Cleanse Me, O God (Leviticus 13:1-59)

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If my responsibility previously was to present biblical obstetrics, it is now my assignment to discourse on biblical dermatology.

Leviticus is an amazing book that reminds us, contrary to much popular thinking, that the physical and the spiritual are not mutually exclusive. These chapters give us practical instruction with reference to physical matters, which serve to teach us spiritual truths. Leviticus deals with some of the most mundane matters of life and it does so with a spiritual objective: to shape a God-centred worldview. If we had doubts about this at the beginning of our Levitical journey, no doubt by this point we are all pretty well convinced.

This study begins a two-part study of what our translations call “leprosy.” In the chapter before us, we read about matters with reference to the diagnosis of this condition, as well as its associated consequences. In chapter 14 we will learn about matters with reference to the cure of the malady.

A helpful break down of the chapters is as follows:

  1. The diagnosis of leprosy in the skin (13:1-46)
  2. The diagnosis of leprosy in garments (13:47-59)
  3. The ritual ceremony for cleansing of leprosy (14:1-32)
  4. The diagnosis and treatment of leprosy in houses (14:33-56)

As we begin our study let us establish from the outset that the main issue underlying these instructions is the connection between wholeness and holiness. As Currid has written, “One principle that is clear from the Cleanliness Code of Leviticus is the teaching that wholeness symbolizes holiness. Distortions represent impurity, uncleanness, sin and a curse.”1 In other words, these chapters are not in the Bible primarily to teach Christians how to avoid the spread of skin diseases but rather to teach us about God’s holiness and our mandate to pursue holiness (11:44-45).

We live in a fallen world, with the result that disease, defilement and death abound. And this cuts us off from experiencing the fullness of the presence of a holy God. In fact, even though we today enjoy His presence we also realise that we are not yet fully fit for heaven. Saints who have already died are, but we are still in sin-tainted bodies. And the condition of our bodies and that of our environment is designed by God to teach us that we are to pursue holiness, for we are not home yet.

There is no doubt that this seemingly strange law of leprosy was designed by God, not merely to protect the physical health of the community, but also to teach the old covenant people that only by God’s grace could they be cleansed so as to be in His holy presence.

We who live under the new covenant need the same lesson. We need to be disgusted with our sin to the point that we cry out, “Cleanse me, O God!” In other words, we need to be crying out, “My God, give me new skin!” May this be our cry as we come face to face with the revelation of God in this chapter.

The Description of Leprosy

As we begin, let’s note some important issues that will help us to get a grip on the contents of these chapters.

The Description of the Disease

First, let’s note a couple of things regarding the disease itself.

It is important for us to recognise that the term translated “leprosy” is a bit problematic. The Hebrew term is “comes from a root meaning ‘to become diseased in the skin,’ and is a generic rather than a specific description.”2 In other words, this term refers to various skin diseases; most, if not all, of which were contagious or infectious.

A study of the text of chapter 13 indicates at least 21 different types of such skin diseases. Many attempts have been made to identify these conditions in terms of modern medicine. For instance, such conditions as psoriasis, scarlet fever, small pox, measles, and leucoderma have been suggested as possible candidates for these conditions. No doubt some of these diagnoses are correct, but I will stand with John Calvin who wrote long ago, “But, as to the various kinds of leprosy, I confess that I am not a physician, so as to discuss them accurately; and I purposely abstain from close inquiry about them.”3

Some have argued that the word literally means “to strike”—in the sense of God smiting someone with this condition. In other words, when one had an inflammation of the skin then it was to be assumed that God had stricken the individual with it. The emphasis therefore is upon what God had done in relation to the skin problem. As we will see later, there is much truth in this.

