No earthly skill removed the leper’s shame. He pined in woe, until compassion smiled from heaven. When God’s time came, the dreary trial ceased, and the joyful spring of health put forth its bud. The case of sin is similar. The plague runs on until free grace relieves. God is the first throughout salvation’s work. He wills. He speaks. The sinner hears the inward voice, and seeks the cross, and in the cross finds renovated life.
The leper’s misery had been a long, dark night. What must have been his joy when the bright morn of cleansing came! Reader, learn here that there is happiness brighter far than bodily relief. Soul-cure is cure of cures. The sense of pardon, the Father’s smile, the hope of glory, the Spirit’s fellowship, are the supremest bliss. The heart which Christ has healed is the fair garden in which unfading pleasure blooms. Earth’s happiest sons are they who are God’s sons in Christ. They who are one with Him have fixed their tents on loftiest summits of delight.
Full of these thoughts, approach the leper’s various cleansing rites. They are as streams from many a mountain brow all meeting in one ocean lap. They are as rays from distant points combining in one central blaze. All point to Christ and testify that “Christ is all”.
The priest alone pronounced unclean and he alone can now pronounce the cure. But how can meeting be? The tainted sufferer is an outcast from the camp. He may not seek the tabernacle court. Therefore the priest will leave the gates to hasten to the spot where lonely misery sits (Lev 14:3).
Here faith discerns the willing flight of Jesus to our earth. His throne is heaven. His abode is light. His dwelling is bright glory. But the poor sinner mourns below. Can Jesus turn away? O no! He scorns not to put on our flesh. He counts it joy to seek the lost. The way is long, the ignominy deep. But toil and shame cannot obstruct. Need calls. Jesus draws near. Reader, shall He leave all for sinners like you, and will you not leave all for Him? His self-devoting zeal chides man’s self-murdering sloth.
The cleansing rites must now be closely viewed. Spirit of light, reveal them in true light! Our eyes are blinded till aid come from Thee.
Clean birds are brought. In number they are two. One is death-doomed. Its trickling blood descends into an earthen vessel filled from the running stream. The other is plunged beneath the blood-dyed water, and then sent forth with dripping wing towards heaven. A bunch of hyssop is next bound with scarlet wool unto a cedar staff. With this the blood is seven times cast upon the meekly-bending man (Lev 14:4,7). These birds are Christ. One sign is too narrow to show all His work. Collect all types: He is the truth of each, and far more than the truth of all. One bird is slain. O blessed news! Our Jesus dies. Think, O my soul, your joy, your peace, your hope, your heaven, spring from a Saviour’s grave. Your life is forfeited through sin. Stern justice draws the sword. The outraged law frowns ruin. You see the vengeance, and you hear the threat. But still you tremble not. You calmly point to Jesus and the accursed tree.
You know the refuge of the wounded side. You rightfully maintain that you are free. Christ’s death is paid that you may never die. His life is given that you may live for ever. Blood is outpoured which outweighs every claim. Rejoice. Give thanks. Sing praise. Through death you tread down death. The cross uplifts you to eternal day.
The other bird speeds all red towards heaven. The dying Jesus is sin’s death. The ascending Jesus is salvation’s life. The grave restores; heaven’s courts receive Him. The gates lift up their heads. The everlasting doors unfold. The King of glory enters in.
My soul, be wise. Stretch too your upward wings; pierce intervening clouds; dwell at heaven’s gate; gaze at the work within the veil. Christ ever stands before the throne. You live because a living Saviour prays. Hence rising sins are pardoned because a risen Advocate pleads. Hence heaven awaits you because a forerunner holds possession for you.
Sevenfold sprinklings from the cedar staff then follow. A distant Saviour is a Saviour none. A remedy far off removes no ill. The mighty benefit must be applied. The heart must know, the conscience feel, the life proclaim, that Christ is formed within. By varied means God brings the sinner into contact with the cure. Mainly the preacher’s voice is used. Ye ministers of Christ, behold your work. Souls sit before you waiting to be cleansed. What is that you scatter round? What is the cedar, what the hyssop, which you wave? Are your words dipped in blood from the Redeemer’s heart? You often mourn that the flock’s leprosy abides. You seek their health, but still disease pollutes. May it not be because your lips drop scantily the healing dew? No leper could be clean till the blood fell seven times on him. No soul stands pure until the stream from Calvary imbue it. Sermons should be as drippings from the cross.
Next all his hair is shaved away and all his garments washed (Lev 14:8). Nothing is kept which harbours seed of reappearing plague. Believer, heed the lesson. It is wisdom’s voice. Faith grasps a pardon, and wins endless bliss. But still the Adam-nature lives. Your present dwelling is in infection’s clime. The flesh still lusts to evil. Sin daily strives to roll you in the mire.
