What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
The clear implication of Leviticus 13:47-59 is that some, though not all, leprous garments became clean. Peter's vision of "all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air" (Acts 10:12) speaks to this point. God made it clear that He was capable of cleansing the Gentiles, but never said He had cleansed all of them at this time. Notice His admonition to Peter: "What God has cleansed you must not call common" (verse 15). Peter got the picture when he met Cornelius shortly after, telling the Roman centurion: "In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him" (verses 34, 35). While God calls from "every nation," only some, those who fear and obey, are acceptable to Him.
In verse 36, Peter interjects a vital idea: Christ "is Lord of all." Verse 45 records that the "Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also." The "apostles and brethren who were in Judea" (Acts 11:1) came to understand that "God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life" (verse 18).
The Mixed Multitude
The New Testament contains echoes of the curse found in Amos 8—a famine, not of the word, but of hearing it. Romans 1:18-32 tells of unrighteous men who suppress the truth. Because they are not thankful for what the creation reveals of the Creator, their foolish hearts become darkened. They lose what light, what truth, they have.
God's response to this is similar to His response to Israel. He does not contend with them or force His truth on them. Instead, Paul writes, God gave them up to uncleanness (Romans 1:24). He gave them up to vile passions (Romans 1:26). He gave them over to a debased mind (Romans 1:28). It is as if God gives them exactly what they seek, and they do not realize that it is a curse.
A second example of this principle appears in II Thessalonians 2:9-12, where Paul warns of a future Man of Sin who deceives the spiritually weak:
The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
Those who perish do so because they do not receive—in the sense of "welcome"—the love of the truth. Because they do not, God will send them strong delusion, so that they will believe the lie and be condemned. In reality, God is just giving them what they desire anyway. They prefer carnal delusion to spiritual reality, so God obliges them. The unrighteous in Romans 1 desire a worldview without a Creator so they can be sexually liberated. God gives them over to it and lets them reap the awful consequences. The Israelites in the time of Amos did not value God's truth, so He removed it, letting them experience how miserably they fare without it. If they were anything like modern Israelites, they thought of themselves as enlightened and progressive even as their blindness became more complete.
David C. Grabbe
A Subtle Yet Devastating Curse
The first Kislev 24 prophecy concerns the uncleanness of the covenant people and God's response.
It is important to remember what came before this. Approximately 42,000 Jews had just returned from the seventy-year-long Babylonian captivity. Haggai 1 concerns God stirring up the people to rebuild His destroyed Temple. Ezra's account shows that, after getting this kick-start from God in Haggai 1, Zerubbabel and Joshua did everything precisely as Moses had instructed. The priests were consecrated, an altar was constructed, and offerings were made, all according to God's specifications (see Ezra 3:2; 6:18).
In Haggai 2:16-17, the same primary complaint appears as in Haggai 1, and the same necessary reaction from God. The people were looking to their own affairs rather than to God and His will for them. In Haggai 1, they were more concerned about their houses than about the proper worship of God (verses 4, 9). In Haggai 2:17, God says that the people were not turning to Him.
In both cases, God crippled their productivity. They were putting forth the effort—there was no end of activity—but they produced little. God was cursing the work of their hands to get their attention. Their efforts to build were in vain since they did not have God and His will for them as their top priorities.
We see, then, a humbled people returning from captivity, a newly consecrated Levitical priesthood, a new altar, and the beginnings of a new Temple, yet God still declares the whole nation to be unclean. Because the people are unclean, all the works of their hands are also unclean, including the sacrifices and offerings.
The fact is, under the Old Covenant, there was no way to be spiritually cleansed. God provided instructions on how to be ritually clean, but the Old Covenant did not provide a means to remove sin from the people. The blood of bulls and goats, though required, could not take away sin (see Hebrews 9:11-22). They could only point to the future, perfect Sacrifice that could cleanse them of sin and prepare a people for their Savior (Galatians 3:19, 24). Thus, if they followed God's instructions, they could achieve a level of ritual cleanness or holiness (setting apart), but their sins could not be truly cleansed.
