Life's Problems

The first two parts of chapter 14 were about the priest’s tasks for ceremonially cleansing a healed leper –and welcoming him back into the community.

Those directly correlate to how we, as ambassadors for Christ, help a new believer. We tell him about the fullness of what God has done –and how that affects his new life.

This next part of the chapter is about the priest being called to inspect the interior of a person’s house for leprosy. It correlates to counselling believers when they encounter problems that lie deep within.

The Priest’s Task

The people lived in tents while in the desert –but this is about living in houses after crossing into the Promised Land. If the owner of the house detected something that looked diseased, he was to call the priest to come inside and thoroughly inspect it.

The LORD further spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying: “When you enter the land of Canaan, which I give you for a possession, and I put a mark of leprosy on a house in the land of your possession, then the one who owns the house shall come and tell the priest, saying, ‘Something like a mark of leprosy has become visible to me in the house.’ (Leviticus 14:33-35)

This short passage above is most profound. First, it says that God put the disease on the house. Second, it was up to the owner to recognize the problem.

Leprosy found: The priest ordered the house to be emptied before his inspection –so that if disease was determined to be more than superficial, then only the house would be declared unclean. If he found that some stones or plaster was contaminated, then the house was quarantined for seven days. (If someone did enter the house, or ate in it during that week, he was considered unclean until evening and had to wash his clothes.)

Second inspection: On the seventh day, the priest made his second inspection. If the leprosy had spread, then the affected stones were removed, all of the plaster was scraped out and those materials were taken away to an unclean place outside of the city. New stones were put in, the house was re-coated in new plaster and the owner resumed life in the house. (If leprosy hadn’t spread, no more needed to be done.)

If leprosy didn’t return: If the owner thought the disease had returned and called the priest but there was none found, it was declared clean and the ceremonial cleansing performed. This cleansing was almost the same as the one for the leper. There were the two birds. One was killed in a clay jar over running water. Its blood was put on the cedar wood, scarlet string, hyssop and the other bird. The differences are that the blood was sprinkled on the house seven times (as expected) but the live bird was released outside of the city into an open field.

If leprosy returned: If the owner noticed a recurrence of the leprosy in his house, he called the priest who repeated the seven day inspection-quarantine process. If the disease had indeed returned, then the house was completely torn down and its materials taken away to an unclean area outside the city.

As Christ’s Ambassadors. . .

Somehow believers have been convinced that as long as they accepted Jesus for salvation and trust God with their eternity, then their problems in this life should be minimal. But this passage in Leviticus states that just the opposite is true. Not only do we have problems –deeply rooted problems– this says that they come directly from God.

Calling the priest: When a believer comes to us with something that is deeply troubling him (and no, I’m not going to call it sin), he’s dropping his guard to let us in. We aren’t to treat this lightly.

Empty the house: We are to begin by telling him that his spiritual, eternal being (his heart) is not anchored to his physical being (his flesh). That’s the point of the house being empty before inspecting it. It’s what Paul was talking about in Romans 2:28-29 (and Moses in Deuteronomy 30:6). The heart –the new creation that will live forever with God– has been severed from the dying flesh.

Early entry: We tell the believer that the result of keeping them tied together is self-condemnation. The owner only had to wash his clothes –it’s equivalent to learning the truth and renewing his mind. By evening everything was fine again –there were no lasting effects.

Seven days: God takes the time to work within the believer while he contemplates the division between his heart and his flesh. Paul talked at length about this in Romans 7 with “the things I do that I don’t want to do –and the things I don’t do that I know I should. . .” and summed it up with “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death” (Romans 8:1-2).

Re-inspection: When the believer calls upon us again –with the same problem, still not convinced of God’s finished work– we are to explain to him that he has a choice to make.

Leprosy gone: We tell him that he will always be affected by the misdeeds of the flesh. (The mark of leprosy will always be upon the house; but it will not overtake the house.) Jesus’ sacrifice has even made this flesh pure. (The death of one bird and the life of the other cleansed the house.) The believer has been set apart for God’s purpose of witnessing to the lost about the kingdom. (The live bird was released into the fields outside of the city.)

Leprosy returned: We tell him that if he considers his flesh to be (here comes that word) sinful –not trusting that God has washed, sanctified and justified it– then it is useless. Nothing good can be accomplished with it. (It’s like the house that must be torn down and the rubbish taken outside the city to an unclean place.)

It’s only the house: But either way, it’s only the house that is judged as being useful or not. It’s not the inner being, the new creation –the heart. A passage that seems to apply is 1 Corinthians 3:10-15. It talks about building a house. The only foundation that believers have to build on is Jesus. The person can either build with gold, silver and precious stones –or with wood, hay and stubble. When God evaluates the work, there will be reward or loss –one house was useful and one was not. “If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”

Putting it together: The chapter concludes with “This is the law for any mark of leprosy –even for a scale, and for the leprous garment or house, and for a swelling, and for a scab, and for a bright spot– to teach when they are unclean and when they are clean. This is the law of leprosy.” (Leviticus 14:54-57)

The last sentence can be understood through the NT as “This is the way that leprosy works.” Leprosy has a specific purpose –to teach when a person is separated from God (unclean) and when he has been joined with God (clean).

Who put the mark of leprosy on the house? –God did. Why? –To draw us to Himself so that we can become effective ambassadors for Jesus. . .