Bible Study with Jairus – Leviticus 13-14
In chapters 13 and 14 God gave Moses detailed instructions on how leprosy should be handled by the priests. I was puzzled reading these chapters wondering why God spent so much time discussing the details of this disease. What spiritual significance do these chapters hold for us today?
Because I was travelling, I did not participate in the Bible reading of Leviticus 13. It was led by another man. I asked him several questions about the following verses. Let’s look at the verses first and follow up with my questions.
13:9 (NIV) “When anyone has a defiling skin disease, they must be brought to the priest.
13:10 (NIV) The priest is to examine them, and if there is a white swelling in the skin that has turned the hair white and if there is raw flesh in the swelling,
13:11 (NIV) it is a chronic skin disease and the priest shall pronounce them unclean. He is not to isolate them, because they are already unclean.
13:12 (NIV) “If the disease breaks out all over their skin and, so far as the priest can see, it covers all the skin of the affected person from head to foot,
13:13 (NIV) the priest is to examine them, and if the disease has covered their whole body, he shall pronounce them clean. Since it has all turned white, they are clean.
13:14 (NIV) But whenever raw flesh appears on them, they will be unclean.
13:15 (NIV) When the priest sees the raw flesh, he shall pronounce them unclean. The raw flesh is unclean; they have a defiling disease.
13:16 (NIV) If the raw flesh changes and turns white, they must go to the priest.
13:17 (NIV) The priest is to examine them, and if the sores have turned white, the priest shall pronounce the affected person clean; then they will be clean.”
These verses are very confusing. Looking at verses 1-8, it says if a person has leprosy, he must come to the priest to seek a diagnosis. If it is deeper than the skin, it is leprosy. If it is not deeper than the skin, it needs to be observed for a while. If it spreads in the skin, it is also leprosy.
Here are the questions that I’m not clear about. Why is it when there is quick, raw flesh in the rising, it is an old leprosy and is unclean but he does not need to be isolated (verse 9-11, KJV)? And if the leprosy has covered his whole body, he will be pronounced clean (12-13)? But when the raw flesh grows again, it is unclean (14)? And when the raw flesh turned white, it would become clean again (17)?
This man’s explanation helped me understand a bit. He said that both the disease on the skin and the raw flesh inside represent sin. But the skin represents sins outside the body or sin that is not serious. It does not go deep inside. While the raw flesh represents sin deep inside. In this situation, it is like the people have not given the Holy Spirit preeminence inside of them, so the sins have completely overcome them. We have to confess our sins to receive the salvation work of Jesus through His blood so we can invite the Holy Spirit to come inside of us. Those who received salvation through repentance may have the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in them, but it doesn’t mean that all of their actions are sinless. He felt that if the raw flesh was inside, it would indicate that the Holy Spirit had no status in it as the flesh had been corrupted. Or these types of people have not confessed through repentance. But if there is no raw flesh inside and there are still problems with the skin, it shows that there are still problems on various behaviors outside. For example, a person who already received the Lord and has the Holy Spirit in him may still have some outward sins.
The raw flesh would be comparable to people living in sin but were willing to repent. Repenting is not just a one-time act, but a continuous one throughout life. When a person confesses their sins, they are forgiven and transferred into the kingdom of God’s son. Transformation into a holy life takes time after repentance. In the case of the leprosy, although the person’s skin turned white on the outside, they were not pronounced a leper because the raw flesh (or sin) was repented of. The raw flesh in Leviticus 13:10 refers to old leprosy, which is unclean. The person doesn’t need to be isolated because he was at the beginning of his repentance process. This is what we believe verses 9-13 mean.
But verse 14 says that when his raw flesh appears again, it is an indication that he would deliberately sin again, which is leprosy. But if the raw flesh turns white again, it means that he repented again so he will be pronounced clean.
A man reviewed the causes of leprosy in the Bible. Leprosy mainly came from rebellion against God. Rebellion is a sin and repentance is required. And this process of repentance is the process of a sinner who continuously uses different sacrifices and blood through the outer courtyard to grow spiritually, get closer to God, and enter the sanctuary and the Holy of Holies. In other words, there is sin in him, which is the leprosy represented by the raw flesh. The greatest sin of mankind and Satan is rebellion against God, so both are considered lepers. The Lord’s road of redemption is where the high priest (which is the Lord Jesus) examines us. If we accept Jesus’ road of redemption,, the high priest will decide whether we are clean according to our repentance. If we have repented, it means the raw flesh is gone and we are clean. The example would be a Christian who was just saved before his death. Although his behavior has not manifested the holiness of the Lord, he is still saved and would go to heaven. But this does not mean that God doesn’t want his behavior to change, and for him to put on a white robe to feast with Him. That’s the Lord’s intention. But God knows that it’s a process going from repentance to salvation, and then to be filled and changed by the life of God and live out the righteousness of saints.
