Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Leviticus 142 Kings 5; Matthew 8:1-4; Luke 5:12-15. We have seen the possibility of a cure of leprosy in the directions for its diagnosis given to the priests. The cured leper had also to be cleansed before admitted to the society of the faithful. In this chapter we have the cleansing of the leper detailed. In this we are to discern the cleansing of sin. Naaman's case is instructive upon this point. He was cured by Divine power. But be was not ceremonially cleansed or received into the fellowship of the Church of God. In his case the two elements of cure and cleansing were separated. But when our Lord directed the cured leper to go and offer for his cleansing, the gift that Moses commanded for a testimony unto them, the elements were united. In the case of the cure of the leprosy of sin and its concomitant, the cleansing, the Great Physician who cures and the Priest who cleanses are one. It is our Divine Saviour who accomplishes both.
I. WE MUST NOT CONFOUND THE CURE WITH THE CLEANSING OF SIN. The cure of sin is the sanctification of the inward nature, the imparting of the principle of righteousness, the regeneration of the once unholy nature. This is quite distinct from the cleansing which proceeds from the blood of Jesus Christ. In the latter case there is a justification through faith in his blood, so that we are accepted as well as pardoned on the ground of his merits. The one is a work of God in us, the other is a work of God on us. We are not accepted because we are regenerated; we are accepted "in the Beloved." The leper was not accepted on the ground of his cure, but on the ground of his sacrifice. The ritual of the leper is, therefore, admirably adapted to keep the two ideas distinct of justification and sanctification.
II. THE RESTORATION OF THE LEPER EMBRACED TWO STAGES, WHICH HAVE THEIR COUNTERPART IN THE EXPERIENCE OF THE SINNER. These stages are first, the restoration of the leper to the society of the living, and, secondly, his restoration to the society of the saints.
1. Restoration to the society of the living. The priest was directed to go to the leper outside the camp, and if he was satisfied about his cure, then he was to receive on the leper's behalf "two live birds, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop," One of these is to be killed in an earthen vessel over running water, and its blood mingled with the water in the vessel. Of the cedar wood, scarlet wool, and hyssop the priest is to make a brush, in which he is temporarily to tie the remaining live bird, and having dipped them in the blood and water, he is to sprinkle therewith the leper seven times, pronouncing him clean, and then let the live bird free, The leper is then to wash his clothes, shave off all his hair, wash himself carefully, and come into the camp, waiting, however, a week before taking up his permanent abode in his own tent. Now, it seems clear that in this first stage of the leper's restoration the live bird, baptized with water and blood, and then let loose to join its mates in the open fields, was a symbol of the healed leper, now to be restored to the fellowship of men. It has been, indeed, said that the live bird here is parallel to the live goat on the Day of Atonement, and should rather be supposed to carry the leper's sin away. But, inasmuch as the live bird here receives a similar baptism to the leper himself, the first interpretation is preferable. Living water and blood, therefore, are the elements of the leper's purification - symbols of the Spirit and the blood of Jesus Christ. The brush of hyssop was the means by which these were applied to the leper, and might fittingly represent the Word of God, immortal like the cedar, humiliating like the hyssop, and invigorating like the "coccus-wool," by which the atonement and Spirit of Christ are applied to the sinful soul. It is thus by the blood of Jesus and the Spirit of Jesus that the soul, dead through the leprosy of sin, is restored to the society of the living. "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1).
2. Restoration to the society of the saints. After seven days' sojourn in the camp, but not in his own tent, the leper was allowed to approach the tabernacle with two he-lambs without blemish, one ewe-lamb without blemish of the first year, and three tenth-deals of fine flour for a moat offering, mingled with oil, and one log of oil. These were to be used as a trespass offering, a sin offering, and a burnt offering. These suggest respectively a sense of unprofitableness or shortcoming, atonement, and personal consecration. The blood of the trespass offering is to be applied to the right ear, thumb of right hand, and great toe of the right foot, and the oil of consecration to be added thereto. This corresponds exactly to the consecration of the priests (chapter 8). It suggests that it is out ode a sense of past unprofitableness that future consecration comes (cf. Luke 17:5-10). It is when we realize how we have wronged our Lord that we are prepared to live, not unto ourselves, but unto him who died for us, as our atoning Sacrifice, and rose again (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15). In case of the poverty of the leper, he is instructed to bring one lamb for the trespass offering, with turtle-doves or young pigeons, in place of two additional lambs, for the sin offering and burnt offering, and a smaller meat offering, But the emphasis being laid on the trespass offering is surely to show that a sinner, when quickened by the Lord, is to sincerely lament the profitless, isolated life he lived, and to resolve to dedicate himself with full purpose of heart to the service of the Saviour whose blood has taken away his sin. The saints are those who begin in a sense of trespass a life of grateful devotion.
