So good to be with you tonight, and share this Wednesday night. Turn in Bibles to the Book of Leviticus, chapter 11. A perfect book for the holiday season, as you will see.
Let's pray. Father, we still our hearts before you. We're told in your Word to be still and to know that you are God. So we become at this moment very cognizant of the fact that we're reading your revelation, in your presence, among your people. And so we come with all of the knowledge of accountability that the knowledge we receive brings: to whom much is given, much is required. Thank you that you've given us so much. Thank you that you've invested so much into us. And I pray, Father, that as responsible stewards we would share what we have learned with others.
Help us, Lord, as you disciple us to become disciples of others, to train them up, to train our children, our families, our friends; to be those who influence the people around us, that look at us, and that know us. Father, I pray for a great measure of your grace. Give your servant, Lord, the ability to say what you want to be said, and to hold back what need not be said. Even though the weakness of the vessel is clear, we pray that it would be the overshadowing power of God to feed his people. Not only those who are gathered here, but so many that are listening via radio or on the internet.
We're grateful, Father, that—and I especially—that there's a hunger to know all the Bible, every verse, all the principles. That this is a church, a, a flock, that loves line upon line, verse by verse, the whole counsel of God. For those who find it difficult, and there may be some, we pray, Father, you would develop an appetite for your Word, in Jesus' name, amen.
The first ten chapters of Leviticus have as the theme the worship of the Lord. Now, in chapter 11, it's walking with the Lord. So we leave the altar, we leave the sacrifices; we leave the priesthood that is very prominent in the first ten chapters. And it's all about what we do here, now, on earth among people, from the worshiping of the Lord, to walking with the Lord; that is the focus of these chapters.
Somebody said it well, "It's not how high you jump, it's how straight you walk when you hit the ground." A person can get all excited in their worship of the Lord: "Oh, it's exciting! I loved it! The lights were great. The music was good, the key changes, and it just got me into the mood of worship. I just really felt the presence of the Lord." None of that—there's nothing wrong with that. But it's not how high you jump, it's not how excited you get in worship; it's how straight you walk after the worship is over.
And now your worship of the Lord, you might say, really begins as who you really are is evident by how you live. So, worshiping the, the worship of the Lord, to walking with the Lord; that's the focus. And we're dealing with physicality's in these chapters, our bodies are the focus: the physical act of what we do with these vessels in our worship of God and walking with the Lord.
There was a man who came to an evangelist; the evangelist was passing out tracts and wanted to give it to this one man. And the man put up his hand and he goes, "I don't want to read your tracts; I want to watch your tracks. I don't want to read the tract, T R A C T that you have with the words in it; I want to watch the tracks, T R A C K S that your feet leaves. I want to watch your walk. I want to see how you live."
And so, I love the emphasis on worship, and then on walking with the Lord. Now, we notice something, we didn't finish chapter 11 last time, but we notice something: that God gave to his people a menu: "Here's what you can eat, here's what you cannot eat." Which makes us wonder if we have any depth at all? Why on earth would the God of the universe care what we have for dinner?
You would certainly think that the Lord has much more important things to occupy his attention, or heftier commands that he could come up with instead of: "Don't eat that. Don't eat that. You can eat this. You can eat that." Why would God care about giving us an intricate menu? And it's simple: every single detail of our lives, the Lord wants to be a part of. Now, you think about that thought for a moment. Every aspect of your life, the Lord wants to be a part and partner with you.
"Pray without ceasing," the Bible says. Imagine if you just made the Lord your partner and included him in your everyday life. Well, I'll tell you, it would please him.
Many years ago when I was still single, I had a ritual. I would get up early in the morning, and I would first spend time in the Bible, and then I would spend time at the beach. It was my daily ritual because I didn't go to work until noon. I worked part time and I pulled call in the evenings. It was all by design. It's the way I wanted it. So, the ritual was: the Bible first; the beach second, every day.
I would spend time and talk to the Lord about his Word, then I would be out on my surfboard talking to the Lord about his world, the waves, praying for a big set to come in. And I loved the combination, and I always felt that the worship was the same. I didn't need to just worship when I was in church or with the Bible open. I could carry that worship with me when I was paddling out through the waves praying for a perfect, glassy, big set. So, including the world, walking with the Lord in the world that he gave us.
Chapter 11, the emphasis is what's placed in the body, what you eat. What's placed on the body, what you touch, that's chapter 11. Chapter 12 is what is produced by the body; children are produced. Childbirth is in view in that very short chapter, the shortest chapter in Leviticus. Then in chapter 13, it's what's produced upon the body: sores, blemishes, discharges, etcetera. And again, God is being very detailed and very specific, because the principle is: he wants to be part of every aspect of our lives. So we cut off around verse 24 last time we met, so we pick it up verse 24, Leviticus 11.
