Introduction: Leviticus Chapter 13 describes the role of the priest in diagnosing leprosy. To modern readers, this might at first seem like it has little relevance today. Yet, once you know how to interpret it, this is in fact one of the most interesting chapters in the Bible. The rules in this chapter should be read on two levels. First, they provide a window into history. They establish how God protected His people from the spread of deadly microorganisms long before people knew these organisms existed. Second, these same rules use the symbols of leprosy and mold to represent the seven stages of sin. Just as Jesus spoke in parables, God uses diseases like leprosy as symbols of sin to protect you and your loved ones from becoming entangled in sin. Before trying to understand the hidden symbolism in these rules, believers should first understand the practical protections that they offered for the ancient Jews.
Background Tzaraath - Identifying Seven Actual Afflictions of the Flesh The rules of this chapter were not limited to protecting the Jews from leprosy. They protected the Jews from all kinds of infectious diseases. In Hebrew, the term Tzaraath (translated as “leprosy”) actually applies to any one of at least seven skin infections. These included: (1) rashes / sores (an irritant in the skin that will pass with time); (2) psoriasis (the whitening of the skin over the entire body); (3) impetigo (the spreading of sores); (4) erysipelas (the spreading of swelling or spots in a burn injury); (5) tropical sores (the subcutaneous disease where the hair turns white and swelling or spots appear in a burn injury); (6) ringworm (a subcutaneous disease where the hair turns white and sores appear on the head or chin); and (7) leprosy (aka “Hansen’s Disease”, a subcutaneous disease where the hair turns white and where bodily sores and swelling or spots form and nerve cells die).
Purpose: In addition to the symbolic meaning behind these diseases discussed below, the instructions for the priests in this chapter also had at least three important purposes. These included:
(1) Protection: If the priests did not quarantine those with infectious diseases, the healthy people would have gotten sick. When the outbreak of the bubonic plague occurred during the middle ages, the Jewish communities in Europe had higher survival rates than the Christians. While the Jews protected themselves through God’s rules about quarantining the sick and avoiding contact with dead bodies, the Christians did not. Christians assumed as many do today that God’s laws in the Old Testament became irrelevant after Christ’s death. The lesson is that when believers follow God’s rules, He will protect them from harm.
(2) Holiness. God also could not be in the presence of His people if they were unclean (Nu. 5:3; Dt. 23:14). Out of reverent fear, the Jews knew that they had to stay clean to have God in their presence. In the Old Testament, God warned that sin would prevent Him from hearing their prayers (Ps. 66:18; Prov. 28:9; Isa. 1:15). In the New Testament, God also warns that sin can “hinder” the prayers of a believer (1 Pet. 3:7; cf., Jo. 9:31). By keeping the people focused on God’s rules in their daily hygiene, the priests helped the people to lead holy lives and avoid other kinds of sin.
(3) Order. The people had to submit to inspections of the priests and any orders of separation that they might impose. Forcing the people to submit to the authority of the priests in turn helped to establish God’s authority over Israeli society. Although many believers today may not like authority, God requires that everyone submit to godly authority (Ro. 13:1-4).
Relevance Today: Although these rules were important for Jews in ancient times, we also know that the symbolism behind these rules is important today. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;” (2 Tim. 3:16). To understand the relevance of these rules today, you must first understand the seven commonalities between leprosy and sin:
(1) Diseases like leprosy are caused by sin. Diseases and sin are related. Sin caused disease to come into the world (Gen. 3:17; 9:2; Ro. 8:19-22). Leprosy is a symbol of both sin and God’s punishment of sin. For example, God infected Miriam with leprosy as a punishment for her sin when she rebelled against Moses’ leadership (Nu. 12:10). As another example, God infected King Uzziah with leprosy when he tried to take on the dual roles of King and High Priest, roles which God had separated (2 Ch. 26:19-21).