III. MAN'S HOME IS TO BE CLEANSED AND RESTORED IN THE SAME SPIRIT AS HIMSELF. The priest is directed to investigate a plagued house, and if by the use of prompt measures the plague is stayed and extirpated, then the first part of the ritual is to be carried out. One live bird is to be killed over the running water, and the house sprinkled with the blood and water as before, and then the other live bird liberated. Thus was the restoration of the house to the society of its mates, so to speak, symbolized. We have already taken this to indicate the careful purification of our environment, and there is no more important duty attaching to the religious man. Atonement is due, not only for the sin as it affects the person, but for sin in its ravages in the world. This blighted world of ours has need of atoning blood, and purification even by fire, before it can be restored to the favour of God. Christ has consecrated it through his blood, and his providence and Spirit will yet make the requisite arrangement for its complete purification and restoration to the holy. - R.M.E.
I. AN INTERESTING PASSAGE IN THE LIFE OF OUR LORD. Our Saviour's experiences may be divided into:
(1) his sufferings and death;
(2) his life (and example);
(3) his works.
Of these the last may be the least important, but they will never be unimportant. They will always remain one strong, convincing proof of his Godhead. And of these works the healing of leprosy - incurable by human art - was one of the most decisive. In this work of mercy, more vividly than in any other, we see him before us as the Divine Healer of the sin-smitten heart of man. Great interest belongs, therefore, to the incident related in Luke 5:12-15. And in the instruction given in verse 14 we see our Divine Lord:
(2) while desirous of avoiding a noisy and hurtful notoriety, taking, due to establish the reality of his work.
II. THE CONSIDERATION WE OWE TO OUR FELLOW-MEN. In virtue of the Divine precept the leper might not enter human society. But this was not the only ground of exclusion; by reason of the character of his malady he was wholly unfit to enter. Once exiled, therefore, he might not return until every guarantee had been given that he was "whole," until numerous and prolonged ceremonies of cleansing had removed all stigma from him, and made him likely to receive a cordial welcome back. Hence the elaborate ceremonial of the text:
(1) priestly examination (verses 2, 3);
(2) the ceremony of the two birds (verses 4-7);
(3) personal ablution (verse 8);
(4) further exclusion for a week (verse 8);
(5) additional ablution, etc. (verse 9);
(6) offerings at the altar, attended with peculiar rites with the blood and oil (verses 10-20).
When by any folly or guilt of ours we have incurred the distrust or dislike of our brethren, it is due to them that we should give them every possible guarantee of our "cleanness," our integrity of heart and life, before they abandon their suspicion and give us again their cordial confidence. Society has a right to require that the man whom it has necessarily shunned is pure of his moral and spiritual malady. We may be unable to gain any certificate of character, but we may, to regain confidence and readmission to human fellowship,
(1) show ourselves as humble, earnest worshippers in the house of the Lord;
(2) seek the open confidence of the acknowledged servants of Christ;
(3) give the pledge of a scrupulously virtuous life, that we are really "washed and sanctified... by the Spirit of our God' (1 Corinthians 6:11).
III. THE OBLIGATIONS OF OFFICE. Those who hold high office have sometimes uninviting duties to discharge. The priests of Israel held honourable rank in the nation; doubtless they received a large share of public deference, and were regarded as those who occupied an enviable position. But their duties embraced some offices from which the humblest in the land might shrink. They had to make a most careful examination of the man who believed himself healed of leprosy. Probably, in their eagerness to return to the camp, these afflicted ones often sought readmission when the disease was still upon them. But the priest must examine all who came, clean or unclean. Those who now hold honourable positions in society (the minister, the medical man, etc.) must hold themselves ready, not only to do those duties which are inviting and congenial, but those also which are unpleasant and even painful, whether to the flesh or to the spirit.
IV. THE OUTLOOK OF HUMAN MISERY. What was the prospect of the exiled leper? Human art had given him up as incurable, and human fellowship had cast him out as unworthy. What could he hope for? There were only two possible remedies - a Divine cure or the grave; the one blessed enough but sadly improbable, the other sad enough but a welcome certainty. If for a while we look at leprosy as the picture, not of human sin, but of human misery, we may be reminded that, for a Christian man, there are two remedies:
(1) deliverance in time from affliction (Psalm 30:11);
(2) comfort in affliction during life, and then "the glory which shall be revealed" (Romans 8:18). Though the night of weeping be lifelong, "yet joy cometh in the morning" of the everlasting day. - C.
I. THE RETURN TO THE CAMP.
1. The supposition that the leper might recover from his leprosy and be clean shows man's superiority to inanimate nature. When endeavours are being made to confound matter and mind, and to reduce man to a level with the earth on which he lives, it is not unworthy of notice that the legislator here marks a vital distinction between a man and a dwelling. The latter, if on investigation pronounced utterly unclean, was destroyed (verse 45), and so with garments (Leviticus 13:52), but the leprous man ever contained possibilities of recovery. Let us hold fast to the truth here imaged, and delight in the thought that no sinner is beyond hope of amendment.
2. As the priest journeyed outside the camp to the leper (verse 3), we are reminded of him who "suffered without the camp," who in his condescending love left his Father's throne to dwell with the outcasts of earth, and who in his abode with men selected not the richest and purest, but the poor and the sinful, as the recipients of his intimacy and favour.
