Wednesday, March 03, 2010

2010 – Mar. 3 – Spiritual Isolation

Study from God’s Word Lev 13: 1-59; Lev 14: 33-57; Deut 24: 8-9; Lev 15: 1-27, 32-33; Num 5: 1-4; Lev 15: 31; … Passage for Reflection: Deuteronomy 24: 8 – 9 … NIV 8 In cases of leprous diseases be very careful to do exactly as the priests, who are Levites, instruct you. You must follow carefully what I have commanded them. 9 Remember what the LORD your God did to Miriam along the way after you came out of Egypt.

My Journal for Today: We’ve likely heard the phrase “cleanliness is next to Godliness.” Well, that phrase and concept likely had its social origins in the series of health regulations given to the Hebrews in the time of Moses. And my study today took me through these passages, mostly found in Leviticus, chapters 13-15. However, there were others found in Numbers and Deuteronomy, one of which is our focus verse today from Deut. 24, concerning what the Israelites must do when someone is found to have “leprosy,” which was actually a Hebrew term referring to any of a number of skin conditions or diseases which became apparent from an acute outbreak of skin lesions.

And as we read, the Levite Priests were to put the person outside the walls from the tribe, caring for the person’s needs, but not coming into contact with the infected or diseased condition. And then, when the disease passed, they were to accept the healed person back into the tribe with open arms. And in referring to this prescribed treatment process, God’s word reminded His people of what happened with Miriam when she challenged the authority of Moses; and God punished her spiritual disobedience with a serious skin disease; and she was put out of the encampment for seven days.

Really, it is not surprising that people in those days would connect obvious skin diseases with some spiritual weakness or sinfulness. We remember how Job’s friends made such a connection when they saw the boils he was scraping from his skin. And this actually happened to Miriam; so, we can see the origins, in Hebrew Law, in what later became God’s instructions, through Jesus Himself, for the handling of the spiritual disease of chronic and recurring sin. We can read about how, just like the case of physical quarantine was commanded by God for those with leprous conditions, Jesus, in Matt. 18: 15-18 - Matt. 18 linked here - recommended spiritual isolation for one who would not or could not repent of and turn from his/her obvious sinful practices. And Paul exhorted the church – God’s people – to be the place where the spiritual disease of sin should be handled (see 1Cor. 6: 1-6 - linked). Paul also exhorted Christians to stay away from someone who was obviously a sinner who caused divisiveness or sin within the camp of believers (see Romans 16: 17-18 - linked).

So, this way of treating physical skin disease has its carry-over into how we, the Church, and as individual Christians, need to handle the spiritual “disease” of chronic, unrepented sin. And we must remember, as Jesus also taught in Matt. 18 (see verses 21-22 - see link above) that separating the “diseased” person from the flock for a time is a treatment for the disease – whether it be a quarantine for a skin condition or a separation from a sinning Christians. However, we must be willing to forgive the one who has sinned against the Body of Christ or other Christians and take them back into the fellowship of believers when we see evidence of repentance and contrition.

Sometimes it’s obvious, though difficult, to confront a chronic case of sinfulness; and we might be able to go through the Matthew 18 process of dealing with a chronic/hardened sinner. However, it’s more difficult to be there for that person, to forgive them, and to take them back into the Body of Christ when/if they’re willing and able to repent of their sinfulness and seek restoration. I deal with this all the time in the ministry God has called me to lead where husbands have been “busted” for their sexual sin; and this man must be confronted with his sin and even put out from the flock if he’s unwilling/unable to repent. However, when he does repent, it becomes very difficult for his wife and the church to bring him back into the camp and to deal with the restoration of this brother sinner. And there is a social plague of sexual sin going on in the church these days, which would be like a plague of “leprosy” in Moses’ day … if it were not handled properly according to God’s laws and His word.

I hope we see the parallels between how God wanted His People, the Israelites, to diagnose and to deal with infectious diseases in those days and how the church must discipline and deal with the social plagues of problems like Christian men who become “addicted” to pornography, and even for problems like obesity (from the sin of gluttony), where often the church becomes an enabler rather than an agent of correction and discipline. It saddens me to see how few churches have ministries to help the more than 50% of their men who’re into chronic sexual sin. And what church do you know of which confronts its obviously obese members, doing all they can as a church to help that person deal with that Saint’s sin of gluttony?

God’s Law had a way of dealing with diagnosed skin diseases; and God’s church has been given a way to deal with the infectious and growing problem of sin in our midst. The question becomes, “Will we do what God’s word teaches?”

My Prayer for Today: Lord, convict Your church to be Your agent of healing and restoration from the sinfulness which so abounds in our world. Amen

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