Another issue that merits mention is that it is very unlikely that the term “leprosy” used in these chapters is what is commonly called Hanson’s Disease. This is the disfiguring illness that we typically think of when we hear of leper colonies. There is no evidence, until at least the fifth century BC, of such a medical condition existing in Mesopotamia. Doctors who have spent their professional lives treating such leprosy point out that the symptoms mentioned here are not indicators of Hanson’s disease. One such doctor, Stanley Browne, “maintained [that] . . . the symptoms described would not lead one to think of leprosy and, in any case, they lack scientific precision and are of a ‘generic, non-scientific, inclusive and imprecise’ nature.”4

This observation is important, for it enables us to see that these skin conditions were a threat, not merely to a small segment of the Hebrew population, but to all and sundry. Every Hebrew who ever had a pimple would be concerned about being diagnosed and then designated “unclean.”

The Design of the Disease

Second, at this point, we also need to see that this is not merely a chapter describing pathological indications but that its real purpose was to teach the children of Israel the spiritual lesson that God is holy, and that those who approach Him must be holy. The picture here, as in the previous two chapters, is that one needed to be whole to be considered holy. Those with “ruptured” skin did not meet God’s prescribed conditions of physical integrity.

Gordon Wenham insightfully captures this when he writes, “Men must behave in a way that expresses wholeness and integrity in their actions. When a man shows visible signs of lack of wholeness in a persistent patchy skin condition, he has to be excluded from the covenant family.”5

Therefore we can see that God established these laws of leprosy both to protect the community physically as well as to teach them spiritually. And certainly an apparent lesson here is that sinners need to be cleansed if we will worship God acceptably. Just as God would not accept a sacrifice that was blemished (or a blemished priest for that matter) neither would he accept a blemished worshipper in His presence at the tabernacle. In the words of Vasholz, “The place where God dwells in the midst must be cleansed of all appearances of uncleanness, in order to represent the likeness of His heavenly abode.”6

We don’t barge into His presence unclean, but rather look to Him to cleanse us, for apart from this we are hopelessly unclean. It is for this reason that those who worship God in spirit and in truth will cry out with David, “Cleanse me, O God!” (see Psalm 139:23).

The Diagnosis of Leprosy

These 59 verses prescribe for the priests how to diagnose the presence of infectious skin diseases. What is interesting to note is that, included here, is a section dealing also with skin disease in garments (vv. 47-59). The presence of that which corrupts, that which defaces and destroys, is of great concern to God, wherever it is found.

This chapter can be broken down into nine sections.

  1. Diagnosis of skin eruptions (vv. 1-8)
  2. Diagnosis of raw, inflamed flesh (vv. 9-17)
  3. Diagnosis of boils (vv. 18-23)
  4. Diagnosis of burns (vv. 24-28)
  5. Diagnosis of scales in the scalp or in the beard (vv. 29-37)
  6. Diagnosis of fresh (white) skin (“clean skin disease,” according to Wenham) (vv. 38-39)
  7. Diagnosis of skin complications associated with baldness (vv. 40-44)
  8. The prescription for “treating” leprosy (vv. 45-46)
  9. Diagnosis and prescription for mould, fungi (mildew) found in clothing (vv. 47-59)

A Distinguishing Diagnosis

The key word here of course is “diagnosis.” In each of these sections God describes what indications the priests were to look for in order to make an accurate judgement as to the person’s (or the garment’s) condition with reference to infection. In other words, the priests were assigned by God to make diagnoses of skin-troubled “parishioners.”

There were some specific symptomatic indicators that pointed to leprosy.

In the case of skin infections the following indicators had to be present for the diagnosis of leprosy:

  • a depression in the skin;
  • flesh that was raw or open;
  • skin of a reddish-white hue; and
  • hair that was yellowed or white.7

It would seem that in these cases the skin afflictions were potentially infectious, and this is what the priests were responsible to discern.

In all of these cases, the afflicted individual was to appear before the priests, who would then examine the skin and make a diagnosis. The priests were not priest-physicians per se, but were responsible to “discern between clean and unclean” (10:10). “The intent of Leviticus 13 was not to correctly diagnose specific dermatological conditions but rather to guide the priests in distinguishing infectious from non-infectious diseases of the skin.”8

Corrupted Garments

In vv. 47-59 we have the prescription for detecting the presence of corrupting fungi in a garment. If such mould or mildew was detected in the “warp or woof” (the fibres) of the garment, then the priest was to make a judgement call as to whether it could be removed. If, after a particular process, it was clear that it could not be, then it was to be destroyed by fire. If the area came clean after washing, then the formerly infected patch was removed and presumably a new piece of cloth was put in its place so that the garment could be worn.