3. The death of the one bird showed forth the condition from which, by God's grace, the leper had been rescued; the flight of the other bird, previously dipped in the blood, symbolized the enjoyment of life granted through the death of the appointed victim. How aptly does this apply to our deliverance through Jesus Christ, so that "we have passed from death unto life"! Delight in our present position should be combined with thankful remembrance of the means by which it has been secured to us.
4. The concomitants indicated the completeness of the new life received. There is no reason to reject the general interpretation that the cedar wood was an emblem of uncorruptness, the scarlet wool or braid of freshness and fullness of life, and the hyssop with its detergent properties of cleanness. These were employed in the preparation of the "water for separation" (Numbers 19). Jesus Christ came that we might "have life, and have it more abundantly." He brought "life and incorruption to light through the gospel." He quickens those "dead through trespasses and sins." Life that invigorates the entire spirit is his "free gift."
5. What trouble was necessary, and would be willingly incurred, in order to regain temporal advantages! Unless cleansed by ablution of himself and clothes, and the removal of hair from the head, no entrance into the assembly of his brethren was permissible. Yet how readily would all be performed, just as today no efforts are deemed too great to allow of participation in valued social or political movements! But for the cleansing from sin any commandment is accounted vexatious! Few care to sacrifice time or labour to become citizens of the heavenly commonwealth.
II. THE RETURN TO THE TENT.
1. The provision for restoring the leper proves that God has no desire to exclude men unnecessarily from religious privileges. The seven days' interval served to guard against a possible error on the part of the priest, and impressed the leper with a deeper conviction of the holiness of God. It is only sin that bars men from the light of God's presence, and only obstinate persistence in sin that need cause despair of forgiveness. "Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life" was our Lord's indictment of men's impenitent folly.
2. See, once more, the function of the priest to appear between man and God. "The priest that maketh him clean shall present the man before the Lord," and "the priest shall make an atonement for him before the Lord." We have our Advocate with the Father, in whose name, and sheltered by whose intercession, we may approach boldly the throne of grace. Hereafter he shall present us holy and without blemish, and unreprovable before him (Colossians 1:22; Jude 1:24). Having Christ to introduce us, who can be afraid?
3. The cleansing not complete without an atonement. All marks of disease may have disappeared, or at least the fear of infection may have vanished, and yet to enter upon the fresh period of existence is not sufficient unless the past transgressions be remembered and atoned for. To forsake sin is well, but, in addition, the sin of the past must be confessed and pardoned. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ enables the sinner to start upon his pilgrimage with shoulders eased from the burden of guilt. A gulf separates him from the land of iniquity and stumbling; he is free to commence again under happier auspices. The old score is wiped out; a clean tablet marks the returned prodigal's position.
4. The purification must be coextensive with the disease. Leprosy affected the whole man; hence the tips of the ear, the hand, and the foot must be touched with the atoning blood, that all parts may be redeemed from corruption. All spheres of activity must be brought under the power of the cross of Christ.
5. The cleansing becomes a consecration of the entire man. The resemblance of this rite to that enjoined at the setting apart of the priests to their holy office cannot fail to be observed. The leper offered a trespass offering to compensate for breaches of the commandment committed by reason of his absence through sin from the sanctuary, a sin offering because of transgressions inadvertently committed, a burnt offering as an act of individual worship in which there was self-surrender to the Lord, and a meat offering, the natural accompaniment testifying grateful homage. And, besides blood, oil also was sprinkled upon the leper, and poured upon his head, and sprinkled seven times (the covenant number)before the Lord, so that we have here a recognition of the truth that Israel was intended to be a "kingdom of priests." Typical of the sanctification required in the people of God, reaching to every part of their character, until all is brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. "As ye presented your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity, even so now present your members servants to righteousness unto sanctification."
6. The consecrated man is fit for the discharge of ordinary duties and the enjoyment of lawful pleasures. After the sacrifices, the man could once more enter his tent and mingle with his family, and pursue his wonted avocation. Jehovah proved himself in these regulations the God of the families of Israel. He protected their relationships and imparted to them his blessing. It is a mistaken idea to place affection for our kindred before love to God. Regard for God is the surest guarantee for the performance of human obligations. Well for the land if this were oftener remembered in the establishment of households and in the contracting of domestic ties!
CONCLUSION. Only when "clean" could the leper send for the priest. We go to Jesus Christ with all our guilt; he looks upon us and pronounces us clean, he touches us, and lo! we are healed; for there is sanatory power in his look and touch. What the Saviour exemplified when on earth, he is constantly effecting now from heaven. - S.R.A.
I. THE CONDITIONS REQUIRED. These were:
1. That the leprosy be healed.
(1) Healing and cleansing are distinct things. The priest did not heal. Before proceeding to cleanse he had to see that the leprosy was healed (verse 3). Our Lord healed lepers, and then sent them to the priest to be cleansed (see Matthew 8:2-4; Mark 1:40-44; Luke 5:12-14; Luke 17:14).
(2) The gospel of this is that repentance is not salvation. The body may be healed, outward reformation may be considerable, while the heart is morally putrescent (see Matthew 23:25-28). The leper, though healed, unless also cleansed, must not enter the holy place or eat of the holy things. A genuine change of heart will manifest itself in a pure life. When these exist together, fellowship with God is established.
