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The Leprosy of Garments
Chapter 12 Leviticus 13
Corruption in our surroundings . . . Government . . . Domestic relations . . . Business . . . Education and literature . . . The Church . . . How such infections should be treated . . . Christian Reform.
Lev. 13:47-59 The garment also that the plague of leprosy is in, whether it be a woollen garment, or a linen garment; 48 Whether it be in the warp, or woof; of linen, or of woollen; whether in a skin, or in any thing made of skin; 49 And if the plague be greenish or reddish in the garment, or in the skin, either in the warp, or in the woof, or in any thing of skin; it is a plague of leprosy, and shall be shewed unto the priest: 50 And the priest shall look upon the plague, and shut up it that hath the plague seven days: 51 And he shall look on the plague on the seventh day: if the plague be spread in the garment, either in the warp, or in the woof, or in a skin, or in any work that is made of skin; the plague is a fretting leprosy; it is unclean.52 He shall therefore burn that garment, whether warp or woof, in woollen or in linen, or any thing of skin, wherein the plague is: for it is a fretting leprosy; it shall be burnt in the fire. 53 And if the priest shall look, and, behold, the plague be not spread in the garment, either in the warp, or in the woof, or in any thing of skin; 54 Then the priest shall command that they wash the thing wherein the plague is, and he shall shut it up seven days more: 55 And the priest shall look on the plague, after that it is washed: and, behold, if the plague have not changed his colour, and the plague be not spread; it is unclean; thou shalt burn it in the fire; it is fret inward, whether it be bare within or without.56 And if the priest look, and, behold, the plague be somewhat dark after the washing of it; then he shall rend it out of the garment, or out of the skin, or out of the warp, or out of the woof: 57 And if it appear still in the garment, either in the warp, or in the woof, or in any thing of skin; it is a spreading plague: thou shalt burn that wherein the plague is with fire. 58 And the garment, either warp, or woof, or whatsoever thing of skin it be, which thou shalt wash, if the plague be departed from them, then it shall be washed the second time, and shall be clean. 59 This is the law of the plague of leprosy in a garment of woollen or linen, either in the warp, or woof, or any thing of skins, to pronounce it clean, or to pronounce it unclean. (KJV)
We will not leave Leviticus Chapter 13 of this remarkable Book just yet. We have considered leprosy as it respects persons; but it can also be attached to garments, and even to houses. What relates to clothes-leprosy, is contained in the last part of the thirteenth chapter, above.
Was this leprosy of garments and skins the same disease that attacked the human system? I think we should understand it to be some infection of woven fabrics that resembles a leprous infection of the living body. A cancer is an affection of a living body, and yet we sometimes hear of cancers in trees. Rot is a decomposition of dead substances, and yet there is foot rot in live cattle, sheep, goats or horses. The infections are not the same, although they are known by the same name. They refer to subjects very different from their nature. As the life and beauty of the leper are diminished by his disease, so too are clothes and skins are infected by dampness, mold or microscopic organisms settling in them and deteriorating their strength and substance.
Dead-wool is the wool of sheep which have died by disease, and loses its natural strength and goodness; and when made into cloth and warmed by the natural heat of the wearer, it soon gets full of holes, as if eaten by some invisible insects. I think is clear that to some such infections that God refers in these Laws concerning the leprosy of garments; not because they were so particularly harmful or dangerous, but for typical purposes. The proper proof of all these ceremonial regulations is their meaning of moral and religious ideas.
We have seen that leprosy in the living body represents SIN as it lives and works in man. So, leprosy in clothing must refer to a disorder and contamination around man. There is some sort of DISEASE breeding in everything all around us, as well as in us. Jude speaks of "the garment unspotted by the flesh" (Jude 23). Christ commends a few names in Sardis because they had "not defiled their garments" (Rev.3:4). The reference in these and similar Passages plainly is to the matter of external contact with the world, and to the liability of Christians to be tainted by their earthly surroundings. The expression is borrowed from the ancient Laws. It means the associations of a man with his clothing. Morally speaking, the way we live, is our garment. It is that which is put upon us when we come into life, which we continually wear while in the world, and which we put off when we die. It includes all the circumstances in which we are placed, all the business in which we are involved, the community under which we act, our comforts and relationships in the world, and all the outward every-day events which enter and shape our outward lifestyle.
