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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Leviticus 14

 

 

Verses 4-9

DISCOURSE: 130

PURIFICATION OF THE LEPER

Leviticus 14:4-9. Then shall the priest command to take for him that is to be cleansed, two birds alive and clean, and cedarwood, and scarlet, and hyssop. And the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel, over running water. As for the living bird, he shall take it, and the cedar-wood, and the scarlet, and the hyssop, and shall dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water: and he shall sprinkle upon him that is to be cleansed from the leprosy seven times, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird loose into the open field. And he that is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes, and shave off all his hair, and wash himself in water, that he may be clean: and after that he shall come into the camp, and shall tarry abroad out of his tent seven days. But it shall be on the seventh day, that he shall shave all his hair off his head, and his beard, and his eye-brows, even all his hair he shall shave off: and he shall wash his clothes; also he shall wash his flesh in water, and he shall be clean.

THERE is an indissoluble connexion between duty and privilege, though that connexion is, for the most part, but little understood. Our privileges are in general supposed to arise out of the performance of our duties; whereas the reverse of this is more generally true: privileges are freely bestowed upon us by God according to his own sovereign will and pleasure; and these operate as incentives to love and serve him. The blessings of election and vocation are not vouchsafed to us on account of our antecedent merit, but in order that we may shew forth the praises of Him that hath called us.

We see this exemplified in the laws relating to the leprosy. Nothing was prescribed whereby people should first of all heal themselves: but, when God of his infinite mercy had first healed them, then were they to come and offer their acknowledgments in the way appointed.

The ordinances to be observed by them are here laid down: and from them we see, that the purification of the leper was two-fold;

I. Incipient—

[Two birds were to be taken; one of which was to be killed over a vessel of spring-water; and the other, dipped in the bloody water, was to be let loose. Some interpret this as signifying, that Christ should die for us, and that the sinner, dipped as it were in his blood, should be liberated from sin and death, and be enabled to soar above this lower world, both in heart and life. But we apprehend that both the birds equally designate Christ. And, inasmuch as the living bird was dipped in the blood of that which was killed, this intimated, that all that Christ should do for us after his resurrection, was founded upon the atonement which he had offered; by which he obtained a right to justify us, and to send us his Holy Spirit, and to save us with an everlasting salvation [Note: Hebrews 9:12; Romans 5:10.]. As for the cedar-wood, the scarlet wool, and the hyssop, which were also dipped in the bloody water, and used in sprinkling the leper, we forbear to specify the spiritual import of each, because it must rest on mere conjecture, and will not prove satisfactory after all. But the circumstance of the blood being mixed with living water, most assuredly was designed to teach us, that Christ saves us no less by his Spirit than by his blood; by his Spirit, from the power of sin; and by his blood, from its guilt. Moreover, these are never separated. When his side was pierced, “there came out (as John, who was an eye-witness, testifies) both blood and water [Note: John 19:34-35.].” On which circumstance he lays great stress; assuring us, that “Christ came not by water only, but by water and blood [Note: 1 John 5:6.].” These two then being sprinkled upon the sinner, “the priest of God is fully authorized to pronounce him clean” — — —

In confirmation of this statement we need only to refer to the two goats offered on the great day of annual expiation: that which was slain, and that which carried the sins of the people into the wilderness, equally prefigured Christ [Note: Leviticus 16:21-22.] ; the one, as “dying for our sins; and the other, as rising again for our justification [Note: Romans 4:25.].” The two birds presented by the leper were in this respect precisely similar: and equally point us to that blessed Jesus, who says, “I am He that liveth, and was dead; and behold I am alive for evermore [Note: Revelation 1:18.] ”

We only add further on this point, that it was the “sprinkling” of this blood and water upon the leper, that rendered the ceremony effectual for his good. In vain would the one bird shed his blood, or the other be dipped in it and let loose, unless there were an application of that blood and water to the leper himself. But being “sprinkled seven times,” he was perfectly clean; so far at least as to be brought into the camp, and put into a train for that sanctification which was,]

II. Progressive—

[The leper was to wash both himself and his clothes, and to shave off all his hair, and then to come into the camp. But he was not fully restored to his place in society at once: he was not admitted into his tent, but was to live in some place alone for seven days more; and then, after again washing his body and his clothes, and shaving off all his hair, even to his eyebrows, he was reinstated in all his former privileges and comforts.

This was designed to shew, that the defiling effects of sin yet remain, even after that we are cleansed in the blood of Christ, and renewed by the Spirit. We need still to be renewed, both in our outward and inward man, day by day. Sin cleaves to us, yea, it spontaneously rises up in us: so that though we be washed ever so clean, we shall need to be washed again: and though we be shaved ever so close, we shall not be many days without manifesting that the work of sanctification is not yet perfect. Besides, there are higher degrees of holiness to which the regenerate are to be constantly aspiring. They are “not to account themselves to have yet attained; but, forgetting the things which are behind, they are to press forward for that which is before [Note: Philippians 3:12-14.].” They are to be continually “putting off the old man, and putting on the new, even till they be renewed after the very image of their God in righteousness and true holiness [Note: Ephesians 4:22-24.].” Instead of regarding their restoration to the divine favour as a reason for resting satisfied with their attainments, they are to make their interest in the promises an occasion, and a stimulus, to “cleanse themselves from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit, and to perfect holiness in the fear of God [Note: 2 Corinthians 7:1].” “Having this hope in them,” they are to stop short of nothing that can be attained in this life, but to “purify themselves even as God is pure [Note: 1 John 3:3.].”]