2. That the priest certify the fact.
(1) "He shall be brought unto the priest," viz. for this purpose. He is brought by his friends, or they apprise the priest of his condition. Those are the true friends of sinners who bring them to Jesus in person or in prayer.
(2) "The priest shall go forth out of the camp." This did Jesus, who came to seek and save the lost. The Pharisees found fault with him for mingling with "publicans and sinners" when he acted as the priest among the lepers.
(3) The repentance that satisfies Jesus is genuine (see Luke 18:10-14). And this he certifies in his offices of cleansing.
II. THE OFFERING MADE.
1. The sacrifice.
(1) This consisted of two birds. We say "this in the singular, for the birds must be together viewed as one sacrifice. Unitedly they were intended to prefigure the one true Sacrifice for sins.
(2) The birds were "alive," to represent him that" hath life in himself."
(3) They were" clean." They might be sparrows or quails - any wild birds of the clean kinds. Cleanness was requisite to foreshadow One whose birth and life were spotlessly pure.
2. Its treatment.
(1) One bird was killed over running or "living" water, which was the emblem of the living, purifying Spirit of God. Blood and water together flowed from the opened side of Jesus (see John 19:34, 35; 1 John 5:6, 8). The infinitely superior virtue of the blood of Christ lay in that, being God as well as man, he was able to offer himself through the eternal Spirit without spot (Hebrews 9:13, 14).
(2) The "living bird" was dipped "in the blood of the bird that was killed," to show that our guilt was laid upon the soul of Jesus as well as upon his body. This truth is indeed expressed in the blood shed; for the "blood is the life of the flesh." But to impress it upon us it is here presented under another figure (see Isaiah 53:10-12).
III. ITS APPROPRIATION. This was:
1. Through the sprinkling of blood.
(1) The atonement availed the leper nothing without the application of the blood to his person. So the blood of Christ avails only to those who appropriate its benefits by faith.
(2) The blood was sprinkled upon the leper "seven times" to express perfection and sufficiency, and to point to the seventh period or rest of the gospel (Hebrews 4:10), in which the atonement by Christ satisfies all the promises of the types. Then he was pronounced "clean."
(3) The next thing was to let the living bird, stained with the blood of that killed in sacrifice, loose in the open field. What a lively picture! As the leper is assured that he is clean he sees his guilt carried away, and loses sight of it as the bird disappears in the wood. So does Christ bear our sins into oblivion.
2. Through the washing of water.
(1) The leper was to wash his clothes and appear in clean white linen, the emblem of the "righteousness of the saints."
(2) He had also to shave off all his hair, which had been dishonoured by the plague, that a new growth might crown him in purity.
(3) He had likewise to wash his flesh; and that too "seven times," to express the thoroughness of his purification (comp. 2 Kings 5:10; also Psalm 51:2). But the true purifier is that sevenfold Spirit of the gospel, issuing as the river of life, from the throne of God and of the Lamb (Revelation 5:6; Revelation 22:1).
3. By the ministry of the word.
(1) The blood was sprinkled upon the leper by means of a whisk composed of "cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop." A branch of hyssop seems to have been tied to a handle of cedar by a thread of scarlet wool. But the materials used were evidently intended as emblems, else they would not have been so carefully specified. And we find these very materials on another occasion, thrown into the fire of the altar, to be consumed with the red heifer (see Numbers 19:6).
(2) As to the hyssop and cedar, they seem to be, as it were, at the extremes in the kingdom of trees, and so generally represent that kingdom. For Solomon in his wisdom "spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall" (1 Kings 4:33). We know that the servants of God are compared to trees (Psalm 1:3; Psalm 92:12; Isaiah 61:3). They are various in their abilities, yet all serviceable as ministers and instruments of the gospel (1 Corinthians 12:21).
(3) As to the wool; it is from the fleece of an animal proper for sacrifice, and its colour is that of blood. A cord of the same colour was hung from her window by Rahab, to express faith in the blood of the Passover to protect her and her house from destruction. It would not be lawful in her to sacrifice a lamb and sprinkle its blood; but she did what she might, and expressed her faith by this sign (Joshua 3:18, 19). The scarlet cord of a common faith in the blood of Christ binds his servants together, and in their unity makes them efficient instruments in carrying his gospel to mankind.
(4) If it be asked why should the cedar and scarlet and hyssop be burnt with the red heifer, the answer is that there is a sense in which faithful ministers may be "offered upon the sacrifice and service" of the faith of those they benefit (see Acts 9:4; 2 Corinthians 1:5, 6; 2 Corinthians 4:10; Philippians 2:17; Philippians 3:10; Colossians 1:24; 2 Timothy 1:8; 2 Timothy 2:10). - J.A.M.
readmissible to Divine and human fellowship, but he must first "be cleansed" (verse 4) before he would be readmitted. The ceremonies here prescribed give a picture of our readmission to the favour of God and the fellowship of his people.