"By these you shall become unclean; whoever touches the carcass of any of them shall be unclean until evening; whoever carries part of the carcass of any of them shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening: The carcass of any beast which divides the foot, but is not cloven hoofed or does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. Everyone who touches it shall be unclean. And whatever goes on its paws, among all kinds of animals that go on all fours, those are unclean to you. Whoever touches any such carcass shall be unclean until evening. Whoever carries any such carcass shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening. It is unclean to you."
Now, we have a very important and interesting principle, and that is: Defilement by contact. If you touched something you could become defiled. Now, here's, here's what's interesting, here's what's wild: You couldn't become holy by touching something holy, but you could become defiled by touching certain things that were defiled. So it's not like, "I'm really defiled; I need to touch something holy." No, you would only defile that which is holy. Holiness doesn't come by contact; sin, however, does. We have to watch what we touch, what we come in contact with, lest we become defiled.
Now, that concept is not just a spiritual concept, it's true in life. It's true in the physical world. If you took a gallon of water that was clean and you added just a little bit, just a couple ounces of dirty water, you'll pollute the entire gallon. But if you take a gallon of dirty water and add a few ounces of clean water, you won't make that dirty water clean. You can become defiled by contact, but can't be made pure by contact.
Or take a child, a child that is sick; if the child that is sick touches a child that is not sick, the sick child won't be cured. But the child that is not sick, because he's exposed to the one that is sick, could come down with the disease. So the principle is: Don't mess with being contaminated with sinful things; watch what you come in contact with, lest you become defiled.
Verse 29: "These also shall be unclean to you, among the creeping things that creep on the earth: the mole, the mouse, and large lizard after its kind; the gecko, the monitor lizard, the sand reptile, the sand lizard, and the chameleon." So, all the creeps.
Verse 33: "Any earthen vessel into which any of them falls you shall break; and whatever is in it shall be unclean: in such a vessel, any edible food upon which waterfalls becomes unclean, and any drink that may be drunk from it becomes unclean. And everything on which a part of any such carcass falls shall be unclean; whether it is an oven or a cooking stove, it shall be broken down; for they are unclean and shall be unclean to you."
Now, go down to verse 44: "For I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on earth." Now, we're dealing with dietary restrictions in chapter 11, as well as touching the carcass of any of these forbidden creatures. You could become defiled. But now, beginning in verse 44, we understand the reason for these commands.
The reason for these dietary restrictions are twofold: Reason number one, separation; reason number two, sanitation. Look at the forty fifth verse: "For I am the Lord who brings you out of the land of Egypt," I'm separating you from them, "to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy." Separation, number one. He wants to sanctify them. He's bringing them out and separating them from all of the other peoples; that's the idea, that's the concept behind holiness.
God is saying, "You are different than the all of the other nations. I am your Lord and I am supreme. I am unique, I am different, I am holy. I want you to have that characteristic of being separated from them. Don't be like them; but be like me. Because I'm holy, you shall be holy."
It's an important verse. It's so important that it's going to be repeated another eight times in the Book of Leviticus, and another sixty times in eighteen Old Testament books. It's a common refrain because it's one of the central characteristics of the God we serve: He is holy. And we want to be like him, so we should be holy. So, personal holiness flows from personal relationship. If I know God and I follow God, and I love God, I have a relationship with God, a personal relationship; the result of that ought to be personal holiness. Personal holiness flows out of personal relationship.
So in their case, if somebody came long along, some person from another nation and said, "Hey, Israelite, why don't you eat that yummy lizard right there on the rock?" First of all, I wouldn't be tempted. But the Israelite would say, "I'm not going to eat that lizard because I love God. And God told me not to do it, and I want to do what he's told me to do, said that I should do. I want to be holy, for he is holy." That was the first reason.
There was a second reason, and that was for sanitation: "This is the law of the beast and the birds and the living creature that moves in the waters, of every creature that creeps on the earth, to distinguish between the unclean and the clean, between the animal that may not be eaten or may be eaten and the animal that may not be eaten."
In ancient times there was no FDA, Food and Drug Administration; there was only G O D. Moses didn't understand things about bacteria, E. coli, but God did. So God just said, "Moses," rather than saying, "because the bacteria is high in certain times of the year when mollusks are on the seashore," he just says, "Just don't eat them. Stay away from them." So for sanitary reasons God gave these laws to the Jews. Kosher law was given for health purposes.
Several years ago I took a buddy and we went overseas to do ministry in India. And I'm adventurous when it comes to food, but we got some food in India that didn't set well with my friend. In fact, he got dysentery while he was there. And it was just a couple of bites of the wrong food, and that's all it takes. After he was cured of that and we left India, we went to Egypt for a couple of days. He was very skittish about what he was going to eat. Then we went to Greece, again, he was very skittish.
Then we went to Israel, and he was really nervous in Israel and I said, "Dude, here it's not a problem. They have kosher law here. They have high standards of cleanliness. The chief rabbi of the land has to make sure everything is kosher, that it's done according to Levitical law. So the restraints that you had in India, or in Greece, or in Egypt, you don't need the same here in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem; find what you want and go for it. And so for cleanliness purposes, for separation, and for sanitation God gave these laws.
