Today’s reading includes Leviticus 14:1-57, Mark 6:30-56, Psalm 40:1-10, Proverbs 10:11-12.
Okay, friends! Are you hanging in there? I don’t know about you, but between the slaughtering of animals, splattering of blood, and now the skin diseases that spread and the spreading mold, well, it is all a bit gross to me. And yet, it should be. Those things represent our sin and that is truly gross. To cling to that which spreads in my heart and contaminates my soul, my relationships, my personality, my giftedness—that indeed makes me sick. Oh, that we would be as sickened by our sin as we are by the visual of sin represented in the passages we are reading.
Today we see the purification process for the spreading skin diseases and mold issues of houses in Caanan. It was interesting that these issues are considered the same, one of a person and one of a home. And yet, the mold was symbolic of an uncleanness in the home. It struck me as interesting that the Lord warned Moses and Aaron that the spreading mold would be a problem.
33 Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 34 “When you arrive in Canaan, the land I am giving you as your own possession, I may contaminate some of the houses in your land with mildew.[a]
We find two interesting truths in this one scripture. First, He warned them that a defiling mold would be a problem. Second, it appears that He Himself would be the One to send it. Leprosy was symbolic for punishment in biblical times, as was the “leprosy” of a home–spreading mold. But why would God do that? Perhaps because man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart. The real story behind this chapter is not defiling, spreading sin-representing conditions. The real story is the purification that God provided when that happened. He loves us too much to let us live in our sin. Perhaps when God sent and allowed the mold to grow, it was for the purification of the whole household. The process of purification for the leper with the spreading skin disease is the same as the purification for the whole household. In the spiritual realm, perhaps we can discern that God is concerned with the individual and he is concerned with the family. Matthew Henry had this to say:
The leprosy in a house is unaccountable to us, as well as the leprosy in a garment; but now sin, where that reigns in a house, is a plague there, as it is in a heart. Masters of families should be aware, and afraid of the first appearance of sin in their families, and put it away, whatever it is. If the leprosy is got into the house, the infected part must be taken out. If it remain in the house, the whole must be pulled down. The owner had better be without a dwelling, than live in one that was infected. The leprosy of sin ruins families and churches. Thus sin is so interwoven with the human body, that it must be taken down by death.
In the New Testament, there is also an account, an allegory of cleaning the house.
38 One day some teachers of religious law and Pharisees came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, we want you to show us a miraculous sign to prove your authority.”
39 But Jesus replied, “Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah.40 For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.
41 “The people of Nineveh will stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for they repented of their sins at the preaching of Jonah. Now someone greater than Jonah is here—but you refuse to repent. 42 The queen of Sheba[a] will also stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for she came from a distant land to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Now someone greater than Solomon is here—but you refuse to listen.
43 “When an evil[b] spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, seeking rest but finding none. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds its former home empty, swept, and in order. 45 Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before. That will be the experience of this evil generation.”
Matthew 12: 38-45
What do we see in this “house cleaning”? We see that the demon had been swept clean and the house had been put in order, but it had been left empty. The work had been done by the efforts of man, by good works, which cannot save. Yes, the house can be cleaned, but without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, evil has free range to return, grow, spread and ruin the house, much like the spreading mold and the spreading leprosy.
What is the answer for us? We must be cleansed—not of our own efforts and our own good works. We must be cleansed by the blood of the Lamb. And then we must ask the Holy Spirit to dwell with us, in us, and in our households. It is interesting to note once again that the priests could only diagnose. Only God could cure and cleanse.
What were the tools of purification for both the leper and the moldy home? They included two birds, a stick of cedar, scarlet yarn, and a hyssop branch. We have already seen that the hyssop was a tool of cleansing and was used to place blood on the doorposts at Passover. We have seen that scarlet represented sin and the redemption of sin—blood atonement. It represents an acknowledgement of sin and then a cleansing from it. The two birds represented Jesus, one for sacrifice and one for flying away—ascending into heaven. And the cedar? The cedar has a distinctive smell. Most pests will not go near it. Even today, cedar closets are a protective asset to a home. As many insects are destroyers of homes, the cedar represents a protective covering from the plague of sin. It represents taking action to not only prevent the spreading of sin, but also to reduce and deter that which had already begun its destruction.
So, even though these gross topics of skin disease and moldy homes does not at first glance seem to have any significance for us, in reality the symbolism of this process can still apply to us today. Trust in God to cleanse and purify. Keep our spiritual house swept clean and in order, not by our own good works, but through the power of the Holy Spirit. And pray just as Jesus taught us that we and our whole household would be delivered from evil and protected from temptation.