Leviticus has baffled for years, and I think it will continue to baffle for years to come. One benefit of its inclusion in the Christian Bible, though, is that it serves as evidence that the Word was not simply made up by people looking for an easy religion. What nut would spend two chapters going on about infectious skin diseases? Especially in a world where the habit already existed to banish lepers and leave them banished?
However, that just reinforces my own personal presuppositions. I personally hold that Leviticus was written down in the time of Moses, was intended as part of the theocratic rule of Israel, and should be interpreted based on that assumption. In other words, what did a group of Late Bronze Age nomads take Leviticus 14 (link) to mean?
Here are a few highlights:
1. They would have understood that disease would be a lasting problem for them, no matter where they lived. Perhaps leprosy and other infectious skin diseases were actually not that prevalent for them in their nomadic days—we know from modern medicine that one culture may struggle with diseases that another culture has long since beaten, and vice-versa. Whatever the slice on it, the people would have seen clearly here that God knew that disease would be with them, even in the promised land.
Keep in mind: even when you are right where God has placed you, bad things can still happen. Some of those bad things are horrid, like leprosy.
2. They would have seen the forward promise of living in houses. You and I may not catch this, but keep in mind that the people receiving this instruction are living in tents. Not stone houses, certainly not houses that have been plastered over nicely. Inherent in the latter half of the chapter, where the instructions for cleansing a house are given, is the promise of living in a house.
Recognize the blessing promised alongside the instructions about life. This takes knowing the Word and living life.
3. They would have known that there were no quick fixes for their medical issues. Take a look through the whole chapter again. There are waiting periods plus the times of work needed: think it wouldn’t take time to rip out plaster and rock work? Right.
Realize that many of our problems in life do not have quick fixes. They take time and work to repair.
It is really on this last point that I think we need to spend some time. We live in an instant world, where we expect to have everything as quickly as possible. We want diseases immunized against, and cured with a single pill if we actually catch them. We want our wars won in a week, and purchases provided immediately.
And we’re even worse about mental, psychological, or spiritual matters. Our learning should be on a defined, quick schedule: all children should know X by a certain age; all employees will memorize these 7 things for tomorrow; all students will fully grasp the 27 usages of the Greek genitive case this week (and the vocal shewas from Hebrew, too!). We want our depression gone immediately or our anger resolved overnight.
Spiritually, we want God to insta-zap our shortcomings off of us the moment we say “Amen” to end our prayer. To heal our fractured relationships as soon as we know they are fractured.
Life does not work that way, though. We may be able to transfer money in an instant, but we cannot transfer skills that quickly. We cannot transfer ourselves to holiness that quickly.
It takes time. It takes the time to rip out the old, diseased parts. Time to haul them away and dump them. Time to replace the structural works, and then time to be make everything look pretty again.
Time. Because God is working in you for eternity, not for next week.
What areas are you wanting a quick fix in? There is really only one quick fix: the moment of salvation, where a sinner is saved for eternity. Yet after that, it’s a time taking, effort using process.
Can you wait? Can you hope? Can you endure?
Today’s Nerd Note: One should not take Leviticus as specifically binding in practice for Gentiles, unless the principle or practice is specifically reinforced in the New Testament, but one can take guidance from the text.
For example, this passage gives us a very definite, practical step. It’s called the garbage dump. Really, Leviticus 14:40 and the other verses that refer to the “place outside the city.” Here we have a very practical principle: biomedical hazardous waste should not be just piled outside your door.
It is principles and ideas just like this one that lead to what is called “Redemption and Lift.” Those terms go together to describe some of the natural outworkings of the Gospel entering a culture. Those who adopt the process of getting hazardous waste far from their homes, among other cleanliness guidelines from the Old Testament, will tend to live healthier lives than their neighbors.
That health translates to more wealth, longer lifespans, and better educational options. In turn, more wealth, longer lifespans, and better education leads to better health. Then, in time, those same Christians are able to return and serve their neighbors, because God has blessed them with the material and physical ability to do so, and the Gospel remains proclaimed in those areas.
Unless, of course, a whole nation profits from those effects and then decides to hold on to the public health ideas while abandoning the Gospel. But no one would do that, right? We would never forget how we got where we are and Who it was that helped us get there, would we?