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"Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon him while He is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon." (Isaiah 55:6-7)

 

Dec 12, 2019

In this episode, brother Jonathan discusses the role of the Law of Moses, leprosy, and what it pictured.

 

Leprosy and the Law

  1. Introduction
    1. My goal in this episode is not to discuss at-length what leprosy is, how it is to be identified, or to do exegesis on those passages in Leviticus. My goal is to give you information that will help you to understand some of the reasons for why those passages from the Law of Moses are recorded for us New Testament Christians, and to help you understand their purpose. So we’ll be considering the Law of Moses as a whole first and what role it plays for us who are under the New Covenant in Christ’s blood.
  2. The Law of Moses
    1. The Law of Moses has been explained to contain three different parts:
      1. The Ceremonial Law (or Spiritual Law) which contains the ordinances of sacrifices, tabernacle setup, priesthood, feasts, sabbaths, dietary restrictions, etc.
      2. The Civil Law (or Social Law) which contained the laws and punishments for Israel as a sovereign nation. These are things such as punishment for breaking the seventh-day sabbath and adultery, etc.
  • The Moral Law is classified as those things which show the morality of God’s own character and nature. Since God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, His morals and character never change. (Mal. 3:6; Heb. 13:8) These commandments are repeated under the new covenant in Christ’s blood. We do not obey them because they were part of the law of Moses: we obey them because they have been carried over as part of the New Covenant (or testament).
  • Christians are not under the ceremonial or civil law of Moses.
    1. If we believe that we are justified by any part of the Law of Moses then we have rejected our salvation that is by grace through faith and have been severed from Christ.
      1. “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” (Gal 5:4)
    2. We are not under any dietary laws or restrictions.
      1. Matthew 15:10-20; Acts 10:14-15; Romans 14:17; 1 Timothy 4:4-5.
    3. In fact, if we believe that we are accountable to ANY PART of the Law of Moses for salvation—in the sense that we are required to do it in order to be saved—then we are accountable to keep the entire law of Moses.
      1. “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law.” (Gal 5:1-3)
      2. You can only be “under the law” or “not under the law”. There is no middle-ground where you can pick and choose which commandments you get to be accountable to—as some cults teach.
    4. Christians are still under the moral law of God. This is why we are commanded again in the New Testament to not lie, steal, kill, commit adultery, etc.
      1. “"You know the commandments, 'DO NOT MURDER, DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, DO NOT STEAL, DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS, Do not defraud, HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER.'"” (Mar 10:19)
      2. “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, "YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET," and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Rom 13:8-10)
    5. The one commandment of the decalogue (the ten commandments) that we are never commanded to keep is the seventh-day Sabbath (Saturday). On the contrary, we are told that we are not required to observe it.
      1. “Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day-- things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.” (Col 2:16-17)
      2. “But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? You observe days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.” (Gal 4:9-11)
  • Early in the church the question was raised about whether or not believers had to keep any part of the Law of Moses. In Acts 15 is recorded the first church council where the Apostles clearly stated that believers did not have to keep any part of the Law of Moses. This included the seventh-day Sabbath.
  1. Some of the early Christians—being Jewish—still observed the Law of Moses to not offend the Jews to whom they were trying to preach the gospel. At the same time though, they did not preach that you had to keep it. It was not any part of salvation. Paul talked about how they did it to not offend the Jews so that he may have greater effectiveness preaching the gospel to them.
