Forum Class August 1, 2004
In urging the people to resume building the temple in Jerusalem (after 15 years of delay) Haggai (2:10-15) reminded the people that the world is a defiling place. Holiness is not contagious, but spiritual uncleanness is. Haggai's illustrations draw from the external imagery of a consecrated temple meat offering which is ceremonially clean but could not confer holiness to other objects. Contact with a dead body could make an observant Jew ceremonially unclean. (Holiness is not contagious, but sin is). In both examples we are dealing with Old Testament "shadows" which point to inner realities of the heart. Today, (a) the body of every Christian and (b) our collective gathering together in community are the house of God, the true temple of God.
The Individual: (a) "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, 'He catches the wise in their own craftiness'; and again, 'The LORD knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.' Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours: whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come--all are yours. And you are Christ's, and Christ is God's." (1 Corinthians 3:16-23)
The Group: (b) "Come to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, 'Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.' Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, 'The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone,' and 'A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense.' They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy." (1 Peter 2:4-10);
"Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22)
So we need to understand these shadows in Haggai with New Covenant realities in the spiritual realm.
When He had called all the multitude to Himself, He said to them, "Hear Me, everyone, and understand: "There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. "If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!" When He had entered a house away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable. So He said to them, "Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?" And He said, "What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man." (Mark 7:14-23)
Leaven: In the Bible, leaven, (yeast), is a symbol of evil which corrupts. Ray Stedman explains this symbolic meaning of the word leaven in a study of the parable on the leavened meal in Matthew 13:33.
"Another parable Jesus spoke to them: 'The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.'"
Ray says, "I have entitled this study The Case of the Sneaky Housewife, not because I am trying for a tricky title but because that was doubtless the reaction of the disciples when they heard this little story. Our Lord arrested them with this story and shocked them somewhat. When he told them that there was a woman who hid leaven in three measures of meal they must immediately have thought, "What a dirty trick! What a sneaky thing to do!" Perhaps it does not strike us that way, but this is because we are not in their shoes. We do not understand the symbols as Jesus used them. So the purpose of our study together is to put ourselves back in their place and to hear this story as they heard it.
For this is one of those parables which has been greatly misinterpreted. It has been treated in a very cavalier fashion and its meaning has been grossly distorted into something entirely different from what our Lord intended. Most of the major commentators on this passage seem to throw all principles of interpretation to the winds and to take no notice of how Scripture uses these symbols in other places. So they arrive at a meaning which is simply a result of their own wishful thinking.
The usual interpretation is that the leaven is the gospel and the woman is the church. The church is to take the gospel and put it into the world of humanity which is represented by the three measures of meal. The gospel quietly but surely will work away like leaven, like yeast in bread, until all of humanity is reached by the gospel and the whole world is changed. Then, finally, the kingdom of heaven will come in. Though that is far and away the most popular interpretation of this parable, it is absolutely wrong! On the basis of that interpretation men have thought at various times and places that the church was going to introduce the millennium to the world, that it would bring in the kingdom, that the gospel would so permeate the affairs and the thinking of men that the outlooks and insights and moral standards of Christianity would be universally accepted all over the world.
Some of you may be old enough to remember what things were like back at the beginning of the 20th Century and you will recognize that this was the fundamental philosophy of that far away, turn-of-the-century day. Men actually thought that we were right on the verge of The Golden Age. This was back in the days when William Jennings Bryan was the great spokesman for Christendom in the United States. Under his leadership many people of that time wore little golden plowshares in their lapels to symbolize the hope that this was the day in which men would beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks and would learn war no more.
The 20th century began with a note of tremendous optimism. The thinking was that Christian teaching had so permeated life that we no longer would have strife between capital and labor, that there no longer would be any poverty or violence among mankind, and that surely wars had been brought to an end. And this interpretation of this parable was widely proclaimed as proof that our Lord had said this would come about. The church would transform the world and would end war and strife and injustice and all such terrible things among men. That kind of interpretation sounds almost ludicrous to us today. Yet I can remember, as a boy growing up in the '20s and '30s, that this was still very much the thought of the hour even after World War I had brought its terrible devastation.
But if I were convinced that this is the true meaning of this parable I would be greatly tempted to throw away my Bible and to give up the ministry. If this is the correct interpretation then Jesus Christ was mistaken. For here we are, two thousand years after the time our Lord told this story. And there are outstanding, increasingly significant signs, from day to day almost, which indicate that we are nearing the time which our Lord at the end of this series of parables called the "close of the age." If that is the correct interpretation then we should see the world almost completely leavened by the gospel, almost entirely Christian.
But what are the actual facts? Well, you know as well as I that never in all of history has there been more hatred, more crime, more violence, more injustice, more wretchedness, more vicious evil among mankind than there is in our day. Of all the centuries, historians agree, the 20th is the bloodiest. There is more persecution of Christians in the 20th century than there ever was in any other, including the 1st. The world is a hundred times more pagan today than it ever was in the days of the Apostle Paul. In fifty years, a godless, materialistic philosophy called Communism has grown from just a handful of men to spread over half the earth. More than a billion people are under the control of this completely atheistic system. Even in our own so-called Christian country, a poll taken not long ago rated the birth of Christ fourteenth in a list of important events in history. Though more Bibles are being sold than ever before, still 50% of the people of this country cannot name even one of the gospels. So Christ must have failed or else something has gone desperately wrong with his program if the common interpretation of this parable is to be accepted.
But if we will listen to this story as that crowd did, and react as they did, we will recognize that interpretation as entirely wrong. This parable does not teach that, and never did. And that is not what is happening in history. Our Lord did not interpret this parable to his disciples because he evidently expected them to know what the meaning was. In fact, a little later, when they were in the house, he asked them if they knew what these parables meant and they said they did.
Jesus is using here a very common picture from any Hebrew household, and everyone present knew that he meant that this woman did an evil, and sneaky thing when she hid this leaven in the meal. So we want to look at this as they would have, with their background and their understanding of what these symbols mean.
Let's begin with the meal. It is the central thing in this story. The woman and the leaven both did something to the three measures of meal. That is what our Lord is trying to get across to us. So the central question is: "What does the meal represent?" This crowd of Jews would know instantly what he had in mind because with their Judaistic background and training in the Old Testament, their minds would flash back immediately to one of the most common offerings in Israel -- the meal offering, consisting of three measures of meal precisely prescribed to be unleavened, i.e., without any yeast in it at all.
Very likely many of them would think back to the very first time the phrase "three measures of meal" appears in the Scriptures. It is in Genesis 18. Abraham was in his tent by the oaks of Mamre one day and he looked out the door and saw three strangers approaching. He went to meet them, for strangers were an uncommon sight in those days and anyone passing by was offered hospitality. He welcomed them and offered them, according to the Scripture (Gen 18:6-7), three measures of meal baked into bread which Sarah made in the tent while they were fellowshipping together out under the trees. During their conversation it suddenly broke upon Abraham's astonished intelligence that God himself was visiting him, accompanied by two angels. That was the beginning of the use of the three measures of meal as a symbol.
What did it mean? It is clear that it became a symbol of the fellowship of God with his people and their fellowship with one another. Meal is a beautiful picture of commonality of life. In the Bible, it is always a picture of humanity, a humanity which is all alike. Just as each grain of cereal or meal is like all the other grains, people are alike and share in the same quality and nature. And they blend together to make up something valuable. So, very early in the life of the Jewish people the three measures of meal became a picture of the people of God sharing the life and the fellowship of God. So when the Old Testament people offered the three measures of meal they were describing in beautifully picturesque language what was very precious in God's sight -- the oneness of God with his family, God with his people, the life they shared with each other under the Fatherhood of God.
Later on, in the book of Judges, when Gideon was suddenly confronted with the angel of God, he brought him an offering of three measures of unleavened meal. When Hannah, the mother of Samuel, went to worship God in the temple she took with her an offering of three measures of meal, unleavened. So this is a common symbol throughout the Old Testament and it was familiar to these Jews to whom Jesus spoke. They knew instantly what he meant. It is we who tend to impose some artificial and foreign meaning upon this. But they instantly understood that Jesus was talking about the fellowship of God with his people, a precious thing in the sight of the Lord, and about their oneness with each other as well.
You recall that in First Corinthians 1:9, Paul said to the church at Corinth that the key thing about their lives as Christians was that they were called unto the fellowship of God:
God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:9)
That is the key to that great letter. That is what Christianity is all about. It is the sharing of the life of Jesus, together. We share his life and all that he is. And when John opens his first letter he says,
That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3)
So there is the meaning of the three measures of meal, the unleavened bread of sincerity, honesty, and truth. It is very precious to God that his people become honest and open and accepting toward one another, with nothing hidden between them. They are to understand one another, bear one another's burdens, uphold one another, and share together the life of God in their midst, the life of a living Lord. That is what our Lord introduced into the world by bringing the gospel, this marvelous seed dropped into the heart of humanity which produces a willingness to be open and to stop hiding behind facades and to be honest in sharing the forgiving grace of Jesus Christ.