Through a series of questions that Haggai asks the priests, God points out that uncleanness is transferable, but holiness is not. Defilement or impurity can spread from an object to a person to another object, but purity and holiness cannot. Holiness is personal and individual.
This principle is especially interesting in light of what was happening at the time. The people and the leaders were finally in the process of building the Temple, the dwelling place of the Holy God. It contained many objects that were also holy, as well as the Most Holy Place. However, even the presence of God could not, by itself, make the people clean. To make them clean, it would take something more than just having the Temple nearby, with all of its holy objects and even the Shekinah—the glory of God.
This prophecy ends curiously. It does not contain a call to repentance, except perhaps by implication. God says that His people are unclean, that the presence of something holy cannot make them clean, and that they had not turned their hearts toward Him. Then He suddenly says that from this day forward, He would bless.
In most other places where God begins listing the transgressions of His people, He concludes with something that sounds a lot more like a curse than a blessing. Yet here, His blessing seems to be as a consequence of their sinful state. It is not a reward for their condition, but rather, His blessing will be a means to bring them out of it. His blessing is the solution to their wayward hearts and their general uncleanness.
David C. Grabbe
Cleansing God's People
After relating the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew brings the reader back into the story flow by reiterating how great multitudes followed Jesus. Verse 2 begins, "And behold a leper came. . . ." This statement becomes significant when we consider that no man can come to Christ unless the Father draws him (John 6:44). That the leper came to Christ - amongst a great multitude, no less - was in itself an act of faith in response to what he heard (Romans 10:17). For him to come to Christ as he did, God had to have revealed to him that Christ was the only One who could truly cleanse him and provide him the fresh start he so desired (Matthew 16:15-17). Notice, too, the humility the leper portrays in expressing his understanding of Christ's abilities.
What makes this encounter so interesting is that, under Old Testament law, the leper was completely defiled in his uncleanness. He was to live alone and warn any who would venture near of possible contamination (Leviticus 13:44-46). Albert Barnes, commenting on Leviticus 13:45, notes, "The leper was to carry about with him the usual signs of mourning for the dead. . . . The leper was a living parable in the world of sin of which death was the wages."
In fact, all disease and degeneration are ultimately products of sin and neglect, but none is so gruesomely picturesque of the effect sin has on a person and a community as leprosy. The disease progresses slowly at first, deeply seated in the bones and joints, essentially undetectable until spots appear on the skin. Gradually, these spots grow to cover the entire body. They give the appearance of foul wounds, sore and festering as the body slowly wastes away in a ruinous heap. Parts of the body actually begin falling off, leading eventually to the individual's death.
A leper can live up to fifty years in indescribable misery, as he watches himself die bit by bit, falling to pieces as a hideous spectacle. For the leper of Matthew 8, it was a hopeless predicament; nothing could be done, apart from God's miraculous intervention (Isaiah 1:4-6; Jeremiah 13:23).
The Gift of a Leper
The three accounts tell us that a leper "came and worshipped Him" (Matthew 8:2), "imploring Him, kneeling down to Him" (Mark 1:40), and "fell on his face and implored Him" (Luke 5:12). That the leper "came" and "implored" shows his sincerity in seeking and pleading with Christ. He earnestly determined to reach Him, despite the obstacle of the crowd and the spectacle of his horrid disease. Coming before Christ was the great challenge of his life, so he did what was necessary to overcome his disadvantages.
"Implored" suggests the leper's sincerity in pleading with Him, implying that he pled earnestly, desperate for a resolution to his condition. Sadly, few of us can see the true devastation that sin has caused in our lives and how much we need spiritual healing.
All three Gospels record the leper's reverence for Christ, though each reports it a bit differently: Matthew says that the leper "worshipped Him" (Matthew 8:2); Mark, that he came "kneeling down to Him" (Mark 1:40); and Luke, that he "fell on his face" (Luke 5:12) before Him. Each account describes him bowing down before Him—even Matthew's worshipped means "prostrated before." The leper's humble approach conspicuously honored Him, for, unlike many today, the leper did not hide his respect for Christ out of fear of other's opinions.