    1. “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.” (1Co 9:19-23)
  2. I am emphasizing this to you because there is a widespread movement to turn people back to observing the seventh-day Sabbath. It is commonly called the “Hebrew roots movement”. Also, the group called the “Seventh Day Adventists”. Both of these groups are followers (whether they know it or not) of the same groups called “judaizers” that used to follow Paul the Apostle around trying to teach that the new Christians needed to be circumcised and keep the law of Moses. (Acts 15:1; Gal. 2:4, 12-13) Be careful to not fall into this deception which is designed to overthrow the gospel. Several very quick points about these groups’ errors:
    1. The Hebrew Roots movement picks and chooses which commands from the Law they keep. This is a fundamental denial of what the scriptures say. We are told clearly, which verses I already read, that if you believe you are accountable to ANY part of the Law then you are required to keep it all. This is because you have chosen to seek to be justified by the Law and not by faith in the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
    2. The Seventh Day Adventists were birthed from a man named William Miller who falsely prophesied that Christ would return before March 21 1844. This obviously didn’t happen. Later, three groups came together to form what is known now as the Seventh Day Adventists: Hiram Edson taught the (false) doctrine of the sanctuary and Christ’s final ministry in the holy of holies, Joseph Bates provided the (false) doctrine of the seventh-day worship, the Sabbath, and Ellen G. Harmon White provided (false) visions and prophesies to confirm these things.
  3. It is important to understand that both of these groups are dangerous cults that lead people away from salvation. They are not to be considered brethren or just another “denomination”. Their teaching fundamentally denies the gospel and teachings of Jesus Christ. Remember what Paul had to say about the Judaizers to the Galatians:
    1. “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!” (Gal 1:6-9)
  4. Christians gather together on Sunday out of memorial for the resurrection of Jesus on Sunday, the first day of the week. (Matt 28:1; Mark 16:1-2; Luke 24:1) They also began gathering throughout the week, most notably on Wednesday, for more fellowship. There is no commandment that tells us to gather on particular days. We are only commanded to have fellowship with other brethren (Heb. 10:25) to strengthen each other, worship and pray together, and instruct one another.
  5. It was the Roman Catholic Church that later created the notion of Sunday being the “new Sabbath” for Christians. This was done several centuries after the apostles had died and has no place in scripture. There is nothing wrong with regularly gathering on Sunday, or any day, but we must not falsely say that it is a “new Sabbath”. If we did, then some young believers may be led to thinking that Christians indeed do have to keep the Sabbath as described in the Law of Moses. That would lead them astray and into deception. So we must be careful to make the distinction clear.
  1. Old Testament Pictures
    1. The things in the Law of Moses are actually pictures (symbols, shadows) of things to come. This is what we call “typology”. All throughout the Old Testament God left illustrations and examples for us to benefit from today. These teach principles that God wanted us to understand, pictures of new testament doctrines, and are sometimes even earthly pictures of things that are in Heaven.
      1. “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” (1Co 10:11)
      2. “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Rom 15:4)
  • “For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; so it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer. Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law; who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, "SEE," He says, "THAT YOU MAKE all things ACCORDING TO THE PATTERN WHICH WAS SHOWN YOU ON THE MOUNTAIN."” (Heb 8:3-5)
  1. Some examples of typology are how Joseph was betrayed by his brothers and later would rule over them for their own deliverance. This pictures Christ being rejected by His people and later ruling over them as King and Lord. Solomon, the son of David, ruling over a peaceful Kingdom with unprecedented prosperity and building the temple of God pictures Christ, the Son of David, building the spiritual temple of God (the church) and setting up His own earthly kingdom with unprecedented prosperity and peace. Moses himself was rejected the first time he tried to help his Hebrew people (Acts 7:22-37), but when he returned he delivered them from Egypt. Christ is the prophet like unto Moses (Deut. 18:15-19; Acts 3:22; 7:37) who was rejected by His people at His first coming (John 1:11; Isa. 53:2-3; Luke 19:14; 20:13-15; Acts 7:51-52). They will receive Him at His second coming (Zech. 12:10; Romans 11:25-27).
  2. These are a few examples of how God has woven throughout the Old Testament history illustrations and foreshadowing of the things to come. It is important to remember that we do not use typology to establish or teach doctrine. This can become looking at the scriptures as though they are allegories instead of literal history. We establish doctrine by the straightforward teaching and then we can look back to see if there are any typological pictures.
