Scripture points to Christ. That is true in the obvious chapters like Isaiah 53 and the suffering servant. And it is true here, in a way, in the odd parts of Leviticus.
When we read through our Bible-in-a-year plan, hitting Leviticus can be a challenge for some folks. After all, it feels pretty foreign for us to read the chapters about how to sacrifice which animal, where to sprinkle the blood, and what to do with the carcass. Then we get to chapters on things like which critters you can eat and which to avoid.
But if all that is not enough, you open chapter 13 with this paragraph, and many lose heart.
Leviticus 13:1-8 – 1 The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 2 “When a person has on the skin of his body a swelling or an eruption or a spot, and it turns into a case of leprous disease on the skin of his body, then he shall be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons the priests, 3 and the priest shall examine the diseased area on the skin of his body. And if the hair in the diseased area has turned white and the disease appears to be deeper than the skin of his body, it is a case of leprous disease. When the priest has examined him, he shall pronounce him unclean. 4 But if the spot is white in the skin of his body and appears no deeper than the skin, and the hair in it has not turned white, the priest shall shut up the diseased person for seven days. 5 And the priest shall examine him on the seventh day, and if in his eyes the disease is checked and the disease has not spread in the skin, then the priest shall shut him up for another seven days. 6 And the priest shall examine him again on the seventh day, and if the diseased area has faded and the disease has not spread in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him clean; it is only an eruption. And he shall wash his clothes and be clean. 7 But if the eruption spreads in the skin, after he has shown himself to the priest for his cleansing, he shall appear again before the priest. 8 And the priest shall look, and if the eruption has spread in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean; it is a leprous disease.
Now we are into skin diseases. We will see stuff about what to do if a person has a boil or eruption. WE will see how to react if a person’s hair falls out. WE will see what to do if a person’s fabric in their garment has something growing and spreading in it. And it’s all sort of icky.
But, stop and think. Don’t let this feel useless and immediately off-putting to you. Instead, consider what the Lord has done here. God is moving a massive amount of people through the wilderness. What happens if this camp, groups of people living in tents that were tightly packed together, is suddenly hit with disease? If these folks get a disease, one that is not merely a nuisance, but something that is deadly or debilitating, there is a big problem. Recall that these folks did not know about bacteria. They had no germ theory. They did not yet have the scientific proof to grasp how disease would spread. So, a person with a sore that could spread disease to the next person, to the next person, to the next family, to the next cluster of tents, to the next swath of the camp would be a bigtime problem.
When God gives in the law instructions to priests about how to identify diseases that spread, and when he tells them to quarantine potential threats until their disease is either confirmed or proved benign, God is loving his people. God is protecting his people by giving them standards to combat the spread of dangerous diseases before they break out. God is showing this nation how to survive in the wilderness wandering.
And, yes, this is about Jesus. How? In the garden, God promised Eve that he was sending a descendant of hers into the world to crush the devil. IN Genesis 12, God promised Abram that a descendant of his would come and bless all nations. The covenant of circumcision was a mark on the descendants of Abraham to point to the fact that God was building a people for himself through whom he would bring this promised one into the world. And time and time again through the Old Testament, threats would arise that would, without God’s protection, potentially destroy this nation and prevent the promised one from coming into the world. And each time we watch God move to preserve his people, we should see an arrow pointing to Jesus. God guarded Israel so as to bring the Savior into the world just as he promised.
And here, in the skin laws, a weird chapter to read, we should see God’s preserving hand. God made sure that no spreading disease would wipe out Israel. God made sure that the nation knew how to prevent the spread of disease so that no plague would threaten the survival of the people. God was sheltering the nation so as to shelter his promise to send the Savior into the world. Leviticus 13 is, to be sure, also about God protecting the promise of Jesus.