Wenham observes, “It may seem strange to modern ears to give the same name to such diverse conditions as mildew and psoriasis. Yet the Hebrew mind saw enough similarities between them to do so. . . . All these afflictions . . . may be recognized by discoloring of the surface affecting part of an object, not its totality, being more than superficial and actively spreading. These symptoms are clearly abnormal, and by disfiguring the appearance of man and his works, destroy the wholeness that ought to characterize the creation. For this reason these conditions are pronounced unclean.”9

The Lesson to be Learned

The issue that God was teaching with reference to leprosy, either in the flesh or in a garment, was that nothing corrupted or putrid was allowed near the dwelling place of God. As the afflicted person would come to the priests (or when they brought a mildewed garment) he would be reminded—even if there was ultimately no presence of leprosy—that things are not as they should be or could be or will one day be. They were reminded that, through sin, the fall had occurred and that corruption will be present until God makes all things new.

It must be also noted that there is no record here of any medication being prescribed to treat the skin afflictions. There was no miracle drug for the skin affliction and no special detergent to cleanse infected garments. No, the only possible treatments (as we will examine in more detail later) were either segregation of the individual or destruction of the clothing. In effect, the only cure for leprosy was God’s intervention. And it was to be noted by all that, as serious as leprosy was, by God’s grace it was not necessarily irreversible. These lessons were to be taught by the priestly shepherds as they, quite literally, examined the condition of the flock. If unacceptable blemishes appeared then such sheep were not given access to the tabernacle; their sacrifices would be rejected. But there was still hope.

Some practical observations arise from this.

First, the priest was responsible to make judgement calls with reference to these conditions. We see this in the fact that, if there was not sufficient evidence that leprosy was present, and yet there was the potential for it (in the judgement of the priest), then the individual was quarantined for seven days. At the end of this period, the priest would examine the individual, and if it was still not clear as to the condition of the skin, a further seven days of quarantine followed. If, after this time period, all looked clear then the individual was pronounced to be clean. However, if the condition had worsened then they were diagnosed as being leprous and thus unclean.

The priests had to be very careful about this and therefore, once again, we can appreciate why they were prohibited from drinking on the job (10:8-9).

The wellbeing of God’s community required that priests make such judgement calls. They may have been overly cautious in their initial diagnosis, but the twofold quarantine period was a means both to ensure the welfare of all and to protect the community from abusive malpractice. G. Campbell Morgan notes, “In the instructions two principles of perpetual importance are manifested. The first is the necessity for guarding the general health of the community and the second is that no injustice be done to the individual in the interest of the community. These two principles are perpetual in their application.”10

The priests had clear diagnostic indicators with which to use in their inspection of such cases, but these also served as parameters to protect the “patient.”

We can learn from this that the local church is also to observe these principles when dealing with matters of discernment in identifying sinful behaviour. It is all-too-easy to make judgements merely on the surface of things and to write off someone as “unclean” and outside the privileges of fellowship. But we need to be patient when dealing with suspected cases of wrongdoing and not jump to hasty conclusions. If, after a time of observation, it becomes clear that there is indeed a problem that is deeper than the skin, then we must deal with it—for the good of the community as well as for the good of the sin-sick individual, and ultimately for the glory of God.

I find it interesting that nowhere in the law does God prescribe a means for appeal. The people were expected to accept the conclusions of God’s appointed diagnosticians. The assumption seems to be that God’s appointed leaders could be trusted with caring for the wellbeing of the community and so the people were to give them the benefit of the doubt. Again, to guard against potential abuse, God not only provided the restrictive quarantine regulation which had to be observed by the priests but also made sure that these laws were publicised to the entire community. Everyone knew the rules and this would strengthen accountability.

