Lessons From Leprosy

In Scripture leprosy is a clear picture of sin. Let’s briefly consider some of the similarities.

Leprosy destroys, as does sin. It has been called "living death," which quickly sends our minds back to the beginning and God’s words to Adam, "In eating ye shall die." Brother Young translates this, "Dying, ye shall die." Because of sin we are all in the process of dying.

Leprosy destroys feeling as well. The affected members of the body lose all sense of feeling, even to the point where rats have been known to chew on numb limbs without the stricken individual being aware of it. Sin too destroys feelings as it sears the conscience. What once impacted the conscience is now repeated without any sense of guilt.

Leprosy defiles and divides. It made one unclean, and as such the individual was unfit for God’s presence and for fellowship with God’s people. Likewise sin makes the sinner unfit to enter the presence of a holy God. It can also cause one to be put out of assembly fellowship and render one unfit for the Lord’s service.

Leprosy manifests itself in many forms and various degrees. Leviticus 13:2 notes three forms—"a rising, a scab, or bright spot." The rising, or swelling, pictures pride which is at the heart of sin. (Isa. 14:12–14) Perhaps the scab, the covering of an old wound, speaks of the hidden sins in a man’s life. Certainly, in most lives there are more of these than manifest themselves openly. The bright spot may picture the pleasures of this world. It has been said, "The bright spots in this world are often the most sinful!"

Leprosy spreads. It, like sin, starts small and spreads. Scripture also uses leaven to picture this aspect of sin. Many sins are not alarming at first, but what seems so harmless is, in fact, fatal. Many in prison tell us that they arrived there "one step at a time." They started with what appeared to be a minor act and progressed in crime until it led to their being put out of society. David experienced this path until it led to murder. He looked, lusted, and than committed adultery, followed by murder. It is for this reason that we might find it helpful to pray as one saint expressed, "Lord, keep me from sins that seem innocent."

Leprosy is diagnosed objectively. What the individual thought of his symptoms did not matter. It was what the priest determined that was important. (Lev. 13:3) What God says is sin, is sin. Man may call sin by another name, or diminish it in some other way, but what God determines to be sin will come under His judgment.

Leprosy required examination. It was obvious at times, but in other cases it took time to fully develope. Man may quickly observe and ignore the true nature of sin, but God has examined mankind for thousands of years and His conclusions are recorded for us in Scripture. (Rom. 3:10-18) Man looks only on the surface, but God looks upon the heart. He sees the true depth of sin to which man has gone.

Thus far all we have considered leaves little hope; however, lepers, like sinners, can be cleansed. Much like the serpent on the pole, the cleansing for leprosy was also objective.

The individual was brought to the priest and if he was declared to be healed the priest was to take two birds and kill one of them. He dipped both of them in the blood and sprinkled it seven times upon the one needing to be cleansed. (Lev. 14:6–7) He then pronounced him clean and released the second bird into the open field. (See Leviticus 14 for more details.)

What a beautiful picture of the Lord Jesus who died and shed His blood that we might be cleansed from all the defilement of our sin. (1 John 1:7-9) The released bird picturing His resurrection which assures us of the completeness of His work and our acceptance before a holy God.

With such a clear picture of the awfulness of sin and the wonderful work of Christ, it should cause us to "walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory." (1 Thess. 2:12)