I was inspired by this man’s insights. I feel that God is really tender and considerate. Every time the Bible illuminates truths to me as I read, I’m more aware of how loving, tender and considerate God is. He is not the fierce and constantly killing God that people thought in the Old Testament. Instead, I see that He is really a loving Father. Although He chastises us because of our unrighteousness, He also prepares the road of redemption for us. If we have even a little bit of repentance and deeper change is still in progress, He will keep that in mind, and recognize and acknowledge it. He is really a tender and loving Heavenly Father.
Because of what this man shared, I was able to understand these two passages from different angles. There are several situations here, which may or may not be leprosy. For example, Leviticus 13:2 (NIV) says: “When anyone has a swelling or a rash or a shiny spot on their skin that may be a defiling skin disease, they must be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sonswho is a priest.”
Actually, there are certain confusing places here. For example, a rising, scab or bright spot may or may not be leprosy. The priest needs to decide and judge here. On the one hand, the priest is the decider or the judge, which represents God’s righteousness. On the other hand he is a doctor, which represents God’s salvation and love. If you were a priest hastily diagnosing a person who has a rising, scab or bright spot with leprosy, what impact would this have on him and his family?
Looking at the history of Christianity, how many brothers and sisters who love the Lord have been convicted by the church as heretics or even beheaded? Bruno was burned alive because he supported the heliocentric theory. Can this be considered as an example? If Bruno seems controversial, what about the Protestants who advocated the reformation and were burnt to death by the Catholic Church? Or those Anabaptists who were drowned in the river by the Reformists? They were usually charged as rebelling or challenging traditional doctrines and religious authority. These mislabeled cases are similar to the priest hastily declaring a person leprous. Those who misjudged or mislabeled them would think if this “rebellion” is not burned or stopped, the “plague” will be constantly spreading. Isn’t that what the priest’s misjudgment was in a spiritual sense?
We won’t even mention the history of Christianity. Let’s just talk about the examples in our actual church life today. If someone accidentally commits a sin and becomes weak, if we push him too hard and condemn him, will he fall? In my church experience, I’ve seen examples of condemning others and letting them fall because of a lack of compassion. Even Paul condemned the man who slept with his stepmother in 1 Corinthians, but said in his second letter to the Corinthians not be too hard on him so Satan doesn’t take advantage of this. He charged the church to forgive that man since he repented.
Let’s look at the four ways God does things.
First of all, God is very detail oriented. He wants to let the priests see that when it is skin-deep, it might not only be a rising, scab or bright spot. Rather, it’s a problem inside. Watchman Nee said that the problems caused by those who overstep one’s authority in the church are far less than the problems caused by those who should but didn’t shoulder responsibility. Many responsible believers, because of their weakness and unwillingness to offend people, don’t dare to come forward when there is a need to point out problems. It’s like when parents don’t point out their children’s mistakes and correct them, it eventually leads to bigger problems.
If we are acting as the priest and should have pointed out leprosy but didn’t because we wanted to be nice, more people would die because of our irresponsibility. The man who led the study works in a large corporation and said that this same principle applies there. If a company has minor problems in management and those in charge don’t initially point it out, it can slowly spread and become a companywide situation that eventually causes it to collapse.
Second, how should we in today’s modern church confront sin with individuals? Is the rising, scab or bright spot truly leprosy? Perhaps a man who was weak and overcome by sin comes to church. Do we immediately call out the sin and shout “leprosy!?” This could bring serious harm to him and his family. If we are wrong, it is a serious matter. If a person is suspected of having leprosy (sin) because there is evidence of a rising, scab or bright spot, this person should be careful not to be around others. This is a time for observation. Seven days is a good amount of time. God encourages us not to condemn someone too quickly. We wait and observe and if it doesn’t spread, it may not be leprosy so the person doesn’t need to be isolated. It could be that this person repented in their heart but the behaviors still look sinful.
Third, in addition to this observation, there is still gradual decrease of changes in these symptoms similar to leprosy. It is a process of change from our inner self to the outer self, or from the innermost circle to the outermost circle. First of all, the raw flesh in leprosy is a manifestation of sin and rebellion inside us. A rising, scab or bright spot is also unclean, but they are at a different level. Some people rebel inside and don’t repent. These people need to be isolated. Otherwise, they will be contagious and cause a lot of harm. Some have repented inside, but the manifestation of their outside behavior requires a period of continuous work of the Holy Spirit to be manifested outside. This person may still have a rising, scab or bright spot in this process and it’s possible that these can grow back in areas affected by leprosy. The verse here clearly tells us that the priest should carefully observe and determine whether it is leprosy or not. If the problem is inside the skin and it spreads, it should be pronounced as leprosy and he needs to be isolated. If the problem is not inside and there is no spread in the skin, then it is not leprosy and he does not need to be isolated. This is very meticulous work. Priests not only need to know the righteousness of God, but also His heart of love. They must show mercy to others.
