The priests themselves could not heal lepers, but sometimes the Lord would remove the plague from a person. In such cases, various rules were to be observed in re-admitting that person to the ordinances of God and the society of His people. These rules represent many exercises that are required of truly repenting sinners, and the duties of ministers toward them in particular. If we apply these rules to the spiritual leprosy of sin, they teach us that when we withdraw from those who walk disorderly, we must not count them as enemies, but admonish them as brothers and sisters. And when God, by His grace, has brought them to repentance, they ought to be received again with tenderness and joy and sincere love. Care should always be taken that sinners may not be encouraged, nor repentant persons discouraged.
If the priest found that a person’s leprosy was truly healed, then he was to declare this fact with the particular ceremonies that are described in this chapter. He directed the person to bring two birds. One was killed; and the other was dipped in a mixture of water and the blood of the slain bird, and then let loose. This represented Christ shedding His blood for sinners, and then rising and ascending into heaven. In addition to the birds, the purification ceremony also involved a piece of cedarwood, as well as scarlet-colored wool and hyssop. The wool and hyssop formed a kind of sponge, which was put on the piece of cedar and used to sprinkle the blood. This showed a picture of pollution being cleansed away. The cedarwood stood as a symbol of the reversal of decay and corruption, the hyssop spoke of cleansing, and the scarlet color of the wool represented the blood that takes away sin. Having pronounced the leper to be clean, the priest required him to make himself clean from all remnants of it, and shave off all his hair. In the same way, those who enjoy the comfort of forgiveness must take care to separate themselves from their sins and purify themselves for the Lord’s glory.
The cleansed leper was then presented to the Lord with his offerings. When God has restored us to enjoy public worship again after a time of sickness or separation, we should testify our thanksgiving by our diligent use of that liberty. And both we and our offerings must be presented before the Lord by the very same Priest Who made us clean – namely, our Lord Jesus! The healed leper was to bring animals to offer a trespass offering, a sin offering, and a burnt offering; as well as about 42 cups (5.3 kg) of flour mixed with oil for a grain offering, and an additional cup (236.6 ml) of oil on its own. Besides the usual ceremonies of a normal trespass offering, some of the blood and oil were to be applied to the person that was to be cleansed. This represented how the blood of Jesus is applied to our souls for justification, and the oil of the Holy Spirit is applied for sanctification. These two cannot be separated.
God’s law made a gracious provision for poor lepers, for the poor are as welcome to His altar as the rich. Such a person could substitute two of the lambs for pigeons or doves, and they were also permitted to bring less flour (about 14 dry cups, or 1.8 kg) for the grain offering. But although a humbler sacrifice was accepted from the poor, yet the same ceremony was used as for the rich. This is because their souls are equally precious to the Lord, and Christ and His Gospel are equally valuable to either person. And even for the poor, one lamb was still necessary. No sinner could be saved if it had not been for the Lamb Who was slain so that He might redeem us to God with His own blood!
We cannot help observing that there is a very remarkable difference between our Great High Priest and the high priest of the Jews. The latter – being a mere man who was afflicted with infirmity himself – could not heal a leper. He could only examine a person who had already healed by God, and then declare this fact publicly. He was then to perform the ceremonies appointed for his cleansing, and thus restore him again to society and the privileges of God’s house. But the Lord Jesus heals lepers! To this great Physician, we may freely come and obtain that moral cleansing for which there is neither cure nor relief in any other person or place. Let us cry to Him as the leper did in the days of His earthly ministry, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” And God Himself shall then acknowledge and pronounce us clean. Let us join our voices with David’s, and pray, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” But let us not only be sprinkled once or twice, but even “seven times!” (verse 7) Then shall we be washed thoroughly from our iniquity, and be cleansed from our sin. And we shall manifest that change by repenting and forsaking our former sins, following after holiness, showing compassion on other poor sinners, and desiring and praying for their cleansing as well.
Leprosy in the walls of a house seems to be as strange as leprosy being in a garment. But in a spiritual sense, the leprosy of sin – wherever it reigns in a home – is just as much of a plague there as it is in an individual heart. The owners of a house could not be too careful in dealing with leprosy that broke out in the walls of their dwelling. Similarly, heads of households should keep a watchful eye for the first appearance of sin in their families, and they must put it away – no matter what it is.
All praises be given to You, heavenly Father; for when our poor nature was leprous and past all the power of recovery, You pitied us and sent Your Son to heal us. Blessed be Your name, O merciful Son of God; for You took our sins and opened deliverance for us in Your blood. And no less may we ascribe praises to You, O eternal Spirit, by whose gracious application of our Savior’s merits and righteousness, all our leprosy is healed! Amen.
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