(2) Leprosy and sin have to be quarantined. In the ancient world, there was no cure for leprosy. Lepers had to be separated from society or the disease would spread (Lev. 13:4, 6). Before the Western world found a cure for this disease, it also placed persons infected with leprosy on islands or isolated locations where they could not infect others. For example, The United States turned the Hawaiian island of Molokai into a leper colony. Like leprosy, God also ordered people who intentionally sinned to be “cut off” from the community of believers because of the risk they posed to others (e.g., Ex. 30:38).
(3) When unchecked, leprosy and sin both spread quickly. Leprosy and yeast (two symbols of sin) are two of the fastest spreading microorganisms. Like leprosy, sin also spreads quickly if left unchecked: “Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” (Jam. 1:15). “They conceive mischief and bring forth iniquity, and their mind prepares deception.” (Job 15:35). “Behold, he travails with wickedness, and he conceives mischief and brings forth falsehood.” (Ps. 7:14). God provides examples of how quickly sin spreads in the book of Numbers. For example, upon hearing the bad report from 10 spies about the “giants” in Canaan, “all” the congregation cried and wept the entire night (Nu. 14:1). The nation was so motivated by fear that they even tried to appoint a leader to bring them back their prior bondage in Egypt (Nu. 14:2-4). As another example, Korah’s rebellion against Moses started with a few men and then grew to include 250 “men of renown.” (Nu. 16:2). It then grew to include 14,700 sympathizers, all of whom God judged (Nu. 16:49). Likewise, when the Jews reached the edge of the Promised Land, a few men began to engage in the sin of temple prostitution. Their sin spread quickly within the tribes. Ultimately, God judged at least 24,000 men (Nu. 25:9).
(4) Leprosy and sin cause the victim to lose feeling. Leprosy kills the nerve endings in the infected skin. Appendages fall off because the victim cannot feel when he or she is causing damage to a finger or toe. Sin also causes the victim to become numb to the pain he or she is causing: “being darkened in their understanding . . . they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.” (Eph. 4:18-19). “by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron,” (1 Tim. 4:2). Feeling pain is important. For example, pain receptors keep your body from making an injury worse. Your pain receptors tell your hand to remove it from a hot stove before it gets burned. Like leprosy, unchecked sin can dampen the ability of the Holy Spirit to convict you of your sin.
(5) Leprosy and sin both lead to death. A victim of leprosy will eventually die if untreated. Like leprosy, sin also leads to death when it is not treated: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Ro. 6:23).
(6) Leprosy and sin have the same cure. Because leprosy is both caused by original sin and is a symbol of sin, both leprosy and sin have a common cure: “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.” (Is. 53:4-5; 1 Pet. 2:24). One of Jesus’ first recorded miracles was healing a leper (Matt. 8:2-3). Everything Jesus did was for a reason. This includes the order of His miracles. He was symbolically showing that He has the ability to cure the disease of sin.
(7) Leprosy and sin both require someone to diagnose the problem. With Leprosy (now called Hansen’s disease (1873)), a doctor diagnoses and treats it with antibiotics. In Leviticus Chapter 13, the priests diagnosed the leprosy or sin. Today, every believer is part of God’s “holy priesthood.” (1 Peter 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:6). As part of God’s holy priesthood, you have a duty to direct a sinner to the cure. Leviticus Chapter 13 tells you how to do this.
Rules For Identifying the Seven Stages of Sin in Yourself or Someone Else. If you accept that you are part of God’s “holy priesthood” and have a duty to diagnose the infectious disease of sin, you should know what symptoms to look for as the disease progresses. In Leviticus Chapter 13, God reveals that sin, like leprosy, progresses in seven stages, a number of completeness in the Bible. First, through the symbolism of the initial stages of leprosy that can only be seen by close examination, He reveals that sin in its initial stages is hard to detect unless you are in an accountability relationship with someone closely examining the details of your life. Second, through the symbolism of flesh that has become raw and exposed, He reveals the second stage of sin happens when your sin finally becomes visible to others. Third, through the symbolism of boils, He reveals that a person in the third stage of sin is suffering from minor judgment. Fourth, through the symbolism of burns, He reveals that in the fourth stage of sin is suffering from major judgment. Fifth, through the symbolism of scales, He reveals that a believer in the fifth stage of sin loses the ability to see that he or she is in sin. Sixth, through the symbolism of open and contagious leprosy, He reveals that a person in the sixth stage of sin is at risk of contaminating others with sin. Finally, through the symbolism of mold on a person’s clothes, He reveals that sin in its final form contaminates all of a person’s actions and motives.