While all-natural surroundings may be good, they can also be liable to disease, and may become the sources of infection and evil. They may become stained, and help to render us unclean. Society is well capable of corruption; and that it reacts upon the individual, and it can easily contaminate and deprave him more than he would otherwise be. Our social factors have introduced a great deal of dead wool into the fabrics which men in this world are compelled to wear.
Leprosy on the defilement on garments or walls as in (Lev.13:33-57), was no doubt some type of fungus or mold that attacks these types of material. Garments that were infected were burned (Lev.13:52). Infected houses were cleansed and if the infection could not be stopped, the houses were destroyed and the ruins were taken outside the city (Lev.14:45).
Signs of leprosy and contaminating uncleanness can be traced to many points.
(1). Government. Civil rule over us is ordained by God. It is meant for our good. It should defend the weak, restrain outbreaking passion, help social dignity, fortify our freedom and regulate the outward world . . . BUT . . . government far too often become leprous! Humanity has been debased and degraded by the DISEASES of greed and power! Even though laws were meant to defend the feeble and poor against the strong and rich . . . and to exalt right over might, it has been in every age the source of many of this Earth's worst wrongs and miseries. Cruel oppressions have filled the world with sorrow and wailing, its massive power has eroded human passion, weighing like a millstone on the neck of humanity ever since history began. The corruptions to which it has given birth are without count. Such an evil thing that it has been, that the names of emperors, king and presidents have become a disgusting hatred to all people. Government has been breeding leprosy and vile plagues for six thousand years, and this new government of ours continues on!! A haphazard and oppressive government cripples and stunts moral standards in its very germ, by stripping goodness of its proper reward, and making justice yield to the bribes of the power and wealthy. Government makes outward authority a sordid passion instead of an inward and honest principle, and right rule of conduct.
(2). Domestic relations. God saw that it was not good for the man to be alone. Male and female hath He created us. He has set mankind in families. He has ordained the home, and made it the seat and center of the mightiest influences that work in our society. The home is a most sacred procedure. As it is the oldest, it is the most Holy external sanctuary upon Earth. Its purity is the guarantee of a peaceful state and a happy world. It is a fountain flowing with good and is the foundation on which the best blessings of society mainly rest. There is no measuring its influences. It is very important that the home remains pure, but how often do we find the leprous plague troubling the home? Same sex marriage is NOT a sacred procedure . . . NOT according to the Holy Word of Almighty God, our Creator. Gen. 1:27-28 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. (KJV) . . . Two males OR two females CANNOT be fruitful and replentish the Earth!!! And too, think of the responsibility of parents. They tread on ground where every footstep echoes through eternity, and I shudder when I consider how often it is an echo of everlasting accusation.
(3). Business. It is necessary for us to be involved in it. God Himself commands it. Virtue, religion and even earthly comfort involve it. But how likely is it to become corrupt, and a mere instrument of death? "The care of the world and the deceitfulness of riches" (Mat.13:22), is known for choking out any hope of spiritual good. The commercial world is a very infuriating world upon the health of honor and honesty. It far too often proves to be unjust and dishonest. The code of moral principles which mostly govern there, are usually set down to cost us dearly. There is an old saying: Sin sticks close between buying and selling . . . it is easy to see how many and powerful the temptations are that affect a man in business life. The sin of leprosy is very likely to settle in with all its infections.
(4). Education and literature. We must have schools and books. Education is necessary, books are necessary! They are a vital part of human progress. But they are very apt to become leprous and spread contagion. Learning is a good thing; tending to elevate and improve . . . BUT sometimes it becomes the instrument of demons and is the great plague of men. Think of the hundreds of thousand demonic and impure books that are at in society! Two million volumes of children's books, novels, stories and false doctrine books are annually put out from the American press alone? The university system of instruction leaves a lot to be desired! I am certain that many instructors in religious universities are not even “born again” (John 3:3-8). Why isn’t the power of superior knowledge of the Bible, not kept in balance by virtuous principles, and a kind and caring heart and TRUTH of God’s Holy Word??? The power of evil has gone out upon the world from books, schools and professors! Dear one, intelligence has NOT descended from the altars of Heaven from these vile places . . . it is leprosy of garments that lights her torch at the flames below! Dead wool is in much of the cloth she wears.