I'm going to read a little quote from a Dr. Kellogg, not from Kellogg Cereal Corporation. This is Dr. S. H. Kellogg who studied Old Testament law and he said: "One of the greatest discoveries of modern science is the fact that a large number of diseases to which animals are liable are due to the presence of low forms of parasitic life. To such diseases those which are unclean in their feeding will be especially exposed."
And he went on to show how that diseases can be communicated from animals to man. He continues: "Long ago in the days when the plague was desolating Europe, the Jews universally escaped infection which in turn brought suspicion, the other peoples thinking that the Jews were poisoning the wells and the springs." Close quote.
In other words, you have a group of people historically that have kept kosher law, and have made the distinction between what is clean and unclean; they were spared the great plagues, the great diseases. And so much so that people noticed this whole ethnic group: "This whole Jewish population is unaffected while we're dropping off like flies; they must be poisoning the wells." And one of the reasons for the great persecutions of the past were accusations like such. So for separation and for sanitation God gave this law.
Okay, we're not living under the Old Testament; we live in the New Testament. As New Testament believers, we are not under the same dietary restrictions. So if you want to eat that camel, you, you look at that lizard on the rock and you go, "Wow, I'm just salivating looking at that reptile." Again, neither of those tempt me. They're considered unclean in the Old Testament, but as a New Testament believer, you're welcome to eat anything. There are no dietary restrictions.
Paul the apostle said, "I am convinced before the Lord that nothing is unclean of itself." And another scripture, whatever you do: "Whether [it's whatever] you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God." You don't have the same dietary restrictions. Now, Peter learned that lesson in Acts, chapter 10; and Leviticus 11 is a great chapter to compare with Acts, chapter 10. You know the story: Peter is staying with a buddy in Joppa, and he sees a vision around lunchtime. A huge sheet is being drop out of heaven with four footed beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air, all this unkosher stuff.
And then the Lord speaks and says, "Peter, get up man; eat what's on the sheet." And he goes, "Not so, Lord," he was always the compliant one, "No way, God. I've never eaten anything that is unclean." And God said, "What I have cleansed, don't you call unclean."
Now, here's what's interesting about that story: Peter was steeped in Levitical dietary regulations; he knew what was unkosher when he saw it. He knew this was forbidden by the Old Testament customs, and by Old Testament law. He wouldn't dare touch something that is unkosher. He's a kosher, Jewish man. And yet God was speaking to him, saying, "Eat it."
So he's in a dilemma, he knows according to Leviticus he can't eat it. But the author of Leviticus is speaking directly to him, saying, "You're not under the same regulations anymore. And I can do what no kosher law could ever do, and that is, I can make even gentiles clean. And it's not by what you eat or don't eat; it's by the blood of my Son Jesus Christ." And all of that was an important lesson that would weigh heavily upon Peter.
Now, we get into chapter 12, and you'll notice that there's only eight verses in this chapter. It's the shortest chapter, but it's, it's filled with great lessons. "Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak to the children of Israel, saying: "If a woman has conceived, and borne a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as in the days of her customary impurity she shall be unclean. And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. She shall then continue in the blood of her purification thirty nine days.' "
We enter into a principle in this chapter, and here it is: When we're born, we are born needy and helpless. And that comes very clear by reading this chapter. In Psalm 51 David said, "I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." "I was born in sin. I was born a sinner. I was born defiled. I was born unclean," David said. "From infancy I came forth from my womb," said David, "speaking lies, uttering lies." Even Job when he was lamenting his condition said, "How can a man be clean who is born of woman?"
The Bible universally consigns all mankind under sin from the moment they are born. Now, you gotta understand this, this is outrightly denied in this culture. "Oh, look at that beautiful, perfect, innocent, little baby." Not so quick. Oh, it looks so cute and innocent, but just watch it on its own as she grows up. You never have to teach a child to do bad. You never have to train a child to lie: "No, Johnny, come here. You're just way too honest. Let me tell you how you can use manipulation as you get older for your benefit." No, that comes naturally to a child.
We're born that way. Paul said, "We were by nature children of wrath, even as others." But our modern world, modern psychology says that everybody's born innocent, and we learn evil, we're products of our own environment, its cultural conditioning. The Bible says no; we are sinners by nature and sinners by choice. We're born that way, and then we make choices that are in line with our own nature. And so we need to be cleansed.
Now, look at verse 3: "On the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised." Just in case you're thinking that circumcision was from the Law of Moses and purely Jewish, you need to understand that is not the case. Circumcision goes all the way back to the time of Genesis when God called Abraham.
And I'll just read it to you; this is Genesis, chapter 17: "This is my covenant which you shall keep." Now this is before the children of Israel existed; this is before there was Moses or the Law. "And you shall keep the covenant between me and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you."
Notice that, a sign of the covenant. "He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any stranger who is not your descendant. He who is born in your house and he who is bought with money must be circumcised, and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant."
