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Shadows of the Cross

Shadows of the Cross – Why the law? (Leviticus 14:2)

Today’s Reading: Leviticus 14-15

Today’s Reflection: Leviticus 14:2

“This shall be the law of the leprous person for the day of his cleansing. He shall be brought to the priest.”

Leviticus 14 deals with the treatment of people with leprosy, an extraordinarily painful and contagious disease which can result in infections that eat away at skin, nerves and limbs.  In ancient Israel lepers were forced to live apart from the community to avoid possible transmission.  There was a glimmer of hope, a process to determine if one had been healed of leprosy and if they could return to the general population.  But cases of healing were rare, and the instructions surrounding it complex and precise, as described in this chapter.

In the Gospel according to Luke, chapter 17 there is a story of Jesus healing 10 lepers.  Here the process is simple.  Jesus gives the lepers one in simple instruction, also drawn from Leviticus 14:

Luke 17:14 – When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed.

Not only does this example highlight how Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection made simple work of the complex laws known as the Torah.  It also shows the true purpose of the law.

The work for examining and confirming the cleansing of lepers that once had to be accomplished with priests examining skin legions and sacrificing animals was replaced by each leper following Jesus single instruction.  The lepers were cleansed ‘as they went’.

The intricacies of the Mosaic Law were replaced by walking in faith with God.

The reality is that God desires that we walk with Him.  This is the highest calling He has for each of us.  In fact, many of the heroes of faith are described as possessing this characteristic:

Genesis 5:24 – Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.

Genesis 6:9 – These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.

Genesis 17:1 – When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless.”

Enoch walked with God.  Moses knew God face to face.  Elijah stood before God.  Each received the blessings of God and was empowered to do what God called each of them to do ‘as they went’ with Him.

So why the law?  Well before Israel, there were individuals who had a personal relationship with God and who faithfully walked with Him—Noah, Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Joseph, and so on.  But Israel marked the first time an entire nation had accepted the call to follow God, most of whom knew of God but did not each have relationships in which they walked with God.  So the purpose of the law and their wilderness experience was to lead them into such a relationship.  To model Moses relationship with God to them (Exodus 34:29-35), to show them the experience of walking with God by faith by following the pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:17-22), and to show them what a relationship with God looked like and how to treat their fellow man through the instructions in the Mosaic law.

But while the law provided a ‘guardian’ to keep us on the right path (Galatians 3:24), man is incapable of keeping it perfectly and fully understanding what it means, especially for each of us individually.  So part of Jesus mission, as the word made flesh (John 1:14), was to show us what keeping the law really meant.  This is why so many of Jesus experiences in the Gospels are mirrors of the instruction originally given to Israel in the Torah.

The law has not ‘passed away’ because of Jesus, as some believe; the law was fulfilled by Him and the complete law continues to find its truest expression through relationship with Him.

Matthew 5:17-18 – 17) “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18) For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

John 14:15 – “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

John 14:21 – “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

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