(a) Symptoms: At this stage, (1) the infection of sin penetrates the flesh; (2) as a result, the hair follicles (the smallest things about us) turn white (or die); and (3) the sin may spread if left untreated. “Then the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, ‘When a man has on the skin of his body a swelling or a scab or a bright spot, and it becomes an infection of leprosy on the skin of his body, then he shall be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons the priests. The priest shall look at the mark on the skin of the body, and if the hair in the infection has turned white and the infection appears to be deeper than the skin of his body, it is an infection of leprosy; when the priest has looked at him, he shall pronounce him unclean. But if the bright spot is white on the skin of his body, and it does not appear to be deeper than the skin, and the hair on it has not turned white, then the priest shall isolate him who has the infection for seven days. The priest shall look at him on the seventh day, and if in his eyes the infection has not changed and the infection has not spread on the skin, then the priest shall isolate him for seven more days. The priest shall look at him again on the seventh day, and if the infection has faded and the mark has not spread on the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him clean; it is only a scab. And he shall wash his clothes and be clean. ‘But if the scab spreads farther on the skin after he has shown himself to the priest for his cleansing, he shall appear again to the priest. The priest shall look, and if the scab has spread on the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean; it is leprosy.’” (Lev. 13:1-8). Note: The disease at this point is visible only upon close examination.
(b) Treatment: The infected leper had to be isolated for 14 days (Lev. 13:4, 6). This symbolized a double period of completeness. Yet, this treatment was not a real treatment. It merely isolated the leper in case he or she was a risk to others. Jesus states that we cannot change our hairs from white back to black (Matt. 5:36). Only He can remove this blight of sin (Is. 53:4-5; 1 Pet. 2:24).
(c) Practical Application. Symptoms of sin start small on the surface of the flesh. (Lev. 13:1-3, 49). The first sign of sin is a whitening of the body hair, the smallest things about a person’s walk. We can see this in the early stages of addiction. Drug addicts don’t begin as addicts. They instead start off by experimenting. They also casually engage in sin where they believe that they will not get caught. Are you leading one life in church and a secret double life when you think no one is watching?
(d) Practical Application. Be in an accountability relationship. God knows and has “numbered” every hair on your head (Lk. 12:7). There is nothing that is kept secret from Him (Heb. 4:13). The Bible also encourages believers to be in accountability relationships where someone can watch for hidden sin. Jesus sent the disciples out in twos (Mk. 6:7). Paul watched over Timothy. David watched out for John. The tribes listed in the book of Numbers all had strict leadership and accountability. Believers today are also commanded not to forsake the fellowship, which, when properly structured, can bring accountability (Heb. 10:25). Here, to determine if sin has penetrated the flesh, the priest must study the color of the hairs on the skin (Lev. 13:3). That implies that the priest has the cooperation of the patient to closely examine him or her. This implied accountability and the disclosure of sin to the priest: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” (Jam. 5:16). How well do you know the sins of your brother or sister in Christ? Do you know the color of their hair? In other words, do you know the intimate details of their lives to know if they are starting down the path of sin? Can you help to stop a sin from spreading if you do not spend time with your brother or sister? Do you have an accountability partner? Is there anyone that you confess your sins to who also prays for you? Does your church let people float in and out church without exhorting them about the importance of accountability?
(e) Practical Application. The priest did not have the power to cure the disease of sin. No one can say: “I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin” (Prov. 20:9). There was nothing that the priest could do to cure the sin. By contrast, Jesus was sending a message when He healed 10 lepers and told them to show themselves to the priest (Lk. 17:14). He alone has the power to heal sin (1 Pet. 2:24). Are you telling those caught in addictions where to find help?
