Leprosy And Its Cure – A Picture Of Sin And The Saviour

Luke 5:12 And it came to pass, when He was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy: who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and besought Him, saying, Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean.

Mark 1:40 And there came a leper to Him, beseeching Him, and kneeling down to Him, and saying unto Him, If Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean.

Here was a leper, desperate for healing, beseeching the Lord Jesus Christ to heal him. He realized that Jesus was his only hope, and he turned to Him in faith, knowing that He alone had the power to heal him and make him clean.

In the Bible, there are several different kinds of leprosy represented, but there are some characteristics that all of these kinds have in common. All through the Bible leprosy is used as a picture and type of sin. There are five main points I want us to glean from this look at leprosy and its cure. Please read Leviticus 13-14 to get the context of my comments.

First The Bad News:

1) Leprosy Corrupts

The disease of leprosy started off as a barely noticeable sore, which increased in size and depth until it eventually corrupted the whole being. What began as a small sore gradually spread throughout the whole body, until it literally ate away the extremities one by one. In time, the whole body was affected, and every member suffered from this encroaching disease.

Sin is like leprosy in many ways. Sin will corrupt the heart of those who partake of it. From Adam’s fall in the Garden of Eden, all of mankind has been corrupted by sin’s curse and effects – all of mankind has inherited the sinful nature of Adam (see Romans 5:12). Every one of us is born a spiritual leper – dead in trespasses and sins, unable to cure ourselves – but we have also all personally sinned (Romans 3:23). We are all personally defiled by this spiritual leprosy.

When we give in to sin, our heart is corrupted (1 Kings 8:38), our members are defiled, and the lusts of the flesh war against our souls (1 Peter 2:11). The Scriptures give adequate testimony of how even the sins of individuals affected the whole camp/nation of Israel and caused others to be unclean. Even so, our sins will affect and have a corrupting influence on those around us – ourselves, our families and friends, our nation. (See 1 Corinthians 5:6-7 and Galatians 6:9 where leaven is also used as a picture of sin.)

Isaiah 1:5-6 Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.

Isaiah 64:6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

Various commentators have pointed out that this picture of our unrighteousness in God’s sight is likened to that of the corrupt, filthy rags that are worn by a leper, tainted and polluted throughout from his disease, every fiber loathsome and disgusting to all who pass by – corrupted even by the smell of his disease – fit only for the fire.

“The leper was not only loathsome in his person, but was defiled in all his acts. If he drank out of a vessel, the vessel was defiled. If he lay upon a bed, the bed became unclean, and whosoever sat upon the bed afterwards became unclean too. If he touched but the wall of a house the wall became unclean, and must be purged. Wherever he went he tainted the atmosphere, his breath was as dangerous as the pestilence… All that he did was full of the same loathsomeness as was himself. Now this may seem to be a very humiliating truth, but faithfulness requires us to say it, all the actions of the natural man are tainted with sin. Whether he eats, or drinks, or whatsoever he does, he continues to sin against his God.” – Charles Spurgeon, Sermon entitled The Cleansing Of The Leper.

Warren Wiersbe gives these section headings in his commentary on Leviticus 13 (The Bible Exposition Commentary: Pentateuch, pages 270-272): Sin is “deeper than the skin”; Sin spreads; Sin defiles; Sin isolates; and Sin is fit only for the fire. Reading through this chapter and thinking how each aspect of leprosy pictures the unclean sinner is definitely worth the meditation and study. After that is established, there is great blessing in learning how the curing and cleansing of the leper (sinner) pictures the Lord Jesus Christ!

“It is a clear and plain case that it was one, and no doubt is to be made of it, it is a spreading leprosy: as sin is; it spreads itself over all the powers and faculties of the soul, and over all the members of the body; and it spreads more and more in every stage of life, unless and until grace puts a stop to it.” – John Gill.

2) Leprosy Deadens

The disease of leprosy deadened the extremities. First the nerves would be deadened to pain, and then worse injuries would come about as a result. Because the fingers and toes with leprosy could not feel pain, it was easier to injure them. Small cuts and bruises would get infected more easily, and even greater injuries would often go unnoticed because they were not felt.