  1. Leprosy
    1. Leprosy itself is a picture, or “type” (from the Greek word “tupos”), that illustrates something for us. It pictures sin and its effects. This will bear out as we look at what is said and/or described.
    2. Let’s look at a passage in Matthew that shows Christ interacting with a leper.
      1. “When Jesus came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him. And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean." Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed." And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus *said to him, "See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest and present the offering that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them."” (Mat 8:1-4)
    3. This is a very interesting interaction between Jesus and the leper for a number of reasons.
      1. This leper came to Him. This was a thing that lepers were not supposed to do. They were to be separated from people and kept away so that they didn’t infect other people.
        1. “"As for the leper who has the infection, his clothes shall be torn, and the hair of his head shall be uncovered, and he shall cover his mustache and cry, 'Unclean! Unclean!' "He shall remain unclean all the days during which he has the infection; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.” (Lev 13:45-46)
      2. By touching the leper Christ himself would’ve been considered unclean until the evening. How can Jesus be excused by the people for willingly touching a leper? This is because in the law the priests were allowed to touch the lepers when they were being cleansed without being defiled.
        1. “"The priest shall then put some of the oil that is in his palm on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed, and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot, on the place of the blood of the guilt offering. "Moreover, the rest of the oil that is in the priest's palm he shall put on the head of the one to be cleansed, to make atonement on his behalf before the LORD. "He shall then offer one of the turtledoves or young pigeons, which are within his means. "He shall offer what he can afford, the one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering, together with the grain offering. So the priest shall make atonement before the LORD on behalf of the one to be cleansed. "This is the law for him in whom there is an infection of leprosy, whose means are limited for his cleansing."” (Lev 14:28-32)
  • Christ Himself is the person the role of the High Priest in the Law pictured. He is the one who is our mediator between us and God, the one who intercedes for us with a sacrifice.
    1. “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb 4:14-16)
    2. See Hebrews 5:1-10; ch. 8
  1. Examples of Leprosy in the Old Testament
    1. Moses’ sign to the Jews
      1. “The LORD furthermore said to him, "Now put your hand into your bosom." So he put his hand into his bosom, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow. Then He said, "Put your hand into your bosom again." So he put his hand into his bosom again, and when he took it out of his bosom, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh.” (Exo 4:6-7)
    2. Miriam’s punishment for rebellion against Moses
      1. “Then the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the doorway of the tent, and He called Aaron and Miriam. When they had both come forward, He said, "Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, shall make Myself known to him in a vision. I shall speak with him in a dream. "Not so, with My servant Moses, He is faithful in all My household; With him I speak mouth to mouth, Even openly, and not in dark sayings, And he beholds the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid To speak against My servant, against Moses?" So the anger of the LORD burned against them and He departed. But when the cloud had withdrawn from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, as white as snow. As Aaron turned toward Miriam, behold, she was leprous. Then Aaron said to Moses, "Oh, my lord, I beg you, do not account this sin to us, in which we have acted foolishly and in which we have sinned. "Oh, do not let her be like one dead, whose flesh is half eaten away when he comes from his mother's womb!" Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, "O God, heal her, I pray!" But the LORD said to Moses, "If her father had but spit in her face, would she not bear her shame for seven days? Let her be shut up for seven days outside the camp, and afterward she may be received again." So Miriam was shut up outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on until Miriam was received again.” (Num 12:5-15)
    3. Naaman the Syrian