(f) Practical Application. A priest has a duty to confront a sinner. To protect others, the priest needed to take action to protect others if he found possible evidence of leprosy. The first thing that a believer is required to do when he or she learns that a brother or sister is sinning is to privately confront that person in love (Matt. 18:15-18). Gossiping to others about the sin is not one of those steps. Nor is turning a blind eye one of the steps. Are you confronting sinners around you in a loving manner? Or, are you spreading your own leprosy in the form of gossip?
(g) Practical Application. A cleaned sinner must be washed with the Word. The priest was required to wash the clothes and the infected person to be clean (Lev. 13:6; Ps. 51:2). Today, believers have the Word to expose and “wash” their sins: “so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.” (Eph. 5:26). This washing of the Word can also prevent a relapse of sin if it is stored in the believer’s heart: “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.” (Ps. 119:11). Are you washing the Word and memorizing it to keep yourself free from sin? Are you encouraging your children or others to take this daily preventative step of reading the Word?
(a) Symptoms: At this stage, (1) the infection in the skin begins to swell and turn white; (2) the hair follicles turn white; and (3) the raw flesh is exposed. “When the infection of leprosy is on a man, then he shall be brought to the priest. The priest shall then look, and if there is a white swelling in the skin, and it has turned the hair white, and there is quick raw flesh in the swelling, it is a chronic leprosy on the skin of his body, and the priest shall pronounce him unclean; he shall not isolate him, for he is unclean. If the leprosy breaks out farther on the skin, and the leprosy covers all the skin of him who has the infection from his head even to his feet, as far as the priest can see, then the priest shall look, and behold, if the leprosy has covered all his body, he shall pronounce clean him who has the infection; it has all turned white and he is clean. But whenever raw flesh appears on him, he shall be unclean. The priest shall look at the raw flesh, and he shall pronounce him unclean; the raw flesh is unclean, it is leprosy. Or if the raw flesh turns again and is changed to white, then he shall come to the priest, and the priest shall look at him, and behold, if the infection has turned to white, then the priest shall pronounce clean him who has the infection; he is clean.” (Lev. 13:9-17). The disease is now plainly visible.
Early stage of Leprosy skin damage1
(b) Treatment: If the skin turned all white as snow, the sin was cured (Lev. 13:12). The priest played no role in curing this sin. He merely observed it. There is only one person who can make your skin “white as snow”: ‘“Come now, and let us reason together,’ Says the LORD, ‘Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.”’ (Is. 1:18).
(c) Practical Application. Is the brother or sister open about their sins? If you have sinned and repented, is someone watching you closely to make sure that you are healed? As a saved believer, do you still get drunk? Are you going to places where you should not be? Are you filling your mind or your mouth with unholy things? Are you spending time with people who will cause you to backslide into sin?
(d) Practical Application. Monitor the progress of a sinner who repents. Here, the priest was to quarantine a person after the raw flesh was visible to make sure that the sin did not spread to others (Lev. 13:11). These verses suggest that we have to follow up with a brother or sister to later make sure that they have not relapsed into sin. Yet, how well can you follow up with a brother or sister if you make no time for fellowship in your life?
(a) Symptoms: At this state, (1) there is a white swelling or a reddish-white bright spot; (2) the hair follicles turn white; and (3) the boil beneath the skin is exposed. The person is now suffering from their sin. “When the body has a boil on its skin and it is healed, and in the place of the boil there is a white swelling or a reddish-white, bright spot, then it shall be shown to the priest; and the priest shall look, and behold, if it appears to be lower than the skin, and the hair on it has turned white, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean; it is the infection of leprosy, it has broken out in the boil. But if the priest looks at it, and behold, there are no white hairs in it and it is not lower than the skin and is faded, then the priest shall isolate him for seven days; and if it spreads farther on the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean; it is an infection. But if the bright spot remains in its place and does not spread, it is only the scar of the boil; and the priest shall pronounce him clean.” (Lev. 13:18-23). The sin at this stage is visible, repugnant, and also painful.
