LEVITICUS 13:1 – 15:33 and MATTHEW 27:1–31
This entire chapter deals with the issue of leprosy that would come upon the congregation. We know from scripture that leprosy speaks of sin. Its defilement and ability to spread so easily helps to give a graphic example of sin’s potent power as seen in this chapter. As Christian’s we oftentimes minimize the subject of sin. We know that our sins are forgiven when accepting Jesus Christ into our lives as Lord and Saviour. Still we have the nature of sin that needs to be addressed, even as believers’. This was highlighted in the Sin Offering as seen in Leviticus 4. Leprosy helps to give a clear portrayal of how sin can grow and infect a person and a people. This chapter needs to be understood so that we can see the power of sin and some of the remedies in being able to deal with it. There are doctrines today that relegate this subject to generalities or even some that dismiss the subject of sin all together. Sin, or a person stained by sin (leprosy) cannot stand in the presence of a Holy God. We have seen that the priests had to first be cleansed and prepared (Leviticus 8). The priests are now given instruction as to how to minister unto the people. How is sin addressed and dealt with in our day?
Once again, we need to look at the subject of the Cross and the Law. I feel that one of the most significant portions of the New Testament can be found in Romans chapters 6 through 8. It is here where the message of the Cross becomes very personal. It speaks of a personalized experience; a knowing that we have been crucified with Christ (Rom 6:6). This is more than just accepting the Lord as Saviour, it is a choosing to allow the Cross to be applied to our lives. How is this achieved?
Rom 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.
Rom 7:12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
It is in the embracing of God’s Law that we gain a greater awareness of sin. Where is the Law to be applied? It is to the heart, the source of the issues of life (Jer 31:33, Pro 4:23). These 3 chapters in Romans bring us face to face with who we are in light of God’s holiness. It is not a pretty sight, yet it is one filled with hope. When we minimize the message of the Cross or make light of God’s holiness we are forfeiting a unique opportunity in growing in His grace. This is the true grace, which serves as a bridge that takes us from who we are to what God is calling us to be. This helps us to understand the intense battle that Paul brings out in Romans 7. It is a battle due to the Law making sin come alive. The Law of God which is characterized today in the New Covenant is the ability for God to get at the root from where all sin originates, which is the heart. It is a narrow road that only a few choose to take (Math 7:13-14). The option of a gospel message catering to “comfort zone Christianity” is often more preferred. It is here where sin is redefined and minimized. Sin is a cancer and it is an affront to a Holy God and it is vividly illustrated in this chapter of Leviticus.
In verses 18-23 there are references to boils that may be upon the people. It has many similar characteristics to leprosy. There is an interesting reference to boils at the time of the plagues in Egypt. The magicians of Pharaoh were able to duplicate the miracles of Aaron up until the plague of the boils.
Exo 9:11 And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils; for the boil was upon the magicians, and upon all the Egyptians.
To me this serves as a picture of sin before the presence of a Holy God. We must understand that Jesus is our covering for sin when we accept Him as Lord. We are righteous because of His (Christ’s) righteousness. We call this “Imputed Righteousness”. We still have a sin nature that needs to be eradicated from our lives (Leviticus 4). As we walk in the light (1 John 1:7-9) and Truth of God’s Word the blood of Jesus cleanses us from our leprosy, our sin nature. This is achieved by appropriating the “narrow road” of Romans chapters 6 through 8 where we come face to face with the Cross, the Law and Sin.
It is here where we can experience His grace (enabling power) whereby we become more like Him. The closing verses of Leviticus 13 helps to reinforce this truth (vs 51-59). It speaks of leprosy that is woven into the garments that needs to be cleansed. The blood of Jesus can do this provided we acknowledge our need. We become priests by having an exchange of garments. The bride of Christ will be comprised of these garments (Rev 19:8). The bottom line message to me is this; the work of the Cross has the power to remove and eradicate sin from our lives. Sin is no trivial matter as seen from the portrayal of leprosy in this chapter. Israel already experienced the Passover Lamb in Egypt. The blood of the lamb preserved them from judgement. Why then is there further instruction regarding sin and how to deal with it? It speaks loudly of a greater work, a further appropriation of the blood that was shed at Calvary. May God have access to the inner fibres of our being so that we can have that exchange of garments in our own lives.
This chapter deals with the interactions of the priests with those who are presenting offerings for sin. The priest was responsible for going out into the midst of the camp to examine the condition of the people. (vs 3). The priest himself has already had his encounter with God, being cleansed and prepared for his role as priest. This speaks to the fact of having God first doing a work within us. We cannot judge others until we first allow God to deal inwardly within our own lives (Math 7:1-5, 1 Cor 11:31). A priest, having been acquainted with the work within his own life can then adequately discern and deal with the leprosy (sin) in the life of the congregation.