This is precisely a benefit of the local church being taught the whole counsel of God, and this is why personal discipleship is so important to the health of the local church. By a faithful teaching ministry everybody in the local church presumably knows the rules and no one is above them. This promotes both health and security.

Taking the Initiative

But there is another element in this law that is very important for us to see and to learn from.

The text tells us that when a person was symptomatic of skin disease that “he shall be brought to” the priests (v. 2). Some have suggested that this indicates that the person was so ill that they must be transported to the priests. I am not so sure. It seems to me that family or friends might have discerned a potential problem and so they were instructed to take the initiative to get the person to the priests for examination. Think about the implications of this.

First, the family was risking that their loved one would be excommunicated. As we will soon see, if one was diagnosed as being a “leper,” they were required to live outside of the camp, disconnected from family and the community at large. The family therefore was taking a huge risk when they took this step. “It is important to note that the concern is for the welfare of the family and the community; neither can be sacrificed out of pity for the victim.”11

One can also imagine that perhaps the one who was suspected of having a problem would be reticent about going with them. This may be implied from the phrase, “shall be brought”—much like an apprehensive child taken to the dentist. Nevertheless the family was to do so for the benefit of many.

The 1350 Black Plague wiped out an astonishing quarter of Europe’s population. One can only imagine the horror that prevailed on the continent. As one would be heartbroken over the impending death of an infected love one, at the same time there would have been a great concern about even more family members becoming infected and even more heartache ensuing. It was no doubt difficult to see sick loved ones isolated, but it was necessary for the benefit of others. So it sometimes is when sin is in the family or in the church.

Just as skin diseases could be contagious to the detriment of others, so is the nature sin. It can spread as a cancer. We need go no much further than the story of Achan in Joshua 7 for proof of this.

Therefore when we detect that a brother or sister is in need of help to overcome a sin issue, we need to take the risky action of seeking help for them—even if such an action will result in their being “quarantined” for a while, and even if it means that they will experience the shame of having their sin exposed. Much like a patient who needs to hear from his doctor, “You have cancer,” so we who sin need to hear the truth about our condition, even when the truth hurts. The health of our souls, and the health of the family, the church and the glory of God requires such honest evaluation and diagnosis.

Second, the family was putting the welfare of the rest of the family as well as the community ahead of their own interests. As indicated, the welfare of the whole was placed before the immediate interest of the part. Sometimes when it comes to sin issues in the home this is necessary. If a family member is destroying the home then sometimes a parent is duty-bound to take radical steps to remove such an individual from the family’s orbit (Exodus 21:15). In fact, there is no doubt that this is behind God’s law that an incorrigibly rebellious child be put to death. Michael Jackson was wrong: One bad apple does have the potential to “spoil the whole bunch, girl.”

Third, family and friends were willing to be misunderstood by their loved one. When you mentally work through this scene, you can appreciate the emotional pain that would have accompanied such an undertaking. As the family informed their parent, spouse, child or servant that they needed to take them to the tabernacle to be examined by the priest for their skin condition, they realised that, fundamentally, this was not so that they could be cured. As noted, there is no prescription in this chapter of medication for the skin-diseased individual. The passage simply highlights the priests’ declaration of “clean” or “unclean.” It was all diagnosis, with no script to follow. This may have led to great tension between the one afflicted and the ones taking them to the tabernacle. Perhaps there were such scenes where the afflicted, with tears in his eyes and angst in his voice, complained that his family did not love him. After all, there was the very conceivable prospect that he would not be coming home with the family for supper. In fact, he may never come home again.

Nevertheless, the family that obeyed the law of God realised that this was another boundary prescribed by God for good; it was a boundary with blessings. They put God and His law before family. As Wenham points out, “it was considered so important to preserve the purity of the tabernacle and the holiness of the nation that individuals and families might be forced to suffer a good deal. Individual discomfort was not allowed to jeopardize the spiritual welfare of the nation, for God’s abiding presence with his people depended on uncleanness being excluded from their midst.”12 There is much here that we can apply to the Christian.

