“He shall be unclean. All the days he has the sor
e he shall be unclean. He is unclean and he shall dwell alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.” -Leviticus 13:46
Leprosy. Have you heard of it? It is a horrible disease that affects your skin. Leviticus uses many pages to go through the certain laws of uncleanness for the Jews, and leprosy receives much attention. The disease starts out almost unnoticeable– maybe a spot here or there. Yet, before long, it spreads. One of its real dangers, though, is the effect on your nervous system. It causes infected areas to go numb. When I heard of this, I didn’t think that was so bad! But think of the positive benefits of pain– it lets us know if we are doing something to hurt our body. It is an indicator that something’s not right. For example, you feel pain if you sleep too close to a fire. The pain lets you know you need to move farther away. But if you are numb, you might accidentally roll into the fire without feeling it, causing those particular parts to be horribly burned. Other injuries could also happen.
Leprosy was pretty serious– if you got it, there was almost no chance of hope. Because it is contagious, you were required to live away from those not leprous. As Leviticus 13:46 put it, you were required to live “outside the camp.” You wouldn’t be able to be with your wife and children– you were hosed.
It is incredibly helpful for me to think of physical examples of spiritual truths– these aid me in understanding Scripture. So, let’s think of the similarities between sin and leprosy. Sin, like leprosy, starts out small…as small as being dissatisfied with what we have and being tempted to obtain what we shouldn’t:
“But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin…” -James 1:14-15a
Next, sin numbs us to the Lord and His Word. If you haven’t accepted Jesus’ sacrifice for your sins, you are numb to Him, turning your back on His Word. Sin brings consequences that we are numb to when we are immersed in it (see Romans 1:18-32). As with leprosy, people in sin are numb to dangers lurking right around the corner.
Finally, and most importantly, those lost in sin are still outside the camp. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). In Ephesians 2:8-9, Paul writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Lepers could not work their way back to living in the camp with the rest of their community– all they could do was pray to be miraculously healed by God. Similarly, we cannot work our way to heaven. Our sin had left us apart from God because of His holiness– it’s a chasm we cannot cross on our own. Like lepers, we have no chance to spend eternity with God by good works. Yet, praise be to God, Jesus died on the cross so that those who accepted His sacrifice for the sins of man could enter a correct relationship with God.
With the imagery between sin and leprosy established, read this following account from the Gospel of Luke (chapter 17):
11 Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. 12 Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. 13 And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
14 So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.
15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan.
Knowing the effects of leprosy, think of the ways the healed men were better: they could feel pain in order to protect themselves, and they were allowed to be a part of their community again.
Now, reread the story. This time, you are the sick man. Your disease, though, is sin.
Those who have accepted Jesus’ sacrifice for their sins have been brought into the camp. Instead of being unclean, they are children of the living God. Instead of numbness towards sin, the Holy Spirit is living in you, molding you into the image of Jesus. Notice the reaction of the man who came back– he was glorifying God with a loud voice! How much more should we, who have been saved, praise God for His gift of salvation?
No, I didn’t use to have physical leprosy. I was, however, a spiritual leper before I was saved by faith in Jesus Christ. I was unclean, but I’m pure in God’s eyes. I was blind, but now I see. I was numb, and now I’m alive to the Lord’s leading. I was outside the camp, but now I am a part of God’s family.
“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” -Ephesians 2:13