This chapter speaks of ceremonial defilement by secret uncleanness which was known only to a person’s own self, and it represents the secret sins that flow quietly from the heart. Its pollution flows freely – even when not a word is spoken, and not an act is done in the eye of our fellow human beings. Here we are shown the awful constancy with which our deep-seated corruption naturally reveals itself. Alas! Such are the natural consequences of our fallen state; everything connected with it is unclean. But what a precious relief it is to the soul that is conscious of that gracious Scripture passage in Ezekiel 36:25-27, in which God promises to cleanse the soul from all its filthiness! And what a happy state our souls arrive at when that promise is fulfilled, and when we enjoy a personal knowledge of that grand truth in the first chapter of 1 John: “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin!”
The time of cleansing from the defilements spoken of in this chapter was to be seven days. Each day during this time, the person was to wash his clothes and bathe himself in water from a fresh source like a stream, and not from a place like a stagnant pool. This “running water” was an emblem of the purity of the Holy Spirit. And it is the indwelling Spirit, like living water, that our corrupt heart requires in order to be sanctified. During these seven days, the unclean person declared his need of the Holy Spirit by his repeated washings. Then, on the eighth day, he would come to receive atonement as the means to his true purification. This teaches us that full atonement is as much required for our inward and secret sins, as well as for open and flagrant ones. The offeror would bring two turtledoves or two pigeons. Interestingly, the offering of these birds was generally reserved for the sacrifice of a poor person. But in this case, no distinction was made. Anyone offering this sacrifice was to bring these birds, whether they were rich or poor. Perhaps this was because they were both alike in their original sin and depravity of heart, no matter what difference might be made by their circumstances in regard to their actual sins. But there is probably another reason also. In the Scriptures, the turtledove and the pigeon are very frequently used as an emblem of purity (Song of Sol. 5:12; 6;9; Ps. 74:19), and so they may have been chosen for this offering because they reminded the offeror that the Lord requires personal purity in His people.
In Mark chapter 5, we are told about a woman who had been deeply distressed by ceremonial uncleanness for 12 long years. She had groaned over her miseries, she had been compelled to live alone, she had sought for help from every physician in vain, and she had been forced to remain aloof from her friends so that she would not defile them by her presence. What a sorrowful picture of a poor sinner! She was painfully conscious of the fearful pollution of her sin-nature, and she tried every remedy that human skill could suggest; yet she was still sad at heart, and her soul was still running down with new outflowings of sin. But someone told her of Jesus! She heard how – just the night before – He had calmed the sea at the height of a storm, and had gone over to the other side for the sake of saving just one soul. So she came to the place where He was; she saw and heard Him for herself, and she was persuaded that He had the very fountain of life in His Person. In this faith, she touched the hem of His robe, as if to say, “He is full of love and power, even to the very hem of His garment!” She brought Him no gift, for she had already spent all her living on physicians. She brought nothing like a cure that was partially begun; for Mark tells us that so far from becoming better, her condition rather grew worse. She had no repentance to offer; for up to this point, her only regrets were simply that she had sought in vain for help from other physicians. She had no love to allege, for she had only come in order to see what reason for love there was. She offered no prayer; she simply drew near and placed herself in contact with the Fountain of life and healing. And the result was an immediate cure! Sin and grace met! And this is always the singular result of their meeting. How often now, after presenting her turtledoves at Jerusalem, would this healed woman walk along the seashore in Galilee with the daughter of Jairus, who had been born in the very same year that her own affliction had begun, and who had been raised from the dead on the very same day that she was healed! Together, they could sing and praise the Lord – with one of them saying, “He healeth all thy diseases”; and the other responding, “He redeemeth thy life from destruction!” (Ps. 103:3)
When Jesus healed leprosy and other forms of ceremonial uncleanness, was He not quietly explaining the picture that was hidden in these diseases and their cleansing? Was it not like His healing the man at the pool of Bethesda? There was an emblem in it all, although He did not say at the moment that this was what He wished to show. It was enough that He had declared that He had “come to fulfil the law.” And people were thus warned to expect that every action He did would tend in that direction. It is in reference to this 15th chapter of Leviticus that the prophet Zechariah (chapter 13:1) calls Christ the “fountain for uncleanness.” Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift!
Lord God! We seek for grace so that we may be cleansed from all filthiness of flesh and spirit. Let Your Holy Spirit continually make a renewed application of the blood of Jesus to our polluted souls, so that we may be cleansed and purified from all sin, and so that we may walk before You in holiness and true love. Amen.
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