In a similar manner, sin deadens the spirit, hardens the heart (Hebrews 3:12-13), and sears the conscience (1 Timothy 4:2).

This effect can even be seen in the believer’s life: through their sin, they can grieve the Holy Spirit who indwells them (Ephesians 4:30), quench Him (1 Thessalonians 5:19), and hinder the work He is trying to do in their hearts and lives.

3) Leprosy Separates You From Others

Leprosy had a devastating affect on families – loved ones were separated by this defiling disease. Anyone with leprosy had to be quarantined. They were commanded by the Lord to put the unclean, contagious person out of the camp, where they were forced to dwell until (and if) this dreaded condition was healed. (See Numbers 5:2)

Leviticus 13:44-46 He is a leprous man, he is unclean: the priest shall pronounce him utterly unclean; his plague is in his head. And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip, and shall cry, Unclean, unclean. All the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be.

Due to the highly contagious nature of this disease, the person plagued with it must be separated from the rest of the nation of Israel (the people of God) – banished to dwell outside the camp, alone.

Likewise, sin separates from others. It causes the breakup of marriages, divides family members, separates friends, splits churches, causes wars.

“Being thus the medium of contagion and defilement wherever he went, the Lord demanded that he should be shut out from the society of Israel. There was a spot outside the camp, barren, solitary, where lepers were confined. They were commanded to wear a covering over the mouth and upon the upper lip, and if any passed by they were compelled to cry “Unclean! Unclean! Unclean!” a sound which, being muffled by reason of the covering which they wore, must have sounded more ghastly and deathlike than any other human cry… Living apart from their dearest friends, shut out from all the pleasures of society, they were required never to drink of a running stream of water of which others might drink; nor might they sit down on any stone by the roadside upon which it was probable any other person might rest. They were to all intents and purposes, dead to all the enjoyments of life, dead to all the endearments and society of their friends. Ay, and such is the case with the sinner with regard to the people of God. Now I wish I could more forcibly put the position of a sinner in God’s sight this morning… Every man by nature is like a leper, loathsome in his person, infected in all his actions and in all that he does; he is incapable of fellowship with God’s people, and he is shut out utterly and entirely by his sin from the presence and acceptance of God.” – Spurgeon.

But sin also causes separation between us and God. (See Isaiah 59:2) Romans 6:23 states that the wages of sin is death. Death in the Bible is defined as a separation. The first death is physical, and is the separation of our spirits from our bodies. (James 2:26) The second death is spiritual, and is the separation of our soul forever from the presence of God. The lake of fire is referred to as the second death – and it is where all who reject the Lord Jesus Christ and His free gift of salvation will spend eternity. (See Revelation 20:15; 21:8 and 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9) All who reject the Lord Jesus Christ and His cleansing blood that was shed for their sins must dwell outside of Heaven, banished and separated from the people of God for eternity, dwelling alone in Hell.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

Now, in this context, read this verse again:

Leviticus 13:46 All the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be.

All the days the plague of sin is in him, the spiritual leper shall be defiled and forced to dwell outside the Heavenly camp of the people of God! The sobering truth of the matter is: it is only in this life that we can come to Jesus the High Priest and be cleansed. If a spiritual leper dies rejecting Christ, he will FOREVER be outside of Heaven – still defiled by his sin, still unclean, still bearing the plague that separates him eternally from the presence of God – fit only for the fires of Hell…

Now The Good News:

4) Leprosy Could Only Be Healed And Declared To Be Healed By God

2 Kings 5:7 And it came to pass, when the king of Israel had read the letter, that he rent his clothes, and said, Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy? wherefore consider, I pray you, and see how he seeketh a quarrel against me.

Luke 7:19-22 And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art Thou He that should come? or look we for another? When the men were come unto Him, they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto Thee, saying, Art thou He that should come? or look we for another? And in that same hour He cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind He gave sight. Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached.

