Free as a Bird
June 2, 2019
We come to this section in Leviticus that is called the law of the leper. Let me explain. It describes the things that the priests should do in case a leper is healed of his leprosy. It was a ceremonial cleansing for this leper, should this leper ever be healed of his leprosy.
Now, here's the thing that is absolutely amazing about all of this. Leprosy was incurable. It was incurable. They have all of these provisions for ceremonial cleansing of a leper that were never done. They were never done I should say by any priests until Jesus, the Son of the Living God, came from heaven and began to heal lepers. That's part of the amazing story that unfolds out of these verses.
Leprosy was really feared in all cultures and civilizations at that time. It was incurable throughout history until just recently actually. Now there's still leprosy in the world today. Of course, in Africa. There are cases of it in the United States, maybe less than 100, but there are cases every year of leprosy. Today it's called the Hansen's disease. It's called that, because in 1873, a Norwegian doctor by the name of Hansen, discovered that leprosy is actually caused by a bacterium, which is interesting because the Scripture calls it an infection. Which it is, it's an infection of a bacteria.
It is exceptionally resistant to antibiotics. In fact, in the 60s, the world's only known anti-leprosy drug became virtually useless because of resistance. Today, even. It's only by utilizing a multidrug antibiotic therapy that leprosy can even be treated today. That treatment often takes two to three years to complete. So resistant it is. It's amazing, isn't it? It's amazing that God would put a provision for the ceremonial cleansing of a leper when leprosy was incurable.
Now in the entire Old Testament there was only one known case of a leper being healed, but he was not a Jew and that was a miracle that he was healed at all. He was not a Jew so therefore this Scripture would not have applied. Some Bible students might remember that Moses, and his sister, Miriam, did experience momentary leprosy, but they were instantly healed and they were not considered lepers.
The connection that we have to see is that in the Scriptures leprosy represents sin. There's an absolutely clear correlation between leprosy and sin. There are a lot of similarities. Starting with the fact that sin is incurable. In the days of Moses, the only known cure for leprosy was a miracle. The same is true for sin. The only known cure is a miracle. That is so important, I want to repeat it. The only known cure today for sin is a miracle. Because the only way that a sinner can be healed of his sin is by the miraculous intervention of God. Every time a sinner is forgiven and reconciled to the Living God it was a miracle and it was a miracle of God's doing.
You see the priestly ceremony for the leper that was healed of his leprosy clearly was a picture of Jesus Christ. The symbols I tell you are nothing short of amazing. Because the only known cure for sin is when the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is applied to the life of the one who is being healed of his sin. As you'll see from these verses, He doesn't just heal incurable sin, He makes you free as a bird.
Let me explain that. Let's read these verses, with Leviticus 14 starting in verse 1. The Lord spoke to Moses and He said this, "This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing. He shall be brought to the priest, and the priest shall go out to the outside of the camp." Yes, right, exactly, because that's where they were. They weren't allowed to be in the city, the camp. No, you stay out.
Thus the priest shall look, and if the infection of leprosy has been healed in the leper, then the priest shall give orders to take two live clean birds and cedar wood, scarlet red string, and hyssop for the one who has to be cleansed. Now this is absolutely interesting. Every one of these symbols are fascinating. The priest shall then give orders to slay the one bird in an earthenware vessel over the living water, the running water. It must be mixed; blood and water. Blood and water mixed.
As for the live bird, you shall take it together with a cedar wood and the scarlet string and the hyssop. In other words, tie the bird to the wood with the scarlet string and the hyssop. Then you take the bird, the live living bird, and you dip it into the water of the blood mixed with the living water. You dip the live bird. You baptize the live bird in the blood and the water. Then that's the blood, which explains the blood and the water of the slain one.
He shall then sprinkle seven times the one who has to be cleansed from his leprosy. Seven times. It's a number of completion. It's finished, it's done. The priest shall pronounce him clean. Then you take the live bird that you baptized in the blood and the water. You take him out to the open field and you set him free. You let him fly. He is stained. He is stained with blood, but he will fly.
I. Begin with an Honest Diagnosis
This is beautiful. It's an absolutely powerful picture for us. I want us to look at these verses. He makes a correlation between leprosy; incurable leprosy and sin. Let's look at the correlation. Let's begin with an honest diagnosis. If you were to have an ailment and go to the doctor, and the doctor then decides, "I don't want to hurt his tender feelings. So I better not tell them the truth. I don't want to actually tell you what's wrong with you because I don't want to hurt your tender feelings."
No. If you go to the doctor, you want that doctor to tell you the truth. No matter how hard that truth is to hear, you want the truth. Isn't that true? Tell it to me straight. Tell it to me straight, doc. If I got something I need to know what it is. Tell me straight. Tell me the truth. I suggest that when it comes to your eternal soul, that you'd also want the truth. Tell me the truth. Jesus said if you abide in My word, you'll know the truth, and the truth will set you free. In other words, the first step in being free is knowing the truth. Tell it to me straight. You need an honest diagnosis.
Here's the truth. The truth is sin is a debilitating disease that will destroy your life, and by the way, it's incurable. Once you know the truth, then you can do something, because God has made a provision for that which is incurable. Notice the connection.
A. Leprosy and sin begin insignificantly
Leprosy and sin begin insignificantly. Leviticus 13, the chapter before this, describes how leprosy begins with a spot that appears minor, insignificant, painless for sure, but it gradually increases. For deep in the body, something frightful is at work. The leprosy when they consume this victim.
I was referring to Leviticus 13. Let me just read that verse. "When a man has on the skin of his body, a swelling, or a scab, or a bright spot, and it becomes an infection of leprosy on the skin of his body, then he shall be brought to Aaron the priest, or to one of his sons, the priests." Now that's interesting description because each of those symptoms we just read, each of them is a picture of the beginning of the appearance of sin.
For example, it mentions the swelling of the flesh. That is a picture right there of the swelling of the pride. The pride of life. The Scripture says pride puffs up but love builds up. How about 1 John 2:16: "All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life. This is not from the Father. That is from the world." He then gives us another symptom. It's a bright spot on the skin, He says. What an appropriate description of sin seemingly simplistic beginning, begins with a bright spot, something pleasurable. Something to look forward to bright spot in life, but little by little it grows, and begins to take over more and more of the life until it becomes the master and you become a slave. It's like bringing a little kitten into your home. It's so cute. It's so pleasurable. It's so nice to have a pet kitten until you discovered that it is a kitten of a tiger. For one day, it will grow up and it will be the master.
I was thinking of an illustration. Many of you read the book or saw the movie Lord of the Rings, and in there there's this figure, this character named Gollum, and he finds the one ring that rules all other rings, and he gets consumed by it. Because it is precious, my precious, as he croons over it, "my precious." It disfigures him, makes him something altogether different. It's mastered him. It's a picture of the devastation.
B. Leprosy and sin spread rapidly
Because what we recognize as we look at that, is that leprosy and sin spread rapidly.
Chapter 13:10-11 describe the condition of chronic leprosy capable of spreading throughout the body. What's interesting is that the incubation period of leprosy is actually quite long. It's anywhere from two to 10 years. In other words, the victim had leprosy long before they ever knew it. They had leprosy long before they ever saw any signs or symptoms. You see the connection? Spiritually, we understand that sin incubates in a person long before it incubates from birth. They're born with it, and then you see the signs of it later. It doesn't take too long to see the signs. We even have a name for it, and their tools, they become terrible, we say. You see this self-focus, the self-centeredness. You see the boy has been incubating, and then as leprosy advances, it attacks the nervous system, and a person with leprosy loses feeling. Physicians have observed victims who've had their fingers or toes eaten off by rats because they couldn't feel it. It can cause blindness because the leper cannot feel the sand or the grit in their eyes. What's interesting is that the Bible warns of a connection similarly to sin.
Hebrews 3:13: "Encourage one another," He writes, "as long as it is still called today so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." You see, the deceitfulness of sin describes it very well. It lies. At first, it says, "I will bring joy. I will bring pleasure to you. I will make wondrous things happen for your life." It's lying because it will become the master and it will harden you. Ephesians 4:17-19: "Do not walk as the Gentiles walk. Because of the hardness of their heart, they having become calloused, have given themselves over to sensuality in every kind of impurity and greed." It's always shocking when you see someone. I'm sure everyone in this room has known someone. He's become so calloused and so hardened, that it seems that no amount of sin bothers them.
C. Leprosy and sin devastate completely
It did at first bother them, but after a while, no problem. We do this all the time. I said, if you could see what sin looks like from God's perspective, it would make all the difference. I'm convinced that God hides the depths of the darkness of sin from all eyes, but his own. If we could see sin for what it truly is, if we could see it as God sees it, I suggest that we could not bear it. You cannot bear it because it devastates. Sin and leprosy both devastate completely; insidiously devastates. Because the person who lose their eyes, their nose shrinks, hinder their face, their hands shrivel and twist until there's nothing left of the man except death. What an analogy, because sin brings spiritual death.
It destroys insidiously. It kills. It kills joy. It says it's going to give you joy and then it kills joy. It says it will give you happiness and then it kills happiness and it devastates relationships. Many of you already know that have experienced it or seen it. It destroys relationships. Proverbs 14:12 says, "There is a way with seems right to a man, but it's end is the way of death." Then we also see leprosy is contagoius; it spreads from person to person, and much of the laws and regulations concerning leprosy were about the containment so that it does not spread. The leper had to live outside the camp either by himself or with other lepers. Get out. You cannot live here, be out.
