All Scripture is given by inspiration of God. What can we learn from what the Bible says about leprosy and mold?
[Steven Britt] So, today I’d like to start out with a little story about young Steven Britt. Young Steven Britt grew up as a Baptist. My parents were Baptist when I was growing up, and we’d go to church I’d say probably most weeks when I was a little kid. And as I started to get a little older, maybe I was seven, eight, nine we just kind of tapered off, went less and less. Got to the point where it was only Christmas and Easter, and then maybe by the time I was 10 or 11, not at all, not at all.
One thing that we never did in our home as a family and something I never really did individually up to a certain point, was just sit and read the Bible. This wasn’t part of our family culture. However, one day a couple years after we’d stopped attending church, young Steven Britt decided he was going to sit down and read the Bible cover-to-cover. I don’t know, I had some just personal religious revival, okay. I was going to read the Bible cover-to-cover. So I started in Genesis 1:1 Genesis 1:1In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
American King James Version×. Reading along and reading along and I really, you know, parts of the story are a little fuzzy to me now, but I must have gone on for a few days at this because I remember exactly where I stopped.
I don’t remember all the stuff in between, but I remember exactly where I stopped. You don’t need to turn there but the place I ended up stopping was somewhere between Leviticus 13 and 14, the chapter is on leprosy, mold and mildew, afflictions in the skin, and the cleansing process. And I remember at that time being a little frustrated that I felt like these things just didn’t apply to me, and I lost the motivation to keep going. The motivation to stick out that plan to read the Bible. I said, “You know what? I guess I already know the stuff I need to know.”
Shut the book, probably didn’t open it again on my own for another five or six years until I started coming into God’s Church. When I did come into the Church, one of the foundational scriptures for me and something that really made the Bible come alive, and help me to understand it as I never had before, 2 Timothy 3:16 2 Timothy 3:16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
American King James Version×, 2 Timothy 3:16 2 Timothy 3:16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
American King James Version×, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, instruction in righteousness.” So as I came to understand elements of the law that were very clear, that I’d very clearly been leaving out, the Sabbath, the Holy Days, clean and unclean meats. All these things started taking on a meaning whereas before I can remember what it was like to read about those things and skip over them, thinking, “Oh, well, it’s there but it doesn’t matter. Let me get to the next thing, get to the next fun story” or whatever it was.
So that was a foundational scripture for me. Another one and I’ll turn to this one is Romans 7:12-14 Romans 7:12-14 12 Why the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
13 Was then that which is good made death to me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.
14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
American King James Version×, Romans 7 starting in verse 12. Here Paul after making a lot of statements, they can be hard to understand at times. The thing about Paul is if you read him for long enough if you keep reading. He eventually comes back around and makes things clear like this, it says, “Therefore the law is holy, the commandment holy and just and good.” And down in verse 14, “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.”
I really latched on to that at that time period, but eventually, as I started thinking back to my own personal history of interaction with the Bible, it ran me up against the wall, right? Because I’m looking at these laws of leprosy and mold. Well, how in the world is that holy just and good? How are these things profitable for doctrine, or instruction and righteousness? It still didn’t quite connect, and it took quite a long time before I did the study that I’m going to present today in the sermon. So I’m sorry if you’re disappointed we are talking about leprosy and mold today. But it took a while before I really came to appreciate that section of Scripture, and kind of redeem myself from that failure of commitment in my childhood.
So, I have a couple of goals for this message. The first one is to help you hopefully come to the same appreciation for these somewhat obscure scriptures as I did during that time, understanding them as a spiritual component of the law of God. And in the course of doing that, the second goal is that we will better understand the process of repentance and God’s judgment and God’s mercy towards us because that’s what those scriptures are really about. And before we get into that let’s turn over to Mark 1 if you would please. Mark 1:40-42 Mark 1:40-42 40 And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying to him, If you will, you can make me clean.
41 And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and said to him, I will; be you clean.
42 And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed.
American King James Version×, and take a minute to appreciate what it meant to be unclean in that day.
This is the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Mark 1:40 Mark 1:40And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying to him, If you will, you can make me clean.
American King James Version×. One of the many accounts of Jesus Christ healing someone miraculously, verse 40, “Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, ‘If You are willing, You can make me clean.’ Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ And as soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed.”
Did it ever occur to you that the leper didn’t come and say, “You can heal me. You can give me relief. You can make me feel better.” No, no, he said, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” Why is it that that was his first thought given his condition? Which probably was kind of unsightly and pretty uncomfortable. Let’s take a look at what it meant to be unclean in Leviticus 13, Leviticus 13 which if we’re going there now you might just want to put a marker there, we’ll come in and out of that chapter throughout the message. Leviticus 13:45-46 Leviticus 13:45-46 45 And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and his head bore, and he shall put a covering on his upper lip, and shall cry, Unclean, unclean.
