Sin is like leprosy. It starts within and works its way out in various symptoms. Ryrie says, “Principally, leprosy illustrates the defilement of sin, which results in separation. Insidiousness, loathsomeness, uncleanness, separation, defilement, death, are all points of comparison between leprosy and sin.”[1] Most important here is that sin results in separation from God, just like leprosy did in the Old Testament. A leper was not allowed to enter the temple area. They were not allowed in the social gathering of the people either. It was something that had to be contained, and God’s people needed to be protected from. According to the book of Deuteronomy, sin would remove God’s protection from his people as they occupied the land that he had promised to give to them. As Moses promised, the nation turned away from God, and God turned away from the nation. Isaiah 1:7-8 reports the result, “Your country lies desolate; your cities are burned with fire; in your very presence, foreigners devour your land; it is desolate, as overthrown by foreigners.  And the daughter of Zion is left like a booth in a vineyard, like a lodge in a cucumber field, like a besieged city.” The once massive city of Jerusalem is like a small shed in the field.

As the nation of Israel turned away from God, God turned away from them, and they were left at the mercy of the pagan nations around them. Assyria became the instrument that wreaked havoc on the nation. Isaiah informs Israel that it will be done “in your very presence.” While the Israelites look on, Assyria is “devouring” their land. The idea of devouring captures the image of having all my good things taken from me right in front of me. Then having to watch my enemy eat and enjoy everything that was once mine! It’s like a madman criminal tying you up and making you watch the rape of your wife and murder of your children. Could there be anything more horrific? “When ancient cities fell to attacking armies, the survivors generally suffered cruelly at the hands of their captors. Jeremiah mentions some of the indignities face by the people of Judah after the fall of Jerusalem. He tells us that King Zedekiah was made to watch his sons being put to death before he was blinded and led away in chains to Babylon. However, cruel as the Babylonians were, they were probably more lenient than their predecessors, the Assyrians. Surviving records of the Assyrian Military victories tell of several atrocities. Captives were often beheaded or had their arms, legs, or hands cut off. Some were staked to the ground while their tormentors disemboweled them. Others were impaled on sharply pointed poles erected outside the walls of the conquered cities. The main point of these detestable cruelties was to humiliate the conquered and to deter other enemies from resisting Assyrian demands.”[2]

When Jeremiah writes the book of Lamentations, he tells his readers about the destruction of Israel and the great weeping and lament of the people. But, when the humiliation is over, the Lord is still there. The city is no more, but God remains. After the great flood, the earth has been wiped clean, but God is still there. Job suffers dramatically, but in the end, God is still there. An entire generation of Israelites waste away in the wilderness, but God is still there. Actually we see civilization after civilization rise and fall, but God remains. The world itself will be destroyed according to the book of Revelation, but God is still there. This is a truth we all must face. Families, businesses, cities, seminaries, universities, colleges, and whole nations will all come and go, but God remains. It brings to light the wisdom Solomon preached in the book of Ecclesiastes, “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all” (Ecclesiastes 12:3).

[1] Ryrie, Charles C. 1956. “The Cleansing of the Leper.” Bibliotheca Sacra 113: 264.

[2] Word in Life Study Bible. 1996. Electronic ed. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.