Posted on May 29, 2020 by Catey Stover in Freedom Fighters
For at last the first 50 years of my life, all I knew about leprosy was that, if you had it, you were a complete outcast.
Lev. 13:45,46: “Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as they have the disease, they remain unclean. They must live alone; they must live outside the camp.” Likewise in Numbers 5:1-3, “The LORD said to Moses, “Command the Israelites to send away from the camp anyone who has a defiling skin disease or a discharge of any kind, or who is ceremonially unclean because of a dead body. Send away male and female alike; send them outside the camp so they will not defile their camp, where I dwell among them.”
Leprosy was exceptionally infectious. It did not it seem to cease. Instead, it remained for years, causing the skin tissues to degenerate and disfiguring the body. One of its traits was that you lost feeling in your body and, as a result, damaged it because you were not aware of the fact that it was in harm’s way, such as picking up a piece of hot metal or stepping on a hot ember.
Leprosy was the scourge of the ancient world. Nothing evoked more fear, more dread, or more revulsion than the sight of these walking dead. That is what a leper was called, a walking dead man. The smell of his decaying flesh would announce his coming long before the tattered scraps of his clothing would be seen, or his raspy “Unclean! Unclean!” announcement he was required to declare, could be heard. The stumbling shuffle of toeless feet, the wandering of sightless eyes and the moan of a cheek-less mouth, all pointed to leprosy, this unseen attacker that slowly destroyed human bodies, and made the individual an untouchable to society.
I also remember hearing that it was supposedly a curse from God.
It is a vivid and graphic physical picture of the spiritual defilement of sin. Sin is ugly, loathsome, incurable, and contaminating; it separates men from God and makes them outcasts. The instructions given to the priests in Leviticus 13 help us understand the nature of sin: Sin is inside us, deeper than the skin (Leviticus 13:3); sin also spreads (Leviticus 13:8); sin always defiles and isolates (Leviticus 13:45-46); and just as leprous garments are fit only for the fire (Leviticus 13:52-57), so those who die clothed in sin will burn forever.
But then came Jesus [Mark 1:40-45]. When the untouchable is touched by Jesus (Leviticus 13:42), “Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.” (I must add this sense of humor: I understand the leper is with Jesus and has been singing Bill Gaither’s “He Touched Me” for over 2000 years.)
Now travel with me on my first trip to India, circa 1976. We were visiting Boy’s Christian Home in dead center of the country and in a very rural, isolated state. Our ministry was as sponsor of this home with 220 orphan boys and we were there to observe the fruits of our generosity. While there, the administration took us to other ministries within driving distance, one of which was the Katorah Leprosarium.
Quite honestly, I was reluctant, based on my understanding of the disease. I determined I would touch no one!
Once inside, I was shocked. The patients were of all ages and mingled with one another, even to the extent that children were in bed with their mothers. You see, a cure had been discovered and now everyone, if caught in time, could be healed. I didn’t know that at the time. And since then, the number of new cases in 2016 was 216,000. Most new cases occur in 14 countries, with India accounting for more than half. In the 20 years from 1994 to 2014, 16 million people worldwide were cured of leprosy. About 200 cases per year are reported in the United States.
There are two lessons here and I bring this up because of the COVED-19 virus, though I am not equating the two. I am trusting that our medical community will quickly discover a vaccine that is 100% effective so that even though the disease is not eliminated, where caught early, healing is inevitable. Meanwhile we live in a similar state as the lepers of old, isolated and no guarantee of healing. The whole world has been infected.
Second, COVID-19 cannot be cured without a vaccine and sin cannot be cured without a Savior. Just as Jesus healed the leper, He can heal our sin. The whole world is affected.
If I had the virus, I certainly would want a cure. If I had the sin nature, and all do, I certainly would want it cured. And it was. By Jesus. “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:8-11)
Written By Neil Fichthorn: Rev. Neil Fichthorn is a seasoned conference and camping servant having served at Gull Lake Bible Conference, Sandy Cove Ministries as President, and an interim Executive Director at Pinebrook Bible Conference. He also served in church music for decades as a choir director and arranger. He has been Bill Welte’s mentor and friend for over 45 years.
Think About This: “A pharisee is hard on others and easy on himself, but a spiritual man is easy on others and hard on himself.” – A.W. Tozer
This Week’s Verse to Memorize: “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 10:32-33
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the doctrinal and theological views held by America’s Keswick.