46 All the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be.
American King James Version×.
So we’re going to delve into this process of determining whether somebody was unclean or not, but just look at what happens when someone was declared unclean, verse 45. “Now the leper on whom the sore is, his clothes shall be torn and his head bare; he shall cover his mustache, and cry, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’” What’s that sound like? Tearing your clothes in the ancient world, that was what you did when you were in mourning. It’s what you did when you were in mourning, when something bad had happened when a relative had died. Your head had to be bare which at that time was a sign of dishonor, and you had to cover your mouth when people approached you and warn them, “I’m unclean. Don’t come near me. I’m unclean.”
Verse 46, “He shall be unclean. All the days he has the sore he shall be unclean. He is unclean,” we get the picture, “and he shall dwell alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.” It implied social alienation, it implied humiliation. To live with leprosy at that time was to be cut off from the entire community and communal life. And included in that turn over to chapter 15 in verse 31 of Leviticus. Chapter 15 and verse 31. We’ll see there was even more than that, “Thus you shall separate the children of Israel from their uncleanness, lest they die in their uncleanness when they defile My tabernacle that is among them.”
You cannot participate in the worship of God which was centered at that time around the tabernacle and around the temple. You were not only socially isolated from the community, you were spiritually isolated from God. It was a difficult life. Now today we still follow the physical cleanliness laws for the most part, but far more important in the New Covenant are the laws of cleanliness to be spiritually clean, and we’ll look at a couple more scriptures to really flesh out this fact that being unclean whether physically in the flesh at that time or spiritually separates us from God.
Let’s turn to 2 Corinthians 6:16-17 2 Corinthians 6:16-17 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? for you are the temple of the living God; as God has said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
17 Why come out from among them, and be you separate, said the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.
American King James Version×. 2 Corinthians 6:16 2 Corinthians 6:16And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? for you are the temple of the living God; as God has said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
American King James Version×. “What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’” But now notice in verse 17, if God’s going to be there with us, “Therefore ‘Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.’” “Do not touch what is unclean and I will receive you.”
Being physically clean allowed you into the physical presence of God under the Old Covenant when God’s dwelling was physically with man. Being spiritually clean today allows us to enter the spiritual presence of God through the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ, the work that He’s done. I won’t turn there but you can write down Isaiah 59:2 Isaiah 59:2But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.
American King James Version×, it’s a verse that we know, “Your iniquities have separated you from your God.”
Sin is what separates us from God, and the laws of clean and unclean are all about what separates us from God. Let’s get some of the back-story because we’re going to get into Leviticus chapters 13 and 14 and those laws specifically, but I want to set the context of that so we’ll go to Leviticus 10 a little bit earlier. In fact, there’s a whole block of chapters in Leviticus from about Leviticus 11 up to Leviticus 15 that are all about the clean and the unclean, what makes a person unfit for the presence of God, and that statement that we read chapter 15 verse 31 of Leviticus is the summary of all of it. He said, “All of this is to tell you what’s not fit for My presence.” Why was all that given at that time? It starts with Nadab and Abihu, names that we’ve probably heard.
The sons of Aaron. They were some of the first priests to ever serve in the tabernacle. Leviticus 10:1-3 Leviticus 10:1-3 1 And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not.
2 And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.
3 Then Moses said to Aaron, This is it that the LORD spoke, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come near me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace.
American King James Version×, “Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, and put incense on it, and offered a profane fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them.” So they were as they were ministering as priests, they did something that wasn’t allowed, and we don’t know whether that was offering a different kind of incense than they were supposed to because it was very specific how they were supposed to do it, or whether they did it at the wrong time. Whatever reason it was not what God intended, and they probably knew that it wasn’t what God intended. In verse 2, “So fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. And Moses said to Aaron, ‘This is what the Lord spoke, saying: ‘By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified.’”
Being holy is being set apart. God had to be treated different, His presence had to be treated different. If we skip down to verses 10 and 11. All this happening God gives the coming instruction in the next few chapters, “So that you may distinguish between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean, and that you may teach the children of Israel all the statues which the Lord has spoken to them by the hand of Moses.”
Distinguishing between holy and unholy clean and unclean was important. This is why we have five whole chapters on the clean and the unclean, and I guess consequently why as a 13-year-old, an eager 13-year-old at that I stalled out because it’s kind of heavy, it’s kind of tedious, hard to work through. Let’s go to Leviticus 20, a few more statements just to really reinforce these concepts. Leviticus 20:7-8 Leviticus 20:7-8 7 Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be you holy: for I am the LORD your God.
