THE CURSE OF DISEASE

 

Why has my wife been promoted to heaven while I am still left here?  She passed her entrance exams, and I still haven’t finished my homework I guess!  We do not control death and disease, but we do have hope.

 

Back in the garden Adam was warned about a plant that would kill him:

 

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.  Genesis 2:17

 

God killed animals in his place, and his sins were covered by their skins…for a season.  With Moses came new rules, there are animals that man was not to eat. 

 

And the LORD spake unto Moses and to Aaron, saying unto them,  Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, These are the beasts which ye shall eat among all the beasts that are on the earth.  Whatsoever parteth the hoof, and is clovenfooted, and cheweth the cud, among the beasts, that shall ye eat.  Nevertheless these shall ye not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the hoof: as the camel, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you.  And the coney, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you.  And the hare, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you.  And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you.  Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcase shall ye not touch; they are unclean to you.  Leviticus 11:1-8

 

Eve also got special suffering from her part in eating the forbidden fruit of knowledge:

 

Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. Genesis 3:16

 

Part of the sorrow of conception comes as uncleanness in a woman’s child bearing.  There is an offering for this as well:

 

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,  Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean.  And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.  And she shall then continue in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days; she shall touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying be fulfilled.  But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation: and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days. And when the days of her purifying are fulfilled, for a son, or for a daughter, she shall bring a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtledove, for a sin offering, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, unto the priest: Who shall offer it before the LORD, and make an atonement for her; and she shall be cleansed from the issue of her blood. This is the law for her that hath born a male or a female.  And if she be not able to bring a lamb, then she shall bring two turtles, or two young pigeons; the one for the burnt offering, and the other for a sin offering: and the priest shall make an atonement for her, and she shall be clean. Leviticus 12:1-8

 

Men and women both have uncleanness in leprosy.  This is more that a mere skin condition, as one bible translation calls it.  It is even a social condition, and includes the horror of body parts decaying and falling off. 

 

And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, saying,  When a man shall have in the skin of his flesh a rising, a scab, or bright spot, and it be in the skin of his flesh like the plague of leprosy; then he shall be  brought unto Aaron the priest, or unto one of his sons the priests:  And the priest shall look on the plague in the skin of the flesh: and when the hair in the plague is turned white, and the plague in sight be deeper than the skin of his flesh, it is a plague of leprosy: and the priest shall look on him, and pronounce him unclean.  Leviticus 13:1-3

 

It is highly contagious, and even clothing and homes are affected.  But there are procedures, and there is hope.

 

And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip, and shall cry, Unclean, unclean.  All the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be.  Leviticus 13:45-46

 

The plague must be pushed out of the camp to protect the congregation.  It is good to remember the spiritual parallel in sin.  We need to push the disease of false teaching away from the body of Christ.  The teaching of Jesus suggests that one who is like a right hand to us must be cut off if he threatens to infect the body of Christ.

 

And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.  Matthew 5:30

 

This Old Testament is a demonstration of spiritual principles in carnal form.  These are illustrations that the small child can understand.  The church is like a child in this part of it’s growth.  They are under parental authority, and given to sibling rivalry and violence.  From the horror of their hard lives we can glean understanding to avid our own pain.  We can see the spiritual understanding of their carnal warfare.

 

The garment also that the plague of leprosy is in, whether it be a woollen garment, or a linen garment;  Whether it be in the warp, or woof; of linen, or of woollen; whether in a skin, or in any thing made of skin;  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:  And the priest shall look upon the plague, and shut up it that hath the plague seven days:  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.  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.  Leviticus 13:47-52

 

There is hope for healing, even in this time though.  A ritual for the healed pronounces them clean.

 

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,  This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing: He shall be brought unto the priest:  And the priest shall go forth out of the camp; and the priest shall look, and, behold, if the plague of leprosy be healed in the leper;  Then shall the priest command to take for him that is to be cleansed two birds alive and clean, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop:  And the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel over running water:  As for the living bird, he shall take it, and the cedar wood, and the scarlet, and the hyssop, and shall dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water:  And he shall sprinkle upon him that is to be cleansed from the leprosy seven times, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird loose into the open field.  And he that is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes, and shave off all his hair, and wash himself in water, that he may be clean: and after that he shall come into the camp, and shall tarry abroad out of his tent seven days.  Leviticus 14:1-8

 

A man can be healed and redeemed, turning from his uncleanness.  Even today we are healed by the stripes the lash left on Jesus. 

 

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.  Isaiah 53:5

 

And still the curse can return to the infected house.  A church too can breed false teaching even after some of its members repent and turn from these errors.  Perhaps that church should suffer the fate of this house.

 

And if the plague come again, and break out in the house, after that he hath taken away the stones, and after he hath scraped the house, and after it is plaistered;  Then the priest shall come and look, and, behold, if the plague be spread in the house, it is a fretting leprosy in the house; it is unclean.  And he shall break down the house, the stones of it, and the timber thereof, and all the morter of the house; and he shall carry them forth out of the city into an unclean place.  Leviticus 14:43-45

 

How great should our joy be when a church is righteous and free of the sins that destroy the flock!  Some have died from the initial errors, and they are lost.  But others live to go free again.