The Christian life is not a picnic, a proverbial walk in the park. Rather, it often requires that we do certain things that may be misunderstood by those whom we love. And that is painful. Nevertheless, if we want to experience God’s blessed presence, and if we want the larger community of faith to do so as well, then we will respect God’s boundaries—even at the risk of being misunderstood and slandered as “unloving.” Any local church that has been faithful to exercise discipline—even to the point of excluding unrepentant people from its membership—will know what I am saying. Nevertheless, if we desire to have God’s blessings then we must take such a risk.

The Death Sentence of Leprosy

As noted, this chapter does not prescribe any medicine for the cure of the various skin diseases enumerated here. The only treatment was quarantine (if there was doubt), but that simply gave time for indications to be exposed. Once leprosy was confirmed (either in the skin or in the garment) there were very specific regulations as to how to treat either the individual or the piece of clothing. The treatment had nothing to do with curing the problem, and everything to do with containing the problem. And, as we will see, the containment was, in some respects, a death sentence:

Now the leper on whom the sore is, his clothes shall be torn and his head bare; and he shall cover his moustache, and cry, “Unclean! Unclean!” He shall be unclean. All the days he has the sore he shall be unclean. He is unclean, and he shall dwell alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.

(Leviticus 13:45-46)

A Living Death

If the priests determined that the individual’s dermatological condition matched the description of an infectious skin disease, he was deemed to be a “leper.” The individual was then required to tear his clothes and to uncover his head. This was a sign of mourning, which often accompanied grieving for the dead (see Ezekiel 24:17, 22; Micah 3:7).

The man was then to cup his hand over his mouth and proclaim, “Unclean! Unclean!” Probably this action had more to do with warning people that he was infectious rather than an act of shame. Presumably, it was to be done as he made his way outside the camp, where he would dwell either until he died or until God healed him. Perhaps the saddest words here are that “he shall dwell alone.”

To be a leper in Israel was to be amongst the “living dead.” The leper could have no contact with his family (unless, perhaps, if they brought him food) and could have no fellowship with those who were ‘”whole.” Worst of all, he had no legitimate access to the tabernacle. This indeed was a miserable existence, and of course was often accompanied by hopelessness. Wenham writes with great insight when he says, “The diseased person has to live alone outside the camp. A solitary existence was viewed as a calamity in itself in ancient times. It is a modern idea to want to ‘get away from it all.’ Biblical man knew he was meant to live in society, to be a member of God’s people. Living outside the camp would, therefore, have occasioned great distress.”13

To be separated from God’s dwelling place and from His covenantal people was tantamount to spiritual death. In fact one author writes, “It is unlikely that a more vivid picture can be found that illustrates that separation from the presence of God is tantamount to spiritual death.”14

This, no doubt, was a major purpose for the law of leprosy. God was preparing His people for the gospel. This picture indeed points us to the condition and to the cry of the soul-sick sinner who knows it.

We would be remiss to neglect to mention another obvious application of this scene. Calvin said that, obviously, this pictures for us the new covenant responsibility for church discipline. When a professing brother or sister refuses to repent of their sin, isolation is sometimes called for. This, of course, was Paul’s motivation when he admonished the church at Corinth to put away from themselves a so-called brother who was unrepentantly living in immorality. Paul said that if they did so then perhaps “his spirit will be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Corinthians 5:5). In other words, Paul saw excommunication as a God-ordained means for a “leprous” church member to be in a position in this world where he might be compelled by his circumstances to seek God in repentance.

This prescribed treatment of a diagnosed leper also highlights for us the principle that sin is contagious. Not only was the treatment of the leper constructive for the leper himself (driving him to seek the Lord), but it was also constructive from the standpoint of protecting the community. And the same holds true with sin and the health of the church (see 1 Corinthians 5:6-7).

In many an elders meeting we have discussed the matter of how a church members sin was negatively effecting the larger health of the church. We have referenced examples such in terms of the sin of Achan and how one man’s sin brought destruction both to him, family and the entire nation. It is this concern for the wider health of BBC that sometimes motivates us to the step of dealing decisively and often publicly with sin.