8 And you shall keep my statutes, and do them: I am the LORD which sanctify you.
American King James Version×says, “Consecrate yourselves therefore and be holy, for I am the Lord your God.” So consecrate yourselves is something incumbent on us. We have to prepare ourselves, get ourselves ready, “I’m Lord your God. And you shall keep My statutes and perform them: I am the Lord who sanctifies you.”
Okay, so you consecrate yourself and be holy, “But I am the Lord who sanctifies you.” That word “sanctified” if we think about it means to set you apart, to make you holy. So there’s work that we do on our own in this process, and there’s work that God does. We can keep ourselves in a clean state, keep ourselves away from the unclean, but only God can make us holy, only God can make us holy. Same chapter, drop down to verse number 24, “But I said to you, ‘You shall inherit their land, I’ll give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey.’ I am the Lord your God, who has…” notice, “separated you from the peoples.” “Separated you for the peoples. You shall, therefore distinguish between clean animals and unclean, between unclean birds and clean, and you shall not make yourselves abominable by beasts or by bird, or by any kind of living thing that creeps on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean.”
Again, it’s all about separation. Verse 26, “You shall be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine.” So God was calling them to be different. Today He’s calling us to be different be different, be different. And we know that Israel didn’t actually follow this. Throughout their whole history, they mixed in with things that God had told them not to mix in with. I won’t turn there but Ezekiel 22:26 Ezekiel 22:26Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned my holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they showed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.
American King James Version×, Ezekiel 22:26 Ezekiel 22:26Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned my holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they showed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.
American King James Version×says that “Your priests have done violence to My law… they have not distinguished between the holy and the unholy… the clean and the unclean.” Even the officials the leaders, the teachers, the shepherds had led people into sin and into defiling themselves, consequently separating them from God and making them unfit for His presence.
All right, so with that let’s start talking about leprosy and mold, that’s what I’m really excited to do. Just to make the chapters maybe not so onerous and not so hard to filter through, I’d like to give you an outline… We’re actually, we’re going to talk about leprosy and mold in three different contexts, because that’s how it appears. You’ve got leprosy that occurs on the skin and various types of blemishes. Secondly, we’re going to look at garments, if you get some patch of mold on your clothes or maybe on your tent, something like that. That has to be dealt with.
Then also we can show up in your house as many of us may, unfortunately, know about. But in each case, it follows a certain pattern and structure of instruction. So I’d like to give you that before we begin and start looking at the spiritual aspects of it even before we get started. So first… So by the way, all of these are things that you would notice as blemish or decay, okay. This is something that you would see with your eyes and you would realize that this is a bad thing that’s going on here. This is ruining either my body, or my garment, or my house.
So the first step is that you notice that there is decay or blemish. You notice its presence. Secondly, it’s going to be brought forth to the priest by the responsible party. All right, so I realize there’s a problem. What do I do? I take it to the priest. Third, there’s going to be a period of judgment and assessment that the priest will conduct, and at the end of that period, the fourth thing is going to be action. That action is bifurcated, there are two different things that might be done. Either you or your garment or your house is declared clean. And then there’s a cleansing process to follow, or it’s declared unclean.
And well, if it’s in your skin and you have to cover the lip and “Unclean! Unclean!” and dwell alone and all these awful things, so your garment it’s burned up, your house it gets knocked down. So this is serious, serious business in these times. With that let’s turn over to Leviticus 13 and we’ll see how that structure plays out. Well, maybe don’t turn there just yet. I skipped over something because I don’t want this material to seem so drying. I want us to really understand spiritually what these things are reading about, because what I don’t find… Well, okay, so I find it somewhat interesting to look historically at what these diseases were, or what this mold was and how this process physically helped these people.
That’s something that also realized, that this process was just and good for the people of Israel, it helped them be free of disease and free of mold and leprosy, and following God’s commandments in the physical sense was good for them. But it means more for us, more for us. So just to backtrack a little bit, who is the priest that’s going to be involved here? You can write down Hebrews 8:1-2 Hebrews 8:1-2 1 Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;
2 A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.
American King James Version×, we know that Jesus Christ is our High Priest. And that’s something that we say and that’s a statement that we’re comfortable with.
We’re going to see how it applies in this case. Hebrews 8:1-2 Hebrews 8:1-2 1 Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;
2 A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.
American King James Version×is where we get that clear statement that Jesus Christ is the High Priest. The period of judgment, 1 Peter 4:17 1 Peter 4:17For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
American King James Version×, 1 Peter 4:17 1 Peter 4:17For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
American King James Version×, that’s where it says that it is “time for judgment to begin at the household of God.” And we in the Church understand they were under a period of judgment by God in our lives when we’ve been called and we’ve responded to the call, our time of judgment is now. Our time of judgment is now.