Now let's look at the leaven. The disciples would quickly recognize its meaning. It is used all through the Old Testament and it is always used the same way. Never once is leaven ever used as a symbol of anything good. Everyone in this crowd knew that this woman had no business putting leaven into these three measures of meal. That was to destroy the very meaning of this significant offering, for Scripture had taught them that the three measures of meal were to be unleavened.
You remember that in Egypt, before the Jews ate the first Passover, God sent them all through their houses with candles and lamps looking for leaven. They were to clear every bit of it out of the house lest any of it get into the three measures of meal, or the Passover feast, and destroy the beauty of the symbolism. They were to search meticulously, to look in corners, on shelves, and back in the closets. Perhaps this is where the custom of Spring house cleaning began, because Passover is in the spring. The Jewish people still do this today as a result of that teaching way back in the time of Moses.
In the New Testament you find five distinct usages of leaven and they all mean something bad. Never, ever in the Scriptures does leaven symbolize something good; it is always a type of something evil. Jesus frequently spoke of leaven. He said to his disciples, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees," (Matthew 16:6, 16:11, Mark 8:15). And, lest we misunderstood what he meant Luke adds: "The leaven of the Pharisees is hypocrisy" (Luke 12:1), i.e., pretending to be something you are not, pretending to a status before God which you don't actually possess, being phony, putting on an outward garb of religiosity but inwardly still having the same old evil thoughts and angry moods and bitter attitudes. That is the leaven of the Pharisees -- hypocrisy.
Then Jesus spoke of the leaven of the Sadducees (cf, Matthew 16:6-12). That is rationalism, the idea that life consists only of what you can taste and see and touch and smell and hear and think about, that there is nothing beyond that, no supernatural activity of God in life, no resurrection, no angels, no life after death. That is the leaven of the Sadducees -- rationalism.
And he spoke of the leaven of the Herodians, the followers of King Herod. Their leaven was materialism. They taught that the great value of life is to be powerful and wealthy. If you can acquire wealth and power then you have the secret of life. Many today are following the philosophy of the Herodians, holding the attitude that what makes life worthwhile is the possession of things. That is evil, Jesus says. That is not the way you properly measure manhood or the value of a life.
In his epistles the Apostle Paul spoke of leaven. In First Corinthians 5 he cites the case of a man who was actually living in incest with his father's wife and Paul says that sexual immorality is leaven within the church, destroying its fellowship. He goes on to say,
Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens [ferments] the whole lump [of dough]? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump [fresh dough], as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:6-8)
There is what the bread stood for: sincerity, honesty, truth, and openness -- a recognition of one another and a transparency before each other. Anything which wrecks or ruins that or distorts it and puffs it up is leaven.
Finally, in the book of Galatians (5:9), Paul again speaks of leaven, this time in connection with legalism, with trying to put people under the Law, under a set of rules by which to live, and expecting that they will have the power to obey simply by their own effort. The very secret of the gospel is that Christ has come to set us free from that. The world has been trying to live on that basis for centuries and it has never been successful. Every effort to obey a rule and thus to satisfy God even with internal obedience, let alone external, is doomed to failure before it begins if you are depending upon yourself for the necessary power. That way of life is called leaven. It too destroys the fellowship of God's people.
So leaven, obviously, is anything which disintegrates, breaks up, and corrupts, or causes a puffed up, swollen condition, destroying honesty and obscuring reality. That is what yeast does when you put it into bread. The housewife says that it lightens the bread because it puffs it up, swells it up. At a certain point she arrests the action of the yeast by baking the bread in the oven. But leavened bread will always spoil far more quickly than unleavened. Leaven is disruptive and corrupting.
Now we come to the last symbol and the key question. Here we have these two elements: The fellowship of God's people which, as Jesus looked down the age, he saw as something very precious and important that he intended to introduce into society, and something which corrupts that by introducing this five-fold evil of leaven into the fellowship. Who does this? Who is this woman? Well, this may seem like a strange text for Father's Day but the French, you know, have a little saying they use whenever trouble arises: Cherchez la femme, "look for the woman." This may be the origin of that saying, I don't know.
Some of the commentators have tried to identify this with a specific woman in history and it is amazing what they have come up with. Some suggest it is Joan of Arc, believe it or not. She is supposed to have destroyed the fellowship of the church by introducing false doctrines. Others have said, No, it is Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science. It is amazing how many cults have been begun by women. I remember meeting some people back in the '40s who identified it with Eleanor Roosevelt, of all people. It may be that some today are tempted to say that this is the Woman's Liberation Movement introducing these evils.
But when a woman is used symbolically in Scripture it always means the same thing -- some religious authority either out of place or doing the wrong thing, some misuse of a relationship with God. It is clear that the woman belongs in the story. A woman is an authority in the home, one who had the right to prepare the bread of fellowship. This woman was in her rightful place, in her kitchen. It was her job to prepare the bread. But she had no right to hide leaven in it. And the very fact that she hid it indicates that this is something sneaky or crafty that she is trying to get away with, something she knew was wrong.
Now bring the picture together. Our Lord is looking down the centuries to follow and he sees the thing which is most precious to God about the work which he himself has begun among mankind. This is the fellowship of God with his people, the sharing of life with each other and with God, the family of God, the oneness of the body of Christ, with all the members sharing life in openness and honesty together under the love and forgiveness of the Father. And into that wonderful fellowship these false, evil principles are introduced by those who had the right and the authority to preserve this fellowship, i.e., the leaders of the church. It is they who introduce the leaven into it, who permit it to come in and do not exclude it as they should. Those who are charged with the responsibility of developing the fellowship of God's people nevertheless allow hypocrisy, formalism, ritualism, rationalism, materialism, legalism, immorality -- all of these things -- to come in. And when these things set into a church they destroy the fellowship of God's people.What an instructive parable this is!
As we apply it to ourselves we can see that this is what has been happening. This is why churches are oftentimes charged with being cold and unfriendly -- because there's no fellowship. It is too often only on the most superficial basis that people come and sit together in the congregation, not as members together of one great family, but as individuals listening to a service but not relating to the person next to them. But that isn't Christianity as it is intended to be manifested. That is only a form, only a moment in the Christian life. The major part is to be the sharing of each other's concerns, the bearing of one another's burdens, the confessing of our faults one to another, and praying for one another that we may be healed, the opening of our lives and the transparency of our actions before others. This is the great fellowship that our Lord is seeking.
As you trace this pattern down through history you can see how leaven has been working. The very ones who were responsible to keep God's house free from it -- the leaders, the pastors, the elders, the teachers within the church -- are the ones responsible for allowing these conditions to come in and to prevail. And each time they have done so they have destroyed this marvelous fellowship.
Now, openness and oneness of the body together is the key to all revival. Every time the Spirit of God has ever moved in history, he has always begun here. He has restored to the church the sense of belonging to each other and to God together, the sense of openness and honesty and transparency, of the need to bear each other's burdens and to uphold one another before God, to be concerned and to care for each other, and to demonstrate it by deeds of help and mercy toward each other -- all because we share the life of God. We are free to do this because we do not have to be hung up with defensiveness about ourselves. We have received the forgiveness of God, the grace of God, and that frees us to be at one with someone else. This is the most precious thing in the world in God's sight. It is that three measures of meal which marks a humanity undivided, a humanity which belongs to each other.
You see in the early church how this oneness was very evident. This was the secret of the book of Acts. Notice how warm and sweet and precious is the fellowship together of the people of God in that book. We read, "They had all things in common," and the word "common" is the very word for fellowship. It was not that they pooled all their property, like the Communists, and doled it out to each other. That isn't the idea. It means that in owning private property they recognized the claim of their brothers and sisters upon it, as well as themselves, and that if God gave them something he gave it to be used for all. They were therefore generous and open with each other. Since they recognized that they all belonged to one family, anybody who was in need could ask of anyone else and that need would be met. This is the level of life on which they lived. You find this all through the book of Acts and the result was that "they had great power in witnessing, and great grace was upon them all," (Acts 4:33b).
That is what is often lacking in the church today. We have taken away the koinonia, the commonness of the body of Christ. We have lost that to a great extent in the church in general. But we have held onto the kerygma, the preaching, the proclamation. We expect to convince everybody by an intellectual presentation of truth. But the reason why the evangelical church of our day is rejected and set aside in so many quarters is that people who come to it are disappointed because they hear great words but they don't see great lives; they don't see warmth, they don't see love and acceptance, they don't see understanding and forgiveness. What they too often run into is strife and bickering and fighting and quarreling and unforgiving, jealousy and bitterness, grudges and splits and feuds and divisions, hostility and anger, worry and anxiety. They listen to the preaching of these great words that the church has to say and then they look at our lives to see how it works. And what they see convinces them that the words are not true. What they see is exactly what they find in their own lives and homes.
