When a man shall have in the skin of his flesh a rising, a scab, or bright spot…
Leper, canst thou not read thy case here? Afflicted, exercised, tempted, downcast child of God, dost thou not see thy character here described by an inspired pen?
1. "The leper in whom the plague is." Is sin your plague? Take all your worldly anxieties, tie them up in one bundle, and put them into the scale; now place in the other scale the plague of sin. Which scale goes down? If you are a spiritual leper, you will say, "Oh, it is sin, sin, that I sometimes fear will be a millstone to drown my soul in hell." And canst thou find this mark, "the leper in whom the plague is"? Is not this a very striking expression, "In whom "? I think Paul has hit the matter to a nicety; and well he might, for he wrote as a man who knew what he was writing about; he says, "The sin that dwelleth in me." Sin is not like a martin that builds its nest under the eaves, which sticks to the house, but is not in the house. Neither is sin a lodger to whom you can give a week's or a month's notice to quit; nor is it a servant whom you may call up, pay him his month's wages, and send him about his business. No, no. Sin is one of the family who dwells in the house, and will not be turned out of the house — haunts every room, nestles in every corner, and like the poor ejected Irish of whom we read, will never leave the tenement while stick or stone hangs together. Is not this the case with you? Does not sin dwell in you, work in you, lust in you, go to bed with you, get up with you, and all the day long, more or less, crave, design, or imagine some evil thing? Do you feel sin to be a plague and a pest, as it must be to every living soul? Then are you not something of a leper if the plague dwell in you?
2. But the leper's clothes were to be rent.
(1) This was a sign of mourning. Grief, sorrow, is their continual portion on account of the leprosy that is in them.
(2) Rending the clothes was also a sign of abhorrence. Thus "the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy," when the Lord Jesus, in answer to his question, affirmed that He was the Son of God.
(3) The rent clothes, therefore, of the leper show his self-abhorrence and self-loathing. Seeing the holiness and purity of God it is with him as with Job. "I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth Thee. "Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes."(4) The rent clothes was also a figure of a rent and contrite heart. "Rend your hearts," says the prophet, "and not your garments"; implying that though the rent garment was a figure of a rent heart, yet the outward mark was nothing without the inward feeling.
3. But the leper was also to have his head bare. No covering from God's wrath was allowed him; bareheaded he stood exposed to the winds and storms of heaven, bare before the lightning's flash. And does not this represent the poor sinner without a covering before God; sensible that he is amenable to God's justice and eternal indignation?
4. But he was also to have a covering on his upper lip. And this for the same reason that we cover the mouth of the grave — to present the infection of his breath. If he covered but the lower lip, the breath might come forth. Have you ever thought and felt that there was sin enough in your heart to infect a world? that if every man and woman in the world were perfectly holy, and you were left freely to give vent to every thought and imagination of your carnal mind, there was sin enough there to taint every individual? It is so, felt or not; for sin is of that infectious nature that there is enough in one man's heart to fill all London with horror. Oh, when a man knows this he is glad to have a covering for his upper lip! He cannot boast then of what a good heart he has, nor what good resolutions he has made, or what great performances he means to accomplish. He has at times a very Vesuvius in him, and wants no one to come within the mouth of the crater. If a man has a covering upon the upper lip he will not boast of his goodness.
5. But the leper was to have a cry in his mouth. That cry was "Unclean, unclean." It was a warning cry. He was to shout to the passengers, if any were drawing near, "Unclean, unclean; come not near me; I am a leper; I shall pollute you; beware of my breath, it carries infection with it; touch me not; if you touch me you will be tainted with the same malady; beware of me; keep your distance; standoff!" Yes, but you say, "Come; I am not so bad as that; I am religious, and holy, and consistent. I am sure I need not cover my upper lip and cry, Unclean, unclean." Oh, no; certainly not. You are not a leper. You have had years ago a rising, or a boil, and at the priest's direction you have washed your clothes and are clean. But if you do not feel to be a leper, there are those who do; and such do cry, and ever must cry, "Unclean, unclean." And if they do not uncover all their sores to men, they can do so to God.
6. But all the (lays wherein the plague was in the leper he was to be defiled; he was unclean. Such is a spiritual leper; defiled by sin; polluted from head to foot, as long as the leprosy remains.
7. But what was the necessary consequence of this? "He shall dwell alone." A solitary religion is generally a good religion. God's tried people have not many companions. The exercised cannot walk with the unexercised; the polluted with the unpolluted; the sick with the well; the leper with the clean; for "how can two walk together except they be agreed?"
(J. C. Philpot.)
Parallel VersesKJV: When a man shall have in the skin of his flesh a rising, a scab, or bright spot, and it be in the skin of his flesh like the plague of leprosy; then he shall be brought unto Aaron the priest, or unto one of his sons the priests:
WEB: "When a man shall have a rising in his body's skin, or a scab, or a bright spot, and it becomes in the skin of his body the plague of leprosy, then he shall be brought to Aaron the priest, or to one of his sons, the priests: