Unclean! Unclean!

Leviticus 13:12-13 “ And if the leprous disease breaks out in the skin, so that the leprous disease covers all the skin of the diseased person from head to foot, so far as the priest can see, then the priest shall look, and if the leprous disease has covered all his body, he shall pronounce him clean of the disease; it has all turned white, and he is clean.”

Mark 2:17 “Jesus . . . said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.’”

How wonderful are the shadows of the Old Testament. They have so much to teach us, although they may, at first glance, seem so foreign to our modern way of thinking. Take, for example, the disease of leprosy which is so prominent in the Old Testament. It was a devastating disease. Those who had it were cut off from the people of Israel, isolated, and everywhere they went they had to cry out about themselves “Unclean! Unclean!”

So, what in the world does this have to do with you and me? Well, the God Who made us would have us to realize that it has much to do with us, in every way. You see, the physical disease of leprosy in the Old Testament was a striking metaphor for the spiritual disease of sin. There was no cure for the leper. They were unclean. There was no hope for them. However, it is striking that if the leprosy was found to cover a person’s entire body, in that specific case they were declared by the priest to be “clean.” Doesn’t this seem to be just the opposite of what one might expect? On the other hand, if a person had just a spot of leprosy but had any healthy skin at all, that person was declared to be unclean.

This is a perfect symbol of the way to spiritual cleansing of sin in our own lives. So often we hear about people wanting to know “who they are.” They will go to all kinds of therapists and read all sorts of self-help books in their quest to discover this. In most, if not all cases, a person like this is looking for self-confidence. They are on a quest for “self-esteem.” Although they may not feel like they are a very good person, they are hopeful that there is some good there, and there are all sorts of therapists that will help a person try to find that good, for a price. But to this the shadow of leprosy speaks. Just as in ancient Israel, if the leprous condition was not total with no element of soundness whatsoever, that person was declared to be unclean. In spiritual terms, if a person sees any “goodness” in himself or herself whatsoever, they will never be spiritually “clean.” As long as we cling to some hope that, in ourselves, there is goodness apart from the righteousness of Jesus Christ, we are lost in sin and far from the hope of salvation. Unless we can say with the apostle Paul “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh (Romans 7:18),” we are believing a lie and shut out from the hope of salvation. Unless we acknowledge that “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment (Isaiah 64:6)” we are holding to a belief that is far from the truth. And why is this? Because the fact of the matter is that unless we, like the leper who is totally covered in that disease, confess that in ourselves we are totally and completely sinful and admit that we are “Unclean! Unclean!” we will never go to the Great Physician, for as Jesus said in the verse above “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

You see, any person who has been truly cleansed by Christ, acknowledges that “For by grace (they) have been saved through faith. And this is not (their) own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).” So, is that how you see yourself? Do you realize that unless Jesus cleanses you, you are lost in sin, in a hopeless condition of the leprosy of your soul? It is only to such people that there is any hope for salvation, for confession of the total destitution of sin is a certain prerequisite.

Or are you like the Pharisee, who in the temple prayed like this in Jesus’ parable recorded in Luke 18: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get?” By contrast, the tax collector in this story was “standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’” Jesus then ended His parable with these words: “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

May God help us to see the vileness of our own sin, i.e., the spiritual leprosy that clings to us before we know Christ. For it is only as we “find our self” in this condition, that any of us have any hope of being saved.

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