      1. “Now Naaman, captain of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man with his master, and highly respected, because by him the LORD had given victory to Aram. The man was also a valiant warrior, but he was a leper. Now the Arameans had gone out in bands and had taken captive a little girl from the land of Israel; and she waited on Naaman's wife. She said to her mistress, "I wish that my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! Then he would cure him of his leprosy." Naaman went in and told his master, saying, "Thus and thus spoke the girl who is from the land of Israel." Then the king of Aram said, "Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel." He departed and took with him ten talents of silver and six thousand shekels of gold and ten changes of clothes. He brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, "And now as this letter comes to you, behold, I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may cure him of his leprosy." When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, "Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man is sending word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? But consider now, and see how he is seeking a quarrel against me." It happened when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, that he sent word to the king, saying, "Why have you torn your clothes? Now let him come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel." So Naaman came with his horses and his chariots and stood at the doorway of the house of Elisha. Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, "Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored to you and you will be clean." But Naaman was furious and went away and said, "Behold, I thought, 'He will surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.' "Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?" So he turned and went away in a rage. Then his servants came near and spoke to him and said, "My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, 'Wash, and be clean'?" So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child and he was clean.” (2Ki 5:1-14)
    4. King Uzziah’s Error
      1. “But when he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the LORD his God, for he entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense. Then Azariah the priest entered after him and with him eighty priests of the LORD, valiant men. They opposed Uzziah the king and said to him, "It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful and will have no honor from the LORD God." But Uzziah, with a censer in his hand for burning incense, was enraged; and while he was enraged with the priests, the leprosy broke out on his forehead before the priests in the house of the LORD, beside the altar of incense. Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and behold, he was leprous on his forehead; and they hurried him out of there, and he himself also hastened to get out because the LORD had smitten him. King Uzziah was a leper to the day of his death; and he lived in a separate house, being a leper, for he was cut off from the house of the LORD. And Jotham his son was over the king's house judging the people of the land.” (2Ch 26:16-21)
    5. The reasons for these examples:
      1. Moses was given the sign of leprosy in his hand for it to be a testimony to the Jews that he was sent by God to deliver them.
      2. Miriam was punished for rebelling against the authority of Moses.
  • Naaman was given leprosy (we don’t know why) and the narrative about how he was healed by Elisha is a picture of New Testament salvation:
    1. Naaman has a disease that is a death sentence (like sin)
    2. Naaman hears there is a way to be healed (people hear the message of the gospel)
    3. When Naaman hears what to do in order to be healed he is initially offended because of its simplicity. (like how people don’t understand initially how believing in Jesus’ death and resurrection is supposed to forgive their sins)
    4. Naaman is convinced by his servant to listen and believe because it is something simple. He is healed for doing as he is told by Elisha. (people embrace the simplicity of the gospel and believe)
  1. Uzziah was punished for intruding into the priest’s office.
  1. All of these examples have one thing in common: God is the one who either caused the disease, healed it, or both. In fact, so far as we know there is not one instance of a leper being healed or cleansed in Israel other than these times. This makes the significance of Jesus healing lepers all the more powerful. Jesus, the Messiah, was doing openly what only God could do.
  2. It was a statement to the Jews that this prophet, Jesus of Nazareth, was doing in His own authority what God alone could do. Elisha was able to tell Naaman the Syrian what to do to be healed, but he did not do it of his own authority. Jesus speaks to a leper and tells him to be cleansed and the leper is cleansed. Jesus has his own authority to do such things.
  3. In Leviticus 13 and 14 there are instructions for the priests on how to identify leprosy and how to treat it. Leprosy, of this kind that is talked about, could infect clothing and even the materials of people’s houses. It was a very serious concern for public welfare. It was highly contagious.
  4. There are several parallels between leprosy and sin that show its typology.
    1. Sin begins oftentimes as a small thing. Leprosy usually begins to manifest in the body as a small thing.
    2. Sin in one person has the ability to influence other people. This is why Paul said that congregations need to deal with sin in their midst so that it would not spread. Leprosy was highly contagious and could infect others easily.
  • Sin, once embraced into a believer’s life, causes separation from fellowship and the people of God. Lepers were required, once it had been identified, to separate from family, friends, and social life in general.
  1. Sin hardens the heart from feeling any conviction from God. Leprosy numbs the sense of touch in the body.
  2. Only God can forgive and heal sin. Only God can cleanse and heal leprosy.
  1. Leprosy is a terrible disease which deforms the body. There is nothing more appropriate to illustrate the heinousness of sin in the sight of God than that He has set forth such a terrible disease to picture the effects of sin.