Open your eyes. Flee from each tempting circumstance. Avoid each slippery path. If there be place, or book, or man, or trade, which draws from God, or slopes the way to fall, shun them – O shun them – as contagious nest. The offending eye, though needful, must be closed for ever. The offending hand or foot, though useful, must be cut off. Reprieve is ruin. The loss is gain. The pain is joy. That most befriends which keeps out sin. That injures most which readmits our deadliest foe.
Six days elapsed and then this cleansing is renewed (Lev 14:9). While the believer lives, a watch-tower is his place. Occasions will return. The ebbing tide will flow again. The mortifying knife must still be used. While the foe plots, the shield and helmet may not be laid down. David seeks ease while warriors fight, and David finds that his leprosy still lives. Peter is warned to watch and pray, but Peter slumbers, and the bait succeeds.
This teaching volume holds more pages yet (Lev 14:10,13). Fresh rites follow. More victims yet must bleed. Reader, mark here the Spirit’s loving heart. He never wearies to exhibit Christ. He multiplies to win us to the pardoning cross. Did the burnt offering bring forth Christ wholly wrapped in flames of unremitting wrath? A burnt offering must now blaze. Did the sin offering show sin’s hateful filth? A sin offering must now die. Did the trespass offering cast more light on the redeeming work? Did the meat offering change the scene and give another aspect of the cross? A trespass offering must now be added. A meat offering must now be brought. All signs are sought to magnify, uplift, commend, the glorious work of our atoning Lord. Do any seek for cleansing without blood? Let such survey this blood-stained chain of rites. Their voice is loud, and clear, and oft-repeated. All sound this note. Apart from Christ – apart from His vicarious pains – there is no cure.
Blood from the trespass offering is now significantly used. The priest applies it to the ear, the hand, the foot (Lev 14:14). The mark is written on every extreme point. And why? All parts need cleansing, and cleansing is provided for all parts. Complete remission of all guilt is the grand comfort of the gospel scheme. Christ is no partial Saviour. He takes away not some, but all our sins. If but one speck remained, there could be no admission to the courts of light. The Father’s eye can only rest on purity as pure as God. But Calvary’s stream makes whiter than the whitest snow.
Doubtless each member has transgressed. The ear has readily admitted evil sounds. The door has quickly opened to the poisoning foe. Thus the whole mind has caught infecting taint. But sprinkle the blood, and all is clean. The hand has often been the tool of Satan. It has done guilty work in his foul service. But there is ready remedy. Wash here, and lift up holy hands without one fear. The feet too often trode the miry paths and rushed unchecked to every scene of guilt. But all this filth must disappear. The vilest sinner, touched by this blood, can silence every accusing charge. Christ brings a pardon, entire throughout, for every sin of all who flee to Him. Can any hesitate? Will any heart refuse to shout, Blessed be God for Jesus Christ?
Another rite remains. The priest takes oil – fit emblem of the Spirit’s grace. With this again the ear, the hand, the foot, are touched. The rest is poured upon the leper’s head (Lev 14:15,18). The oil surmounts the blood. The blood obliterates the offence. The Spirit purifies the inner man. Where the blood is seen, all condemnation flees. Where the Spirit lives, the reign of sin is burst. One gives the plea for life. The other makes meet for the heavenly home. One is the key. The other forms a fitness to enjoy. Unjustified, the man stands without. Unsanctified, he cares not to go in. But pardon and renewal are linked in holy chains. One comes; the other speeds to follow.
As cleansing is complete, so renovation must pervade each part. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor 5:17). Each member lives anew to God. The ears hear for Him. They gather holy sounds, that holy truth may sink into the heart. The hand, the foot, seek only holy work. Their one employment is to show forth God’s praise, commend His ways, advance His kingdom and adorn His truth. The wilderness is lovely as the rose. Where thorns and briers once were sharp, the myrtle blossoms and the fir tree waves.
Reader, here is a ready test for you. You often hear of Jesus’ cleansing work. Perhaps you boast of interest in His cross. But is your hope sincerely rooted in the gospel truth? Let now this chapter inquire. Where are your signs? Fruit proves the nature of the tree. Warmth is the evidence that fire burns. Light manifests the risen sun. He that is cleansed abhors all filth. He that has put on Christ shines in the robes of light. The grace which brings to Christ imparts new life.
True, there is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus; but they walk after the Spirit, not after the flesh. He who is truth proclaims, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me” (John 13:8). But truth enjoins, “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His” (Rom 8:9).
Lord, cleanse me throughout with cleansing blood! Lord, fill me throughout with purifying grace!
1. A chapter from The Gospel in Leviticus. The Plague of Leprosy appeared last month.