So they say to us, "What are you Christians talking about? What's the difference? What do you Christians have that we don't have -- without the inconvenience of having to go through all the rites you go through. What is so great about this message? Why doesn't it do something for you? Why should we believe it and go to all the trouble of becoming a Christian when we can live the same way ourselves? We don't need the church or the Bible to teach us how to fight. We don't need the gospel to help us to be angry and resentful and bitter and divided against each other. We can do all that without it." And so there is an immediate loss of attention to the message that we are proclaiming because there is no evidence of the witness of communion. What is missing is the oneness, the precious fellowship together of the people of God living the life of God.Our Lord knew this would happen. He knew that leaven would appear within the church, allowed there by those who had the authority to keep it out if only they would.
First there came the leaven of the Pharisees -- hypocrisy. The Pharisees said that you please God when everything involving the externals of your life is right, when you watch your language so that you don't use blasphemous words and pay all your debts and keep up your church attendance, then everything is all right. Your heart can be filled with all kinds of bitterness and hatred and enmity and lust and fear. But as long as you maintain outward appearances you are acceptable before God. That is a deadly bit of leaven and it will destroy the warmth of the fellowship of God's people with himself and with each other. But that is what has happened so often.
Remember how Ananias and Sapphira even though they were Christians began to pretend to a degree of dedication and commitment which they really did not have. God judged it to show us what that was. It was leaven at work and it destroyed, it brought sudden death into their midst, as it does into our lives today the minute we try to pretend something.
This is what has happened to the meetings of the church. A spirit of formalism has come in. Formality is a way of making the exterior appear to be right while inwardly your heart can be anything that it may happen to be at the moment. But you do not have to show it to anyone. Formality is coming into church and looking pious and dedicated and evangelical, or whatever you want to call it, but inwardly being quite different. That is formalism, ritualism, and it is the leaven of hypocrisy.
I think that right here this morning we are suffering from a bit of leaven which has accumulated in our midst from the tradition of centuries. I am distressed by the widespread attitude these days that the only way you can worship God properly is to be "reverent," which means to be quiet, that it is wrong to talk when you come into a church service, that a service ought to be conducted in silence. Very often I get notes from people who complain that other people talk before the service begins. I suppose nothing is more commonplace in Christianity than the idea of encouraging people to come and sit quietly before the service begins. Don't say anything to anybody, just come and sit and bow your head. Don't even look at your neighbor when he sits down or greet him in any way.
That is a hangover from days of the Jewish temple, when the presence of God caused a spirit of great awe to settle upon the people. This was carried over into Catholic and Protestant churches, with their cold, formal architecture. People coming into church were taught that they were coming into the "house of God," and that the only way to act before God is to be reserved and half frightened. This is wrong! You don't find this in the New Testament. Their practice was to come together and to relate to each other and to God. When the body of Christ comes together we are to recognize each other and love each other. God does not dwell in temples made by hands, he dwells in the bodies of believers. His life is a warm, open, accepting life. And we worship God when we enjoy fellowship with each other. I think a church is healthy when there is whispering and talking and visiting and relating one to another until the service begins.
I know there are moments in a service when we should be quiet, when everyone is quiet before God. Naturally I appreciate the fact that you are not talking now, while I'm speaking, because that is necessary in order to hear what is being said. And there may be other times when it is well just to pause and meditate. But there is nothing irreverent about visiting with one another, relating to each other, before or even after a service begins, nothing at all! It is what ought to be, in the presence of God. The idea that it is wrong to react in church, or to find out how people are and what they are doing and to pray with them a bit, is absolutely foreign to the New Testament concept of the church. The church is to love one another and to manifest this when they come together. That which teaches the contrary is introducing the leaven of hypocrisy into the church.
You know how rampant legalism is in the church today. Christians are trying to control themselves and their children by law and not by grace, by trying to make a list of rules according to which people are to live. This is absolutely destructive of the Christian life. The idea has been that if we teach our children what is right, that if we hold up before them a moral code or standard complete with all the little variations of our own -- no-no's that we have added here and there -- that then we have discharged our responsibility as Christian parents. But that is basic and fundamental legalism, and it will produce rebellion -- as it is now and has been producing all along.
Law is necessary, of course, at the beginning of our children's lives in order to maintain order in life and in the home, and the Scriptures teach this. But the whole idea of being parents -- and here I speak to fathers and mothers on this Father's Day -- the whole idea is to teach children that there is another basis from which they can react to situations. There is a basis not of demand that: "You must do this or I will not love you," but of: "I already love you, and whatever you do I will love you. Nothing is going to destroy our relationship. And you have a relationship with God from which you can draw upon his strength and his grace to respond to that which life is requiring of you." That is what we are parents for -- to teach them that basis.
We need to remember that, as parents, our responsibility is to teach our children how to respond to a demand, by what power, to teach them that Jesus Christ, living his life within us makes it possible to meet these demands. We must first demonstrate this as parents. Then we must teach it and explain it from the Scriptures. But without the demonstration the Scriptures will be meaningless. This is what is wrong in so many Christian homes. There is no demonstration of the way to meet the pressures of life by faith in a living Lord. You haven't taught Christianity when you have merely held up the moral standard of the Ten Commandments. You have taught Christianity only when you have shown that Jesus died for us in order that he might live in us and that his life imparted to us is the basis from which we respond to his Law. Anything other than that is the leaven of legalism.
Then there is a leaven of rationalism -- and how that has come into the church! Men have forgotten that the Word of God is a revelation which God gives of truth that we could never know if he had not told it to us. Therefore it is superior to, and beyond, that which is available in our universities or anything that man can find out for himself. This Word of God sits in judgment upon that; not that upon this.
Then there is the leaven of materialism whereby many Christians have actually succumbed to the idea that the really important things in life are to have a fine home, and lovely luxuries, and a swimming pool, color TV, three or four cars, etc. They build their lives around these things, aim at them as goals, and are distressed and disenchanted and discontented if they cannot have them. And their children pick up the idea that these are the important things in life, and that your status and prestige in the community and your image before your neighbors are paramount. That is the leaven of materialism and it destroys this sweet fellowship of God.
Then there is the leaven of immorality, and how that spreads in a church! And yet, as any honest, knowledgeable psychologist can tell you, sex practiced outside of marriage is the most dangerous and harmful way to wreck and ruin a relationship. I have had scores and scores of young people sit in my study and confirm this to me. Again and again they have told me how a beautiful relationship was developing between two people, but then they went into sex and the development was arrested at that level, they never got to know each other any more deeply than that. This is why God excludes sex outside marriage -- because it destroys the oneness of loving and growing together and precludes really knowing each other.
I am shocked, as you are, to hear how many churches are now taking a stand in defense of homosexuality, as though this is to be accepted as a way of life. I don't think there is any more deadly thing we can do to those who are homosexuals than to take a stand like that, because it locks them into a pattern of defeat from which there is no escape. The same applies to any other form of sexual deviancy or misbehavior. If any of these practices are accepted as something that is right they will spread like leaven, destroying all the fellowship and the openness of God's people one with another and with the Father. The church is to understand that those who indulge in these things are in the grip of terrible, difficult problems and that love and grace ought to reach out to them and welcome them and put an arm around their shoulder and help them in their struggle, but never, never compromise and say that this is something they have to live with. They don't have to live with it.
Christ has come to set us free from all forms of bondage, whether it be the bondage of legalism, of immorality, of a materialistic outlook, or whatever. Our Lord has come to set us free! That is what Christianity is all about. What is the result of all this leaven that has come in? Well, we can see it abounding on every side, can't we? People come to church. They listen, they sing a hymn, they stand at the right time, they bow their heads at the right angle, they close the book together, they sit down. They go through the motions, but there is no exchange of life. There is no oneness, no sense of openness, no acceptance, no forgiveness. And homes which are supposedly Christian are often filled with strife and bickering and fighting, even physical attack. These things are the result of the leaven which has permeated and pervaded the body of Christ.
But God has made provision for being cleansed from leaven. By the forgiveness of the cross, by the simple method of admitting the facts and then accepting the forgiveness of God without any further quibble we can be washed, cleansed, and go on together from that point as free men and women, no longer in bondage to these things but set free by the grace of God. We can then begin to be transparent and open once again.
How wise our Lord is! How accurately he sees what is happening. How quickly and honestly our Lord has put his finger upon the course of this age and shown us the very things which destroy and corrupt the sweet fellowship of the people of God. He warns us very clearly against allowing leaven to come into our fellowship. And this word is addressed especially to those in authority and leadership within the church, for the teaching of the Word of truth will arrest the action of the leaven.
If the leaders of the church through the centuries had faithfully stuck with the Scripture and had taught it as it is, these unhappy developments would have been prevented. But everywhere I go as a pastor today, speaking to groups of other pastors, I find out that this is the great weakness -- pastors are not teaching the Bible. They are not instructing their people from the Word of God and teaching what it actually says about how they are to live together. They aren't saying a word about that. They are discussing remote doctrinal questions and giving their opinions on the social and political issues of the day instead of instructing in what the Bible is really aimed at -- the very personal lives of individuals and their relationships one with another. If the leadership of the church were carefully going over the Scriptures together with people, unfolding the Word of God, the whole effect of leaven would be greatly minimized within the body of Christ.