To my shame, I can remember a particular instance in the past when, because of fear of man I did not confront sin in a person’s life, and the result was that others were unnecessarily hurt along the way. The individual eventually left the church and I privately vowed before the Lord that I would not be guilty of such malfeasance again. In other words, I vowed that I would confront sinful behaviour in the life of a church member, regardless of the personal cost to me. The good of the church and the glory of God deserve this.

Let us learn from this that the sooner we isolate sin and, in many cases, the sooner that we isolate ourselves from sin, the more spiritually beneficial it will be for all.

A final observation with reference to the treatment of a leper is that such treatment was to engender compassion from those who were inside the camp. “Its purpose was to prevent the disorder from spreading rather than to bring shame on the individuals involved.”15

As mentioned, the purpose of identifying oneself as a leper was not so that others would cast aspersions the leper (after all, it was not usually one’s fault that a wound went septic or that a boil developed or that psoriasis or eczema developed). Instead, the identified leper served as a warning (thus care was shown by the ill) and engendered gratefulness in the heart of those who were not so afflicted. And gratefulness is designed to produce graciousness.

If a Hebrew onlooker had any sense of his own vulnerability to skin diseases, he would be slow to criticise and quick to show compassion. These people who had burns that had gone septic and who had eczemas or psoriasis were not in this condition necessarily because of poor hygiene; in most cases, they were experiencing these corruptions of the flesh because of the human dilemma. It is because of sin that disease, decay and death exist in our world. The fallen condition of the world is the result of original sin, and everyone in the world therefore has to contend with the mess that it birthed. In other words, though sometimes sickness is the result of individual sin, this is not normally the case. People get sick because sin has entered the world, and it is groaning and travailing under its weight. Corruption of everything abounds because the world is fallen and so we had better be careful of concluding that one is ill because they have committed a particular sin. Our attitude ought instead to be, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

Of course, I am not trying to minimise personal guilt; however, I am seeking to highlight that much suffering in the world is the common lot of fallen man in a fallen world. Be thankful that your lot may simply include less suffering than that of another. Be gracious to those who are suffering more. You might be next!

During a recent shopping excursion with my wife, we were encountered time and again with beggars. At one point, my wife said to me that, the older she gets, the more compassionate she gets. I suppose that this is evidence of God’s grace. The longer that we battle in the world against the flesh and the devil the more we realise our own propensity to sin and the more we appreciate God’s goodness in guarding us from even more corrosive corruption. Such realisation leads to appreciation and therefore to more compassion.

The Deliverance from Leprosy

Though we will deal with this matter more in depth in our next study, it should be noted that only God could heal the individual; only Yahweh could make a “leper” clean so as to enable them to return to the camp.

As noted above, the Hebrew word for “leper” comes from a word meaning “to strike.” Again, many have argued that this is now the word should be translated, because those who were afflicted with these dermatological diseases were struck with them by God. There is much truth in this, because God is sovereign and all sickness is under His decree. If this is the right translation, then it drives home the point even further that the only way that one’s condition could change was for God to intervene with healing.

As the leper underwent his day-to-day experience in the “isolation ward,” he no doubt would have faced the temptation to become bitter about his circumstances. But, at the same time, he would also have the opportunity for self-examination, and to come to the point where he realised that their only hope was in the Lord. Therefore, he would seek the face of the Lord for cleansing. He would have cried out, “Cleanse me, O God!”

I have recently been reading a book titled The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey through Madness.16. The author is a professor at the prestigious University of Southern California Gould School of Law, and has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. She has had (and has) a tough life, but I have been saddened to read that, despite the fact that she recounts a lot of sinful behaviour in her writing, she doesn’t take responsibility for it. Everything is put down to an illness.

I don’t doubt that mental health issues can be very real, but that does not change the fact that we are all responsible for our behaviour. Acknowledgement and confession of sin is necessary, for only then can we find forgiveness in Christ.

