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Secret Physical Impurities
Secret impurities, whether of men or women, are carefully discriminated here as resulting from guilty sexual intercourse, and as the effect of natural infirmity. God has stern thoughts for the licentious, He brands him as polluted and polluting, and interdicts from all privileges those who have become basely defiled.
Yet even where no moral vileness attaches to the uncleanness, where the impurity is the consequence of physical weakness and natural processes, God enforces exclusion. For although the Lord is very pitiful to our weaknesses, “knows our frame, and remembers that we are dust,” commiserates our secret maladies, and “breaks not the bruised reed,” nevertheless, only the clean can be allowed free enjoyment of social and spiritual favours within the camp and congregation of His “holy nation.”
Considering even the sanitary value of these prohibitions and laws we discern God’s wisdom and benignity, for they placed the ban on self-destroying indulgences and arrested contamination of loathsome diseases. But as a witness to the necessity of moral and spiritual purity in the person and habits of God’s people these restrictions are full of significance. “Cleanse thou me from secret faults.”
I. The distressing vileness of fallen human nature. An ever-flowing stream of uncleanness. While unsanctified by grace, not only is it true concerning the “vile body” that “in us, that is in our flesh, dwelleth no good thing,” but all its habits and infirmities are corrupt and corrupting. What occasion is left for “glorying in the flesh”? Let those who vaunt the dignity of human nature see its revolting side in this chapter. Then “every mouth shall be stopped, and all become guilty before God.”
II. The stainless sanctity required in God’s presence. Any soil, stain, or mark of impurity must close the unclean from coming near where He dwells. Jehovah had associated Himself with this people, was in their midst; and as He could not bear defilement He insists on the most rigorous sanctity, in their persons, their privacy, their homes, their worship. It carries its appeal to us that we “perfect holiness in the fear of God.” “Wash you, make you clean, put away your evil from before mine eyes.”
III. The bounteous provisions made for the sinner’s cleansing. The redeeming blood and purifying water are again available atonement through Christ, and sanctification through the Spirit and the Word; these are efficacious for even vilest stains and most loathsome impurities.
Thus, while “in the body,” whose every habit and infirmity affirms its natural corruptness, we can hope for renewing grace through the redemption and washing which the gospel offers to all who will “wash and be clean.”
“We have the blood of Christ!” said Schliermacher, and so passed away to glory.
i. Indecencies both shock a virtuous mind, and are signally offensive to Divine Holiness.
ii. The human frame, formed for noble uses, may be most basely degraded by forbidden indulgences
iii. Low passions, if allowed sway, inflict miseries on others, entailing them in the humiliation of communicated uncleanness.
iv. Hidden physical impurities are as minutely marked by the Omniscient Eye as are the flagrant leprous taints.
v. A more emphatic loathing is noticeable in God’s denunciation of these secret sexual uncleannesses than of any other forms of human defilement.
vi. Our Lord’s healing of the woman’s secret malady (Mark 5:25; Mark 5:27) may be allowed to denote the Source of help to all who ask deliverance from corrupting weaknesses and vicious tendencies.
vii. Infinite pity has provided expiation for, and cleansing from, even our basest sins, equally as for our natural infirmities.
Topic: THE ODIOUSNESS OF PERSONAL IMPURITY (Leviticus 15:1-14; Leviticus 15:19-27)
These regulations, which at first sight may appear indelicate and unnecessary, were “holy, just and true.” Among the licentious idolatrous Egyptians Israel was to become a model for purity; no secret sin of any kind tolerated among them. Laws necessary to the physical and moral well being of the whole nation ought not to be considered offensive. A vast multitude was to be conducted through the wilderness with a crowded encampment of tents. Nothing, in such a case, would keep them pure and make social life tolerable but such rigid legislation as the Mosaic regulations enjoined. These regulations:
I. ASSERTED THE NEED OF SCRUPULOUS PERSONAL PURITY.
Not only were the people to be on their guard against diseases such as leprosy, which revealed itself by outward manifestations, but against secret impurities which might be known only to the persons suffering therefrom. Thus the encampment of the wilderness would be kept from degenerating into a hotbed of impurity and disease. Into whatever flagrant sins the Jews as a nation fell, they never became notorious for impurity or immorality, and, to this day, the ranks of the licentious are conspicuously free from members of the family of Abraham. The gospel is not less rigid in its demands for personal purity; indeed, it probes the moral nature of man more deeply, and demands purity of thought and desire as well as of word and deed. Unaccomplished vicious purposes are regarded as performed. The gospel condemns every species of impurity that would defile the body, and teaches higher morality than the ceremonial law ever reached.