Leprosy progresses into visible nodular lesions2
(b) Treatment: A boil is an irritant. In the Bible, God allows people to become afflicted with boils when they are in open rebellion against Him (Ex. 9:9-10; Dt. 28:27, 35). After the boils appeared, the priest isolated the infected person for seven days (Lev. 13:21). If the boil (i.e., the sin) did not spread after the seven days, it was not dangerous (Lev. 13:22).
(c) Practical Application. Sin is only pleasurable for a season. The pleasure of sin will eventually fade (Heb. 11:25). A boil on a person represents the judgment upon the believer’s life if they refuse to repent. Sexually transmitted diseases are just one of the modern equivalents of Biblical “boils”: “The Lord will smite you with the boils of Egypt and with tumors and with the scab and with the itch, from which you cannot be healed.” (Dt. 28:27; Ex. 9:9). Even though believers are saved by grace, a carnal Christian can still experience judgment while alive: “For the time has come for judgment, and it must begin with God’s household. And if judgment begins with us, what terrible fate awaits those who have never obeyed God’s Good News?” (1 Pet. 4:17). In the end times, He will use the curse of boils to punish those who have turned away from Him: “So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth; and it became a loathsome and malignant sore on the people who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image.” (Rev. 16:2). “[T]hey blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores; and they did not repent of their deeds.” (Rev. 16:11).
(d) Practical Application. Symptoms of sin start in a specific area and then spread. David first saw Bathsheba and lusted after her (2 Sam. 11:2). His secret lust later led him to commit adultery with her (2 Sam. 11:4). After his sins were exposed, his sin was no longer pleasurable to him. He experienced judgment in both his own life and with his family. Are you testing God with any type of sin that you refuse to repent of?
(d) Practical Application: Is the brother or sister suffering from the sin? If you are in sin, are you seeing signs of judgment in your life? Are you or having arguments with your spouse? Are you feeling depressed? Do you see any of these symptoms in your brothers or sisters in Christ? Do you think the disease will cure itself if you leave it alone?
(e) Practical Application: Like boils, the symptoms of sin frequently spread when untreated. When David’s adultery led to Bathsheba’s pregnancy and he could not convince her husband to be with her, he had Bathsheba’s husband killed in battle to cover his sin (2 Sam. 11:14-17). In a similar way, persons who become drug addicts often resort to other crimes to find the money to sustain their addiction. Has sin spread in your life? Are you committing the sin of lying or theft to cover up another sin?
(f) Practical Application: Confession of sin works when someone is suffering from sin. When he was caught in his sin, David complained that his sins had made him sick: “There is no soundness in my flesh because of Your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin.” (Ps. 38:3). He knew that repenting of his sin was the only way to cure his illness: “For I confess my iniquity; I am full of anxiety because of my sin.” (Ps. 38:18). If Jesus could forgive Paul for murdering Christians and use him to write half of the New Testament, is there any sin of yours that is too big for Him to forgive? (1 Jo. 1:9).
(a) Symptoms: At this state, (1) the raw flesh is burned like fire (exposed skin); (2) the hair follicles are white; and (3) the burn is deeper than the skin. “Or if the body sustains in its skin a burn by fire, and the raw flesh of the burn becomes a bright spot, reddish-white, or white, then the priest shall look at it. And if the hair in the bright spot has turned white and it appears to be deeper than the skin, it is leprosy; it has broken out in the burn. Therefore, the priest shall pronounce him unclean; it is an infection of leprosy.” (Lev. 13:24-25).
Leprosy progresses into reddish-burn like lesions3
(b) Treatment: For a person in this advanced stage of sin, there was no treatment. The priest could only isolate the person for seven days. The person was clean only if the disease did not spread. “But if the priest looks at it, and indeed, there is no white hair in the bright spot and it is no deeper than the skin, but is dim, then the priest shall isolate him for seven days; and the priest shall look at him on the seventh day. If it spreads farther in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean; it is an infection of leprosy. But if the bright spot remains in its place and has not spread in the skin, but is dim, it is the swelling from the burn; and the priest shall pronounce him clean, for it is only the scar of the burn.” (Lev. 13:26-28).