Thank God for those places all over the country today where pastors have reached the end of their efforts to do it another way and are returning at last to the Word, beginning to unfold and proclaim it before the people. That is the business of preaching -- to help people understand their lives in the light of the revelation of the Word of God so that together we might share openly and honestly and transparently before one another the living grace and forgiveness of our Father in heaven. --The Case of the Sneaky Housewife: http://www.pbc.org/dp/stedman/behind/0456.html
Leprosy: The book of Leviticus is also about inner realities on the heart and their outer symbols as types or shadows. The following excerpts are from Ray Stedman's commentary on Leviticus. (http://pbc.org/dp/stedman/leviticus/).
DEALING WITH THE LEPROSY OF LIFE: by Ray C. Stedman
"...in Leviticus Chapter 11, which introduced this section, we saw God's concern for what his people ate. We saw that there was both clean and unclean food, harmless food and harmful food. Though this had an application in the physical realm regarding which animals the Israelites could eat, and though some of it was for health purposes, nevertheless the primary reason for these distinctions is to teach us how to choose food for the soul -- the concepts and ideas which we accept and by which we live, by which we take on our characteristics of personality and temperament.
Now we come to a passage which deals with afflictions and diseases and, in the spiritual realm, with what these do to us in our relationships with others, and between ourselves and God. Here we will find that many modern sanitary procedures are anticipated by the rules and laws laid down by Moses for the people of God. If these had been followed through the course of the centuries, many outbreaks of plague and epidemic would have been avoided -- and still could be. For instance, included here is the necessity for periodic inspection of sick people to see how they are progressing and to enable the early detection of serious diseases. Also prescribed here is enforced rest for someone who is sick, and quarantine for infectious and contagious diseases. All of this was given by God to his people thousands of years before modern medicine ever began these practices. That is how advanced and up-to-date the Bible is.
But we would surely miss the import of these provisions if we take them to apply only to the matter of physical health. The primary reason for them is that they are symbolic of the afflictions and diseases of the soul, of the irritating and hurtful things that we feel and say and do to one another. We need to know whether these things are merely the harmless manifestations of a passing moment or whether they are something more serious, something deeply embedded which will cause trouble all our lives. This passage is given in order that we might understand this. It is all introduced with a short chapter on childbirth:
The LORD said to Moses, "Say to the people of Israel, If a woman conceives, and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as at the time of her menstruation, she shall be unclean. And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. Then she shall continue for thirty-three days in the blood of her purifying; she shall not touch any hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying are completed. But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her menstruation; and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying for sixty-six days." (Leviticus 12:1-5)
That is a strangely appropriate text for this day after Christmas, for we are celebrating a childbirth -- the birth of the Babe of Bethlehem. And, in fact, that Baby came into the world to deal with the very problem which made this chapter necessary. God is not against childbirth, nor against babies. Nor is human birth essentially an inherently unclean event. That is not what this chapter teaches. There is nothing wrong with birth, nor with sex and all that accompanies it. The Bible makes that clear. But these requirements were given to the people of God in order that we might remember a most basic and fundamental fact: that since the fall of Adam every human being born into this world is born into a fallen race.
There is no way by which man in his natural condition is ever going to be able to solve, in any permanent way at all, the basic, fundamental problems of human relationships. No way. We are born into a condition that is tainted and twisted. Someone has thrown a monkey wrench into the human machinery, right at the very beginning, and it simply doesn't operate as God intended. God impresses this upon his people by this restriction, this reminder that something connected with birth is unclean. The fact that a mother was unclean for a week after the birth of a male child (two weeks for a female child), and that she had to go through another thirty-three days of purifying after that, provided an opportunity for her and her whole family to be reminded forcefully that the baby was born with a tainted nature.
It is very important that this be brought before us because it makes a difference in the way a child is trained. If you think, as many are taught today, that babies are born absolutely innocent, you will raise your child in quite a different way than if you believe the truth about them. They need guidance and training and help in handling this twisted nature. The world, of course, forgets about this principle. They want to pretend that babies are innocent, and that if you just leave them alone and give them opportunity to express themselves, they will grow into whole, fulfilled persons. That destructive philosophy has caused chaos in our educational system and in society beyond. So God teaches his people right from the beginning that there is a problem here which must be handled and cannot be ignored.
It is very instructive that it is the people of God upon whom God impresses this principle. You would think that they, of all people, ought to be the ones to recognize and remember it. And yet, in my experience, it is God's people especially who need to be reminded of this today. We tend somehow almost to assume that our children will be exempt from this principle, will be born without sin, because we are Christians. We are amazed when they start to behave just like the neighbors' children. We get so wrapped up in these little ones and think they are so cute and so intelligent and precocious, so like us, that we forget that they have a tainted nature, a twist somewhere in their personalities which means that all of their will power is centered on themselves and that they need to have help in handling that problem. It is not that they need to be despised or treated as though they were pariahs. We are all afflicted by the same problem. But it is simply the point of wisdom to recognize that children have that kind of a nature and that they require discipline and love and instruction to handle it. If we ignore that, then that nature will inevitably lead them astray and into disaster somewhere down the line. So God makes this very plain right at the outset by declaring that there was a week of uncleanness.
The circumcision of the male baby was another reminder that something needs to be removed from the life inherited from Adam. Then the thirty-three days of purification followed. Again, this was doubled in the case of a female child. It is not easy to know exactly why. Surely the purification period was partly a humanitarian consideration. The mother was relieved from certain obligations to work around the house in recognition of the need for mothers to have a few days off, at least, after they had a baby. But the longer period after the birth of a girl is probably a reminder of the fact that evil did enter the race through the weakness of a woman who yielded to the temptation of the enemy. Now, the race fell in Adam, the man, not in Eve. But the temptation came through the woman and it was through that source that sin entered the race.
Finally, all this is cleared up and settled by means of a sacrifice. Again God is teaching that a death must come in. Life is at stake, and blood and death must intervene. And so, beginning with Verse 6, we read:
"And when the days of her purifying are completed, whether for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring to the priest at the door of the tent of meeting a lamb a year old for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering." (Leviticus 12:6)
And in Verse 8,
"And if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for her, and she shall be clean." (Leviticus 12:8)
The sacrifice cleanses. It is so beautiful to see in the New Testament how Mary and Joseph followed this procedure to the very letter. When Mary gave birth to Jesus, sinless though he was, untainted with that original touch of Adamic sin which all of us inherit, nevertheless God, putting him in the place of guilty humanity, saw to it that they carried through these laws of Moses. So Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day. Interestingly enough, doctors tell us that the eighth day is the first day that the baby's blood contains enough blood-clotting elements to make such an operation safe. In fact, the available clotting factors skyrocket on the eighth day to a level higher than normal, then rapidly level off to normal. So we find that the eighth day is the safest of all. And on the eighth day the Lord Jesus was circumcised. Then after thirty-three days Mary and Joseph went up to the temple to offer the sacrifices for purification. You remember that they were so poor they couldn't afford a lamb. So they brought the two turtledoves as an offering of purification.
Chapter 13 is lengthy and we will not try to cover it all today. It deals with the problem of diseases and afflictions which come upon the body. It is linked with Chapter 12, suggesting that this taint, this Adamic twist, this tendency which the Bible calls "the flesh," this perverse individualism within us which causes us to insist upon the right to run our own lives and do as we please, this ego around which we want everything to revolve and which you can observe in a baby. This is not removed by regeneration; when you are born again by faith in Christ, the flesh is still there. And a Christian still can and does sin. Many people seem to forget that fact and expect instant perfection from Christians, either in themselves or in others. But that is not possible. So we need help in dealing with this problem. The flesh needs to be recognized for what it is, and controlled. And that isn't easy.
Temperaments can be different. One can be quiet and placid, another fiery and explosive. There is nothing wrong with those differences. God made people to be different. He didn't make us all to be cool and dispassionate. Some of us are made to be more volatile and to react more quickly to stimuli. And that is not wrong. But there are displays of temperament which are wrong. There is an anger which is bad and wrong and sinful, just as there is an anger which is good and righteous. There is a pride that is right and beautiful, but there is a pride which is terribly damaging and injurious and wrong. There is a love of self which is perfectly right. It is a reflection of the fact that we are made in the image of God. In Jesus' summary of the Law the second commandment is, "Love your neighbor as yourself," (Matt 22:39). So there must be a proper kind of self-love. But there is a love of self which is awful and destructive, terribly selfish and self-centered, and ruinous to everyone around. How do you tell the difference? Well, that is what this chapter is for. It begins this way:
The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "When a man has on the skin of his body a swelling or an eruption or a spot, and it turns into a leprous disease on the skin of his body, then he shall be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons the priests, and the priest shall examine the diseased spot on the skin of his body; and if the hair in the diseased spot has turned white and the disease appears to be deeper than the skin of the body, it is a leprous disease; when the priest has examined him he shall pronounce him unclean. But if the spot is white in the skin of his body, and appears no deeper than the skin, and the hair in it has not turned white, the priest shall shut up the diseased person for seven days; and the priest shall examine him on the seventh day, and if in his eyes the disease is checked and the disease has not spread in the skin, then the priest shall shut him up seven days more; and the priest shall examine him again on the seventh day, and if the diseased spot is dim and the disease has not spread in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him clean; it is only an eruption; and he shall wash his clothes, and be clean. But if the eruption spreads in the skin, after he has shown himself to the priest for his cleansing, he shall appear again before the priest; and the priest shall make an examination, and if the eruption has spread in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean; it is leprosy." (Leviticus 13:1-8)
The overriding purpose of this chapter is to enable the detection of leprosy. When the Bible uses this term, it is not merely referring to the disease that we call leprosy today, Hansen's disease, which is a horrible and loathsome malady causing disfigurement and loss of facial features and other parts of the body. That is included in the term, but the Hebrew word translated leprosy here also includes other contagious and infectious skin diseases. They all were recognized to be dangerous and damaging, a serious threat not only to the individual but to the whole people, the whole camp of Israel, and so they were to be detected. The process of detection was prolonged and careful inspection. The priest was to look at the symptoms, then shut the diseased person up for seven days, examine him again, and shut him up for another seven days. At the end of that time he could determine whether it was leprosy or something less serious.