This should be common sense but it points to a particular problem. We can be very quick to make judgments in the lives of others and somehow feel immune to problems in our own heart. The reverse of this can also be true. We are told that we should not judge others lest we be judged (Math 7:1-2). The problem is that we do not judge situations that lead to bigger problems. We fear that we might offend or anything that we judge would come back upon us. It will come back on us if we were to not allow God to deal in our own life.
The Bible makes clear that we can judge, once the beams are removed from within our own lives (Math 7:5). The Bible makes clear that the church is called to judge angels and to judge righteous judgement (1 Cor 6:3, John 7:24). This is one of the primary roles of a priest. This is what we see in Lev 14. In the preparation stage of a priest there was to be an anointing of the blood of a ram upon the ear, the thumb and the toe. In Leviticus 14 we see that the people who were bringing an offering for their sin were to be anointed with the blood of a lamb that was slain upon the altar of incense in the Holy place, to be placed upon the ear, the thumb and toe of the person who is bringing a trespass offering. It is the priest that then makes atonement for the sin and trespass offering for the one who is bringing the offering. It is important to know the dual function of a priest. First and foremost a priest represents God to the people. A true priest becomes acquainted with who God is, comes to know HIs ways and burdens and then acts on His behalf before the people. Secondly a priest is to stand on behalf of a people and represent them before God. Jesus fulfilled both of these roles.
Heb 5:1 For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins:
Heb 5:2 Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.
Heb 5:3 And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins.
This is what we have seen thus far in the Book of Leviticus. The priests had to first be sanctified and prepared before God so that they can go forth before the people. They now take the various offerings that are brought forth from the people and make atonement for them (vs 18). Remember, the Book of Leviticus is known as the Handbook of Priests.
In verses 33 through 57 we see the Law of Leprosy (vs 57) which pertains to the future time when they shall enter into the land of Canaan. Israel did not dwell in houses at this time so the Lord is giving instruction as to what to do once they take possession of the land and begin dwelling in houses. The key verse in this section is the following:
Lev 14:34 When ye be come into the land of Canaan, which I give to you for a possession, and I put the plague of leprosy in a house of the land of your possession;
What does it mean for the Lord to “put the plague of leprosy” upon their possessions? We shall see that under the leadership of Joshua the children of Israel had to go forth conquering throughout the land. There first had to be an inward circumcision of heart which was symbolized by the circumcision that was required when they crossed over Jordan. Joshua had a visitation from God Himself in the form of a man with a sword. There had to be a yielding to the sword, an inward circumcision before Joshua could wield the sword throughout Canaan (Jos 5:13-15).
We can say that there was leprosy in the land that had to be removed. In the taking of territory there would always be a battle. The houses that Israel would one day occupy needed to be cleansed from any hint of sin. In New Testament terminology it can be likened to a person who is born again and soon thereafter experiences the Baptism of the Holy Ghost. Here is a brief review of my own personal encounter with the Baptism of the Holy Ghost. I had been a believer for about 2 1/2 years before my pastor suggested the need to be baptized. It was a powerful moment for me as I exploded in tongues, sensing something new and fresh coming upon me. The first week was most unusual for me due to feeling more like a sinner than I did before. I was perplexed because the desire to serve God was so strong yet I felt vile and undone on a number of occasions. My pastor assured me this was evidence of the Holy Spirit working deep within my life, bringing to the surface the sin (leprosy) that was latent and hidden within. This liberated me and helped me to understand more of the dealings of God. I was now God’s possession and the Lord began to work in a deeper and more profound way in my life. That work is ongoing. I feel this helps to give an understanding as to what these verses (vs 34-57) represent. God not only wanted Israel to possess the land, He wanted every hint and evidence of sin to be removed that may linger from its former inhabitants.
1Co 6:19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
This chapter zeroes in on matters of a sexual nature. God is holy and the things of the Tabernacle are holy so there had to be certain offerings that the priests had to perform on behalf of both men and women who had issues in this area. The Bible makes clear that we are to possess our vessels in sanctification and honour (1 Thes 4:4). Sins of a sexual nature have resulted in the downfall of many, including priests and religious leaders. This chapter helps to shed light as to how serious this matter is to God. It also serves as a warning in guarding oneself from being one of its victims. Let’s take the example of one verse:
Lev 15:16 And if any man’s seed of copulation go out from him, then he shall wash all his flesh in water, and be unclean until the even.
This verse demonstrates that even potential lustful thoughts had to be cleansed. It really is not too difficult to read between the lines as to what this chapter is expressing. Immorality was obviously a major problem among the people as evidenced by certain sexual diseases that were rampant (vs 2-3). When one looks to Israel’s future we see this problem not only affected the people but the priests as well (1 Sam 2:22). It is a problem that still exists today.