Then if you walked in public, he must cover his face from his mustache down so that his breath does not come out. Then he must call out. If anyone wants to come near or he approached anyone, he must call out "unclean, unclean," then they move away. Then if a leper touched the wall, then the wall was unclean. If he sat on a stool, then the stool was unclean. If he laid in the bed, the bed was unclean. You see the correlations. Sin is similarly contagious. You can influence others, but others can influence you. Therefore, choose very wisely who you hang out with, who you connect to.
One of the things I tell parents is that one of the most important things you'll ever do as a parent is to watch very, very carefully who influences your children. Their friends, people they hang out with can destroy. Very important. 1 Corinthians 13:33: "Do not be deceived. Bad company corrupts good morals." What we see is this connection, but then we see the answer. He's made a provision. The law had a provision for the leper that was cured even though it was incurable because it is a picture of Jesus Christ.
II. Jesus Heals the Incurable
Here's my point. Jesus heals the incurable, bring him to the priest for the ceremony of cleansing. There's just this one thing. It was incurable, but every part of this ceremony is a symbol that points to Jesus. In other words, this is like an Old Testament sermon pointing to the cross for anyone with eyes to see.
A. Jesus is willing; are you?
When you look at the New Testament and see the relationship that Jesus had with the lepers, it is nothing other than amazing, absolutely amazing. Starting with this point. Jesus is willing to heal lepers. Jesus is willing to heal the incurable. He is willing to cure lepers. In other words, are you willing? The story takes place. At the beginning of His ministry, He had just finished the famous sermon on the mount, there on the northern slopes of the Sea of Galilee. We are going to go there this fall. He was coming down from the mountain, now this story unfolds for us in Matthew 8:2-3. "As He is coming down the mountain, it says, "That a leper came to Jesus, bowed down to Him and he said, Lord, if you are willing, I know you can make me clean."
Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him and then said, "I am willing. Be cleansed." Immediately, the leprosy was cleansed. I love the scene that unfolds. I am willing. Be cleansed. He reached out His hand and touched him. Wait, He touched him? Remember what I said, if a leper was to touch a wall, then the wall is unclean. If he sits on a stool, then the stool is unclean. He touched him? Yes, and there was in fact immediately a transfer. Instead of Jesus becoming unclean, the man became clean. The man became healed at the touching of the Son of the Living God. Then Matthew 8:4 tells us, Jesus said to him, "Now see that you tell no one, but go show yourself to the priest and present the offering that Moses commanded." Yes, right here in Leviticus 14. You go and present that offering that Moses commanded as a testimony to them. In other words, as a witness.
B. Jesus makes you “free as a bird”
They brought to live birds, a vessel of fresh water, cedar wood, scarlet red string, and hyssop. What's interesting is that this chapter, in the book of Leviticus, stood unused for 1,500 years. They studied it but never applied it. There was never a Hebrew leper that was ever healed. It was incurable; 1,500 years, they had never used it. Then God sent His Son, His only begotten Son. One day, a leper came into the temple asking for a priest. "I need a priest." "Leper, what are you doing here?" "Oh, no, I'm not a leper anymore. I need a priest."
The priest comes. "What is this? Who did this to you? How did this happen?" "His name is Jesus. He touched me, and He healed me of my leprosy." Now, do that thing. Do that which is in Leviticus. Do that thing for me.
Then not long after that, 10 lepers show up all at the same time. We want to see the priest. The priest comes. What is this? One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, 10. Who did this? He was Jesus. He touched us. We're healed. We're cleansed. We want to do that thing in Leviticus. We need a lot of birds. Jesus said, "Bring it as a testimony. As a witness." I tell you, it can be a witness to them or it can be a witness against them. You will know the Messiah.
Scriptures told them. When the Messiah comes, you will know Him. You will be able to recognize Him because the blind will see. The deaf will hear. The lame will walk. Demons will be cast out and lepers will be healed. You'll see Him when He comes. You'll know. It was a testimony against them because they refused to see. For those who had eyes to see, for those He healed because He can heal the incurable. He then, Jesus, makes you free as a bird. That comes right out of this picture because the picture of Jesus in this chapter is beautiful in every way. Take two live birds, a vessel of fresh living water, cedar wood, scarlet string, and hyssop. It's interesting.