II. SUGGESTED THE NEED OF COMPLETE MORAL SPOTLESSNESS.
Having to repair to the priest; and, when cleansed, to appear before the Lord, would naturally suggest to the mind the necessity of absolute purity of heart in the service of Jehovah. He who demanded the complete removal of all pollution from the physical frame, must require truth and purity in the human heart. All sin is a diseased and wasteful outflowing of the vitality of the soul. As none were too impure to apply to the priest, no case so desperate but might be cured, so the vilest of the vile may repair to our Great High Priest, who is able and willing to save to the uttermost of human need, in all the world, through all time.—F. W. B.
Topic: THE CONSEQUENCES OF PERSONAL IMPURITY (Leviticus 15:13-18; Leviticus 15:28-33)
The laws of nature cannot be set aside, or perverted, without the infliction of penalties upon the delinquent. This world is a place, though not the place of punishment for sin. Impurity of life entails weakness, suffering, shame; disgrace and deprivation were the penalty borne by those ceremonially defiled, teaching us—
I. THAT PERSONAL IMPURITY NATURALLY ENTAILS DISASTROUS CONSEQUENCES.
The body becomes deteriorated, the stamina reduced, when vices of a secret character work in the dark at the basis of life. The mind becomes enfeebled, the soul debased. The sensualist and impure carry the brand of their iniquity upon their countenance, signs of their immoral character in their gait. Personal impurity bars the gate to heaven! for there nothing that defileth or worketh abomination can enter. Its consequences extend to others; for morally unclean persons carry contamination wherever they go, as the law declared the unclean did in the cases before us. The Jews were taught that the slightest touch conveyed defilement; so, sinful influences, however apparently slight, vitiate and convey moral infection. Blessed be God we are taught—
II. THAT THE CONSEQUENCES OF PERSONAL IMPURITY MAY BE ARRESTED AND REMOVED.
Persons and things defiled by contact with the unclean could be cleansed by being bathed in water, and the presentation of two clean live birds for an atonement. Thus, not only the unclean persons could obtain cleansing, but the entail of their corrupt influences could be stayed. The stains of guilt, the course of sin, can only be arrested and removed by the intervention of the Lord. The consequences of sin in our world can only be counteracted by the sanctifying influences of the Holy Ghost, and the sacrificial life of the spotless Lamb of God.
Note 1: The Laws respecting uncleanness could not have been invented by man; for human nature does not voluntarily inflict penalties upon itself, does not bring its vices into the light of day, and arraign them at the bar of public opinion; for, “men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil.”
Note 2: Instead of sin flowing secretly from our words and deeds, corrupting ourselves, and contaminating others, “light” is to shine from us, pure, cheerful, penetrating, divine. Thus shall our lives redound to the glory of God, and contribute towards the moral regeneration of our race.—F. W. B.
OUTLINES ON VERSES OF CHAPTER 15
Leviticus 15:2.—Theme: THE SECRET FLOW OF SIN. “When any man hath a running issue out of his flesh, because of his issue he is unclean.”
Jehovah demands purity of body, as well as of mind and heart, in those who profess to be His people, and draw near to Him in sacred worship. Our bodies, not to be despised or neglected, but kept pure, as the handiwork of God, and as the dwelling-place of the human soul. The uncleanness here spoken of, probably the outcome of secret wantonness, or open licentiousness, or self-pollution. Secret sins, witnessed by no one but ourselves and God, vitiate the springs of life, and waste the substance of which our bodies are composed. Thus the Moral Governor of the universe has set His inevitable stigma upon all wrong-doing. By this statute we have suggested—
I. THAT SIN IS AN IMMORAL ISSUE FROM WITHIN MAN. Not a complexion, that may easily be changed; not an excrescence, that clings to the surface only; but a radical defilement issuing from the heart, which is the fountain of life. How disgusting and injurious sin is! How inveterate its hold upon our nature! Flowing from within, it often escapes detection, and defies all merely human remedies for its removal. “In us, that is in our flesh, there dwelleth no good thing;” when we would do good evil is present with us. Sin is not to be got rid of by change of scenery or society. Those who retreat from the world—hermits, monks, nuns, etc.—carry their evil propensities with them, and the secret flow of sin does not cease. However moral the outward life may be, out of the heart will flow secret pride, unbelief, lust, evil thoughts, which defile the soul and burden the conscience with guilt.