The culture of our day is increasingly paganistic and its continual allure requires grace and the keeping power of God (Jude 1:24). God is able to preserve, cover and protect those who look to Him. The Apostle Peter, at the end of his life, exhorted his audience to add to the foundation of faith the fruit of VIRTUE (2 Pet 1:5). The fruit of virtue speaks of moral purity. It is a garment that God can give to those who trust and look to Him. Joseph was a man who was preserved in this area because he was one who feared God. A true priest of God in these last days must seek for this purity and be able to teach and instruct others accordingly. It not only speaks of moral purity but purity of doctrine as well.
The Lord Himself makes clear that “spiritual adultery” can be committed if proper doctrine is not upheld, specifically in the realm of divorce and remarriage (Luk 16:18). If a priest does not uphold God’s standards on this issue it can open doors for a spirit of immorality to perpetuate. Sadly, I am privy to so many examples where this has been the case. May the lessons of Leviticus 15 prove instructive to us for our day.
By this time there is a consensus of people who are set on putting Jesus to death. Groups of people who were once enemies now have common cause in their pursuit of destroying Christ. The message that Jesus delivered in His last days on earth was hard hitting and to the point. It cut through the veneer of self-righteous living and brought true matters of the heart to light. There was absolutely no pretence in His message. It was not politically correct; it was rather formed on that which pleased His heavenly Father.
In these last days the anointing is going to increase upon those who know God’s heart. Their message will stir and divide the ranks of people, even within the church. This is what good doctrine does; it gets to the heart of the matter. There will be groups who once opposed each other as enemies uniting in common cause against True Christianity. It has already begun. In verses 3-10 we see the demise of Judas. Try and think what the last several hours must have been like for him. He was gathered in the upper room with Jesus and His disciples. He had a covetous heart which enabled Satan easy access into his being. He followed through in his role as a betrayer, received his 30 pieces of silver and just as quickly cast it down at the temple gates. He came to know that he had sinned and just as quickly went and hung himself. Judas had just begun an eternity where he now has to live with the consequences of his actions. We need to pay close heed to this account and see the dangers of an unclean heart. God’s timetable for the end times is beginning to come into view so it is imperative on our part to cry out for a pure and clean heart; to always have a love for Truth and to allow Truth to work deep within our inward parts (Psa 51:6).
In verses 11-14 we see Jesus before Pilate. It is here where the Lord fulfils one of the prophetic psalm concerning Him.
Isa 53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
This is meekness personified. He did not seek to defend Himself. He was taunted and provoked yet He did not yield to their attempts. He knew His hour had come and there was now no need to seek to try and defend Himself any longer.
In verses 15-26 we have the account of a prisoner named Barabbas. His name actually means son of the father but whose father are we talking about here? It all now comes down to a choice; will it be Jesus or Barabbas? There are a few things to take note of at this point:
1) Pilate knew that the Jews delivered up Jesus to be crucified due to envy (vs 18). Think about the consequence of these sins. We already looked at Judas and his problem with being covetous over money. Now we see “envy” as a primary catalyst in delivering up Jesus to death. Envy is a poison that can put a firm grip upon a heart. A person who is envious is not secure in their relationship with God. Such a person would rather define God on their terms. Truth is eroded paving the way for substituted “man-made” alternatives. Jesus undermined the teachers and priests of His day. Their power base and position of influence was being jeopardized. This has always been a problem in the world but we see it as a problem among the religious as well. Jesus turned upside down the status quo. It will be especially seen in the last day ministries of Elijah and Moses. (Rev 11)
2) It all comes down to a choice. Will it be Jesus, the Son of God, or Barabbas a known murderer? There is no middle ground option; it is either one or the other. The answer and cry of the people is overwhelmingly crying out for Barabbas. It is a sad and pathetic picture of the heart condition of the people. What about today; who would the world choose? One can only imagine what the enlightened world of our day would choose. It is already being seen. The cry for Barabbas is being heard everywhere. It is not just limited to the world but being heard in many of our church circles. Any gospel that is preached that counters Christ or the message of holiness and the Cross is a potential crying for Barabbas. This is one of the last warnings that the Apostle Paul spoke before his death.
2Ti 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
The prophet Jeremiah spoke words to a period that very much resembles today.
Jer 5:31 The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?
Indeed, what will we do in the end? Who will we choose; Jesus or Barabbas?