(5). The Church. The TRUE church is very pillar and ground of the TRUTH . . . and she is the bearer of salvation! By the TRUE Church, redemption (saving grace of God) is brought to men; and unless a person has been redeemed, they have NO Saviour and NO hope of Heaven! And yet the church is one of those leprous garments around us which is liable to leprous defect. Instead of serving as a house of prayer, it has at times been a mere den of thieves. Instead of a nursery of faith, hope and charity, it has often been a nest for contagious superstition, false doctrines, narrow minded self-righteousness and intolerant prejudice. Although the church is meant to be a school of preparation for Heaven, it far too often brings in a condemnation to Hell! (John 3:18, 36). As you can see, nothing around us in this world is so holy or so good, that it can be perverted to corrupt uses, and be the instrument of corruption and exclusion from the camp of God's saints. Civil, domestic, economical, educational and religious associations, can at times use their amazing power to degrade humans. Although intended to be for good, these often tend to develop, mature and confirm wickedness in ALL the walks of life. We are surrounded on all sides with what could possibly contaminate and disease us. Leprosy of sin is in the quiet country and in the busy city, in our homes and abroad. And as long as we continue here on Earth, NOT one of us shall ever be able to escape the likelihood of becoming leprous from the social influences which are everywhere and could infect us.
What can we do about it?
(a). God set every Israelite to be on the look-out for it. This must have been needed because of the direct result of the announcement of these Laws. Every article of clothing was at once thrown under suspicion. Whether made of hair or skins of animals, or fibers of vegetables; be they woolen or linen; whether firs or naked skins, or skins softened into leather; every sort of cloth or manufacture intended for purposes of clothing, was declared likely at any time to be seized with the plague, and to become unclean and contaminating. Every serious Hebrew would be encouraged to keep the strictest watch for any symptoms of disorder, and to look with great suspicion on whatever had the least resemblance to it.
We must be suspicious of any infection arising from an evil conscience or an evil heart . . . a feeling similar to jealousy, which mistrusts every thing and everyone. It is the opposite of "Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” (1 Cor.13:7), and has no generous desire for good. It is not based on any quality. There is NO passion for the glory of God, or the good of man. The farther any one can keep from it the better it is for him and for those around him.
But there is also a suspicion of self, rather than a suspicion of others. It is a jealousy for one's own purity, a holy fear of doing wrong or of being led into evil. It springs from the very heart of love, and intends nothing but good. It is a diligent watchfulness of self, a careful guarding against the pollutions of evil. It is a suspicion (distrust, doubt) based on the clear evidence that everything is liable to corruption, and that there is constant danger of falling into condemnation. It is a holy dread of sin, the desire of a pure heart to "keep unspotted from the world " (Jam.1:27). It makes us look for dangers in all our earthly surroundings. It does not lead us to reject government, but to be on guard that we may not be betrayed by it into disloyally to God. It is vital to keep our moral purity and faith in God, in our relationship to earthly surroundings.
