In preparing to write this blog, I read a lot of commentaries on Leviticus 13. I was intrigued by the detailed instructions God gave regarding the "infectious skin disease" which most scholars agree refers to leprosy. Why send people to the priests for a diagnosis? They were spiritual leaders, but doctors?
I was really surprised to see that the vast percentage of commentaries remarked on the striking similarities between leprosy and sin:
1. Leprosy and sin both begin on the inside and quickly move to the outside. Both seem innocuous at the beginning.
2. There is no known cure for either leprosy or sin. Divine intervention is required for healing.
3. If not addressed, both leprosy and sin will quickly spread to every area of body or life.
4. Neither leprosy nor sin can be hidden forever. If left unhealed, both will rear their ugly heads in time.
5. Both leprosy and sin are highly contagious.
It was the first and last points that captured my attention most. Leprosy usually begins with a very small wound — something that would be visible, but not alarming and certainly not perceived as life-threatening! The first sign a priest would have that a person was suffering from the "infectious skin disease" is that the hair in the wound was white. That’s hardly a big sign at all!
This is how Satan lures us into sin as well. He didn’t come to Eve at the tree and say, "Come, Eve, and join me in rebellion against God’s government! I’m smarter than Him... and more powerful. Together we can rule the universe!" No, he was much more subtle than that. He made eating the fruit seem like a good thing. That’s how he works. Only after we’re sucked in and the disease is spreading like wildfire do we understand that we’re in big trouble.
And that brings us to the last point on the list: leprosy and sin are highly contagious. Leprosy is contagious because of bacteria. Sin is contagious because it’s deceptive. From the beginning of the rebellion, Satan has been lying, deceiving, and twisting God’s words. He has been trying to turn everyone against God. Unfortunately, it worked on this planet. We have become the leper colony of the universe.
What is interesting about God is that He hasn’t squashed the rebellion. Instead, He has given Satan the freedom to make his charges and accusations and — in the process — reveal the true nature of sin. How does this equate to "damage control"? Because in answering the questions that Satan has raised, God is working to preserve the freedom of all of His creatures.
For me, this is really something to think about. When Lucifer began to subvert the government of God, it was as if he was introducing a mental leprosy into God’s creation. The questions he raised and the accusations he made threatened the love and freedom that God’s government is based upon. How would God respond to the charges? What would He do with the lepers?
Well, He could have gotten rid of Satan. Let’s face it. If you are confronted with a person who has a highly-contagious disease, one way to keep the disease from spreading would be to kill the person. That would stop the disease in its tracks. But in God’s predicament, to "get rid of" the opposition would confirm the charges that had been brought against Him. Killing Satan would only have proved that what he had said about God was true. Then, the mental leprosy would have run rampant.
Instead, God decided to do with Satan what He suggested for lepers in Leviticus 13. He quarantined him. He limited his movements to certain times and places. He didn’t destroy Satan’s freedom, but He protected the others in the community from being overexposed to the mental leprosy.
Case in point: Satan (in the serpent) met Eve at the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Since we don’t read of her encountering this subversive voice at any other place, it seems reasonable to me to conclude that God gave Satan access to the Garden of Eden, but He restricted him to the tree — and then He warned Adam and Eve to stay away from it. In so doing, God preserved the freedom of all parties involved. Satan would have the freedom to try to infect Adam and Eve... but only if they opened the door to him by their free choice.
The problem was that Adam and Eve ultimately decided to voluntarily join the leper colony. And we’ve all been born into it ever since.
There is so much more that could be said on this topic. Perhaps it will unfold more in the chapters to come. But what struck me most about Leviticus 13 is that God is into damage control. He faces problems head-on with the utmost compassion, and He acts in ways that are best for all parties involved.
I imagine it must have been hard to live quarantined in a leper colony... but what of the others in the community? Surely their needs were worth taking into consideration as well. And it seems clear to me, from this example, that in every situation we encounter in life, God acts to minimize as much damage as possible for all parties involved. Here, He addressed the needs of the lepers. He didn’t command the priests to put them to death, and quarantine was the last resort. On the other hand, He also took into consideration the needs of the others in the community.
I think this is an excellent microcosm of God’s actions in the universal war against Christ and Satan. He hasn’t gotten rid of Satan; He hasn’t destroyed his freedom. But neither has He allowed Satan to destroy anybody else’s freedom either. He has acted in just the right ways to minimize as much damage as He can.
In the end, those of us who are in the leper colony (and even those who remain disease-free in the universal community) have a choice. We can accept divine intervention and be restored to the community. Or we can resist every divine effort and allow our disease to go untreated until it kills us. The choice is up to us. And God has acted precisely to secure the freedom of that choice for us.