Okay, so now we can go to Leviticus 13, get into the good stuff. So I’ll start in verse 2 Leviticus 13, says, “When a man has on the skin of his body a swelling, a scab, or a bright spot, and it becomes on the skin of his body like a leprous sore, then he shall be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons the priests. And the priest shall examine the sore on the skin of the body; if the hair of the sores turned white, and the sore appears to be deeper than the skin of his body, it is a leprous sore. And the priest shall examine him, and pronounce him unclean.”
Let’s unpack that just a little bit. So we start with the person, right? The man who has this leprosy on his skin. That’s us and we noticed that we have a defect. We can see it with our eyes. We notice before God that there is something wrong with something that we’re doing if we think about leprosy as this ugly spot on us, if we think about it as this disease that has a tendency to spread. Sounds a lot like another analogy in the Bible, a lot like leaven, right? How leaven represents sin, how it spreads, how a little leaven leavens the whole lump and a little bit of evil can lead us to be unclean.
Well, the same thing applies here, same thing. So what do we do when we notice that we have a problem like that? A problem with sin? We take it to God, it’s part of the process that all of us do and know to do but that’s what’s being described here. We take it to God and the priest is the one who examines it. And what is the priest looking for? Verse 3, “If the sore appears to be deeper than the skin of his body,” deeper than the skin. So when we go to God if this is a sin that’s not just a mistake that we made that we’re sorry for. If this is something that is not just on the surface. If it’s something that penetrates down into us, then we’re unclean, then we’re unclean.
There are other cases. We can keep reading in verse 4, “But if the bright spot is white on the skin of his body, and does not appear to be deeper than the skin, and its hair hasn’t turned white, the priest shall isolate the one who has the sore seven days.” So if it doesn’t look like it’s deeper than the skin, it’s not an automatic condemnation, it’s not an automatic separation from God, it’s a period of judgment, right? Seven days. Seven days for what? Verse 5, “The priest shall examine him on the seventh day; and indeed if the sore appears to be as it was,” with no change, “the sore has not spread on the skin, the priest shall isolate him another seven days.”
Okay, we waited a period of time. This hasn’t gotten better but it hasn’t gotten worse, we’ll give you more time, that’s what it’s saying. That was the process they followed. Verse 6, “The priest shall examine him again on the seventh day; and indeed if the sore has faded, if the sore has not spread on the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him clean; it’s only a scab, and he shall wash his clothes and be clean.”
So if over a period of time we make improvements during that judgment, then we can be declared clean from the sin. And there are a lot of other cases, I’ll summarize some of them because there were apparently a lot of different kinds of skin diseases, but all of them hold more lessons like this. So verses 9 through 16 just to summarize, deal with cases where you have raw flesh. You have a spot like this that has raw flesh in it. But you can think about that as in the spiritual sense as an open spiritual wound. If you have an open exposed spiritual wound, there was no period of judgment who’s declared automatically unclean automatically, automatically.
Verse 18 deals with another interesting example, “If the body develops a boil in the skin and it’s healed,” down to verses 22 and 23, you find out that sometimes you will have had a problem and it’s gotten better, but there’s still a spot there where it’s healed over. Sometimes sin leaves a scar. Sin can leave a scar on life. Sometimes the consequences of the sin can’t be undone, even though we’re forgiven, even though we are cleansed. Verses 24-28 talks about a burn, if your skin gets burned and then it gets infected, in verses 24-28 it’s talking about a wound, right? A spiritual wound. Not all these things just pop up out of nowhere just randomly, sporadically. Sometimes we’re hurt by something, by someone.
Do we let that get infected? Does it go on to become something sinful? To become something unclean in us? And if we keep going there’s more. There some cases where really dramatic action is required. You have to shave your head, you have to shave your beard, you got to shave your eyebrows and look like Mr. Clean, probably shave your chest and your back and, you know, this really extreme thing where you would have to go through all this extra process, you know, some problems really require that kind of action.
There are some spots that didn’t require anything at all because they weren’t actually uncleanness. Only the priest could look at it and tell you whether it was unclean or not, and given how big the consequences were here physically and spiritually for being unclean in that day, that was critically important that you have a priest exercising sound judgment, not just saying, “Oh, yeah, that’s probably unclean. You just get outside the camp, and tear your clothes, and mess up your hair, and do the whole deal, be isolated.”