I. SACRIFICE OF ANOTHER'S LIFE. As a "clean bird" (verse 4) was taken and its blood was shed (verse 5), as the life-blood of the pure and innocent creature was poured out that the leper might be clean and pure in the sight of God, so is the life-blood of the spotless Lamb shed for us. There must be for our acceptance and admission, or readmission after backsliding, a "sacrifice for sin."
II. PERSONAL APPLICATION OF THAT SACRIFICE. "He shall sprinkle upon him that is to be cleansed... seven times" (verse 7). "The living bird" was to be "dipped in the blood of the bird that was killed." Here is the truth that if the "blood of Christ" is to be effectual for our salvation, it must be applied to our individual conscience. We who seek to be cleansed from all iniquity and condemnation, must ourselves personally apply for mercy through the shed blood of the Redeemer. By an act of living faith we must bathe in the "fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness."
III. PERSONAL PUTTING AWAY OF DEFILEMENT, The leper was to "wash his clothes, and shave off all his hair, and wash himself in water, that he may be clean." And again, after a week's interval, was to shave and to wash, removing all his hair, even to the eyebrows (verse 9); everything about him that could in any possible way be defiled by the plague was to be carefully removed. So, if we are to be admitted (or readmitted) to God's favour and man's communion, we must deliberately put away from ourselves, from heart and life, every evil way, everything which is, or may be, tainted with iniquity (2 Timothy 2:19).
IV. DIVINE ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF OUR INTEGRITY. Everything here pointed to the fact that the Divine Ruler of Israel was prepared to acknowledge the cleanness of the leper. The water was to be "running water" (verse 5) - pure, as opposed to that which was stagnant and foul; "cedar wood" was to be used (verse 6), type of that which is fragrant and healthful; the "scarlet" wool (verse 6) hinted the red and healthy blood, which had been impure but was so no longer; "hyssop" (verse 6) was suggestive of fragrance; but that which, above all, was indicative of God's acknowledgment of the wholeness of the leper was the action respecting the living bird: that was released, let "loose into the open field" (verse 7). This either signified that the uncleanness of the leper was borne away on the wings of the bird, where it should never be found again (a similar institution to the scapegoat, Leviticus 16:22, 23), or that the leper was thenceforth free to go whithersoever he pleased. Either way, it expressed symbolically the truth that there was reinstatement for the man who had been healed in the privileges he had forfeited. We have in the Scriptures every possible assurance that "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ," are followed by fullness of Divine favour. The returned prodigal has the kiss of reconciliation, the ring and robe of honour, and the feast of joy. "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God... and rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Romans 5:1, 2). The soul that is healed of its sore disease is pronounced clean in the sight of God, and is free of its Father's house, to enter its many rooms and partake of its many joys. - C.
I. ATTENDED WITH HUMILITY. The leper was to bring his sin offering, which must be slain in the holy place (verses 13, 19). Over the head of the animal he was to confess his sin, and then, with his guilt thus transferred, the blood of the sin offering atoned for past wrong. All approaches to God by the human spirit should be accompanied with a sense of unworthiness. "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3).
II. IS THE SPIRIT OF CONSECRATION. The leper was to bring his burnt offering as well as his sin offering (verses 13, 19, 20). By this he symbolically presented himself wholly unto the Lord, laid himself on the altar of sacred service. When we turn, or return' unto God it must be in the sprat' ' of full, unreserved dedication. We are to present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, our reasonable (i.e. rational, spiritual) service" (Romans 12:1).
III. IN THE SPIRIT OF THANKFUL JOY. The leper was to bring "three tenth deals of line flour for a meat offering, mingled with oil" (verses 10, 20). This was a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, rendered under a sense of deep indebtedness for Divine bounty. It was certainly suitable enough in the case of the leper, whose malady had been removed by the healing hand of God. Nor is the consciousness of our deep indebtedness, the presentation of our utmost thanks, one whit less becoming, less demanded and required of God, when we come to his house, or to the table of the Lord, after months or years, or (it may be) a life of absence, negligence, estrangement, it should be with hearts overflowing with holy gratitude and. sacred joy that we present ourselves before him.
IV. WITH A SENSE OF GOD'S FULL ACCEPTANCE OF OUR WHOLE HEART AND LIFE. There was one very significant ceremony through which the leper who was being cleansed had to pass: the priest was to put some of the blood of the trespass offering upon the tip of the right ear, and the thumb of the right hand, and the great toe of the right foot (verse 14). Afterwards the priest did the same thing with the oil, pouring the remnant of the oil upon the leper's head (verses 17, 18). The application of the blood of atonement to these bodily extremities indicated God's acceptance of the leper throughout the entire man; every part of him was now holy unto the Lord; even every part of that bodily frame which had been the very picture and type of all uncleanness. The application of the oil denoted that the leper was thenceforth to regard himself as God's accepted servant in every sphere of human action; he was to be:
1. A reverent waiter and watcher before God, eagerly learning his will.
2. An active, industrious minister, doing his work in every way open to him.
3. A conscientious exemplar, walking in the ways of the Lord blameless. We, too, returning unto God, pleading the blood of the Lamb, offering ourselves unto him, reverently rejoicing in his mercy, are to understand and realize that
(1) God accepts us unreservedly as his own, and
(2) expects us to be eager to serve him in every open way - learning, labouring, living to his praise. - C.