Events in the final hours of Jesus are now moving quickly. In verse 34 the Lord is now upon the Cross and is offered vinegar to drink. If the drink were for thirst purposes alone He may have taken it but it appears he discerned that it had an intoxicant which would help alleviate pain. (see Prov 31:6) The Lord refused it and therefore endured the fullness of suffering. One can only imagine both the physical pain coupled with the broken heart over those who were crucifying Him and consenting to His death. It is hard for us to imagine but we must never forget that as the Son of man he faced the pain and anguish that any man would face. He truly is acquainted with any kind of pain and suffering we may have to endure. This could well be one of the reasons why he chose to not avail of any potential pain relief. The Cross was also a humiliation that was utilized for the basest of criminals. This is what our Lord has been reduced too. It goes beyond comprehension that an innocent man could be sentenced to die in such a cruel fashion. He came into the world as a babe born in a lowly manger and is now departing in a most inhumane way. This is the Son of God whom we are referring too who is worthy of all of our love and devotion.
In verses 38-44 reference is made to the two thieves who were sentenced to death alongside Him. Mathew’s account does not give the conversation of the repentant sinner as seen in Luke’s account. (Lk 23:40-43) It is a beautiful account where you have Christ and two men preparing for two different destinations. Christ, just before he expired was able to assure the one repentant sinner of everlasting life. The other jeered and mocked and encouraged Him to use His power to save and deliver from His cross. No hint of repentance or recognition for his wrong doing. The other sinner understood that Jesus did not deserve to die and that they did. This is the essence of a salvation experience. This encourages many of us who still have unsaved loved ones.
We must admire the absolute temperance and self-control that Jesus exhibited here. He had the power to come down from the Cross but in doing so he would be violating His Father’s plan. Could we handle such power? Would we be able to hold on in the midst of excruciating pain, witnessing a vile crowd jeering and mocking, venting their anger, being spat upon in the lead-up to a death? They were taunting and challenging Him to come down. We find in another gospel His prayer to the Father in extending forgiveness to those involved in the act of crucifixion. (Lk 23:34) In verse 46 we see the Son of man crying out “My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me?” This is a fulfilment of Christ as seen in the Psalms.
Psa 22:1 To the chief Musician upon Aijeleth Shahar, A Psalm of David. My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?
These words should serve as a comfort to those going through a deep dark trial. It appears at times that God is so far removed from our situation. Jesus, in His most vulnerable moment finds difficulty in seeing His Father at work. Abraham, had a taste of this in Genesis when he experienced “ a horror of great darkness”.(Gen 15:12) Abram was by no means experiencing the pain and suffering that the Lord was going through but he did have that sense of helplessness, that sense of God as being nowhere to be found. It is a dynamic that is very difficult to picture. Jesus, the object of all the Father loved was now the object of all the Father hated because he had now become sin. Think of the price the Father had to pay in exercising his full fury upon His begotten Son. This is the measure of love the Father and Son have for mankind. The cry of Jesus in verse 46 must be at the time of broken fellowship with the Father. This would be an experience that Jesus would not be familiar with. There will be times in our walk when the Lord may not seem near. It often is at such times when the father is able to do his deepest work; a time where he can cut deep into the recess of our being to flesh out sin. Job had to endure a similar path. Who could explain his suffering and the reason for it? His three friends tried with their limited theology. Job surely felt forsaken at times but came to know the reason for his ordeal. Elihu was able to speak to that “leviathan” that lurked deep within him. Leviathan is summed up in the following verse:
Job 41:34 He beholdeth all high things: he is a king over all the children of pride.
What a helpless, hopeless sense of grief and loss that must have been upon Him, not to mention the humiliation and excruciating pain. That is the measure of the man who died for our sins.
In verse 51 we note what happened at the time that Jesus died. The veil that separated the Holy place from the Holy of Holies was torn in two. This signified an access that all of mankind would be able to avail themselves of. This account is picked up in Heb 10:19-22. In our study of the Tabernacle we noted that though the veil was torn away it did not mean we could approach God in the Holy of Holies in a casual manner. (Remember what Nadab and Alihu did in Lev 10) The torn veil also meant that gentiles would also have opportunity to approach God. His death also put into motion the opening of graves of saints who then when into Jerusalem and appeared to many but this was after His resurrection, seeing that Christ had to be the first fruits of those who arose. It is interesting to note the account of the chief priests and Pharisees in verses 62-64. They referred to Jesus as a deceiver but they were aware of His words where He said He would arise after 3 days. They seemed to believe His words more than the disciples did. They requested of Pilate to seal the tomb for three days. Praise God, death could not hold Him. This should encourage us today that no matter how bleak things may be the Word of the Lord will come to pass. Do not be surprised at the suppressive opposition taking place against Christianity and upon our individual lives. Christ at the Cross looked like a defeated entity but it was in fact the greatest demonstration of God’s power to man. Christ is coming again and nothing, absolutely nothing can contain Him. We’re on the winning side.
Updated on 12 Feb 2017