II. THAT SIN THUS POLLUTES EVERY THING IT COMES IN CONTACT WITH. Whatever the persons mentioned in this chapter touched became unclean; showing how exceedingly contagious the defilement was. So sin pollutes and transmits itself. Like a serpent, its trail is left wherever it goes. The beauty of the world, its bounties and pleasures, have been distorted and abused by the contaminating touch of sin. Let us pray to be kept from secret sins. Suggestions to evil come up the corridors of memory, flash from pictures in the chambers of imagination. Indulgence in secret impure desires will induce and excite the flow of moral evil from the heart, wasting the powers of the soul, corrupting every circle that it touches. Sin indisposes and incapacitates men for pure society and holy service. If not stayed, consequence death. Blessed be God! sin has been atoned for, may be removed; death has been abolished, life and immortality brought to light by the gospel.—F. W. B.
Leviticus 15:13.—Theme: THE RADICAL CURE OF SIN. “And when he that hath an issue is cleansed of his issue,” etc.
Though the uncleanness here mentioned was so deeply rooted and virulent, yet it was curable; the persons cured were restored to their former positions in society, and declared whole in the presence of the Lord. We learn here—
I. THAT SIN CAN BE REMOVED ONLY THROUGH ATONEMENT. “The priest shall make an atonement for him before the Lord.” The water and the blood that flowed seem to typify the fountain opened upon the cross in the Saviour’s side. In every instance under the law where sin was to be forgiven some pure life had to be offered as an atonement, the innocent suffered as a substitute for the guilty. Thus the roots and principles of the gospel of Christ are found in the economy of Moses.
II. THAT THE REMOVAL OF SIN CAN ONLY BE COMPLETED BY SANCTIFICATION. The ablutions of the candidate for cleansing indicated that only by persistence in the means of grace, and thoroughness of dedication to the conditions of mercy, can we become sanctified. At eventide the cleansed person became clean; so, when life’s day is over, and the shadows of death close upon the believer, the work of sanctification, which has progressed through the whole period of probation, will become complete; the “vile body” will be laid aside, the emancipated and immaculate spirit be “present with the Lord.”
Obviously, contaminating influences may be communicated unexpectedly and unintentionally. What need to pray, as David did (Psalms 51:0), “Wash me throughly,” etc. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews urged them to seek to have their “bodies washed with pure water, and their hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience.” Christ can arrest the flow of sinful influences, as He stayed the issue of the poor sufferer, recorded Mark 5:29. The gospel dispenses with the burdensome ceremonials of the Law; but, all they pointed to is preserved and fulfilled, for “the blood of Jesus Christ clear Beth from all sin.”—F. W. B.
ILLUSTRATIVE ADDENDA TO CHAPTER 15
“Go to your own bosom
Knock there: and ask your heart what it doth know.” SHAKESPEARE.
“I will be lord over myself. No one who cannot master himself is worthy to rule.”—GOETHE.
“A little fire is quickly trodden out:
Which, being suffered, rivers cannot quench.”
“The passions may be humoured till they become our master, as a horse may be pampered till he gets the better of his rider; but early discipline will prevent mutiny and keep the helm in the hands of reason.”
“His soul, like bark with rudder lost,
On passions’ changeful tide was tost;
Nor vice, nor virtue, had the power
Beyond the impression of the hour;
And O! when passion rules, how rare
The hour that falls to Virtue’s share!”
“No man’s body is as strong as his appetite: but heaven has corrected the boundlessness of his voluptuous desires by stinting his strength and contracting his capacities.”—TILLOTSON.
“What profits us that we from Heaven derive
A soul immortal; and with looks erect
Survey the stars; if, like the brutal kind,
We follow where our passions lead the way?”
“Vice stings us even in our pleasures; but virtue consoles us even in our pains”—COLTON
“Why is there no man who confesses his vices? It is because he has not yet laid them aside. It is a waking man only who can tell his dreams.”—SENECA.
“Men only feel the smart, but not the vice.”
“Virtue that transgresses, is but patched with sin;
But sin that amends, is but patched with virtue.”—SHAKESPEARE, Twelfth Night, 1, 3.
“Wisdom and virtue require a tutor; though we can easily learn to be vicious without a master.”—SENECA.
“God sure esteems the growth and completing of one virtuous person more than the restraint of ten vicious.”—MILTON.
“The soul’s calm sunshine, and the heartfelt joy,
Is virtue’s prize.”—Essay on Man, POPE.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Leviticus 15". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13