The question most people ask is: "What's up with the eighth day?" And you can, you can bring all sorts of symbolism: "Well, eight is the number of new beginning, that's after the seventh day. The next day or the first day of the week is the eighth day, so it's a number of newness, new beginning."
But there's something even more fundamental than that. It's not until the eighth day in a baby's body that the coagulation reaches its perfect rate; blood clotting is at its rapidest, most rapid rate. And so the eighth day would be the safest day to circumcise a male child. Now, today we have vitamin D, accuse me vitamin K injections which can mitigate against anticoagulants in the blood up until the eighth day. But it was up until the eighth day it wasn't safe; the eighth day it certainly was.
Here's what you need to know about circumcision: circumcision was practiced by other nations. And I bring that up not because it is necessarily important to the text, but you might come across somebody in your class at college who says, "You know, the Jews did a lot of things that every other nation did; they really weren't that holy. There were a lot of nations that circumcised their baby boys when they born: the Moabites, the Ammonites, the Romans, the sons of Roman priests were circumcised. So they were simply following ancient customs that many people did."
Well, perhaps that is true, and it is historically; however, God took something that was an ancient custom and gave it spiritual significance. The circumcision was God's mark of ownership upon the male children. It was the sign of a covenant. You'll notice that when God makes deals with people throughout the Bible, there was often an outward sign of the inward covenant: with the Jews it was circumcision; with Noah it was a rainbow, something was beautiful, and colorful, and visible; with Moses and the children of Israel it was the Sabbath day, something was peaceful and restful.
In the New Testament what's the corollary to circumcision? Baptism. You're immersed under the waters, it speaks of cleansing; it's an outward sign of an inward reality.
I have a wedding ring. This is simply an outward sign of the inward reality. I, I made a covenant vow with my wife Lenya. Now, you would suppose that everyone having a wedding ring would be married, but I could be single, and put a ring on, and make you think that I'm married. Or I could be married and take my ring off so that somebody thinks I'm single. The reality is I have a covenant with my wife, and so I wear the ring as the outward token of the reality that exists.
The problem with circumcision is the ritual became a substitute for the reality. There, there was with so many of them, not the reality of a repentant lifestyle, which is what circumcision speaks of. God is saying, "You're mine. I own you. Every male child will be circumcised the eighth day; but that is a symbol outwardly of a reality of a changed life. He has cut away, not the foreskin of his flesh, but the foreskin of his heart. He has cut away evil desires. He has separated unto me."
That's what the reality was behind the ritual. But as time went on, the Jews began to substitute the ritual for the reality, thinking, "If I've gone through the ritual, that's all I need. I don't even need the reality." It's much like a person today will say, "If I get baptized, I'm going to go to heaven." No, you'll go to hell as a baptized person—if you don't have the reality of a relationship with God through Jesus Christ his Son. If that's not part of your reality, you just have the outward symbol.
That's why in Deuteronomy, chapter 10, God said, "Circumcise the foreskin of your hearts," saith the Lord. "Cut away the flesh. Get behind the ritual to the reality of the relationship." That's what it was about. It predated the Law. God said it will be "an everlasting covenant," and so it's brought up when a child is born.
"On the eighth day," Leviticus 12 verse 3, "the flesh of his foreskin will be circumcised. Then, she shall continue in the blood of her purification thirty three days. She shall not touch any hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary until the days of her purification are fulfilled. If she bears a female child, she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her customary impurity, and she shall continue in the blood of her purification sixty-six days."
So you have, if it's a male child, a total period of forty days of uncleanness; if it's a girl, total of eighty days all together, it's doubled. "When the days of her purification are fulfilled, whether for a son or a daughter, she shall bring to the priest a lamb of the first year as a burnt offering, and a young pigeon or a turtle dove as a sin offering, to the door of the tabernacle of meeting."
Let's stop and ask a question: Why is it that a woman could be considered ceremonially— and that's the idea here, not morally, but ceremonially unclean, just because she has children? I mean, she's doing what God told her to do in Genesis, "Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth." So she's fulfilling the commandment of God with her husband, having babies. But as soon as she has a baby she's considered unclean, and has to go through this ritual of purification.
Unclean? I mean, if you were today to go into the maternity ward of a friend or a loved one who just had a baby, and you were to say, "Cute baby, but you're unclean, like, for a month or so." Do you think you would ingratiate yourself to that person? No. What, what do you do when somebody has a baby? You send flowers, you send balloons, you have a party, it's: "Congratulations, it's awesome!" And it is awesome, and they are to be congratulated.
But the woman becomes unclean, and the question is: Why? And the best answer I can come up with in line with all of the rest of the Scripture is simply because in having a baby you've added another sinner into the world. "And we are born," David said, "in iniquity. We are born in sin."