Hebrews 13:10-12). The ceremony in the tabernacle, therefore, must refer to the reception of the Gentiles by the gospel into the fellowship of the saints. We notice -
I. THE PRESENTATION.
1. This took place on the eighth day.
(1) The ceremonies in the camp extended over seven days, on the last of which the leper was then pronounced clean. He was now, therefore, eligible to leave his alienation, and mingle with the children of Israel as a fellow-citizen.
(2) Entering the sanctuary, he came into Church recognition. For the court of the priests represented the Church in the visible part (see on Leviticus 8:10-12). This was on the eighth day, which, in the week, corresponds with the first day, a day so memorable for great events of the gospel that, as the "Lord's day," it came to replace the Jewish "sabbath" (see on chapter 9:1-7). The Hebrew term for eight (שׁמנת), shemenah, is derived from (שׁמן) shemen, fat or oil; and the oil and fat so extensively used in connection with the offerings and baptisms of the Law represented the Spirit of God in his illuminations and joy-inspiring, graces. The eighth day, or day of oil, was, therefore, appropriately the emblem of the "days of the Son of man," the dispensations of the Spirit.
2. He was introduced by the priest.
(1) He was presented "before the Lord" (verse 11). As a commoner might be presented by a peer to a monarch at a levee, so was the leper presented by the priest to the Lord, who, in his Shechinah, was enthroned upon the mercy-seat. So are the spiritual priests of the gospel introduced by the Great High Priest of our profession (see Hebrews 10:21, 22).
(2) Being recognized by the King of glory, he became fit for the best society, and could freely mingle with the congregation of Israel, or princes of God. So when God accepts the sinner, though he had been a sinner of the Gentiles, that becomes his passport to the Church (see Acts 10:47).
3. The leper did not appear empty.
(1) It would have been a departure from all precedent in the East to be presented to a monarch without bringing gifts. When the Queen of Sheba came to Solomon, she was laden with rich presents (1 Kings 10:10).
(2) But when we crone into the presence of God, what have we to bring? The leper brought three blemishless lambs; one for a trespass offering, another for a sin offering, and the third for a burnt offering. He brought also three tenth-deals of fine flour mingled with oil, for a bread offering, together with a log of oil. And we can bring Christ, with the Spirit of his grace, the antitypes.
(3) But "shall we offer unto the Lord that which cost us nothing?" There was a commercial value in the gifts of the leper; but our "Gift" is "unspeakable," infinitely above all merchandise, such as we could never procure for ourselves. With him we must consecrate ourselves, and our property "as God may prosper us" (Romans 12:1; 1 Corinthians 16:2).
II. THE CEREMONIES OF THE PRESENTATION.
1. The sacrifices were of all the kinds.
(1) The lamb for the trespass offering. This was to make atonement for transgression, in order to justification.
(2) The ewe-lamb for a sin offering. This was to make atonement for impurity, in order to sanctification.
(3) The burnt offering, to make atonement for irreverences and imperfections in adoration. And with this was associated the bread offering, to express gratitude and communion.
(4) The order is admirable. When our trespasses are forgiven, and our hearts cleansed from sin, then are we in the moral state to adore with gratitude.
2. The baptisms were ample.
(1) The washings at the laver in the tabernacle appear to have been exclusively those of the sacrifices and priests. The baptisms of the Israelites were in their dwellings (Luke 11:38). The leper was washed with water outside the camp. Cornelius and his company, in whom the kingdom of heaven was opened to the Gentiles by Peter's key, received the baptism of the Holy Ghost before they had any visible Church recognition (Acts 10:44-48).
(2) The leper's baptisms of blood began outside the camp. The blood of the bird was there seven times sprinkled upon the leper. But now, in the tabernacle, he is again sprinkled with the blood of the trespass offering. It was put on the tip of his right ear, to engage him in future to hear the Law of God; on the thumb of his right hand, to engage him to do the will of God; and on the great toe of his right foot, to engage him to walk in his holy ways.
(3) As there was no baptism of water ministered to the leper in the tabernacle, so was there no baptism of oil ministered to him outside the camp. Coming into the sanctuary, he sees the oil first "sprinkled seven times before the Lord" (verse 16). Then oil was put upon him over the blood on the tip of his right ear, the thumb of his right hand, and the great toe of his right foot (verse 17). The remnant of the oil was then poured upon his head. In this an "atonement was made for him before the Lord" (verse 18). Bishop Patrick says, "The blood seems to have been a token of forgiveness; the oil of healing." Together they show the intimate connection between the Son of God and the Spirit of God in the work of redemption and salvation.
3. The circumstances of the poor are considered.
(1) He may substitute doves for the lambs of the burnt offering and sin offering, and one tenth-deal of flour for three. "My son, give me thine heart;" and with that the calves of thy lips shall be accepted instead of the calves of the stall.
