Mask Mandates: Then and Now
Does Leviticus 13:45-46 represent an inspired solution to defeat the COVID virus?
“The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp” (Leviticus 13:45-46, ESV).
This passage from 3500 years ago provides inspired instructions for stopping the spread of leprosy. Here we see all skin rashes were required to be inspected by a priest, after which the patient would have to isolate for seven days. If the rash had cleared when the seven days were up, the person was allowed to return to normal life. If not, they would be diagnosed with leprosy and required to live outside the community.
While Leviticus 13 has no remedy comparable to vaccination, it certainly contains detailed instructions and remedies that are functionally identical to mandates for masking, social-distancing and quarantining.
In trying to stop the spread of COVID-19, governmental authorities have understandably faced a learning curve and have had a lot of pushbacks —especially from religious and political communities. This pushback has led to outright defiance of public health recommendations to combat the virus.
Could it be true that churches have largely lost the opportunity to have led the way in helping our society to successfully navigate through this difficult period by heeding the counsel of the Holy Bible? Could its early efforts have greatly dampened the politicization of this health crisis?
Does the Bible say anything about the role governments should play in the matters of life and health of its citizenry? I believe it does. God’s counsel to Nebuchadnezzar through Daniel makes it clear that good governments have some responsibility for the health and welfare of their citizens — especially for the vulnerable. Daniel 4:27 reads, in part, “[Nebuchadnezzar] break off your sins by being righteous…showing mercy to the poor.”
Add to this, the Apostle Paul’s counsel in Romans, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right, and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. ... Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience” (Rom. 13:1-5).
Given the above, note the following counsel from 6 Testimonies p.395: “The less we make direct charges against authorities and powers, the greater work we shall be able to accomplish…. Let all beware lest by reckless expressions they bring on a time of trouble before the great crisis which is to try men’s souls.” It is understood that, given a choice, “we are to obey God rather than men.” Our consciences, when educated by the word of God, will not fail us in the time of testing."
While this pandemic is a “sign of the times,” it is not to be confused with the time of trouble that lies ahead for the people of God when they are singled out for their peculiar faith and devotion to God. In the meantime, Fundamentals of Christian Education, pp. 476-478, instructs God’s people not to align with any political party; it speaks of schemes on both sides as being dangerous to us spiritually.
The golden rule needs to be applied. We wear mask to protect, not only ourselves, but others should we be asymptomatic carriers. Asymptomatic carriers include children and even those of us who are vaccinated; all the virus requires is a dark, warm, moist place, i.e., (the nose) to survive and spread through exhalations.
Can we not agree that liberty is the right to live our lives as we choose while, at the same time, liberty is not our right to cause someone else’s injury or death? Isn't this definition reflective of the Golden Rule, as is the counsel of Leviticus 13:45-46?
If this application of Leviticus 13 is new to your way of thinking, may you accept it in this present hour as counsel from God, yes, from Jesus the Great Physician who said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Let it prick or pierce your heart and point you to do God’s will in this matter (Acts 2:37).
The smallpox vaccination was available in the late 1700s. Until then, globally, tens of millions died from smallpox. Four-hundred-thousand Europeans died, on average, each year. I have no doubt that most of our Seventh-day Adventist pioneers benefited from its protection.
*As to the COVID vaccines, unlike the smallpox and polio vaccines, they do not prevent, but greatly mitigate this infection when it strikes.
*Are there side effects? Yes, but far fewer than side effects from many commonly used vaccines and other medications that have saved untold numbers of lives (my older brother, Frederick, died at the age of 8 from mumps-induced encephalitis in 1943, years before the MMR vaccine was available).