(b). A second specific in this Law, is that whenever any symptoms appeared which might be leprous, the case was to be immediately submitted to the judgment of the priest. The record says, "It shall be showed unto the priest; and the priest shall look upon the plague" (Lev.13:50); to decide whether it is leprosy or not, and to give his directions concerning it. The PRIEST typifies Christ and His office, the office of Christ. A great Christian lesson here comes to our view. Human judgment is weak. The wisest of men has said, "He that trusteth to his own heart is a fool" (Pro.28:26). We need light from Heaven. Our morality is not certain unless it is illuminated by revealed Truth. A man may honestly think he is in the right, when he is instead in a most dangerous error. He may think he is pursuing a good course, when he is becoming more and more contaminated with every step. There is no way we humans can ever find all the secret sins that lie in wait, ready to pounce on us. Jesus is our only reliable Helper. There are many times when nothing can guide us safely except a word from Him or from His Spirit within us (John 14:16-18). This Law pointed to the fact, that Christ is our Teacher and our Judge . . . and that He is to be our commanding Instructor . . . and that by His decision we are to know what is NOT pure. John 8:12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. (KJV)
Jesus also said: John 15:22 If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin. (KJV)
The ignorance of the Jews (and us) is therefore inexcusable, because Christ DID come, as was prophesied (Gen.49:10; Mic.5:2; Isa.7:14; 11:1-2), and He had preached to them. If He had not come and told them that He was the Messiah, they might have an excuse for their ignorance of Him, and His mission, and that the Father that sent Him . . . but since He had come in the flesh (Jn.1:14), and came to His own (Jn.1:11); and came as a light into the world (Jn.1:8-9), speaking such words as never man did; speaking and healing with such power and authority (Lk.4:36; 9:1) . . . declaring in plain words that He was the Messiah of God, and that if they did not believe Him to be so, they would die in their sins (Jn.8:21,24). They had no excuse for their ignorance and disbelief back then, nor do we have an excuse today because of God’s Holy Word.
IF Jesus had not come and spoken to them, they would not have known they had sin; but now they, the Jews, and we too, have no cloak for sin. His Word is the great "discerner" (Heb.4:12). "This is my beloved Son," saith Almighty God; "hear ye him." (Mat.3:17; 17:5; Mk.9:7; Lk.9:35; 2 Pet.1:17).
True, Jesus is now in Heaven, and we cannot hear His personal Voice. But His Word remains with us. We have only to come to His Holy Word that we may know the truth.
A heathen attitude is a foggy marsh, and souls can never can find their way to saving Truth. Tradition (customs, rituals) is a wilderness of conflict, confusing the searchers at every step. Only the Word of the LORD is pure sunlight from the Heavens, making the way of life so clear, that a wandering man, though a fool, need not go wrong. If at any time we suspect disease and danger to our souls, our duty is to come at once to consult these oracles of Jesus, and have the matter settled by His own unfailing authority.
(c). A third specific in these Laws relates to the treatment which a garment declared to be leprous was to receive. This treatment varied at times depending on the symptoms. If the infection was active and rapid in its progress, the article was at once to be burned, "whether warp or woof, in woollen or in linen, or anything of skin." It did not matter how valuable the article was, or how troublesome its loss, it was to be destroyed by fire. We are bound, as Christians, immediately to cut loose forever from everything infected. Though our abandonment of sin should be to us like cutting off the right hand, or plucking out the right eye (Mat. 5:29), or giving ourselves to complete nakedness, we must give it over to the burning. It is a BAD mistake for anyone to think that sin is in any way important to him.
The corruptions of politics and the highly debatable customs of society are before us all (abortion, hatred, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, violence)! Are any of these necessary for success and respectability? NO! Must we yield to the concealment of Truth, deception and out and out dishonesty and lies? NO! Must people get into office by rebelling against God and His Word? NO! Must we bring into our homes attitudes and practices at which our conscience rebels? The answer to all these is NO!!! We certainly must NOT!!! If the High-priest has said it is leprous, we must burn the last robe we have. It is much better live as beggars all our days, better to be rejected by society, and be buried in potter's field, and be carried with Lazarus into Abraham's bosom (Luke 16:22), than to live a few years in sin, and then go down to Hell’s unquenchable fires for eternity!
If we cannot drink of the fountain of living waters (Jer.2:13; 17:13) without strife; we are to relinquish them forever. If we cannot keep out of Nebuchadnezzar's furnace (Dan.3:22), without bowing down to his image on the plains of Dura, we must promptly bid farewell to this Earth, and expect the hottest, eternal flames of an eternal HELL! If we cannot enjoy Egypt's honors without being tainted with Egypt's idolatry, we must renounce forever, and choose instead to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. Even if it costs us the fiercest death, we must NOT deny our LORD. "For what shall it profit a man, though he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Mark 8:36).