Whenever a leper was brought before a priest to be examined for leprosy, the priest would search diligently to see if he could spot any traces of this loathsome disease. After determining whether the plague was stayed or not, the priest would pronounce the leper clean or unclean. If there were any patches of skin that were raw, the leprosy was still spreading and the leper was still unclean. But when the leper was found to be totally covered from head to foot with this spreading plague, he was declared clean. Wonder of wonders!

Leviticus 13:12-13 And if a leprosy break out abroad in the skin, and the leprosy cover all the skin of him that hath the plague from his head even to his foot, wheresoever the priest looketh; Then the priest shall consider: and, behold, if the leprosy have covered all his flesh, he shall pronounce him clean that hath the plague: it is all turned white: he is clean.

The picture here is very profound: when we examine our lives by God’s Word, we are found to be unsound, sinful, unclean. But there are many that would excuse their sin away, pronounce themselves not wholly unclean – in their sight, they think there are still sound spots in them. In that case, the Lord would still declare them unclean in His sight! But behold, if the sinner was totally covered from head to foot with his unsoundness – if he realized he was totally corrupt, completely sinful, nothing good in himself, then God’s Word declared him clean! He was clean in God’s sight when he realized he was a guilty, condemned sinner, unworthy, fallen short of God’s glory.

Understand that this presents only half of the picture, and the rest of the type must also be there to picture Biblical salvation in Christ. I think this part of the type would correspond to our repentance (changing our minds about our sinful condition and realizing our need for the Saviour) – but we need faith in Christ’s shed blood (and finished work on the cross) to be made clean in God’s sight. Basically, this was the declaration of being clean (healed of the spiritual leprosy), but the actual cleansing was to be made through the application of the shed blood of a sacrifice – which is what Leviticus chapter 14 covers. This pictures justification, and the cleansing pictures sanctification. Both occur simultaneously at the moment of salvation.

Leprosy “… was a figure of the moral pollution of men’s minds by sin, which is the leprosy of the soul, defiling to the conscience, and from which Christ alone can cleanse us; for herein the power of his grace infinitely transcends that of the legal priesthood, that the priest could only convict the leper (for by the law is the knowledge of sin), but Christ can cure the leper, he can take away sin. Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean, which was more than the priests could do… if we judge ourselves, we shall not be judged; if we see and own that there is no health in us, no soundness in our flesh, by reason of sin, we shall find grace in the eyes of the Lord.” – Matthew Henry.

“…the mystical or spiritual meaning of this is, that when a man sees himself to be a sinful creature, all over covered with sin, and no part free, and disclaims all righteousness of his own to justify him before God, but wholly trusts to, and depends upon the grace of God for salvation, and the righteousness of Christ for his acceptance with God; he becomes clean through the grace of God and the blood and righteousness of Christ.” – John Gill.

“Leprosy speaks of sin as: incurable by human means. The anti-type as applied to the people of God is ‘sin,’ demanding self-judgment (1Co 11:31) and ‘sins,’ demanding confession and cleansing (1Jo 1:9).” – Scofield.

Luke 5:12 And it came to pass, when He was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy: who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and besought Him, saying, Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean.

Like the leper in the passage above, do you realize that you are a sinner in the sight of God, unclean in yourself, guilty of His judgment? There is a cure, and it is only God Himself that can heal you of your spiritual leprosy – He has made a way for you to be healed. That way is pictured in type in the book of Leviticus, and fulfilled in the Gospel accounts of the life, death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only one that has the power and the authority to forgive and cleanse you of your sins. No one else can do so, only God can.

Luke 5:21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?

Luke 5:24 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (He said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house.

Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean…

5) Leprosy Could Only Be Cleansed By The Blood Of A Sacrifice

In Leviticus chapters 13 and 14, we have the descriptions of the various types of leprosy, the commands regarding the proper quarantine of those with this disease, and God’s prescribed method of cleansing this distressing disease. The blood of a sacrifice had to be shed and the unclean leper had to be sprinkled with the blood.