As we draw this study to a close, let us appreciate afresh that every human being comes into this world a spiritual leper. And we come into contact with an environment that is contaminated with the leprosy of sin.

God subjected the world to this condition upon the fall of Adam and Eve. And He did so purposefully (Romans 8:18-23). God wants us to have a holy dissatisfaction with the way that things are so that we will be driven to seek Him who will one day make things as they were meant to be. In other words, God allows all kinds of afflictions to get our attention that we might see our sinful condition, confess ourselves as unclean, and seek God for the cure. And the one who has the cure is the Lord Jesus Christ. Only He is able to deliver us from our sinful condition. We can come to Him confidently knowing that the Lord Jesus makes lepers clean (see Mark 1:40-42)!

The soul-sick individual who feels his spiritual leprosy can relate to the leper’s confession of his corruption, coupled no doubt with his cry for cleansing (see Romans 7:24-25).

This, no doubt, is one reason that the Lord at times allows us to feel isolated by our sin. He wants us to get to the point where we feel the effects of the leprosy of our sin and cry out to Him for deliverance. This was certainly the case with David (see Psalm 51).

In our next study, God willing, we will see this issue again of Jesus curing lepers. But the fact is, you may not have that opportunity. Today, you are a leper. Today, you need deliverance. Therefore, today you must repent and believe the good news that the Lord Jesus Christ lived a sinless life, died a sacrificial and substitutionary death for all who will acknowledge their sinful condition and who will trust Him to forgive and to change them. By God’s grace, you can today be cleansed by the blood of the Lamb. For God’s sake, for your sake, for your family’s sake, cry out, “Cleanse me, O God!” If you do, then you will be clothed with the “new skin” of the righteousness of Jesus Christ the Lord.

Believer, Jesus still saves His people from their sins.

We should consider the reality that, though the leper was isolated because of the corruption of his flesh, this was not an infallible statement about the condition of his soul. Again, this was a physical malady, which said nothing about the true spiritual condition of the individual. A God-follower indeed may have been afflicted with such infection (see for example Job). In such a case “believing Israelites could worship the LORD if they were sick or leprous—they simply could not go into the actual presence of the Holy One. To go into God’s presence one had to be whole.”17 God was teaching them that one needs “new skin” to enjoy the privilege of being fully in His presence. So it is with us (see 1 Corinthians 15:50-52).

Do you feel unclean today? If God loved you while you were yet a sinner, how much more confident should you be that, if you cry out for forgiveness as His child, He will forgive you? May we all today, as it were, experience cleaning and enjoy the fresh and hopeful realisation that we have “new skin,” and that one day we will have perfect skin. “Please, cleanse me, O God!”

Show 17 footnotes

  1. John D. Currid, Study Commentary on Leviticus (Darlington: Evangelical Press, 2004), 170.
  2. R. K. Harrison, Leviticus: Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1980), 136.
  3. John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, 22 vols. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2005), 2.2:13.
  4. Derek Tidball, The Message of Leviticus: Free to Be Holy (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 2005), 173.
  5. Gordon J. Wenham, The Book of Leviticus: The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), 203.
  6. Robert I. Vasholz, Leviticus: A Mentor Commentary (Ross-shire: Mentor, 2007), 157.
  7. Bear in mind that Hebrews were dark skinned and dark haired.
  8. Mark F. Rooker, Leviticus: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 187.
  9. Wenham, The Book of Leviticus, 192.
  10. Rousas John Rushdoony, Leviticus: Commentaries on the Pentateuch (Vallecito: Ross House Books, 2005), 136.
  11. Rushdoony, Leviticus, 135.
  12. Wenham, The Book of Leviticus, 203.
  13. Wenham, The Book of Leviticus, 200.
  14. Vasholz, Leviticus, 157.
  15. Tidball, The Message of Leviticus, 174.
  16. Elyn R. Sacks, The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey through Madness (New York: Hyperion Books, 2007)
  17. Allen P. Ross, Holiness to the Lord: A Guide to the Exposition of the Book of Leviticus (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 282.