All of this has its counterpart in our own spiritual lives. This passage is talking to us about the afflictions and diseases of the spirit, the hurtful attitudes we have, the burning resentments, the feelings of anger and upset we go through, and the grudges we carry around in our hearts toward one another. These are to be detected because they can be very dangerous, and the process is to expose them to a priest. Remember, now, that in the New Testament pattern all believers are priests together. So here we have a picture of what at Peninsula Bible Church we like to call "body life," the ministry of believers one to another, helping each other to see what is inside.
You see, we are all blind to ourselves. In my own eyes I am a very genial, gracious, inoffensive person. I get along with everybody and have the warmest feelings toward everyone. I don't know why it is, but they don't always seem to see me the same way. My own family tells me that there are times when I am not that way at all. I find myself very blind to my own failings. And we all have these blind spots. We rarely detect these things ourselves. That is why we need each other. And so the Israelite was instructed, when he had a manifestation of disease, to bring it to a priest and let the priest look at it.
The procedure the priest used was not that of impulsive judgment. He didn't just snap his fingers and say, "Oh, I know what you have: You've got measles -- or mosquito bites -- or leprosy." He watched the development of the case for seven days (that is the number of perfection) until he understood the nature of it, and only then did he make his pronouncement. (All this is so instructive in the way we are to handle one another and to help one another in spiritual matters.) But what the priest was especially concerned about was to detect leprosy.
There were four characteristics of leprosy, and each was very important and instructive. The priests looked for these manifestations. If the afflicted person had them it was leprosy; if he did not have any one of these then it was a relatively harmless illness. If we read on a little farther we will have them all before us:
"When a man is afflicted with leprosy, he shall be brought to the priest; and the priest shall make an examination, and if there is a white swelling in the skin, which has turned the hair white, and there is quick raw flesh in the swelling, it is a chronic leprosy in the skin of his body, and the priest shall pronounce him unclean; he shall not shut him up, for he is unclean." (Leviticus 13:9-11)
The priest's procedure was first to examine any spot that was in the skin, any kind of outbreak or eruption, in order to see what it was. It could be just a harmless pimple, but it might be something more serious. Anyone with an outbreak brought it to the priest, just as we are to bring to one another these spiritual and soulish or emotional eruptions that we have within.
What the priest looked for in a suspected leprous disease was, first, whether the hair in the spot had turned white. White hair, as you well know, is always a sign of imminent and approaching death -- relatively speaking.
I went to a barber last week. As he was cutting my hair I noticed, falling down on the floor around me, this white hair! I couldn't figure out where it was coming from. I couldn't believe that a young man like me could have hair that white. But I finally had to acknowledge the truth.
White hair is always a sign that the aging process is at work. "When the snow appears on the mountains, winter is at hand." And thus it was with leprosy. If the hair turned white it was a sign that death was at work. There are certain emotional reactions and attitudes we have which can be merely the matter of a moment -- or they can be a sign that death is at work, that something harmful is going on. That was the first symptom he looked for.
The second was that if the spot was deeper than the skin it was leprous. If it was more than superficial, if it was a more profound matter than a merely temporary pimple, then it was serious. Carried over into the spiritual realm this refers, of course, to that which is more than just the manifestation of a passing mood, a minor irritation of spirit. It is something which is more permanent, more characteristic of the individual, a prolonged attitude of irritability, of temper, impatience, bitterness, or resentment. These kinds of spots in the spiritual life are serious illnesses -- they are leprous.
A third mark of leprosy was the presence of raw flesh. If, as the priest examined the symptom, it was beginning to heal then he wasn't particularly disturbed. But if raw flesh was present which didn't heal, then, of course, it was regarded as leprous. Raw flesh is flesh that is obvious, flesh that is patent, blatant, open.
In Paul's letter to the Galatians we have a description of what raw flesh looks like. It is plainly and easily recognized. In Galatians 5:19 Paul says, "Now the works of the flesh are plain." Here they are: If immorality is present it is obviously of the flesh -- it is leprous -- or impurity, or licentiousness (all of these have to do with sexual sin), idolatry (the worship of something other than God), sorcery (or witchcraft), enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit (breaking up into little factions and warring cliques), envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. These, Paul says, are raw flesh -- flesh in its obvious form -- it is leprous, and, therefore, very dangerous.
The fourth mark of leprosy was that it spread. That is, in the spiritual realm, it affects others within the body of believers. A bitter spirit can be as contagious as smallpox. A rebellious attitude can spread like an epidemic and turn everybody against each other and against the Lord's authority. If this occurs, then the one who began it is obviously afflicted with a leprous disease and is unclean in God's sight. The disease is dangerous and harmful to the individual and to the body of Christ in which he lives.
In the light of all this, the provision given in Verses 12-17 is seemingly strange. We read:
"And if the leprosy breaks out in the skin, so that the leprosy covers all the skin of the diseased person from head to foot, so far as the priest can see, then the priest shall make an examination, and if the leprosy has covered all his body, he shall pronounce him clean of the disease; it has all turned white, and he is clean. But when raw flesh appears on him, he shall be unclean. And the priest shall examine the raw flesh, and pronounce him unclean; raw flesh is unclean, for it is leprosy. [There is no kidding about it, no way to cover it over. If it is any of those things listed in Galatians 5 it is obviously the flesh, and it is leprous.] But if the raw flesh turns again and is changed to white, then he shall come to the priest, and the priest shall examine him, and if the disease has turned white, then the priest shall pronounce the diseased person clean; he is clean." (Leviticus 13:12-17)
In Luke 17 there is the account of ten lepers who came to Jesus and asked for help. He told them to go and show themselves to the priests, according to the Law of Moses. As they went their leprosy turned white and they knew that they were cleansed. This is a beautiful picture for us of how to handle leprosy. When what had been leprous turned white, then, even though the whole body was covered from head to foot, the priest pronounced the person clean. The turning of the leprosy to white meant that the evil of it was arrested, that its action was stopped, and that the person was cleansed.
Transferring this to the spiritual realm, this means that the evil in question has been brought under the judgment of the Word of God and that we have been cleansed. This, of course, means that the evil has been faced and has been named for what it is, as God sees it, and that we have repented of it. All the defenses that we have tried to build around it to protect it have been taken down, and we have realized that it is wrong, and have admitted it. Then God can cleanse us from it and it goes out of our life. The scars may remain; perhaps we will see them for the rest of our life, and others may see them too, but there is no need to fear any longer; the action of the evil has been arrested. What a beautiful picture this is of First John 1:9: If we confess our sins, admit them, God is faithful and just, and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. What a gracious provision this is!
But in order for God's grace to be effective we must stop being defensive about our sins, stop excusing them. You know how easy it is to excuse them. We say, "Oh, I can't help it. "Our whole family has been like this for generations. "It's just because we're Irish. "There's no way I can stop it -- that's just the way I am. "Don't expect me to change."
All these excuses are fences that we are building around our leprous disease to protect it and to keep it and persist in it. It is that desire to hang onto these hurtful, injurious attitudes which marks the fallen, Adamic nature within us.
Isn't it strange that we cling so tenaciously to these things which hurt us so badly, and hurt the ones we love? We hate to give them up. The pride of our hearts is such that we resist every attempt to help us, and we are critical and cold and spiteful and hateful in response to those who try to point them out to us. What a revelation this is of the fact that this kind of leprosy is working in our lives.
We won't take time to read the rest of the chapter. You can study it at your leisure. In it we find that the same kind of examination must be made of several different categories of afflictions and diseases, and the same basic treatment administered. There were boils that could be either transitory or leprous, and burns that were either harmful or harmless. There were itches that needed to be examined to determine what was causing them. And there were scabs, called "tetter" in Verse 39. This is a general term for diseases like psoriasis and eczema and others that form scabs over areas of skin. All of these needed to be examined and diagnosed.