Leviticus 14:2-3 This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing: He shall be brought unto the priest: And the priest shall go forth out of the camp; and the priest shall look, and, behold, if the plague of leprosy be healed in the leper;

Notice the priest was to go outside the camp, seeking the leper, then he was to perform the necessary requirements to declare the leper clean. Jesus went outside the camp (see Hebrews 13:11-13), where He shed His blood and died for our sins upon the cross. Only the priest had the authority to declare the leper clean; even so, only Jesus, the High Priest, has the authority to declare the sinner who believes in Him to be clean of his spiritual leprosy.

“The typical priest did not heal, nor could he, the healing was of God; he only looked to see by signs if the plague was healed; but our antitypical priest looks with an eye of pity and compassion on leprous sinners, and they are enabled to look to him by faith, and virtue goes out of him to the healing of their diseases;” – John Gill.

Leviticus 14:4-9 Then shall the priest command to take for him that is to be cleansed two birds alive and clean, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop: And the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel over running water: As for the living bird, he shall take it, and the cedar wood, and the scarlet, and the hyssop, and shall dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water: And he shall sprinkle upon him that is to be cleansed from the leprosy seven times, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird loose into the open field. And he that is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes, and shave off all his hair, and wash himself in water, that he may be clean: and after that he shall come into the camp, and shall tarry abroad out of his tent seven days. But it shall be on the seventh day, that he shall shave all his hair off his head and his beard and his eyebrows, even all his hair he shall shave off: and he shall wash his clothes, also he shall wash his flesh in water, and he shall be clean.

The two birds represent two aspects of what Christ has done for us – both together provide the complete picture of salvation – this is quite similar to what is pictured by the two goats on the Day of Atonement (see Leviticus 16). The two birds together picture the Saviour who came down from Heaven:

1) The first bird that was slain represents Christ dying as our Substitute – in our place – shedding His blood for our sins. Notice that this bird was sacrificed in an earthen vessel. Christ took on our human nature; God was manifest in the flesh (in an earthen vessel – see 2 Corinthians 4:7) to shed His blood and die for our sins. This represents the atonement, the blood covering our sins in the sight of God.

2) The second bird that was set free represents Christ bearing our sins away (the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world, John 1:29, and the scapegoat bearing our sins into a land not inhabited, Leviticus 16:20-22). This second bird represents the complete removal of our sins forever – something which only was pictured here and elsewhere in the Old Testament, but not fulfilled until Jesus actually shed His own sinless blood for us (see Hebrews 10:3-4, 8-10 and Romans 5:11 – also Micah 7:19; Psalm 103:10-12; Isaiah 38:17; 43:25; 44:22). All the OT sacrifices and types looked forward to the dying of our great Substitute and Sacrifice – what the OT pictured, Christ fulfilled completely. In essence, OT believers were saved on credit – looking forward to the full payment of our salvation on the cross of Calvary.

While I do not know what all the symbolism represents, hyssop pictures the blood of the sacrifice being applied to our hearts (see Psalm 51:7 and Exodus 12:21-23), the Holy Spirit personally applying the blood of Christ and the righteousness of Christ to the believer’s account. The leper washing his clothes in water represents the sinner washing his robes in the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:14).

Leviticus 14:14-18 And the priest shall take some of the blood of the trespass offering, and the priest shall put it upon the tip of the right ear of him that is to be cleansed, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot: And the priest shall take some of the log of oil, and pour it into the palm of his own left hand: And the priest shall dip his right finger in the oil that is in his left hand, and shall sprinkle of the oil with his finger seven times before the LORD: And of the rest of the oil that is in his hand shall the priest put upon the tip of the right ear of him that is to be cleansed, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot, upon the blood of the trespass offering: And the remnant of the oil that is in the priest’s hand he shall pour upon the head of him that is to be cleansed: and the priest shall make an atonement for him before the LORD.