No, we have a High Priest who cares about us, who wants us in the community, who judges us with righteous judgment. So let’s talk a little bit, let’s get back into our New Covenant dispensation and look in the New Testament a little bit about what the solution to these spiritual conditions are because it’s worth talking about. Let’s go to 1 John 1. 1 John 1:9 1 John 1:9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
American King James Version×, it’s a memory scripture, you might have memorized this at some point. I don’t know… I know it took me a long time to even notice what it was talking about here, it says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
And we see the process there, don’t we? We see the confession, right? We notice we have a problem, we confess to God we have a problem, we take it to the Priest and He is faithful, He is just, He administers judgment with justice. We’re not only forgiven of our sins, we are cleansed from all unrighteousness. And we’re going to notice a lot of this language of cleansing, and purification and sanctification in the New Testament to reinforce this. So what’s the solution to these spiritual conditions? Number one is to bring your spots and blemishes to the Priest, confess, bring it to God, and then and only then we can be clean. Along with that though, second point is to stay away from what causes it to begin with. Not to defile ourselves with the unclean neither physically nor spiritually.
Come with me to 2 Corinthians 7, in fact, we were right next to this verse talking about “touch no unclean thing” that was in chapter 6 verse 16. And the discussion on the clean, unclean continues right into chapter 7 verse 1, “Therefore, having these promises,” what promises? We read it a minute ago. The promise of coming into the presence of God, “having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” Stay away from the filthiness in the flesh. Stay away from the filthiness of the spirit.
Let’s go back to Leviticus 13 and get into garments. Leviticus 13 and we’ll start in verse 34, immediately after it talks about them, I don’t want to say punishment, but the status I guess that we read if someone who was unclean of that time having to shout, “Unclean! Unclean!” It gets into what to do if you have a “leprous plague in a garment” as the New King James puts it. I think back when I was 13 and reading my N.I.V. it says mold or mildew or one of those terms, so your translation may vary. New King James “leprous plagues in a garment.”
Let’s read through verses 47-49 and we’ll see that same process playing out, and we’ll give some thought to what this means. Verse 47, “Also, if a garment has a leprous plague in it, whether it is a woolen garment or a linen garment, whether it’s the warp or woof of linen or wool,” I really don’t understand what the warp and woof are. Probably could have looked that up in preparation for this message, but what it’s taken for granted now. If it’s in the garment verse 49, “If the plague is greenish or reddish in the garment or in the leather, whether in the warp or in the woof, or anything made of leather, it is a leprous plague and shall be shown to the priest.”
Verse 51, “He shall examine the plague on the seventh day.” So they shut it up again the same process. “If the plague has spread in the garment, either in the warp or in the woof, or in the leather anything made of leather, the plague is an active leprosy. It is unclean.” Verse 52, “He shall therefore burn that garment in which is the plague, whether in the warp of the woof… the garment shall be burned in fire.” So a little bit different outcome, right? This is something that can’t be saved at this point if you have this spreading disease in this garment. That is if it does spread after that period of examination. Now, what do we do if it stays the same?
Let’s look in verse 56 and just keep reading a little bit more here, “If the priest examines it, and indeed the plague has faded after washing it, then he shall tear it out of the garment,” “tear it out.” So you tear out the patch that was unclean, it can’t stay there, can’t really tear… I mean I guess you could tear out a chunk of your flesh, but God didn’t require that. You had to tear out this chunk of the garment that had this plague in it. Even after you washed it and it started getting better. Verse 58, “And if you wash the garment… if the plague has disappeared from it, then you can wash it a second time, and it’ll be clean.” If it comes back at all in that garment.
If it comes back at all after you’ve gone through this process, had to be burned that was the rule. So if leprosy taught us about sin and the skin. I was happy with myself when I came up that, sin and the skin. What do the clean garments, clean and unclean, mold and these diseases and garments teach us about? Let’s go to Isaiah 59 which I reference from earlier but didn’t read from. Remember that was that portion in Isaiah 59 and verse 2 says that “Your iniquities have separated you from God.” But we’re going to look down a little further verse 6, and try to understand what the Bible compares garments to. Chapter 59, and you know what? I’m going to start in verse 1 just because I like these words, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it can’t save; nor His ear heavy, that it can’t hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.”
Going down to verse 5, it’s talking about these people who are just so fixated on doing evil. Verse 5, “They hatch vipers’ eggs and they weave spider’s web;” Vipers and spiders, snakes and spiders are both unclean animals by the way notice that, “He who eats of their eggs dies, and from that which is crushed a viper breaks out.” Verse 6, “Their webs…” the spider’s webs “will not become garments, nor will they cover themselves with their works; their works are works of iniquity, and the act of violence is in their hands.”