In contrast, the arrogant will not gain His favor. This society dishonors Christ at every turn with its repeated profanity, its banning of God from public venues, and its rejection of truth and acceptance of the flawed reasonings of men. Such dishonoring of Christ is bringing on our nations an avalanche of curses rather than blessings, and it will not stop until the people repent.
The leper says, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean" (Matthew 8:2), indicating confidence and trust in Christ. True faith always honors both Christ's power and person. Never doubting His power to heal, the leper submits himself to His will. Some prayers we know God will answer positively, as when we ask in faith for forgiveness. However, when we ask for healing or other physical needs, we must faithfully respect God's decision, whatever it may be. By faith, we must acknowledge His superior wisdom in granting our request or not. The leper, in his humility and faith, would never demand God's healing, as though God owed him. It is not our right to be healed, and truly, we deserve death as the penalty for our sins (Romans 6:23). Yet, God heals us according to His mercy and will. A faithful person realizes that reverence should not stop him from asking God for blessings, but he submits to the wise will of God.
The leper does not downplay his condition, making it sound less offensive or serious than it was. He is truthful about his case, confessing his uncleanness, as the Bible considers leprosy (Leviticus 13:45). Interestingly, the leper asks to be cleansed, not to be healed. Of course, the cleansing is a healing, but "cleansing" is the more proper term. Christ makes the distinction between cleansing and healing when commissioning the apostles: "Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers" (Matthew 10:8).
The filthiness of sin can be removed only by the cleansing blood of Christ (I John 1:7). Isaiah writes, "We are all as an unclean thing" (Isaiah 64:6), and David, recognizing that his immorality and murder had polluted him, prays, "Create in me a clean heart, O God" (Psalm 51:10). We all must be cleansed of sin. Even so, until we are truthful about our sinfulness, shown in sincere repentance, we will not be cleansed.
Mark 1:40 refers to Christ six times: "Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, 'If You are willing, You can make me clean.'" The leper wisely chose the right Person to go to for help, for Christ was the only One who could cleanse him. Proverbs 1:5 says, "A wise man will hear and increase learning," and the leper, hearing what Jesus taught and learning what He could do, made a wise choice.
Similarly, Christ is the only One who can cleanse us from sin and lead us to salvation. Peter says in Acts 4:12, "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." Paul writes, "For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (I Corinthians 3:11). If anyone comes to Christ for salvation, he is acting wisely. Seeking it from anyone or anything else is foolish because no one else can truly deliver us.
Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing a Leper (Part Two)
Knowing the gruesome details of leprosy, one can easily imagine the crowd hastily parting as this man worked his way toward Jesus. Yet, He, in contrast, reaches out to touch the leper, signaling His willingness and power to heal. In Exodus 15:25-26, God reveals Himself as Yahweh Ropheka, or "the Eternal-Who-Heals," at the incident at Marah. Nathan Stone writes in his book, Names of God,that this name means "to restore, to heal, to cure . . . not only in the physical sense but in the moral and spiritual sense also" (p. 72). Dying to sin and living for righteousness are a kind of healing through Jesus Christ.
Ordinarily, uncleanness is transferred among men, but holiness is not (Haggai 2:10-14). This scene of the leper coming to Christ pictures divine reconciliation, since what is holy and what is profane usually do not mix. This is overcome through the work of our Savior. Jesus stretches out His hand and commands the leper to be cleansed, showing God in action as the Eternal-Who-Heals. This is why the leper's uncleanness does not transfer to Jesus - at first.