Again, it is politically incorrect to say that. It's politically incorrect, but it happens to be biblically correct. We are by nature the children of wrath. And we are, as David said, "Born in sin." And this is the reason behind it: It's called the depravity of man. That every single human being is born a sinner and needs redemption. We don't come into the world with a clean slate. It's not, "Oh, a perfect, little infant, but it's going to be subject to all these bad things around, and then become bad, and we have to correct it." No, a child naturally . . . .
I've shared with you the little report from the Minnesota Crime Commission which says that every baby, if left unchecked, would become a murderer, a thief, and a rapist. If, if allowed in its childish tendencies all throughout life without restraint of law or parent, would cause great damage. So, unclean, the need for redemption.
I'm a sinner. Now, let me explain something. I'm a sinner not because I sin; I sin because I'm a sinner. It's my nature to sin. A dog barks. When a dog barks, is it a dog because it barks? Or does it bark because it's a dog? It's not a dog because it barks. Listen: ruff, ruff, ruff, ruff. I can bark. Sometimes I can sound like a pretty good dog. I've even freaked dogs out before. But because I bark, doesn't make me a dog. Dogs bark because that's their nature. It's not like anything that barks now becomes a dog. No, dogs bark because it is their nature to do so.
I sin because I have a sin nature. So the choices that I make that are sinful choices, committing individual sins, are all due to the base fact that I am by nature, by birth, conceived in iniquity. And thus: I need redemption. From the day I was born, I am by nature the children of wrath.
"When the days," verse 6, "of her purification are fulfilled, whether for a son or a daughter, she shall bring to the priest a lamb of the first year as a burnt offering, and a young pigeon or turtle dove as a sin offering, to the door of the meeting of the tabernacle. Then he shall offer it before the Lord, and make atonement for her. And she shall be clean from the flow of her blood. This is the law for her who has borne a male or female. And if she's not able to bring a lamb, then she may bring two turtle doves or two young pigeons—one as a burnt offering, the other as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement for her, and she will be clean."
Here's what's cool about this: God is making atonement within reach of everyone, rich or poor. If you were absolutely destitute, you don't have flocks, you don't have lambs, you don't have herds that you can get your animals from to offer a lamb. And so you could say, "I've had a child, but we can't bring a sacrifice to the tabernacle. I don't have enough money. I don't have any flocks. I don't own any herds, no lambs." All you got to do is catch a couple birds, man. Even the poorest of the poor. So God was making atonement available for everyone, that's part of the principle: God makes salvation and redemption accessible.
One of my favorite promises is Isaiah 55 verse 1, "Ho! Everyone that thirsts, come to the water and drink freely; he that has no money, come, buy, and eat. Yes, come, and buy wine and milk without money, without price." In other words, "I'm offering, free of charge, this blessing." So God puts it close enough that if you believe in your heart that God raised his Son from the dead, and confess it with your mouth, you shall be saved.
Now, the twelfth chapter of Leviticus makes the second chapter of Luke very, very interesting, because it has to do with what we're about to celebrate this time of the year: the Christmas story. After Jesus was born in Bethlehem, I'm going to read it to you, Luke, chapter 2; Jesus is brought to the temple.
Listen to what it says, verse 21, Luke, chapter 2: "And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the child, his name was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. Now when the days of her purification according to law of Moses were completed, they brought him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, 'Every male child who opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord'), and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord," now quoting Leviticus, " 'A pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons.' "
Why is it interesting? It's interest because it shows us that Joseph and Mary were too poor and couldn't afford a lamb. Because they were in the poverty class, they brought two birds. Now, I want you to think about this, this shows you how low God stooped when he sent Jesus into this world. Here is the Lord of glory, here is the owner and operator of the universe, here is the one who owns the cattle on a thousand hills being born into a poverty stricken family. And understand Jesus lived his life by and large as a poor man, changing the lives, bringing healing, and salvation, and redemption to all classes of people.
Second Corinthians 8, "Though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor." So here's Mary and Joseph, and they're bringing—because they can't afford a lamb—they're bringing the birds into the temple. And yet, they did bring a lamb, didn't they? They brought the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. But when it came for the redemption, they brought the birds as Leviticus 12 tells us.
A side note: If Mary were sinless as some have taught that she is, she wouldn't have needed to bring the burnt offering and the sin offering for purification. She would not be unclean, she would be sinless. And I grew up being taught that Mary was sinless, that Mary and Jesus were the only two sinless individuals, and that Mary is to be called the mother of God, because she was sinless, immaculately conceived, assumed into heaven, etcetera.
But Mary didn't think so; otherwise, Mary wouldn't have brought the sacrifice. Otherwise, Mary wouldn't have prayed the prayer she did a chapter before in Luke, chapter 1, when she said, "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit exalts in God my Savior." Savior? Last time I checked, only sinners require saviors. How can he be your Savior, Mary, if you're sinless, if you're perfect? Because Mary knew she wasn't perfect, wasn't sinless; she needed a Savior. "He was looked upon the lowly estate of his handmaiden" she says. And so, the law of cleansing in Leviticus 12 makes that very interesting.