If we venture to interpret them we can see, by the nature of these categories, what their counterparts are in the spiritual realm: Boils are always painful infections which finally come to a head. They represent the crises of our attitudes and of our disposition within. We have all had the experience of having someone say something to us and finding that we resent it and that the resentment begins to fester within us. It keeps growing and growing, and though we try to put it away it keeps coming back and finally comes to a head, blows up in a crisis. That is a boil. It can be relatively harmless. It can be merely the result of momentary pressure on us and easily relieved by an explanation. Or it can be something very serious like deep-seated bitterness or a grudge carried against someone else. Remember that the letter to the Hebrews warns us that we are not to let any "root of bitterness springing up" (Heb 12:15 ) to trouble us, lest many be defiled thereby.
Burns are injuries caused by circumstances outside of ourselves. We don't plan on them and yet we experience them. We can be burned emotionally. Many of us have used that very expression when we've gotten into some difficulty. We say, "I've learned my lesson! I got burned too badly on that one." These emotional problems need to be examined as to whether they are leprous or not, harmful or merely passing. Itches are continuing irritations which never go away, seemingly are always there bothering us. Scabs are crusty infections, partially hidden or covered. Their nature is often difficult to determine, and some of the covering must be removed before we can be helped.
All of this is zeroing in on one great question: Are your leprous spots being judged? Are they being dealt with openly in the light of the Word of God? Are they being brought to the One who can heal leprosy with a touch? Or are they being protected, covered over, hidden to avoid examination? Your moods, your disposition, your temperamental outbursts, your displays of anger or depression -- what about them? This is the question that God is asking. Leprosy is a terrible affliction. It will wreck and ruin your own relationship with God and with one another, so God is very concerned about this. There is a bit of reassurance in Verses 40-42, at least for some of us who are thinning on top:
"If a man's hair has fallen from his head, he is bald but he is clean. And if a man's hair has fallen from his forehead and temples, he has baldness of the forehead but he is clean. [That helps, doesn't it?] But if there is on the bald head or the bald forehead a reddish-white diseased spot, it is leprosy breaking out on his bald head or his bald forehead." (Leviticus 13:40-42)
Even baldness doesn't save you. Even an open life, obvious to everyone, can still have leprous spots in it and therefore need to be examined. And leprosy must be dealt with. Otherwise it results in a terrible judgment which is described for us now in Verses 45-47. This is the treatment which an uncured leper must undergo, and with this we will close:
"The leper who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry, 'Unclean, unclean.' He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean; he shall dwell alone in a habitation outside the camp." (Leviticus 13:45-47)
You know how common this was in the New Testament -- lepers outside the towns, living alone in caves, or with other lepers, going about with their upper lip covered, dressed in rags, and calling out "Unclean" -- just exactly as the Law of Moses commanded. What is the purpose of this? Once again God is teaching us according to symbol. What was carried out on the physical level, according to the Law of Moses, is a picture of what God allows to come to pass in the life of an individual who refuses to deal with his leprous condition. These issues cannot be avoided. This is what will happen, as taught by these symbols.
First of all, there are torn clothes. As we have seen many times through the Scriptures, clothes are a picture of behavior, of the outward actions of an individual. Torn clothes mean behavior which has no sense, no unity. It is impulsive and unpredictable behavior. This becomes the inevitable result for someone who allows leprous spots in his life to go unjudged and unhealed. The first manifestation is a poorly integrated personality.
The second is loose hair. In Scripture, hair is always given as a mark of beauty. A woman's hair, especially, is regarded as her crown of glory. Loose hair, then, is beauty disarrayed, beauty lost. The potential is still there, but the inherent beauty of the personality is lost, is no longer beautiful but has become repulsive. Then they are to cry, "Unclean, unclean." This is a vivid picture of what happens in the case of unjudged soul-leprosy. There is a self-annunciation of uncleanness. You don't have to tell people; the individual himself is constantly telegraphing to others what he is like. This is what today we'd call bad vibes. He is always giving out certain indications which are telling people, "I'm a disturbed person. I have an inner unrest of spirit." Something about the impatient tone of his voice, the sharpness and harshness with which he speaks or deals with others is communicating the information: "Unclean, unclean." Other people pick up the vibes and avoid him with obvious revulsion.
And so, the final result, if you are in such a condition, is that you dwell alone, a social outcast, wanting to get close to people, but unable to do so, longing for human companionship and love, reaching out but finding yourself turned off, rejected. That is the result -- inevitably, relentlessly -- of the failure to judge leprosy
SICK GARMENTS AND DISEASED HOUSES, by Ray C. Stedman
We have been studying a section in it in which God sets forth guidelines for his people to help them avoid the traps and the snares to which they would otherwise succumb, both physically and spiritually, in their journey.
You remember that God regulated the choice of food for the people of Israel so that they would avoid injurious food from unclean animals and would eat only that which would be healthful for them. And you recall how, in the infinite wisdom of God, this has its counterpart in the spiritual life. We can be greatly helped and guided by transferring the admonitions given here into the spiritual realm. Last week we looked in Chapters 12 and 13 at the guidelines God gave his people regarding leprous diseases, sores and infections of the skin, describing how they were to distinguish between the harmful and the relatively harmless. Once again this was of physical benefit to them, but also it was even more helpful as a picture of the diseases of the soul and the spirit, the burning attitudes of resentment, bitterness, envy, and jealousy, these leprous sores which can come into our life and which need to be cleared out. We saw how practical were the instructions God gave us as to how to recognize these and deal with them.
Now we come to a passage which is a continuation of the whole subject of leprosy. Beginning with Verse 47 of Chapter 13 we learn of leprosy in garments:
"When there is a leprous disease in a garment, whether a woolen or a linen garment, in warp or woof of linen or wool, or in a skin or in anything made of skin, if the disease shows greenish or reddish in the garment, whether in warp or woof or in skin or in anything made of skin, it is a leprous disease and shall be shown to the priest." (Leviticus 13:47-49)
Obviously, here again leprosy means far more than merely the human disease we know today as Hansen's disease. As we saw last time, it is a general term which includes many infectious and contagious diseases. Here it is extended to include certain molds and mildews and fungal growths which could attach themselves to garments. These could be either harmful or harmless. They could be contagious and spread to infect the whole camp. Thus they had to be recognized early and dealt with. Or they could be merely harmless spots or stains which could be removed without destroying the garment involved.
As we apply this to the level of life on which we live today -- the spiritual, the social, the emotional level of our life -- we need to determine what it is that garments represent. In our last study together we saw that the leprosy which infected an individual was a picture of the attitude of our heart, the disposition of our character, the temperament with which we approach life. But here the leprosy infects something which is somewhat outside of us, but yet is connected to us. Garments are always used in Scripture as a picture of character, especially as expressed in behavior. Earlier in this book we looked at the garments of the high priest, which were a revelation of the way our great high priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, is equipped to deal with our problems. His garments reveal his character. Garments are used this way all through Scripture and are associated closely with the individual who wears them.
It is interesting that we still identify ourselves with our garments. Have you noticed that when someone pays you a compliment about your dress or your suit you are pleased by it? You take it as a reference to you as a person and you apply the compliment to yourself. That is because we are closely identified with our garments. Also, we change our garments frequently. We use different garments for the various roles we play in life. You don't play football in a tuxedo. You don't go skiing in a party dress. You use garments suitable for what you are doing.
All of us are involved in certain roles in life. Most of us are citizens of this country, and that fact makes certain demands upon us. We act differently as a public citizen than we do in private at home. At home we have various roles. Some of us are fathers, some are mothers, some are sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. We relate to each other in different ways in these various roles. In our jobs some of us are carpenters, some are teachers, some are lawyers, some are housewives. All these occupations make various demands on us. Oftentimes we associate particular garments with these roles.
Garments, therefore, as used in Scripture, are a beautiful symbol of our relationships with others -- our friendships, our associations, our contacts with the ones with whom we have to do -- and of the roles which we play in life, and the character and attitudes we bring to those associations, particularly as regards our behavior. Now, what this Scripture is teaching us is the possibility that this area of our life can be infected with leprous disease. Certain practices and attitudes, certain aspects of our relationships with one another can have spots in them which are dangerous. Certain practices or habits we may fall into with another person can be destructive.