(2) But the lamb of the trespass offering he must bring. "This may well be looked upon as a figure of the Lamb of God, who alone taketh away the sins of the whole world" (Old Bible). - J.A.M.
III. OUR POWERS IN CHRIST'S SERVICE. To him who having received two talents gained two others beside them, was accorded by the Lord, when he returned and reckoned with his servants, approval quite as cordial as that rendered to him who having received five talents gained five talents more (Matthew 25:19-23). Equally cordial would have been the welcome to him who had been entrusted with only one, if he had gained one talent beside that.
IV. OUR STRUGGLE WITH TEMPTATION. When the agonizing Master returned and found those he left to watch and pray "asleep, for their eyes were heavy," he gently rebuked them; but he considerately extenuated their fault by saying, "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak "(Matthew 26:40, 41). "He knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust."
V. OUR ENDURANCE OF EVIL. God sends us privation, sickness, disappointment, perplexity, loss, bereavement, exceeding great sorrows, burdens grievous to be borne; he calls upon us to "endure as seeing him who is invisible," to be "in subjection to the Father of spirits." He expects that we shall not repine and rebel, but submit and serve. Yet he who knows all men, and who knows "what is in man" (John 2:25), who created us and made us what we are, understands and weighs our peculiar personal difficulties, temperaments, dispositions; he knows how much we strive to yield and acquiesce, and "judges righteous judgment." He is just, yet merciful, we say. We may also say, He is just, and therefore merciful. He has the requisite justice of Divine considerateness. Let us -
1. Take heart to serve so gracious and considerate a Lord.
2. Feel impelled to serve him all the more faithfully and devotedly because he is so worthy and righteous a Master.
3. Try to copy his grace and his righteousness in our dealings with our fellows (Luke 6:36). - C.
exceedingly remarkable. Nothing could possibly impress the Hebrew mine[ more powerfully with the idea that "the face of the Lord was against' that spiritual evil of which leprosy was the chosen type. How direct the argument and forcible the conclusion that, if not only every remotest particle of leprosy itself was to be ruthlessly put away but also anything which to the bodily eye had even a near resemblance to it, and was thus suggestive of it, - how offensive, how intolerable, in the sight of God must that evil thing itself be held! Here are -
I. THREE MAIN PRINCIPLES ON THE SUBJECT OF CORRUPTION. In God's view, as we gain it from his Word,
1. Corruption (impurity) may attach to the "house" or community as well as to the individual. We read of "the iniquity of the house of Israel," and of "the iniquity of the house of Judah" (Ezekiel 4:5, 6); of "the house of Israel dealing treacherously with God" (Jeremiah 3:20), etc.
2. That earnest effort should be made to cleanse it from corruption. The leprous house of stone was to be cleansed: the stones in which the plague was were to be taken away (verse 40); the house was to be scraped round about, and its unclean dust cast out of the camp (verse 41); other stones were to be placed and other mortar used instead (verse 42): the leprous part was to be removed and the house renovated. So must the contaminated community purify itself, removing that from it which is evil and corrupting its Achan, its Ananias and Sapphira, its Simon the sorcerer, its guilty member (1 Corinthians 5), etc.
3. That, all efforts failing, the house will be destroyed. "He shall break down the house, the stones of it," etc. (verse 45). A community of any kind that is incurably corrupt
(1) had better be broken up deliberately by the hand of man; but if no
(2) will certainly be dissolved in time by the hand of God. The history of the world abounds in proofs that moral and spiritual corruption lead on to feebleness, decay, dissolution.
II. THREE MAIN APPLICATIONS OF THE PRINCIPLES. To any leprous "house," to any community into which seeds of corruption have been introduced, these principles will apply. They may with peculiar appropriateness be referred to:
1. The nation. The "house of Judah" and the "house of Israel" were continually warned that they had erred from the ways of the Lord and become corrupt, that they must cleanse themselves from their impurities, or that they would be abandoned by God to their doom. Assyria, Judaea, Egypt, Greece, Rome, the Ottoman Empire, provide striking and eloquent illustrations.
2. The family. The "house of Eli" and the "house of Saul" illustrate the principles of the text; so also many a "house" in Christian times that has risen to honour and influence, that has grown leprous (corrupt), that has not heeded the warnings of the Word of God to put away the evil of its doings, and that has fallen into decay and has disappeared.
3. The Church. This is the "house of God" on earth (1 Timothy 3:15; 2 Timothy 2:20; Ephesians 2:19; Hebrews 3:6). This house may show signs of leprosy; and in individual Churches corruption may break out - in doctrine (Galatia), in public worship (Corinth), in morals (Pergamos, Thyatira), in spiritual life (Ephesus, Sardis, Laodicea). The corrupt Church must be cleansed, or it will be disowned of the Divine Lord, and it will perish in his high displeasure (Revelation 2:5, 16, 23, 27; Revelation 3:3, 17-19). - C.
Numbers 12:10; 2 Kings 5:27; 2 Kings 15:5), and God threatens to curse the house of the wicked with such a plague (Zechariah 5:4). The Jews view it in this light, and consequently regard leprosy as incurable except by the hand of God. But in Scripture, what God permits is often represented as his doing; and evils that Satan inflicts may require the power of God to remove.