Now back to Leviticus 13, and just look ahead and notice how long the chapter is, and look at the time that we have left. And I just want you to rest assured that there's going to be no problem at all in getting through the rest of the chapter, because of the way it's going to be done.
Verse 1, "The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying: 'When a man has on the skin of his body a swelling, a scab, a bright spot,' " like a blemish, " '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. The priest shall look at the sore on the skin of his body; and if the hair on the sore has turned white, and the sore appears to be deeper than the skin of his body, it is a leprous sore.' " Now, just about now you're going, "Gag! This is in the Bible?" Uh huh.
" 'Then the priest shall look at him, and pronounce him unclean. 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 has not turned white, then the priest shall isolate the one who has the sore for seven days.' "
Now, there's a word that is used in this chapter repeatedly, it's leprous, or leprosy. And it's a Hebrew word that includes a variety of dermatological conditions that may include what we know as leprosy. It could be anything short of that—from a blemish, to an allergy, to psoriasis, to eczema, to full blown leprosy; it covers all of them, Hansen's disease, elephantiasis, as some define it as.
So the priest would sort of act as the clinician or the doctor. You see your buddy scratching his arm: "Hey, what are you scratching there, dude? Oh, man, you got a bad sore there. Come on, we're going to the priest." Priest checks it out and says, "Doesn't look good. I need to isolate you for a week."
So you're kept in isolation. After a week you're examined. If it goes away, you're pronounced clean. If it persists, if it spread, if it has certain conditions that are outlined in this chapter, and we're not going to go through every one, I'll sum them up; he's kept another week. And if it persists and follows a whole other course that is also outlined, then he is pronounced leprous, and there are some very stiff ramifications for that, including being ostracized from the community.
Now, there's two basic kinds of leprosy I'm going to divide chapter 13 into: Everything that is a skin problem, with all the conditions that I mentioned just a moment ago, number one. That's the mild kind, because you don't know what it could turn into.
And then something that is known as living death: Elephantiasis, the numbing of the limbs, the distorting of the limbs, and, sometimes, the limbs even falling off. It's called the living death. It comes from a bacteria known as Mycobacterium leprae, and it starts small, but it spreads and it renders the nerves insensate so that you could have your limb by a fire, and you wouldn't even know you're being burned. It's a very dangerous condition, and limbs have been known to fall off.
I'm going to read to you what William Barclay describes from his experience with this disease. He says, "It might begin with little nodules which go on to ulcerate. The ulcers develop a foul discharge. The eyebrows fall out. The eyes become staring. The vocal chords become ulcerated. The voice becomes hoarse. The breath wheezes. The hands and the feet always ulcerate. Slowly the sufferer becomes a mass of ulcerated growths. The average course of that kind of leprosy is nine years, and it ends in mental decay, coma, and ultimately death.
"Leprosy might begin with the loss of all sensation in some part of the body. The nerve trunks are affected. The muscles waste away. The tendons contract until the hands are like claws. There follows ulcerations of the hands and feet. Then comes the progressive loss of fingers and toes, until in the end the whole hand or the whole foot may drop off. The duration of that kind of leprosy is anything from twenty to thirty years. It is a kind of terrible, progressive death in which a man dies by inches."
So here is God wanting to be involved, remember, in every aspect of human life, of their walk in this world on the earth. He's living amongst his people in that tabernacle, and so he wants a purity throughout. He doesn't do this to punish those who are affected, but to purify and preserve those who are not.
So verse 6, "The priest shall look at him again on the seventh day; indeed if the sore has not darkened, the sore is not spread on the skin, the priest shall pronounce him clean; it is only a scab, and he shall wash his clothes and be clean." You can imagine sweating it out during that week. And when he goes, "You're okay," just the relief that you would be overcome by, because the alternative, you will see, is far worse. "If the priest," verse 8, "sees the scab is indeed spread on the skin, the priest shall pronounce him unclean. It is leprosy."
Now, the remaining parts of the chapter give you the various dermatological conditions, the various scenarios: If the skin turns white, or if the hair turns white within the scab, or if the scab is lower than the surface of the skin, or if it appears to be burned, or raw and infected, there's criterion that you follow.
What's the principle? Every form of weakness that you and I have needs to be watched. There's hundreds of things which may be perfectly okay, but in and of themselves there may be nothing wrong with it, but they can become sin. You need to watch how you deal, how you contact all things, and monitor that.
And you need the accountability of the community around you saying, "I've watched your life, you're getting into some areas that I think are not healthy. I've examined you." And you need that examination, and I need that examination. We have to be very careful because what may be in and of itself okay may actually turn in and spread into sinful activity.
Now, go down to verse 45: "Now the leper on whom the sore is, his clothes shall be torn," that denotes grief, "his head shaved bare; he shall cover his mustache, and cry, 'Unclean! Unclean!' " So you're a leper, and if you see a crowd of people coming toward you, you go, "Unclean! Unclean! Stay away." "He shall be unclean." Verse 46, "All the days he has the sore he shall be unclean. He is unclean and he shall dwell alone; his habitation shall be outside the camp."