So these unclean actions, these unclean works are compared to wrapping yourself up in a nice thick spider’s web, which seems really gross and I’m kind of happy actually that God made spiders unclean, it gives me a good excuse to not want to touch them. So let’s go to another reference on this point. So we’re seeing garments being compared to our works. In Revelation 19, you might be a step ahead of me in your thinking. Revelation 19:7-8 Revelation 19:7-8 7 Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife has made herself ready.
8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.
American King James Version×are really familiar verses that tell us a little bit about this. Revelation 19:7 Revelation 19:7Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife has made herself ready.
American King James Version×. Speaking of the return of Jesus Christ, “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean… clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”
The fine linens, what we want to be clothed with as the Bride of Christ is not a spider’s web, not some unclean garment but a clean one. A clean, fine, bright, white beautiful garment, beautiful garment. 1 Corinthians 3, so I think that establishes pretty well, at least it did for me in my mind that the garments that are being talked about, that are being judged in that process, you know, not only was a good thing for them physically at that time, because you really don’t want mold growing all in your clothes, because it spreads and that’s kind of the whole point and its gross and it doesn’t look very nice. I don’t think a lot of ladies would like to have a wedding dress with a big old mold patch growing in it.
But it teaches us about how God looks at the works that we do. 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
12 Now if any man build on this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.
14 If any man’s work abide which he has built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
American King James Version×, and we’re going to mix metaphors just a little bit here, because Paul is talking about building on the foundation, about the spiritual building the temple of God and the Church, but notice in verse 13, “each one’s work” you know, of those who work in building up this temple, in preaching the gospel, in supporting people and edifying the church, “each one’s work will become clear; for the Day” that is the Day of the Lord “will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. But if anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss.”
If your garment had mold in it and had to be burned up, that was a big deal because clothes were expensive. This is an even bigger deal than that, even bigger deal. You know, we hear about people make these comments about how they used to store wealth in garments. If you had 10 changes of clothes back then, that was a big deal. Verses today I’ve probably got 35 dress shirts in my closet. So the analogy is a strong one that if our garments, our works are burned up. What does that mean? What is maybe a more relevant analogy for us? How many good works today do we see tainted and brought to nothing, less than nothing as a result of sin?
How many people? How many charitable organizations? I remember there was this big scandal a couple of years ago. Disaster relief organizations who are pocketing the money for themselves, where only 2% or 3% of what is donated actually gets to people in need. That’s a work that’s going to be burnt up because of the greed and corruption involved. Children’s programs where people do unspeakable things and yeah, on the surface and on the face it does a lot of good for the community, but for those that it does evil to it harms them in a way that is completely and wholly unacceptable to God, unacceptable to God.
Those kinds of works will be burned up. In the works that we do we need to be careful, very careful that they are pure, clean, and bright. And if they’re not we have to go through this process to be purified, so that our works aren’t burned up and brought to nothing. Let’s move on to clean and unclean houses in Leviticus 13, the third segment here. Leviticus 14, it’s the same chapter where we find the cleansing process for a person who had leprosy. They had to go through all kinds of sacrifices and sprinkling this, and guilt offering that. Not to downplay any of that because it’s incredibly important.
And I encourage you to kind of look at this with fresh eyes on your own at some point at that process if this interests you at all. Verses 34-36 is where we’ll start, and we’ll see again that same process for a house or a building, a structure. Verse 34, “When you have come into the land of Canaan, which I give you as possession, and I put the leprous plague in a house in the land of your possession, and he who owns the house comes and tells the priest, saying, ‘It seems to me that there is some plague in the house.’”
So again we have to have someone taking responsibility, taking ownership, confessing to the priest saying, “There’s a problem, there’s a plague in this house. I’ve got big mold spots on my walls. What do I do about this?” Verse 36, “The priests shall command that they empty the house, before the priest goes in to examine the plague, that all that is in the house may not be made unclean; and afterward, the priest shall go in to examine the house.” Let’s skip down to verse 39, “The priests shall come again on the seventh day” so again, they take everything out of it. They’ve shut it up and they want to look and see if this thing spreading, “indeed if the plague has spread on the walls of the house, the priests shall command that they take away the stones in which is the plague, they shall cast them into an unclean place outside the city. And he shall cause the house to be scraped inside, all around, and the dust that they scrape off shall… they shall pour out in an unclean place outside the city.”
So what we see is if you have this mold in a house and it’s spreading. What do you do? You get your sledgehammer ready and you knock down those bricks the problem is in. You take ‘em outside and you don’t stop there. You get yourself a nice scraper, and you go in there and you scrape. It sounds like kind of a violent process, right? This scraping out of the house, and then you don’t just leave it with big holes there. Verse 42, “They shall take other stones and put them in the place of those stones, and you shall take other mortar and plaster the house.”