A relationship may be beautiful except for one area, one attitude that we hold -- perhaps some dangerous, lurking, hidden resentment that we bear toward an individual and which comes out in our relationship. God wants us to deal with these leprosies that appear in our relationships. He sets forth for us in this passage how to do it. They require the same sort of treatment as did leprosy in our individual lives. For instance, we read in Verse 50:
"And the priest shall examine the disease, and shut up that which has the disease for seven days; then he shall examine the disease on the seventh day." (Leviticus 13:50-51a)
Notice that the same patient investigation is required as in the case of a spot in the individual himself. There is to be no hasty, impulsive judgment. How many times we offend this way! We see a person in a relationship with someone else and we are prone to be so critical and to leap to unwarranted conclusions. We don't take time to examine the relationship awhile, to think it through, to investigate before we come to a judgment. On the other hand, how frequently we err in the opposite direction in our own relationships, because of our emotional involvement. We enjoy a relationship that we have with somebody so much that we are defensive if anybody questions anything about it. We don't want to examine it and are immediately offended if anybody else does, and we won't listen to them at all. But the Word of God calls for an investigation when something is brought to our attention which is possibly hurtful or dangerous in a relationship. It is to be shut up for seven days (the number of perfection). That is, it is to be examined until you understand it thoroughly and know what you're doing. That is the first step. Second, if the disease spreads, the garment must be destroyed, Verse 52:
"If the disease has spread in the garment, in warp or woof, or in the skin, whatever be the use of the skin, the disease is a malignant leprosy; it is unclean. And he shall burn the garment, whether diseased in warp or woof, woolen or linen, or anything of skin, for it is a malignant leprosy; it shall be burned in the fire." (Leviticus 13:51b-52)
If a relationship has something harmful about it which is beginning to spread to and infect others, or if it is taking over such great areas of our life and is getting us so involved that we neglect our responsibilities in our other relationships, then drastic action must be taken. We all know how this can come about. We can get inordinately tied up with someone so that they begin to occupy all our time, and other people with legitimate demands upon us are slighted. If this is the situation, the relationship is dangerous and needs to be ended. A garment infected in this way must be destroyed, must be burned. This passage teaches us that it is better that this be done than that our life become totally unbalanced. But notice Verses 53-55:
"And if the priest examines, and the disease has not spread in the garment in warp or woof or in anything of skin [it is present, but hasn't spread so as to affect others], then the priest shall command that they wash the thing in which is the disease, and he shall shut it up seven days more; and the priest shall examine the diseased thing after it has been washed. And if the diseased spot has not changed color, though the disease has not spread, it is unclean; you shall burn it in the fire, whether the leprous spot is on the back or on the front." (Leviticus 13:53-55)
In other words, there were spots which, if they didn't spread, were not necessarily leprous and they could be remedied by being washed. Washing, in Scripture, is always a symbol of the action of the Word of God. Jesus said to his disciples, "Now you are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you," (John 15:3 ). When a relationship has something questionable about it, and yet it hasn't begun to affect others nor taken over inordinate time, but is still suspicious, then bring it to the Bible and wash it with the Word of God, obeying what God teaches you about it. Perhaps the Scripture warns us about some undue affection, some promiscuous activity which needs to be corrected -- the relationship as a whole is not wrong but just the spot needs to be dealt with.
I have seen this happen so often with young people who, in forming a relationship with someone of the opposite sex, fall into practices that are harmful. The relationship itself isn't wrong, it just needs to be brought under the action of the word of God and washed and cleansed; then it can continue. If the washing helps, then just the spot needs to be removed, Verse 56:
"But if the priest examines, and the disease is dim after it is washed, he shall tear the spot out of the garment or the skin or the warp or woof; then if it appears again in the garment, in the warp or woof, or in anything of skin, it is spreading; you shall burn with fire that in which is the disease. But the garment, warp or woof, or anything of skin from which the disease departs when you have washed it, shall be washed a second time, and be clean." (Leviticus 13:56-58)
What a practical help this is in handling our relationships! Perhaps a parent has a spot in his relationship with a son or daughter. Maybe it is a weak area in which he tends to be provocative and hurtful, or judgmental or critical or carping or harsh. That relationship needs to be washed, to be subjected to the Word of God. Or perhaps you have a spot in your relationship with a friend -- some habit you've indulged, or some attitude that is wrong. Your friendship needs to be washed, and the spot must be torn out and removed so that the garment, the relationship, may be preserved. How wise these words are, and how helpful! How much grief would be spared us if we would obey the tender care of God for his people, so that these ugly, defiling spots could be removed from our relationships with one another.
In Chapter 14 we move into a further development of this whole matter of handling leprosy. Here we have the cleansing of the leper, Verses 1-3:
The LORD said to Moses, "This shall be the law of the leper for the day of his cleansing. He shall be brought to the priest; and the priest shall go out of the camp, and the priest shall make an examination. Then, if the leprous disease is healed in the leper." [... and the LORD goes on to tell us what shall be done to cleanse that leper.] (Leviticus 14:1-3)
Notice that the leper does not go through all the ritual which follows in order to be healed; he does it in order to be cleansed. He is already healed. Healing is something only God can do. It is a sovereign act of God which takes place in the inner life. Cleansing is the understanding of God's basis of healing by the person who is healed so that the behavior can be adjusted outwardly, afterward. That is the picture which is drawn here.
You see, you and I can't heal our leprous hearts. If there is some wrongful attitude within us, if we burn with envy or jealousy or resentment toward one another, if we are impatient and upset and angry at heart -- we seldom see these things in ourselves until God puts us into circumstances where they are brought out -- and then the only thing we can do is take them to him because we are helpless victims caught up in these dangerous attitudes. When you finally see yourself like that, then you can say, "Lord, heal me!" And God does! With a touch of his grace he changes our attitude. We stop being defensive about it and we admit it. And then, as we have seen before, the leprosy is arrested, its action is stopped, and we are healed.
But then we need cleansing. We need to understand the basis on which that inward healing occurred so that our outward behavior can now be adjusted to a new pattern. That is what is brought out here in the cleansing of the leper. There was a prescribed ritual consisting of several steps which he had to go through before he could resume a normal life. The first is given in Verses 4-5:
"the priest shall command them to take for him who is to be cleansed two living clean birds and cedar wood and scarlet stuff and hyssop; and the priest shall command them to kill one of the birds in an earthen vessel over running water." (Leviticus 14:4-5)
What an unusual procedure! You can see clearly that God has thought through every single detail in order that we might learn from it certain great truths. Obviously, the basis for healing is always blood. God never heals, never blesses, never arrests the action of evil, apart from the shedding of blood. This blood, of course, is a picture of the blood of the Lord Jesus. The death of Christ, which ends the old nature, the old life, is what is constantly being pictured for us in these sacrifices. God is not in the business of putting Band-Aids on cancer. He strikes at the very root of the cancer. He never deals with mere symptoms. He eliminates the whole problem. That is why God is never content merely to clear up a few symptoms in your life. He wants you to see that these problems are arising out of an evil nature which has to be ended by death -- either of the individual himself or of an innocent substitute on his behalf. There is no other way. So the shedding of the blood of this bird is a beautiful picture of the Lord Jesus and his death for us.
The bird was put in an earthen vessel and killed over running water. An earthen vessel is a picture of the humanity of Jesus. In Second Corinthians 4 we, in our basic humanity, are said to be "earthen vessels," (2 Cor 4:7). And running water, in Scripture, is forever a picture of the Holy Spirit, in his refreshing, life-giving quality. Remember that Jesus said "rivers of living water" will flow from the hearts of those who are filled with the Spirit (John 7:38).
So this is a picture of the Lord Jesus, in his humanity, having come where we are, and yet filled with the Spirit. And he was put to death in order that we might be cleansed. We have to understand that healing is by the shedding of blood. But that is only step one. The second step is found in Verses 6-7:
"He shall take the living bird with the cedar wood and the scarlet stuff and the hyssop, and dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water; and he shall sprinkle it seven times upon him who is to be cleansed of leprosy; then he shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird go into the open field." (Leviticus 14:6-7)
Every detail of this is beautifully significant: The cedar tree was regarded in Israel as the acme of beauty and glory. It symbolized natural beauty. Hyssop, on the other hand, was a tiny plant which grew in nooks and crannies, somewhat like moss. It was regarded as a symbol of the lowliness, the rejection, the insecurity of humanity. So here we have a picture of the natural glory and beauty of man, and, at the other end of the scale, his resemblance to the lowliest, most insignificant shrub. Then, scarlet stuff was always a symbol of artificial glory. Kings wore scarlet. Thus, all this is a picture of everything to which man looks for security -- status, prestige, natural talents, and even the pretense of being insignificant, upon which we sometimes count to gain sympathy from others. All this is set aside. It is dipped in the blood of the bird that was killed and thus is marked, is judged by that death. Then, along with that, the living bird was released into the heavens. This is a picture of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. He died, as prefigured in the one bird, and he was released into the heavens in the other. So God is teaching by these means that the healing of our leprous relationships with others is on the basis of the death and the resurrection of Jesus, who takes away from us all dependence upon natural beauty or artificial glory, or upon anything else of the old nature, and sets us free to be new creatures in him.
Doesn't that typology work out beautifully? How remarkably these Old Testament symbols teach us these great truths! This step was followed by the personal cleansing of the applicant. This is described in Verses 8-9, which we won't take time to read. He had to wash himself, i.e., apply all this to himself, and then there was a testing period of seven days to be sure his cleansing was genuine.
Then, on the eighth day, he was to bring offerings as outlined in Verses 10-13. We won't go into these because we have dealt with them in detail before. But the order in which the four offerings had to be brought is important. The trespass offering was first. You see, leprosy in a garment always means that we have injured somebody, or that they have injured us. A trespass has occurred, a relationship has been hurt or broken, and that needs to be dealt with first. And so the trespass offering, the Lord Jesus offered on our behalf for our trespasses, is in view.
