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Leviticus 14:1-57 - Homilies By R.m. Edgar

The cleansing of sin as illustrated in the cleansing of the leper.

cf. 2 Kings 5:1-27 ; 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 ( Luke 8:1-56 ). 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 , 2 Corinthians 5:15 ). 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.

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