I. WHAT ARE WE TO UNDERSTAND BY THE HOUSE?
1. There is the obvious literal meaning. It is an ordinary habitation (differing, indeed, from the tents in which the Israelites sojourned in the wilderness), composed of stones, and mortar, and wood, and plaster.
2. It must also have a moral interpretation.
(1) If in the person leprosy has a twofold meaning, viz. a literal and moral; and if the garment plagued with leprosy has a moral as well as a literal meaning, so, by parity of reason, must the house.
(2) It cannot be supposed that for sanitary reasons simply the leprosy in the house should occupy the space it takes in the Scriptures.
(3) Over and above the sanitary regulations, we find regulations for the ceremonial cleansing, in which are sacrifices and sprinklings, "to make an atonement for the house" (verses 48-53). These in other cases are admitted to have reference to the provisions of the gospel for moral purposes, and therefore should be so considered here.
3. It should be taken to represent a community.
(2) It is also used. to express a lineage. Thus we read of a long war raging between the "house of Saul" and the "house of David" (2 Samuel 3:1).
(3) The larger community of a nation is called a "house." Thus we read repeatedly of the "house of Israel," the "house of Judah," and Egypt is spoken of as the "house of bondage" (Deuteronomy 8:14).
(4) An ecclesiastical community is in like manner described as a house. Paul speaks of the "house of God, which is the Church of the living God" (1 Timothy 3:15; see also Hebrews 3:2-6; Hebrews 10:21; 1 Peter 4:17).
4. A leprous house is a demoralized community.
(1) Thus a family of wicked persons, or in which are members scandalous for irreligion and vice, is morally a leprous house. Such was the house of Eli.
(2) A lineage of wickedness also is a leprous house. Such was the house of "Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin." Such that of Omri.
(3) A nation given to idolatry such as Israel became before the Assyrian captivity, and Judah before the Babylonish, may be regarded as a leprous house. So are modern nations demoralized by atheism, infidelity, sabbath desecration, drunkenness, and dissipation, leprous houses.
(4) A Church holding out the poison cup of "damnable heresy" to intoxicate nations, encouraging vice by "indulgences," and "red" with the "blood of the saints and martyrs of Jesus," is a house fearfully smitten with the plague of leprosy.
II. WHAT TREATMENT SHOULD IT RECEIVE?
1. The leprosy should be reported to the priest (verses 34, 35).
(1) The Priest is Christ, to whom we must carry all our concerns in prayer - domestic, political, ecclesiastical. The voice of suffering cries to him for judgment upon oppressors (James 5:4), and the voice from the ashes of the martyrs loudly imprecates judgment upon their persecutors (Revelation 6:9-11).
(2) Faithful ministers of Christ should be apprised of the symptoms of the plague of heresy or immorality, that they might use their good offices and influence to stop the mischief.
(3) Any of the spiritual priesthood, persons of recognized sanctity and probity, might be informed of the spreading of moral leprosy, whether it be in the family, or State, or Church.
2. Warning should be given to those concerned.
(1) The priest himself gives the warning. The premonitions of Jesus are written in his Word. It tells us of days of judgment upon nations, upon Churches, upon individuals.
(2) Faithful ministers of Christ will utter his words. No false notions of "charity" will prevent them from sounding the alarm.
(3) The use of the warning is to have everything removed from the leprous house before the priest's inquisition for judgment; for whatever he finds in the unclean house will be concluded to be unclean (see Revelation 18:4).
3. It will be duty inspected.
(1) Christ moves in all communities, though unseen, and more particularly amongst the candlesticks, or Churches. His eyes are as flames of fire, searching into all secrets of the "reins and hearts" (Revelation 1:12-16, 23).
(2) The light of God's Word should be let in to discover the heresy that may plague any Church, and to rebuke the laxity of discipline which may connive at licentiousness (Revelation 2:14-16, 20-23).
4. It will be shut up for seven days.
(1) The priest himself withdraws. Jesus cannot abide in a foul community.
(2) Whoever enters it during this interval becomes unclean (verse 46). Where Jesus cannot abide, his people should not go.
(3) He that lieth in the house or eateth in it shall wash his clothes (verse 47). Fellowship in such a community compromises righteousness. What is the condition of those who are perverted to heresy!
5. Efforts towards a reformation should be made.
(1) Where the plague may appear superficial, the place must be scraped; where it has eaten deeply, the stones affected must be removed and new ones substituted, and the whole plastered afresh.
6. The sequel.
(1) If the plague remain through the days of trial, breaking out afresh, notwithstanding the efforts for reformation, when the case is hopeless, then comes the visitation of judgment. The house is demolished and the wreck carried outside the city to an unclean place (see Revelation 22:15).
(2) If the reformation has proved successful, the house abides. The ceremonies of the shedding and sprinkling the sacrificial blood (verses 48-53) show that salvation is through faith in the merits of Christ. To those merits we are indebted for a present and an everlasting salvation. - J.A.M.