Jumping down to verse 45, if it comes back again after that, “He shall break down the house,” it becomes utterly useless, “its stones, its timber, all the plaster of the house, and you shall carry them outside the city to an unclean place.”
So what’s just talking about? So possibly what I propose, let’s go back to 1 Corinthians 3. 1 Corinthians 3, like I said there’s a mix of metaphors there. The 1 Corinthians 3 if we look at verses 16-17. Verse 16, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him.” Take a spiritual sledgehammer and just knock you right out.
The spiritual scraper and scrape you out. “For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.” And that reminder that the temple of God is holy. This whole idea going back to a separation that these unclean things cannot be in the presence of God. We even read that in 2 Corinthians 6:16-17 2 Corinthians 6:16-17 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? for you are the temple of the living God; as God has said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
17 Why come out from among them, and be you separate, said the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.
American King James Version×. I won’t read that again, but you are that temple of God, it re-emphasizes that throughout the New Testament.
Let’s turn to 1 Peter 2. 1 Peter 2:4-5 1 Peter 2:4-5 4 To whom coming, as to a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,
5 You also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
American King James Version×, 1 Peter 2:4 1 Peter 2:4To whom coming, as to a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,
American King James Version×, “Coming to Him as a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Remember it’s God that makes us holy and makes us acceptable, makes us fit to be a building block in His temple, His temple of the Holy Spirit that He’s building today.
Turn over to 2 Peter 2:12-14 2 Peter 2:12-14 12 But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption;
13 And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you;
14 Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children:
American King James Version×. 2 Peter 2:12 2 Peter 2:12But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption;
American King James Version×, it’s talking about the other people. The ones that are having spots and blemishes. These bricks in the temple of God what happens to them? “These, like natural brute beasts” in verse 12, “made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption, and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it a pleasure to carouse in the daytime. They are spots and blemishes,” they are these unclean spots in God’s house. “They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children.” They’ve forsaken the right way and gone astray.
There are people like that in the Church of God sometimes, and God deals with them. That’s for God to deal with and judge and only He can judge that. We know that for many other places. We have to be sure that we are not part of that attitude and that spirit, those unclean spots that are going to be pulled out and not allowed to stand in the house of God.
Let’s talk just for a moment about the cleansing process, and like I said I won’t go back to Leviticus 14 for that but I’d like a few New Testament references, since we’re in the Peters back in 1 Peter 3:18 1 Peter 3:18For Christ also has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
American King James Version×. Because remember these cleansing processes required a few different things. It required a washing, right? There was this concept of washing and it always required a sin offering along with that. So just like we read in 1 John 1:9 1 John 1:9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
American King James Version×, there’s forgiveness along with cleanliness almost never separated. 1 Peter 3:18 1 Peter 3:18For Christ also has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
American King James Version×, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God,” that is bringing us away being separated from God “to God, being put to death in the flesh and made alive by the Spirit.”
Verse 21, “There’s also an antitype which now saves us — baptism (which is not the removal of the filth from the flesh,” the filth, the uncleanness, the dirt, the spots, the blemishes “but the answer of a good conscience towards God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” so we do have a washing in the New Covenant, don’t we? We have baptism as part of our process of spiritual cleansing, and it’s an integral part. It’s the part where we enter the Covenant, right? If we want that forgiveness from Jesus Christ, if we want to be cleansed from all unrighteousness. We have to go through a washing, a baptism.
Ephesians 5:25-27 Ephesians 5:25-27 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
American King James Version×, it’s a few books back. Ephesians 5:25 Ephesians 5:25Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
American King James Version×says, “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,” remember we saw in Revelation 19, that Bride of Christ that He’s preparing. Verse 26, “that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” “Holy and without blemish.”
Jesus Christ is cleansing the Church of God. He’s cleansing us as individuals. Hopefully, He’s cleansing our actions, the things that we do, the things that we do. Just a circle back around to kind of the beginning thoughts that I had about the Scriptures as a whole. This idea that and I hope you’ve come to appreciate that the entire Word of God is relevant for our lives. I want to look at another foundational principle found in Matthew 5. Matthew 5:17-20 Matthew 5:17-20 17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.
18 For truly I say to you, Till heaven and earth pass, one stroke or one pronunciation mark shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
19 Whoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
20 For I say to you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
American King James Version×, and again, when I came into the Church this was just one of the key concepts to my understanding.