Now, you're getting a little bit of insight into the social implications of leprosy. If a person is indeed unclean and is pronounced such, he is ostracized from the community; he's kept outside the camp. Thousands of years ago, if you were to walk into a synagogue, there would be a separation. The separation was known as the mehitzah. Say that, mehitzah. It's just fun to say.
It denotes a separating wall, and the separating wall separated men from women. You wouldn't have men and women in an ancient synagogue sitting together like you do tonight. There would be a separation, men on one side, women on the other side. But there was a special mehitzah toward the back of these ancient synagogues where lepers were brought in through a separate entrance, they could peek through a lattice, and they would exit with having no communication at all with the people inside. They were allowed to worship, but they were kept sort of in a, in a penalty box.
I'll use the family room as an illustration. We love all you guys over there, but there is this separation between us; it's glass. You can see us, we can see you. We're up on the screen, you have the sound in there, but it's reserved especially for those who want to be with their children. God bless you if you do; that's why it's there. It's a family room. Be there was this mehitzah for the leper. He was ostracized from the community. No contact at all.
That's why it is so remarkable when we come to the Gospels, and we already saw it in Matthew, chapter 8, when Jesus is teaching, a man with leprosy comes to Jesus. That must have made the whole crowd go, "Gasp! I can't believe he's coming." Because they had to not be around people and say, "Unclean! Unclean!" But he comes to Jesus and he says, "Master, if you're willing, you can make me clean." And do you remember what it says next? Before Jesus even spoke a word he reached out his hand and he touched the leper; touched him. That's against the law. You can't touch a leper. It's unlawful to touch a leper. Why? Because you might contract the leprosy.
But this is Jesus, when he touches lepers he doesn't contract leprosy, he heals the leper. This is the one time when the principal of contact with someone who is holy works. Jesus touches him and says, "I'm willing; be cleansed." Immediately the leprosy left him. Can you imagine what it felt like for that leper to have the hand of Jesus course across his face? He hadn't felt a human touch probably for years. He touched him. The ministry of touch: "I'm willing; be cleansed." The man walked away completely whole.
The rest of the chapter speaks about the clothing of the leper, how it is to be treated, how it is to be burned. Once again, the dehumanizing feeling of being ostracized from the community. And why was it dehumanizing? Because there was this belief that developed, it's just what people do, it's unfortunate.
But people often see those who are diseased or going through a tough time and people will say, "Well, I don't know what's going on in their life, but they must be under the judgment of God." They just inferred that if you're going through a tough time or you have a disease, that God is judging them. So the stigma of having leprosy, being ostracized emotionally, physically, and being consigned a place of judgment.
One ancient rabbi in the Mishnah said, "Every time I see a leper I throw stones at them so they don't some close to me." Another rabbi in the Mishnah wrote, and he said, "I would never eat an egg that was sold on the street where a man with leprosy had even walked." So you can understand if the priest pronounces you unclean, what that would do to you emotionally. You're separated from your children. You don't see your wife or your husband, depending if you're male or female. You're ostracized from the community. No touch, no communication, except you yell out, "Unclean!" Very isolating.
Verse 59, the last verse: "This is the law of the leprous plague in a garment of wool or linen, either in the warp or the woof, or of anything made of leather, to pronounce it clean or to pronounce it unclean."
We cannot close this chapter without remarking on how sin is a type of leprosy in the Bible. Or put it this way, leprosy is a perfect example or analogy of how sin works. Number one: Leprosy begins insignificantly. Just a little spot, that's all. Something so small you'd look at it and go, "No big deal." But what is not a big deal today can become a big deal later. Sin starts insignificantly, but it can lead to greater things.
Number two: Leprosy spreads quickly. Was very contagious, highly contagious, that's why you had to be separated. That's why you had to be kept from people, because it spread so quickly. In James, chapter 2, regarding sin, says that we can't be tempted by God, "but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed." And lust when it's full grown gives birth to sin, and later on when it's fully developed, brings forth death. It spreads quickly.
Number three: Leprosy affects deeply. You see a skin disease, if it's pronounced as leprosy, the problem isn't just skin deep, the problem is systemic: it's beneath the skin, it's in your body, it's the infection, it's the bacteria that's ravaging your body. Sin is like that. Sin isn't just skin deep, it has a problem that goes way, way down; it's a problem of the heart.
In eighteenth-century England, if you were caught stealing, they would cut your right hand off. If you were caught stealing a second time, they could cut your left hand off. There was a man who had, eventually, both of his hands cut off, but he managed to become a very adept thief by stealing with his teeth.
Now, let's suppose they would have not only cut both his hands off, but knocked out all of his teeth. Would they have solved the problem? No, because the problem is in the heart. The problem isn't his teeth or he is hands, it's his heart. Jesus said, "From the heart come evil desires, evil thoughts, blasphemies, murders, adulteries, thefts."