 

And if the priest shall come in, and look upon it, and, behold, the plague hath not spread in the house, after the house was plaistered: then the priest shall pronounce the house clean, because the plague is healed.  And he shall take to cleanse the house two birds, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop:  And he shall kill the one of the birds in an earthen vessel over running water:  And he shall take the cedar wood, and the hyssop, and the scarlet, and the living bird, and dip them in the blood of the slain bird, and in the running water, and sprinkle the house seven times:  And he shall cleanse the house with the blood of the bird, and with the running water, and with the living bird, and with the cedar wood, and with the hyssop, and with the  scarlet:  But he shall let go the living bird out of the city into the open fields, and make an atonement for the house: and it shall be clean. Leviticus 14:48-53

 

Some members of the body take it on themselves to offer their own religious ideas.  If these are not from God, they will pay this price too.  Aaron’s sons were of the priestly class, but offered incense without authority and were slain by God.  Aaron is warned too.

 

And the LORD spake unto Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they offered before the LORD, and died;  And the LORD said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the vail before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat.  Thus shall Aaron come into the holy place: with a young bullock for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering.  He shall put on the holy linen coat, and he shall have the linen breeches upon his flesh, and shall be girded with a linen girdle, and with the linen mitre shall he be attired: these are holy garments; therefore shall he wash his flesh in water, and so put them on.  Leviticus 16:1-4

 

God is serious about this Testament, and enforces the rules himself with obvious power.  But he also prepares a way for mercy to his children.

 

And he shall take of the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering.  And Aaron shall offer his bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and make an atonement for himself, and for his house.  And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.  And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for the scapegoat.  And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the LORD’s lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering.  But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.  Leviticus 16:5-10

 

You have heard the term scapegoat, one who is blamed.  But he is the one who is allowed to go free and live!  He is acknowledged as being guilty, even as we admit our guilt.  He takes our sins when he escapes from the city.  A few righteous Christians influence the world to maintain a sense of decency around us.  A few more righteous souls might have saved Sodom and Gomorrah too.  Wouldn’t you rather be the scapegoat than the one that has to die?  This old goat would!  So blame me, I surrender that sin to Jesus, and let the proud ones be for God’s punishment!

 

And Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and shall make an atonement for himself, and for his house, and shall kill the bullock of the sin offering which is for himself:  Leviticus 16:11

 

The strong and the proud are given to cover these sins.  The bull pays the price, as does one of the goats.  Jesus was actually the scapegoat for us, taking our sins with him.  But we get to be blamed for things just as he was.    

 

Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the vail, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat.  Leviticus 16:15

 

The mercy seat, on the Arc of the covenant is the most powerful presence of God in the Old Testament.  And it is named mercy, after his nature, not after his power or vengeance.  If we can give this mercy to the guilty, we can have it for our own guilt.  Is that a fair deal?

 

And when he hath made an end of reconciling the holy place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat:  And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness:  And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness.  Leviticus 16:20-22

 

The stain of sin is not all escaped with the animals though.  It seems that the priestly garments need to be exchanged.

 

And Aaron shall come into the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall put off the linen garments, which he put on when he went into the holy place, and shall leave them there:  And he shall wash his flesh with water in the holy place, and put on his garments, and come forth, and offer his burnt offering, and the burnt offering of the people, and make an atonement for himself, and for the people.  Leviticus 16:23-24

 

Anyone who comes into contact with the rituals of atonement must be cleansed.  This is as serious as the obvious threat of contagious diseases like leprosy.  We have a graphic demonstration of the danger of sin in this.

 

And he that let go the goat for the scapegoat shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward come into the camp.  And the bullock for the sin offering, and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the holy place, shall one carry forth without the camp; and they shall burn in the fire their skins, and their flesh, and their dung.  And he that burneth them shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp.  Leviticus 16:26-28

 

Everyone must make atonement for sins, even the priests. 

 

For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the LORD.  It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever.  And the priest, whom he shall anoint, and whom he shall consecrate to minister in the priest’s office in his father’s stead, shall make the atonement, and shall put on the linen clothes, even the holy garments:  And he shall make an atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make an atonement for the tabernacle of the congregation, and for the altar, and he shall make an atonement for the priests, and for all the people of the congregation.  And this shall be an everlasting statute unto you, to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year. And he did as the LORD commanded Moses.  Leviticus 16:30-34

 

This Law is given to establish God’s strong feelings about sin in our minds.  He always had in mind to provide a merciful way to us.  But first we have to understand how serious this issue is.  Then we can return the gift of mercy with gratitude.  Jesus remembered the Law when he sent the healed lepers to the priests in his day.  This was a testimony to the priests as well as the ones who were healed.  Not all remembered the source of their healing though.

 

And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:  And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.  And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.  And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,  And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.  And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?  There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.  And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.  Luke 17:12-19

 

We receive the gift and healing of salvation by faith.  But we still need to do the works that faith should inspire.  We should observe the (god given) rituals of the church, and give glory to God for our new strength. 

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