Later, however, the death penalty for sin was transferred to Jesus. A price had to be paid for the leper's cleansing. "Clean" has a sense of purity and holiness, so to be cleansed was to be made pure. Proverbs 20:9 says, "Who can say, 'I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin'?" The leper could no more pronounce himself clean than we can pronounce ourselves sinless (I John 1:10). Proverbs 20:30 adds, "Blows that hurt cleanse away evil, as do stripes the inner depths of the heart." Comparing these two verses from Proverbs suggests that a certain chastening is required for cleansing.
Isaiah 53:4-5 adds another piece to the picture:
Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.
These verses place the emphasis of our cleansing from spiritual impurity on Christ: He paid the price to heal us and restore us to fellowship with God.
Thus, when Jesus Christ became sin for us, on Him was transferred all uncleanness. For those who have repented and accepted His sacrifice, there is increasingly more responsibility to continue this cleansing process in cooperation with and submission to Him. Peter summarizes this idea in I Peter 2:24, "[He] Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we having died to sins, might live for righteousness - by whose stripes you were healed."
The Gift of a Leper
Mark calls the usurping demon "unclean," indicating moral impurity. It is also a troublemaker, as seen in its contrary attitude. It is interesting that the demon violently recoils when faced with the authority of the spiritually clean Christ. Recognizing His holiness and unwilling to remain in Jesus' presence, it cries out in fear.
We see a similar uncleanness in those who trouble a congregation; they invariably live spiritually impure lives. They may talk about God's love and other virtuous things, but it often merely camouflages their evil intentions. These troublemakers are not peaceable, righteous people, but, like their spiritual father, Satan, they are of the lie (see John 8:44; II Thessalonians 2:9-12), and oppose those who truly serve Him.
Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Exorcism in the Synagogue
Christ was met by the unclean men coming out of the tombs. These rock-hewn tombs were repulsive to the Jews and to dwell in them was deemed a sign of insanity. Because of the remains of the dead they contained, they were shunned by the Jews as unclean (Matthew 23:27). Under the Old Covenant, one could be physically defiled by touching a dead body. Even when a person died in a tent, the whole tent was regarded as unclean (Numbers 19:11, 14).
Unclean in Scripture means "to be defiled, polluted, unhealthy, or unfit," and refers to foods that are unfit, defilement of religious character, and moral or spiritual impurity. The word "defilement" describes a sinful and unfit condition (Isaiah 6:5). The Old Testament distinguishes between what is clean and helpful and what is unclean and unacceptable (Leviticus 10:10). The New Testament deals more with the spiritual application and lists uncleanness or moral defilement along with fornication and other sins as "works of the flesh" (Galatians 5:19-21).
In the gospels, "unclean" describes those who are possessed by demonic spirits through constant submission to evil. Uncleanness represents sin, and sin separates man from God. Because of sin, "we are all like an unclean thing" (Isaiah 64:6). Believers are not called to uncleanness but to live in holiness (I Thessalonians 4:7). We are not to yield our members to uncleanness but to righteousness and holiness (Romans 6:19).
The teaching about uncleanness springs from the concept of God's holiness (Leviticus 11:44-45). It is a miracle in itself that freedom from uncleanness and guilt is possible through God's grace. Holiness within, purity of heart, is possible through the exercise of faith in Christ's redemptive work and obedience to His truth.
Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Two-Demon Possessed Men Healed (Part Two)
What are the results of rejecting God?
1. Uncleanness, meaning moral impurity;
2. Longing or desiring, especially what is forbidden;
3. Disgracing each other by mutual consent, meaning unlawful and impure connections with one another. Verse 24 contemplates not just a perversion of sex—homosexuality—but any use of it outside of God's law, such as fornication.
Paul describes more of what rejecting God leads to:
For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. (verses 26-27)
Should we be shocked at the explosion of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in today's world? God tells those that reject Him that such diseases are fitting penalties for the wrong use of sex. Mankind has tried to "advance beyond consequences" in this area by advocating "safe-sex" through the use of contraceptives. However, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently admitted that condoms do not prevent the transmission of most STDs. Mankind cannot outsmart God!
David C. Grabbe
What Evolution Really Means
Find more Bible verses about Uncleanness:
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