Number four: Leprosy ruins extensively. You're physically ravaged, you're emotionally ostracized.
Number five: Leprosy destroys sensitivity. They say that after a while the nerves are so ruined in the limbs that you can't feel, you are insensate. What you were sensitive to at one point, you don't even notice now; sin is like that. The things that you used to recoil against, if you continue in sin long enough, you can become oblivious to them; doesn't faze you, doesn't affect you.
Number six: Leprosy is always deadly. It's incurable. It was death by the inch, but eventually you would die from it. It would take your life. It was incurable apart from a miraculous touch by God; now, there's the hope.
And we're not going to get to it tonight, but the first verse in chapter 14 is the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing. God anticipated there could be a miraculous cure for something that was incurable. And the only time we see that law enacted is in the New Testament when Jesus heals the leper. He fulfills the fourteenth chapter of Leviticus. Incurable, sin is incurable. You and I require a touch by almighty God, his hand, his mercy, his grace intervening for our lives to be different. So leprosy is perfect type and analogy of sin.
If you find yourself tonight in the condition of being a spiritual leper, you're being consumed by sin, it's your ruler, it's your master, Christ is not; it's time to give your life to Christ. He can touch you and make you clean. And if you would say, "Lord, if you are willing, make me clean." He would say, "I'm willing, be clean." He's willing, are you?
Father, we thank you for this hour we've spent together over your Word. We've considered the worship of God and now the walking with God. You're interested in worship; you are also very interested in the physical bodies of your people, in what they ate, what they touched, the children they bore, or any development upon even the skin of their bodies. Because you love your people you wanted to be involved in every aspect, as you want to be involved in every aspect of our lives. The verse that pops into my mind, Father, is Proverbs 5: "The ways of a man are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his goings."
I pray, Lord, that we would be those who allow you entrance when we're in the Word, in our quiet time; when we're in the world, in our not so quiet time. You would be a part of every moment of our day. And I pray for those who are here tonight who have not yet been cleansed by Jesus Christ. Oh, they come to church, or they come sporadically, or they come because they're invited by a friend, or there's a cute girl or guy there. Whatever reason, honestly, Lord, we don't care why they're there. We're glad that they're here. We pray, Lord, that you would bring them deeper and bring them to a place of salvation, trust in your Son, who would say, "I am willing, be thou clean."
If you're here tonight, and you've never given your life to Christ, or if you look back to a time where you felt spiritual or inclined toward God, or had predisposed good feelings when you were young toward God or a creator or a heavenly entity, but you're not walking with Jesus today; maybe you've just backslidden, fallen away completely from him, but you want to some home to him.
Whether it's for the first time or returning to him, and you're wondering, "Lord if you're willing, make me clean." He would say to you, "I'm willing, come and be clean." And he wants to touch your life. He's willing, are you willing? If you are, if you've gathered tonight, while our eyes are closed, while we're praying I want you to raise your hand up and say, "Yeah, tonight I want to give my life to Christ, or I want to return back to the fold."
Just raise it up high enough so I can notice it. God bless you in the family room, couple of you. Right up here toward the front I saw a young lady. Anybody else? Whether the first time commitment, or you're returning to the Lord. Right in the middle, toward the aisle; anybody else? Raise your hand up.
Father for those who have indicated that they know their need by that raised hand, we all pray for them right now. Our pray is for their lives specifically strengthen their resolve, firm that commitment, help them Lord as they put feet on their faith to walk with You from this night on. I pray that they would experience such change, such peace, such joy, and such resolve would be theirs; in Jesus' name amen.
Would you stand please, we're going to sing a final song and if you've raised your hand, I saw some hands go up in the family room, I saw hands right up here close in the front, in the middle toward the back, and even if you're in the balcony I didn't catch your hand. As we sing this final song, I'm going to ask you to get up out of your sit and come; well you're standing get up you're already out of your sit, get up from where your standing find the nearest isle and just stand right up here in the front, I'm going to lead you a publicly in a prayer to receive Christ. Jesus called people publicly and I'm calling you as Jesus did publicly to make a stand for Him, to say yes to Him. It's going to do something in your own heart, to cement the decision you're now making. As we sing you come, anybody else?
I've talked to people who have come to church for years and years but that's, that's as far as they get, they come to church but they don't come to Christ. Come to Him tonight; come to the Lord personally tonight. We're only going to wait another moment; you come and take advantage of it. Come all the way up front. Anybody else?
Those of you who have come forward, so glad that you made this choice or making this choice. And I'm now going to lead you in a prayer. This is the best way I know how to do this, I'm going to pray out loud, I'd like you to pray out loud after me, say these words from your heart, say them to the Lord. This is you giving your life to Him, let's pray.
Lord, I give you my life, I know I'm a sinner, please forgive me. I believe that Jesus died, that He shed His blood for me and that He rose from the dead for me. I turn from my sin, I turn to you as my Savior, I want to follow you as my Lord every day, in Jesus' name amen.