If the infection was not active and fretting, corrective measures were to be adopted, if possible, to cleanse and save the garment. "If the priest shall look, and the plague (after seven days) be not spread in the garment, either in the warp, or in the woof, or in anything of skin; then the priest shall command that they wash the thing wherein the plague is," (Lev.13:53, 56; 14:48). The natural remedy for defilement was to be applied. The whole of the subject is reform. This is the natural remedy for all manageable social disorders, while some that were badly infected were doomed immediately to burning, so too there are some infections in the surroundings of man in this world which can never be healed. They are beyond remedy, and we must make up our minds to abandon them to their fate, and to have no connection any more with them, for instance, some of our popular amusements. That they are leprous none will deny. What hope is there of reforming them? No washing can get them clean. The only alternative for TRUE Christians is to separate themselves from them entirely. They are doomed to come to an end.
Church apostasy is found in Scripture, and is caused by "The Man of Sin" (2 Thes. Ch.2). No process of man could separate it and the leprous plague that is in it. God Himself seems to have abandoned all hope of its recovery. Strong unbelief exists there, because there is NO love of the Truth; and false belief is sent by God to seal its being condemned to eternal punishment in Hell (John 3:18, 36; 1 John 5:10-12), because it is deeply leprous. The High-priest has said it shall be burned with fire.
And the same is true of many governments, especially those now living in the land of the old Roman Empire. They are leprous to the deepest interior. It is useless to consider reforming them. They are past hope. They cannot be reclaimed. God hath said they are unclean. As Christians we must surrender them to their doom. They shall be utterly consumed.
These and other infected articles are past cleansing, while there are others where the stain is less evil and less defiling. The leprosy in them is not as deep, that careful washing may perhaps remove it. These are the legitimate subjects of Christian reform. There are many abuses in society which can be corrected. There are many sources of damage which may be dried up. There are many infections of Church and State which could be cleansed. It is here that our energies should be directed. Every TRUE Christian is a reformer . . . a genuine reformer, whose heart and hand and influence are fully set against what is wrong and corrupting; who would not destroy society, but build it up and establish it upon the strong foundations which God has laid for it; and who, in place of putting the child against the parent, the subject against the ruler, and man against his God, bends all his influence to have each one happy in his place by a true harmony with Heaven.
There is one very important peculiarity to be observed in all Christian reforms. The washing of the infected garment was to be done by direction of the priest. "The priest shall command that they wash the thing wherein the plague is" (Lev.13:54). The Word of Christ is to be our guide for getting rid of social disorders, as well as for detecting them. He is our High-Priest, and we must conduct our cleansing efforts based on His Gospel.
The world is full of pretended reformers. Society is sick, and the doctors swarm around the patient, and everyone has a cure to offer. The conflict of opinion is all over the Earth, and is like the winds that strove together upon the dark bosom of original chaos (Gen.1:2; John 3:8; Acts 2:2). The human mind at times is bewildered and confounded. The great danger is of basing our reforming efforts upon vague notions of viewpoint, wrong desires or wild schemes of human perfection, which can only delude and disappoint. Our eyes must always be turned to our High-Priest, who understands us and our whole situation, and we should move only as His Word directs.
The Gospel is the map by which we direct our way onto the lurching ocean. Christ has been ordained to be the Center of this world. Around Him everything shall revolve. From Him all goodness radiates, and without coming under the laws of rhythm and appeal, which proceed from His Great Heart, even the best men shall be as mere wandering stars, whirling headlong through eternal emptiness, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever (Jude 13; 2 Pet.2:17). The Gospel alone is the great Reformer of the world.
To bring this to a close, along with the washing of a leprous garment, it was to be shut up seven days, after which the priest was to re-examine it again; and if the bad symptoms had disappeared, it was to be washed again, but if the symptoms had not disappeared, it was then to be torn or burned. A vivid picture of this is God's plans with the social fabrics of this world. Some, in which the disorder was great, have already been quite destroyed. Others, where the infection is less evil, are undergoing the efforts of purification. They are shut up now until time shall complete its period. The Great High-Priest and Judge shall then come forth to give them the last inspection. And as things then are, so shall their eternal portion be. The tyrannies and corruptions then found upon the Earth shall be condemned to immediate destruction, and every plant which the heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted out. May God give us grace to face that day!
Moses clearly brings the GOSPEL in the Book of Leviticus!
He brings us a crystal-clear picture of Jesus!
The Gospel most certainly is in Leviticus.
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