(c) Practical Application. God uses fire to refine sinners. Fire is a sign of judgment. God is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:28-29). If a sinner will not be cleansed by the Word, God’s next step in purifying the sinner is to use fire, a process that can leave burns when the sinner refuses to repent. His goal in using the fire as punishment is to refine the sinner: “He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness.” (Mal. 3:3). “For You have tried us, O God; You have refined us as silver is refined.” (Ps. 66:10). Going through God’s refinement is usually not a pain free process. Yet, in the end, God makes you a better person by removing the parts of your flesh that are causing you to stumble. Are you sharing with others caught in sin how God used your pain to transform you?
(d) Practical Application. Is your brother or sister suffering greatly from their sins? After his adultery and murder were exposed, David’s son with Bathsheba died. There was also conflict and rebellion within David’s family. He suffered greatly as a result of his sins. The Bible advises believers to “flee” immorality (1 Cor. 6:18). Because temptation is always present, you must also renew your mind every day to avoid sin: “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Ro. 12:1-2). Are you engaged in any flirtations or are you watching things that could bring you down the path to more serious sins and judgment? Do you know of any adultery that did not result in sadness and sorrow within that family? Stop and repent of any immoral conduct before it takes over.
(a) Symptoms: At this stage, (1) the infection has spread to the head; (2) it is deeper than the skin and; (3) the person has thin and unhealthy hair follicles that are yellow in color. “Now if a man or woman has an infection on the head or on the beard, then the priest shall look at the infection, and if it appears to be deeper than the skin and there is thin yellowish hair in it, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean; it is a scale, it is leprosy of the head or of the beard. But if the priest looks at the infection of the scale, and indeed, it appears to be no deeper than the skin and there is no black hair in it, then the priest shall isolate the person with the scaly infection for seven days. On the seventh day the priest shall look at the infection, and if the scale has not spread and no yellowish hair has grown in it, and the appearance of the scale is no deeper than the skin, then he shall shave himself, but he shall not shave the scale; and the priest shall isolate the person with the scale seven more days. Then on the seventh day the priest shall look at the scale, and if the scale has not spread in the skin and it appears to be no deeper than the skin, the priest shall pronounce him clean; and he shall wash his clothes and be clean. But if the scale spreads farther in the skin after his cleansing, then the priest shall look at him, and if the scale has spread in the skin, the priest need not seek for the yellowish hair; he is unclean. If in his sight the scale has remained, however, and black hair has grown in it, the scale has healed, he is clean; and the priest shall pronounce him clean.” (Lev. 13:29-37). The person had scales on their face. In the Bible, the scales covering Paul’s eyes symbolized spiritual blindness (Acts 9:18). Eventually, a believer will become numb to sin (1 Tim. 4:2). In Paul’s case, he was persecuting God’s people and could not even see the errors of his ways until Jesus covered his eyes with scales and made him blind.
Leprosy progresses into skin-damaged scales4
(b) Treatment: Again there was nothing a priest could do to cure a person blinded by their sin. The priest could only isolate the person for seven days. If God healed the person, the person was still left with “a scar” to remind him of his serious sin (Lev. 13:32).
(c) Practical Application. Does your brother or sister try to justify or ignore their sin? One tool available to God to correct an individual is to cause confusion or spiritual blindness: “The Lord will smite you with madness and with blindness and with bewilderment of heart; and you will grope at noon, as the blind man gropes in darkness, and you will not prosper in your ways; but you shall only be oppressed and robbed continually, with none to save you.” (Dt. 28:27-29; Ex. 10:21). “We grope along the wall like blind men, we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at midday as in the twilight, . . .” (Is. 59:10(a)). “By day they meet with darkness, and grope at noon as in the night.” (Job 5:14; 12:25; 38:15). “They wandered, blind, in the streets; . .” (Lam. 4:14(a); Amos 8:9). “The way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.” (Prov. 4:19). A person is blind to their sins when they can no longer see their sins. Does your brother or sister believe that their sinful actions are justified by the Bible? Does your brother or sister try to rationalize his or her actions? Have they stopped caring?
