Song of Solomon 4:7; Ephesians 5:27). The only marks there are the ones by which she was cleansed!

Deceitful above all things. The Lord gives an exceedingly (tediously?) detailed procedure by which the priest may determine whether the infection is a plague. There are various things to observe upon first examination. But even then, the evaluation may be inconclusive at first, resulting in a week’s quarantine (Leviticus 13:4Leviticus 13:5Leviticus 13:6Leviticus 13:21Leviticus 13:26Leviticus 13:31-33). Just as the sinful heart is deceitful above all things (cf. Jeremiah 17:9a), so also the Lord had made this physical and ceremonial uncleanness quite difficult to discern.

Desperately wicked. Sometimes, it is the priest’s happy duty to pronounce the patient clean (Leviticus 13:12-13Leviticus 13:16-17Leviticus 13:23Leviticus 13:28Leviticus 13:34Leviticus 13:37-41). But when he determined that the patient was unclean (Leviticus 13:3Leviticus 13:7-11Leviticus 13:14-15Leviticus 13:18-20Leviticus 13:22Leviticus 13:24-25Leviticus 13:27Leviticus 13:29-30Leviticus 13:35-36Leviticus 13:42-44), it required grieving as over a death! The tearing of the clothes and the baring of the head (Leviticus 13:45) were exactly the mourning that had been necessary for Nadab and Abihu, but that Aaron, Eleazar, and Ithamar could not do because they were consecrated men in consecrated clothes and headgear (cf. Leviticus 10:6–7). But the wailing of unclean (end of Leviticus 13:45) is one that continues indefinitely (Leviticus 13:46). Not only is he unable to assemble for worship, but his dwelling itself was cut off from his people (end of Leviticus 13:46). 

There is something about the persistence of the uncleanness of this type of plague (“sore” in our version) that corresponds to the persistence of the wickedness of the sinful heart as desperately wicked (cf. Jeremiah 17:9b). Men can’t see hearts, but God can (cf. Jeremiah 17:9c), and He coordinated the providence of skin diseases with the regulations of these chapters to remind His people of what He sees (cf. Jeremiah 17:10).

Keeping oneself unspotted from the world. In this fallen creation, clothing (Leviticus 13:47–59) and even buildings (Leviticus 14:33–57) can contain plague (“leprous plague” in Leviticus 13:47 and Leviticus 14:34 is the same as “leprous sore” in Leviticus 13:2). In God’s providence, our skin is susceptible to things that infect garments and building materials. One reads these two sections—the latter put where it is, because not have houses until they came into the land (Leviticus 13:34)—and cries out, “Is nowhere safe?” 

And the answer is, “No!” So long as we are sinners, we are susceptible to our circumstances. We must be watchful against temptation (cf. Matthew 26:41), and flee it (cf. 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22), if we are to keep ourselves unspotted from the world (cf. James 1:27). So also the Israelite had to keep a constant watch upon not only his skin, but even the walls of his home! Surely, this was intended to remind them of the dangers of uncleanness and judgment that continuously threatened from within and without, but we can imagine how difficult it was to keep track of it all both physically and spiritually. Now that Christ has put away the ceremonial code, let us honor Him Who has “freed us up” by using that freedom to devote ourselves to the works, obedience, kindness, and purity that are the pure and undefiled religion of those united to the Son before the face of the Father (cf. James 1:21–27).

Ceremonial cleansing for when God removes plague. Leviticus 14:1–32 is pretty amazing. We’ve seen how these sorts of infections in skin, clothing, or house are described as plagues from God. And the examination process makes it plain how persistent the plague is. In fact, if it’s in a garment or a house, those are simply destroyed. So it is a happy marvel that the Lord here gives a procedure for readmittance to the camp when the “unclean! unclean!” had been cleansed!

Indeed, this is rare enough that the writer of this devotional is unable to remember the procedure being used in Scripture until the time of Christ in Luke 17:11–19 and Matthew 8:2–4. In the latter passage, it is significant that it immediately follows the “Sermon on the Mount.” Jesus had just set before them an extended description of the righteous conduct that is required in His kingdom. How could those who are poor in spirit ever attain to that? The answer is two-fold: not only is Christ the righteousness that is imputed to us in our justification, whereby He removes the guilt of our sin; but, He is also willing by His power (cf. Matthew 8:2–3) to remove the infection of our sin in our sanctification.

So, we are amazed at the grace that this procedure exists, but we are not surprised that the procedure itself so clearly points forward to Christ. First, because the unclean cannot enter for examination, the priest comes out to him (Leviticus 14:3). This, the Lord Jesus has fulfilled in spectacular fashion, not only coming from glory to us where we are, but literally suffering outside the camp for our sakes (cf. Hebrews 13:12), wherefore we are glad to bear whatever reproach comes to us for belonging to Him (cf. Hebrews 13:13)! 

There are parallels between the procedure in Leviticus 14:4-7 to the procedure in Leviticus 16:6–10; it is as if he is conducting a mini Day of Atonement. Then, there is a seven-day waiting period during which he may not enter his tent (Leviticus 14:8-9). This picks up the theme of the eighth day, or the first day of a new creation. As he enters into his new life that the Lord has mercifully and miraculously given him, the cleansed man offers a trespass offering with a wave offering of oil. The application of the blood in Leviticus 14:14, and the oil in Leviticus 14:17, is reminiscent of the priests’ ordination (“filling”). Indeed, in order to apply it to the ear/thumb/big toe of the worshiper, the priest must fill his hand. There is then another sin offering (Leviticus 14:19) and then an ascension and tribute (Leviticus 14:20). The restoration is final and full!

This can all be very expensive, and so the Lord makes special accommodation for the poor, keeping the ceremonies in Leviticus 14:21-32 almost identical, except for using much less expensive elements. For the value is in the Lord, not in the means that the man has—something that may even be reflected in the title, “the priest who makes clean” in Leviticus 14:11. On this side of the cross, we know that Jesus is our “Priest Who makes clean”!

What are some circumstances in which you are more susceptible to sin? And to Whom can you come if you have backslidden and found your life more and more infected by sin? What does the complexity of the ceremonial system tell you about the greatness of Christ’s atonement?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You for giving us Your own Son to be our Great High Priest. As You have forgiven the guilt of our sin for His sake, now also cleanse the infection of our sin by His power and holiness. Grant that Your Spirit would plant Your Word deep in us, sanctifying us by Your truth, until at the last we are pure and undefiled before You, we ask through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP51B “From My Sins, O Hide Your Face” or TPH274 “Jesus, My Great High Priest”

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