When the Passover happened in Egypt, they were to take an unblemished lamb and then dip the blood with what? With hyssop. Take a hyssop branch, dip it into the blood of the lamb and put it on the doorpost and the lintel of the home, and then go through that blood and be saved. Hyssop. When Jesus was on the cross and He cried out, "I thirst." What did they do? They took a branch of the hyssop, attached the sponge to that and dipped in the sour wine and lifted it up to his mouth. Hyssop. I tell you an interesting thing. You can do a study of hyssop in Scripture and every single time it is mentioned in Scripture, it is a picture of Jesus Christ. Do that study sometime.
Every time, it's a picture of Jesus Christ. Psalm 51:7, "Purify me with hyssop and I shall be clean. Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow." Take the bird and slay that bird. That is blood is poured into the living water. The blood and the water mixed. When we baptize someone today, we baptize them in water, but it's a picture of the blood. Then when the soldier pierced the side of Jesus when He was on the cross, what was it? It says blood mixed with water came out. The blood and the water. Then take the bird that's living, with the string, tie that bird to the wood, and baptize that bird into that mixture of blood and water. Then you let that bird go free. Stained with blood but free.
There's an old hymn in the church, captures this so beautifully. It's a powerful hymn: "There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Emmanuel's veins; and sinners plunged beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stains. Lose all their guilty stains. Lose all their guilty stains. And sinners plunged beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stains." That's beautiful.
You know what's interesting also, it tells us that when Jesus comes at the end of the age, sets foot on Mount of Olives, enters into Jerusalem, defeats the enemies of Israel, it says in Zechariah 13, "In that day, a fountain will be open for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, a fountain for sin and for impurity." For it says, in chapter 12, "He will pour out on them the spirit of grace." For the blood that was shed on that cross that day will be offered to the people of Israel. They will come for there is a fountain filled with blood that will cleanse the guilty stains of every sinner who wants to come. It's incurable, but God has made a way.
C. You are free to be what you could not be
See, it tells us that you are free. Free. You are free to be what? Free to be what you could not be when you were a leper. You're free. Before, the leper must be outside the camp. Get out. Get away. Do not come near. Then healed. He's free. Free for relationship. Free to be part of the people of God. Relationship to God, fellowship.
There's an interesting story that takes place in Matthew 26 just before Jesus is arrested. It tells us that Jesus came into the home of a man named Simon. Simon the leper, he's called. Wait, what? Simon the leper. He's not a leper anymore. Jesus healed him. Now he's free. He's free to have the Savior into his home and to have fellowship and a relationship and they're eating together.
While they're having this meal, a woman enters the house. She takes a vial of extremely expensive perfume and anoints the head of Jesus. Many presume this to be Mary, the sister of Martha, who learned to sit at His feet and listen to His words. Because Jesus had just told the disciples that the Son of Man must be handed over to His enemies. That he would be scourged and that he would be crucified. The disciples did not want to hear this, and it seems evident that they didn't fully grasp what He was saying. Mary, she learned to sit at His feet. She learned to listen to His words, but more than that I'm convinced that she heard His heart. All right then.
If you are to be turned over to your enemies, if you are to be scourged, and if this will end in your crucifixion, all right then. I will anoint you for burial right now. What love, what extravagant love. Why? Why such extravagance? She would answer. Because we are attached at the heart, what He has done for me, there are no words. He's healed me of that which is incurable. He's made me free. These made me free to love. He's made me free. He's loved me, and I want the love Him, and I want to love Him extravagantly.
Let's pray. Lord, thank you so much. You've shown us how beautiful it is to be healed of that which is incurable. Church today, I'll tell you, if you have asked Jesus Christ into your heart as Lord and Savior, then you have been dipped into the blood and the water, and He has set you free. He's made you're free. Free to be what you could never be before, but now you are free to have relationship to the Living God, to the Savior Himself. Free to love extravagantly. Church today, I asked you, would you desire in your heart to love Him extravagantly? I mean when you see it, when you see what He's done for you, does it not make you want to love Him and to love Him extravagantly as a response to all that He's done for you. Would you say that to the Lord today? God, thank You for showing me what You've done, and it makes me want to love You and it makes me want to love You extravagantly.
Would you say that to the Lord? Is that true of your heart? Is that true of you? Would you say that to the Lord by simply lifting up your hands for the Lord? I just want to lift up my hand because I want to just see it. I want to love You and I want to love You extravagantly for what You've done for me is nothing short of amazing. You've connected my heart to Yours. I've knitted it together. All right then. I love You with all my heart.
Father, thank You for everyone who's touched of the Lord. Holy Spirit moving upon us. Oh, God stir up your church. Stir up Your church and cause your church to fall in love with You afresh and anew. We honor You and thank You for You are worthy. You are worthy for what You have done for us. You are the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. You are worthy, and we want to just say it. You're worthy. We give You honor and praise. In Jesus' name, and everyone say, amen.