(d) Practical Application. The failure to repent will lead to more serious pain. God says that only “fools mock at sin . . .” (Prov. 14:9). A sinner can become “bound by the cords” of his or her “sin” if he or she does not repent (Prov. 5:22). In the same manner as a sinner returns to sin, a dog returns to its vomit (2 Pet. 2:22). David at first did not feel remorseful after sending Bathsheba’s husband Uriah to his death. Yet, he later felt great sorrow when his sins were exposed and he suffered judgment for his actions. He showed that his scales had been removed when he invited God to search his heart for hidden sin: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts;” (Ps. 139:23).
(e) Practical Application. Only God can open the eyes of the blind. God alone can open the eyes of the sinner who is blinded by sin. “The LORD opens the eyes of the blind; the LORD raises up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous.” (Ps. 146:8; Ex. 4:11). Are you praying for God to lift any scales that might be blinding you to sin? Are you praying for the nation’s scales to be lifted?
(a) Symptoms: At this stage, (1) bright spots form on the skin; (2) a reddish-white infection appears in a bald area; and (3) there is swelling of the infection. “When a man or a woman has bright spots on the skin of the body, even white bright spots, then the priest shall look, and if the bright spots on the skin of their bodies are a faint white, it is eczema that has broken out on the skin; he is clean. Now if a man loses the hair of his head, he is bald; he is clean. If his head becomes bald at the front and sides, he is bald on the forehead; he is clean. But if on the bald head or the bald forehead, there occurs a reddish-white infection, it is leprosy breaking out on his bald head or on his bald forehead. Then the priest shall look at him; and if the swelling of the infection is reddish-white on his bald head or on his bald forehead, like the appearance of leprosy in the skin of the body, he is a leprous man, he is unclean. The priest shall surely pronounce him unclean; his infection is on his head. 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. 13:38-46).
A leper shouting “unclean! unclean!” to persons passing by him5
(b) Treatment: There was no treatment. At this stage, the leper had to tear his clothes, keep his hair uncovered and yell “unclean, unclean” as he approached anyone (Lev. 13:45).
(c) Practical Application. An unrepentant sinner is a danger to others. Many sinners seek the company of other sinners and are led further astray. Or, they bring others around them down in their own sin. For example, many who drink heavily or use drugs reinforce their bad habits by hanging out with others who drink heavily or use drugs. Likewise, many who are sexually promiscuous surround themselves with others who are also promiscuous. People who abuse their children also frequently create a vicious cycle whereby the children abuse their children. “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’” (1 Cor. 15:33). Sinners typically seek out the companionship of other sinners because “men love darkness.” (Jo. 3:19). Yet, these spiritually blind individuals will suffer confusion as the reasons for their misery remain a mystery to them. They lack a guiding light to be pulled out of darkness. Are you a light to those around you who are trapped in sin? (Matt. 5:14).
(d) Practical Application: Unrepentant sin frequently leads to humiliation. The loss of hair is a sign of ugly a sin, humiliation, and mourning. “instead of well-set hair, a plucked-out scalp; . . .” (Isa. 3:24; 50:6; Jer. 7:29), When a sinner embraces evil, that person will eventually be vilified by others when their conduct is exposed. This is especially true of public figures: “You shall become a horror, a proverb, and a taunt among all the people where the Lord drives you.” (Dt. 28:37), “I will make them a terror and an evil for all the kingdoms of the earth, as a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse in all places where I will scatter them.” (Jer. 24:9; 44:8; 15:4), “You make us a reproach to our neighbors, a scoffing and a derision to those around us.” (Ps. 44:13; Is. 43:28; 2 Chron. 7:20; 1 Kgs. 9:7(b); Ezek. 5:15). Sometimes, sinners will still experience sorrow even after they repent. Although ridicule may be unavoidable, if you wish to avoid eternal punishment there is only one place to turn to if you desire that not a single hair on our head perish (Lk. 21:18).
(e) Practical Application: Unrepentant sinners must be expelled to protect the Church. Leprosy would run rampant if not isolated. Has the person become abusive to his or her spouse or children? Is the person a threat to others? Is the person spreading false doctrines within the church? What is the final step if a sinner refuses to repent? (Matt. 18:15-18).