Notice the blood of the sacrifice is applied first – picturing being cleansed and forgiven by the blood of Christ – then the cleansed leper is sprinkled and anointed with oil (note: only where the blood has already been applied) – picturing being set apart (sanctified) and anointed by the Holy Spirit (He only indwells, anoints, and sanctifies those to whom the shed blood of Christ has been applied). Notice what parts of the body have the blood and the oil applied: the right ear – representing our hearing of the Word of God; the thumb of the right hand – representing what we do in our service to God; and the great toe of his right foot – representing where we go in our service to God. These actions are rich in symbolic meaning, and opened up to us in the New Testament. I will save the indepth look at them for a later time, Lord willing, when I have an opportunity to prepare a study on the consecration of the priests for service, as represented by Aaron and his sons.

1 Peter 1:18-20 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.

Revelations 1:5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood.

Ephesians 1:7 In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace;

1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.

1 Corinthians 6:11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

“’But,’ says one, ‘how am I to know that Christ died for me?’ You will never know it until you are willing to stand in the leper’s place full of leprosy, if you know this day that you are full of sin, if you are conscious that in you, that is, in your flesh, there dwelleth no good thing, then it is written that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures. It is just this – if you are willing to stand to-day condemned as a sinner, and nothing more than a sinner, then Christ died for you. Your business is to trust your soul on the fact that Christ did hang on the tree for sinners; for mark – faith is trusting Christ, and having done with self. Put your finger on any sound place in your flesh, you are a lost man. Point to any good thing that you can trust to, and there is no heaven for you. Rely on anything that you have felt, or thought, or said, or done and you rely on a broken reed; but trust in Christ, and Christ alone; cast your arms around his cross, and cling to that, you are saved.” – Spurgeon.

“We, too, are lepers, and may read the law of the leper as applicable to ourselves. When a man sees himself to be altogether lost and ruined, covered all over with the defilement of sin, and in no part free from pollution; when he disclaims all righteousness of his own, and pleads guilty before the Lord, then he is clean through the blood of Jesus, and the grace of God. Hidden, unfelt, unconfessed iniquity is the true leprosy; but when sin is seen and felt, it has received its deathblow, and the Lord looks with eyes of mercy upon the soul afflicted with it.” – Spurgeon, Morning And Evening.

Luke 5:12-14 And it came to pass, when He was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy: who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and besought Him, saying, Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean. And He put forth His hand, and touched him, saying, I will: be thou clean. And immediately the leprosy departed from him. And He charged him to tell no man: but go, and shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing, according as Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.

Mark 1:40-42 And there came a leper to Him, beseeching Him, and kneeling down to Him, and saying unto Him, If Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean. And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth His hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. And as soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed.

Jesus is just as willing today as He was almost 2000 years ago to heal and cleanse those that are full of leprosy. If after reading this study, you now realize you are a spiritual leper, will you turn to the great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, and ask Him to save you and cleanse you completely from your leprosy of sin? Will you trust the only Saviour to save you, to do what only God Himself can do – forgive you of your sin?

If you have trusted this Saviour – this Substitute and Sacrifice that shed His blood for your sins and died in your place, but is now risen and ascended to Heaven – will you have compassion on others, and tell them of the Great Physician who can heal the plague of their heart?

Jude 1:22-23 And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.

Be Thou Clean

My sins were as scarlet; they were a burden to me.
My eyes were so blinded that I could not see.
Then I heard of Christ dying on Calvary,
And my soul stirred to life deep inside of me.

I wondered if Jesus would have compassion on me.
I asked Him if He was willing, and He said, “Be thou clean.”
“Oh sinner, come unto Me. I am willing; be thou clean.”
I asked Him if He was willing, and He said, “Be thou clean.”

My sins, oh how many, pierced my soul like a dart!
Foul leprosy within seemed to stain every part.
I wondered if it was possible to make a new start,
And then God’s gracious love came and filled my heart.

I was like a black sheep that had wandered astray.
I had rebelled against God and gone my own way.
Then I, in repentance, fell on my knees to pray,
And Christ’s precious blood washed my sins all away.

If you are weighed down by your sin’s constant blame,
Overwhelmed and grieved by the burden of shame,
Take a look at the Saviour; there’s a reason He came,
He died for your sins – hear Him calling your name.

Poem written February 4th/2000
Study written February 6th/06
Jerry Bouey

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