It’s one that I hear us talk about in the Church of God many times. So we’re going to hear it again since that’s our tradition. It’s what we hold on to. It’s how we understand the relationship between the law of God and the covenant of God. Matthew 5, and the Sermon on the Mount Jesus most famous discourses, He’s most famous teaching in all the Bible. He says… He sets the stage with this statement, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” And if we’ve heard this teaching a few times. You know that fulfill doesn’t mean that He came and did it so we don’t have to. It means that He brought the fullness of the meaning of the law. That He brought completion to the Word of God, through the way that He lived His life and the things that He taught through His words.
Verse 18, “Assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” And again if people try to say that, “Well, all is fulfilled. Jesus Christ fulfilled it all.” Oh, well, no. At the beginning of the verse, it even says, “Until the heavens and earth pass away.” The law does not pass away. Along with this, I won’t turn there but Isaiah 42:21 Isaiah 42:21The LORD is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honorable.
American King James Version×. Where we get this statement and this idea, we often say it. I wanted to give you Isaiah 42:21 Isaiah 42:21The LORD is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honorable.
American King James Version×that’s where it says that Jesus… Well, it’s talking about the Messiah in that whole chapter and says, that He will “exalt the law” or He will magnify the law to “make it honorable.”
And in this Sermon on the Mount, that’s exactly what Jesus does, and we know that if we’ve read it. He goes on to talk about the Ten Commandments. I guess He had you know more important Commandments to get to before He talked about leprosy and mold. We don’t have recordings of those, but He goes through and He magnifies those laws. He teaches us that it’s more than just the idea that you can’t do something physically, but there’s spiritual intent and power behind the law, confirming the words of Paul that “the law is holy, and just, and good.” “Holy and just and good.” So as we start to conclude, I want to give you a few takeaways because I like takeaways.
In review of this whole process. First is that we need to recognize sin in our lives and bring it to our High Priest, and I’ll reference again, I can’t say it enough, 1 John 1:9 1 John 1:9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
American King James Version×, “Confess your sins. He is just and faithful to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Second takeaway is to get clean. Get clean to make sure we go through that process of cleansing. For this let’s turn to Numbers 19. Numbers 19 is another place where we find instruction about cleansing in general, all the different processes of cleansing for every different situation, but there’s a very important statement near the end of it in verse 20 of Numbers 19.
So after it talks about the physical fleshly washings, about the physical sacrifices which we have types of and understand that. But in verse 20 says something that just really struck me, “The man who is unclean and does not purify himself,” so someone who knows did they have this uncleanness but doesn’t go through the process to purify himself, “that person shall be cut off from among the assembly, because he has defiled the sanctuary of the Lord. The water purification has not been sprinkled on him; and he is unclean.”
Knowing is not enough. We have to take action. We have to go through the process that God has established to get clean and to take care that we do that. And once we’re clean third take away, is to stay clean. To stay clean, to avoid that which causes uncleanness. James 1, turn to James 1:26-27 James 1:26-27 26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridles not his tongue, but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.
27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
American King James Version×. Another memory scripture. And one that also has this idea of purity of cleanness built into it whereas we might not have recognized it before. James 1:26 James 1:26If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridles not his tongue, but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.
American King James Version×, “If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is a useless.” But verse 27, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit the orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”
Avoiding those spiritual blemishes that creep into our lives, because we live in a world where it’s all around us. We have to make sure that we are unspotted from those things, that they don’t become sin in our lives and lead us astray. We should recognize that at some point in our lives, we have all been the leper they came to Jesus Christ and said, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” And His response when we come with that right attitude is “I am willing. Be cleansed.”
We’re not only forgiven our sins but we’re made spiritually clean, we’re made holy, we’re made acceptable to God, we’re made fit to come into the presence of God. And we can’t take that special status for granted, and it takes effort and it takes foresight on our part to stay in that clean status, in that holy status. So we should remember that God is patient. He does give us that period of judgment. He is longsuffering, He is merciful.
For the final scripture come with me to Revelation 22:1 Revelation 22:1And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.
American King James Version×. He is patient with us but the period of judgment has an endpoint. And at that point, a decision is rendered. Revelation 22:11 Revelation 22:11He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.
American King James Version×, there’s coming a time when it says, “He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; and he who is holy, let him be holy still.” Will we be found clean and holy or filthy and unrighteous?
It’s our choice. Will our works be burned up? Will they be unclean garments? Or will it be part of the tapestry of the fine linens of the Bride of Christ clean and pure? As a church, as the Church of God will we be stones that are pulled out, that are broken down, that are scraped from the inside? Or will we be like those pure living stones that God places? Let’s take encouragement to make our calling and election sure. To keep ourselves spiritually clean and fit for the presence of God, both in our lives today through the Holy Spirit of God in us and in the Kingdom of God forever.