(f) Practical Application. There is always a chance to repent. A sinner humiliated by hair loss could be cleaned if he did not sin again (Lev. 13:41). Believers also sometimes need to hit rock bottom before they repent. Thankfully, it is never too late to repent while a person is still alive (1 Jo. 1:9). If you know someone who has hit rock bottom, have you given them the hope that lies in Jesus alone to obtain forgiveness of sin?
(a) Symptoms: At this stage, (1) there is a greenish or reddish mark on the clothes; (2) the mark spreads; and (3) the mark will not go away after washing. “When a garment has a mark of leprosy in it, whether it is a wool garment or a linen garment, whether in warp or woof, of linen or of wool, whether in leather or in any article made of leather, if the mark is greenish or reddish in the garment or in the leather, or in the warp or in the woof, or in any article of leather, it is a leprous mark and shall be shown to the priest. Then the priest shall look at the mark and shall quarantine the article with the mark for seven days. He shall then look at the mark on the seventh day; if the mark has spread in the garment, whether in the warp or in the woof, or in the leather, whatever the purpose for which the leather is used, the mark is a leprous malignancy, it is unclean. So he shall burn the garment, whether the warp or the woof, in wool or in linen, or any article of leather in which the mark occurs, for it is a leprous malignancy; it shall be burned in the fire. But if the priest shall look, and indeed the mark has not spread in the garment, either in the warp or in the woof, or in any article of leather, then the priest shall order them to wash the thing in which the mark occurs and he shall quarantine it for seven more days. After the article with the mark has been washed, the priest shall again look, and if the mark has not changed its appearance, even though the mark has not spread, it is unclean; you shall burn it in the fire, whether an eating away has produced bareness on the top or on the front of it. Then if the priest looks, and if the mark has faded after it has been washed, then he shall tear it out of the garment or out of the leather, whether from the warp or from the woof; and if it appears again in the garment, whether in the warp or in the woof, or in any article of leather, it is an outbreak; the article with the mark shall be burned in the fire. The garment, whether the warp or the woof, or any article of leather from which the mark has departed when you washed it, it shall then be washed a second time and will be clean. This is the law for the mark of leprosy in a garment of wool or linen, whether in the warp or in the woof, or in any article of leather, for pronouncing it clean or unclean.” (Lev. 13:47-59).
The lepers become shunned and forced to live in isolation6
(b) Treatment: The clothing was quarantined for 14 days (Lev. 13:50, 54). If the garments cannot be washed clean (Lev. 13:55), they must be burned (Lev. 13:52, 55, 57).
(c) Practical Application. The fruits of the unrighteous are infested with sin. God correlates righteousness with our garments. When done without Jesus, our righteous acts are filthy rags: “and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment;. . ..” (Isa. 64:6). The fruit that comes from an unrepentant sinner’s life is evil is visible for all to see: “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?” (Matt. 7:17-19). Is the fruit of your life the fruit of the Spirit or of the flesh? (Gal. 5:19-23).
(d) Practical Application. A sinner must burn his or her unrighteous acts. Garments infected with sin had to be burned (Lev. 13:52, 55, 57). A sinner cannot hold onto the unclean things in his or her life after he or she repents. Your clothes must be white “all the time.” (Ecc. 9:8). Only Jesus can give you garments that are as white as snow (Rev. 3:5). Are you motivated to serve for His glory or your own?
(f) A warning. The eternal fire awaits for many. For those who fail to cleanse the sin in their lives, Isaiah warns that they face ruin when they meet their Maker (Is. 6:5). “[B]ut the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt. 8:12). “[A]nd will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt. 13:42; 7:19). Are you following Christ’s Great Commission to tell people how to avoid this fate? (Matt. 28:16-20).
Jesus Healed the Lepers and Demonstrated His Power to Remove Sin
No cure for leprosy existed during Biblical times. But Jesus healed the lepers and demonstrated that He has the power to remove sin: “And a man with leprosy came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.’ Jesus reached out with 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.”’ (Matt. 8:2-4).
Jesus healing a leper7