The church is often divided because church leaders are accused of teaching heresy. I’m not aware of the specific situations in every church but it happens frequently. Division is also prevalent between church groups. I’m sure there are real situations of heresy, but it seems that many are falsely labeled heretics. Falsely accusing others of heresy could be compared to violating the principle that God set up for Moses concerning leprosy. I can use myself as an example. I was part of the Local Church Movement for over ten years and many Christians accused this church of teaching heresy. I can attest to the fact that although not perfect, this church taught me many things that I continue to practice in my walk with the Lord. Although there may be some discrepancies in the teaching, it hasn’t altered my overall positive experience there. In recent years, I’ve been in touch with Christians who attend other Chinese churches. Because they are biased against the Local Church Movement, they have been deprived of the rich lessons I learned there. Even when I was evangelizing Chinese students on campus in the United States, there were people telling them that my church was teaching false doctrine. As Christians no matter what group you are involved with, evangelism is the ultimate goal. The Local Church Movement can also over-react and be harsh in its criticism of other groups.
Fourth, there is gradual shift from inside to outside. The sequence is from the flesh inside, to skin, then clothing (including leather, woven or knitted material, etc.), and last to the house mentioned in Leviticus 14:33-57. This is all a process from the inner to the outer – One is to deal with the sins inside, and the other is to deal with the impact of the sins outside. Jehovah is a very careful God. He knows the difference between them. Between the end of Leviticus 13 and Leviticus 14:33, it inserted the regulations for the diseased person at the time of his ceremonial cleansing. This is a redemption solution. There’s a lot of detailed discussion and explanation regarding this part but we did not discuss this in detail at this meeting.
The man who led our study questioned Leviticus 14:47 (NIV) which says: “Anyone who eats or sleeps in the house must wash his clothes.” He said it seemed awkward and didn’t understand what it meant. He quoted the notes of the Recovery Version of the Bible that we are reading: “Sleeping here represents not actively serving in your church’s life, and eating represents only accepting supply.” In my opinion, this explanation wasn’t comprehensive. I shared examples of the prophetic dreams that the Lord gave me. In many of the dreams I was eating together with many people in a heavenly place or Paradise. I feel that eating represents actively accepting supplies and sleeping represents rest. To me it is more of a positive thing than a negative, but the man felt that the context based on the footnote denoted a negative take rather than a positive one.
I was inspired by the Holy Spirit as I read Leviticus 14:46 (NIV): “Anyone who goes into the house while it is closed up will be unclean till evening.” The Holy Spirit seemed to highlight the words “closed up.” I believe we can look at this confusion on another level. I presented my view from a different angle with the footnote that the man quoted above. The house was closed up because it was contaminated. Anyone entering the house would naturally also be contaminated regardless if it was from ignorance or disobedience. The Lord teaches us to be shewed and faithful servants. Faithfulness involves loving, following and pursuing the Lord. Faithful people are not necessarily always shrewd. Shrewd people know how to make money by gaining interest or they may have the ability to bring more people into God’s kingdom. A person who loves the Lord but is deceived by the enemy may be regarded as faithful but not shrewd. It isn’t always easy to be a Christian. There are many who are faithful and love the Lord but are deceived by wolves in sheep’s clothing or pulled into heretical cults. The deception may not be entirely their fault but they do have to accept some responsibility in it because they lack discernment. Going back to Leviticus 14:46, the house is clearly closed because of leprosy. Whether a person is ignorant or deceived, even though well intentioned, they still have a responsibility. Isaiah 5:13 (NIV) clearly tells us: “My people will go into exile for lack of understanding.” When Christians are deceived by wrong teaching or doctrine, they still bear certain responsibilities. The “sleeping” and “eating” mentioned in Leviticus 14:47 don’t refer to negative things. The real issue is that they are sleeping ( or resting) and eating (or receiving) in the wrong place without using proper discernment.
This is especially true in China. Many new believers were led by different heretic groups into traps. I’ve seen firsthand how genuine Chinese believers were abducted by a heretic group and get brainwashed. These simple and naïve believers have the best intention to receive from the Lord but they were deceived. Receiving was a positive action but their lack of judgement in how and where they received was the problem.