Then came the sin offering. That goes deeper, to our very nature, and we learn from it that, in the death of Christ, God has somehow dealt with the very source of the evil within us. We don't have to follow these urges to do evil anymore. We still feel them but we are not bound to them as we once were. We are freed from the dominion of sin. Next was the burnt offering, which recognizes the devotion of a heart which has been cleansed and is now open and accepting toward God and is dedicated to him.
Finally came the meal offering, which represents the presentation of our humanity to him. All of this renders the leper now clean from his leprous disease, and even his relationships are cleansed, and so he is free to enter normal life once again. One other requirement is listed in Verses 14-18:
"The priest shall take some of the blood of the guilt [trespass] offering, and the priest shall put it on the tip of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed, and on the thumb of his right hand, and on the great toe of his right foot. [This is very precise and specific, isn't it?] Then the priest shall take some of the log of oil, and pour it into the palm of his own left hand, and dip his right finger in the oil that is in his left hand, and sprinkle some oil with his finger seven times before the LORD. And some of the oil that remains in his hand the priest shall put on the tip of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed, and on the thumb of his right hand, and on the great toe of his right foot, upon the blood of the guilt offering; and the rest of the oil that is in the priest's hand he shall put on the head of him who is to be cleansed. Then the priest shall make atonement for him before the LORD." (Leviticus 14:14-18)
What does all this mean? Well, it is most significant. Blood is always a picture of guilt removed, of evil ended. And the blood is applied to remove the offense of the ear, the hand, and the foot. You see, if you have fallen into leprosy, evil within, it is because you have listened to and have followed a false philosophy. So the ear must be cleansed. Then you have manipulated and maneuvered -- that is what the hand does -- and thus you have created an offense of the hand. You have gone along with what you have heard and have begun to manipulate and maneuver others in the wrong direction. And then your feet have gone in paths they should not have followed, and so your walk needs to be cleansed.
So the great teaching of this passage is that the blood of the guilt offering cleanses. When you have some spot in your life which is wrong, and you have recognized it, and its action has been stopped by the repentance of your heart, then the blood that God applies to you in the death of Jesus Christ on your behalf actually cleanses away this offense. All the instruments of evil are cleansed. Your ear, your hand, your walk have all been cleansed. You are forgiven -- that's the point!
But that is only part of it. Then oil is to be put upon the blood. Oil is the symbol of the Holy Spirit. It is not enough just to put the blood on these instruments, these members of our life. They are to be yielded to the Spirit of God. The oil is put upon the ear and the thumb and the foot in order that the mind may now be devoted to hearing the things of the Spirit, and that the hand may be offered to the Spirit of God to be maneuvered and manipulated as he desires and wills, and that the walk may follow. Then the leper is ready to return to society. Do you see how instructive all of this is?
I was down at Arrowhead Springs this past week speaking to several hundred college students. A girl came up to me at the close of a meeting and said, "I want to ask you about a problem. I have a friend who is always irritating me. I feel resentful toward her. But I know that is wrong, and I keep reminding myself of the fact and dealing with it, confessing it to God. But it keeps coming back. How can I be freed from this?" I said to her, "The problem is that you are doing only part of what the Lord tells us to do. We are to judge the evil, we are to reckon our members as dead unto unrighteousness -- but we are also to turn around and make them available to God for his work. We are to offer them to him for righteous purposes. You are judging the evil of your heart's attitude toward her, but then in place of that you are not turning and loving her in the power of God." The negative is not enough. The positive is also required. We need not only the blood to arrest the action of the ear, the hand, and the foot, but we also need the oil, the Holy Spirit, who now takes over and begins to reach out in love. I said to her, "The next time you feel this resentment, try not only to judge it, but in its place to reach out to your friend in the strength of the Lord and begin to be kind and nice and loving to her, expecting God to do the work through you."
The last section of this chapter deals with leprosy in houses: Verses 33-38:
The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "When you come into the land of Canaan, which I give you for a possession, and I put a leprous disease in a house in the land of your possession, then he who owns the house shall come and tell the priest, 'There seems to be some sort of disease in my house.' Then the priest shall command that they empty the house before the priest goes to examine the disease, lest all that is in the house be declared unclean; and afterward the priest shall go in to see the house. And he shall examine the disease; and if the disease is in the walls of the house with greenish or reddish spots, and if it appears to be deeper than the surface, then the priest shall go out of the house to the door of the house, and shut up the house seven days." (Leviticus 14:33-38)
The procedure is the same, you see, for leprosy in a house. Obviously again we are dealing with mildews and molds and fungi, the kinds of things which can appear on the walls of a house. I have been in the tropics and have seen plaster walls just covered with green mold and mildew! In this passage these are regarded as possibly contagious, and they have to be investigated, patiently and carefully.
What is it that corresponds to the house in our experience? You remember that in the New Testament the church is called "the house of God" (1 Tim 3:15, 1 Pet 4:17 ). Now, it is not the church building; that is not where God lives. It is God's people who are the house of God. So what is in view here is an association, a group, an assembly, a gathering of Christians together. And it, too, can have a leprous infection in it. When this proves to be the case it needs to be dealt with. It must be treated, even drastically at times. Notice Verses 39-42:
"And the priest shall come again on the seventh day, and look; and if the disease has spread in the walls of the house, then the priest shall command that they take out the stones in which is the disease and throw them into an unclean place outside the city; and he shall cause the inside of the house to be scraped round about, and the plaster that they scrape off they shall pour into an unclean place outside the city; then they shall take other stones and put them in the place of those stones, and he shall take other plaster and plaster the house." (Leviticus 14:39-42)
The priest is to get rid of the stones that are affected. If you want a graphic illustration in the New Testament of the carrying out of that process with regard to a church, simply read Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. There he is writing to the group of Christians in Corinth, and there were certain infectious diseases running rampant through that house. There was a man in their midst, one of the stones of the house, who was living incestuously with his father's wife, his stepmother (1 Cor 5:1-5). The situation was so bad that even the pagans around them were offended. Paul said to them, "Remove him; take him out of the place and set him aside!" Paul wrote this in love, but in utter honesty. Then he went on to reprove them for certain other wrongs which had allowed this situation to arise. That is, he scraped the plaster and removed that too. In his second letter to the Corinthians you will find that this treatment had its desired effect. The house was preserved. In fact God, in grace, restored the lost stone and it was put back into the house. The man repented of his deeds and his place in the house was preserved.
Discipline within the church is what is in view here. It must be exercised in order to arrest such contagious diseases. But if the house remains infected the day will come when it must be destroyed. Verses 43-45:
"If the disease breaks out again in the house, after he has taken out the stones and scraped the house and plastered it, then the priest shall go and look; if the disease has spread in the house, it is a malignant leprosy in the house; it is unclean. And he shall break down the house, its stones and timber and all the plaster of the house; and he shall carry them forth out of the city to an unclean place." (Leviticus 14:43-45)
In the opening chapters of the book of Revelation there are seven letters from the Lord Jesus to seven churches in Asia. In each one the Lord, as the great high priest, is examining his house. And in each one he sees certain things that are wrong and need to be corrected. He gives careful directions as to what they are and he allows the churches time to take care of the problems. But in each case he says that if they fail to do so he will visit judgment upon them and the house shall be broken down and the church will cease its testimony. This is what God does with a group of Christians who allow open evil to go on unjudged in their midst. The house ultimately is broken down and thus their testimony is ended. God does it if men will not.
We won't read any more of it now, but the chapter goes on to make provision for the cleansing of a house in which leprosy has been arrested. Again it involves the birds, one killed over running water in an earthen vessel and one let loose into the heavens. The death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus is the basis upon which an assembly can be cleansed. Finally, the chapter concludes:
"This is the law for any leprous disease: for an itch, for leprosy in a garment or in a house, and for a swelling or an eruption or a spot, to show when it is unclean and when it is clean. This is the law for leprosy." (Leviticus 14:54-57)
How wonderful it is to see God's concern for his people, to see his tender compassion, and his desire that every spot which is dangerous or harmful be immediately examined. And if we will apply these instructions today on the level at which we live, as the people of Israel were instructed to apply them then, how marvelously God's people will be preserved from that which wrecks and ruins and ravages and destroys! How healthy we will be, how whole we will be as persons! This is why these texts are given to us -- to enable us in the most practical way to be able to distinguish that which is harmful from that which is harmless we are called, as the people of God, to begin to examine our lives carefully, and to look first to our hearts. Are there leprous attitudes there? Are there bitter spirits and resentful attitudes and injurious, lustful longings that need to be dealt with? Then we are to look at our relationships with others. Are there things which are wrong there that need to be brought to God and healed and then cleansed so that our behavior can be adjusted? And then in the house of God, the groups of Christians that we meet with, is there anything wrong there? If so, it is to be brought before God so that health can be restored to his people. For the whole theme of this book, remember, is "Be ye holy, for I am holy," (Leviticus 20:26 ). Be whole persons, for God is a whole Person.
Class notes and MP3 audio on Lambert's Web site, http://ldolphin.org/daniel/
July 25, 2004