Amongst Israel of old, the great mass of the population had never been infected with the leprosy at all: but that is not the case with us: the leprosy of sin has infected every human being: and there are now but two classes, under the one or the other of which we must all be arranged.

We will therefore address ourselves,

1. To those who are yet infected with the leprosy—

[What was done at the time of pronouncing the lepers clean, is the very thing which must be done to make you clean. You must be sprinkled with the blood and Spirit of Christ, even of “Him who died for you and rose again.” This is necessary; nor can any human being be saved without it: and it shall be effectual; so that no human being shall ever perish, provided he apply to his soul this divinely appointed remedy: “The blood of Jesus Christ shall cleanse him from all sin [Note: John 1:7.] ;” and the Spirit of Christ shall “cleanse him from all his filthiness and uncleanness [Note: Ezekiel 36:25.].” The priests of old could not heal the leper, but only declare him healed: but our High-Priest can heal us. Only cry to him, as the lepers did in the days of his flesh, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” and God himself shall acknowledge and pronounce you clean. The hyssop is even now at hand, wherewith you may sprinkle your own souls. Use it now by faith, and you shall experience with David both its incipient and progressive efficacy: “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow [Note: Psalms 51:7.].” But sprinkle not yourselves once or twice only, but “seven times;” then shall you be “washed thoroughly from your iniquity, and be cleansed from your sin [Note: Psalms 51:2.].”]

2. To those who have been cleansed from it—

[Your state is beautifully represented by that of the healed leper. You are not yet admitted to your home, where your more perfect brethren enjoy without any intermission their Father’s smiles: but you are brought into the camp; you are acknowledged as clean, notwithstanding your remaining imperfections: and there is yet only a single week before you will be brought into the full “liberty of the children of God.” True, the intervening time must be spent in humiliating and painful exercises: but those exercises are all preparing you for the richer enjoyment of the promised bliss: “they are rendering you meet for the inheritance of the saints in light [Note: Colossians 1:12.].” Look forward then to the happiness that awaits you: and carefully attend to every thing that God has enjoined; lest, when the appointed time shall arrive, you shall be found to hare neglected the duties of the present moment. Labour then to the uttermost to get rid of sin: “Wash ye, make you clean [Note: Isaiah 1:16.].” As for the deep-rooted evils that spring up within you from time to time, if they cannot be eradicated, let them be shaved off the very moment that they appear. And let the time now appropriated to mortification and self-denial, be sweetened by the anticipation of that blessed hour, when you shall enter into the joy of your Lord, and rest for ever in the bosom of your God.]


Verses 14-18

DISCOURSE: 131

THE CLEANSING OF THE LEPER

Leviticus 14:14-18. And the priest shall take some of the blood of the trespass-offering, and the priest shall put it upon the tip of the right ear of him that is to be cleansed, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot. And the priest shall take some of the log of oil, and pour it into the palm of his oven left hand: and the priest shall dip his right finger in the oil that is in his left hand, and shall sprinkle of the oil with his finger seven times before the Lord. And of the rest of the oil that is in his hand shall the priest put upon the tip of the right ear of him that is to be cleansed, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot, upon the blood of the trespass-offering. And the remnant of the oil that is in the priest’s hand he shall pour upon the head of him that is to be cleansed; and the priest shall make an atonement for him before the Lord.

IF persons sought nothing more than entertainment in their studies, we know of no book that would afford them so much gratification as the Bible. Not to mention any particular beauties, such as the sublimity of its poetical parts, or the simplicity of the historical, there is something inexpressibly grand in the general harmony of the whole, and the fitness of every part to answer the ends for which it was designed. The great edifice that was to be erected, was Christianity: the model that was formed for the purpose of exhibiting it to the world in types and shadows, was Judaism: and the correspondence between the model and the structure in all its parts affords an inexhaustible fund of pleasing and useful instruction. Let us take, for example, the ceremonies observed at the cleansing of the leper; and we shall find that they set forth in a very striking light the most essential doctrines of the Gospel. They teach us more particularly,

I. The ends for which the blood and Spirit of Christ are to be applied to our souls—

It is scarcely needful to observe, that the blood of the sacrifices typically represented the blood of Christ; or that the oil which was used on various occasions with the sacrifices, represented the Spirit of Christ, with which every true Christian is, and must be, anointed [Note: 2 Corinthians 1:21; 1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27.].

The end for which they were put upon the leper is said to be, to “make an atonement for him [Note: We might suppose from the concluding words of the text, that the priest was to make some other atonement for him: but in 9 the matter is put beyond a doubt; for there it is expressly said, that these ceremonies were performed “to make an atonement for him.”] ” But, in order to understand this aright, we must consider the state of the leprous person: he was banished from the house of God, and from all communion with his dearest friends: but, when he was healed, and the ceremonies appointed for his purification were performed, then he was restored completely to fellowship with God, and with his Church. The word atonement therefore is here used in a lax sense: strictly speaking, it was the blood of the sacrifice alone that made atonement: but the whole ceremony is said to make an atonement, because it was that which availed for the complete restoration of the leper to the enjoyment of all his privileges.

Moreover, he is said “to be cleansed” by these ceremonies, when, in fact, he was healed of his leprosy before any of these ceremonies could be used: so this was not an actual, but a declarative cleansing of his leprosy. Nevertheless it was intended to typify that which is actually effected by the blood and Spirit of Christ: these really cleanse our souls, and restore us perfectly to the service and enjoyment of God. The two together have a combined effect, to bring us to God: but they have separate and very distinct offices, which we ought carefully to notice:—

1. The blood of Christ must be applied to purge away our guilt—

[There is no possibility of cleansing our souls from guilt by any thing that we can do. As the blood of bulls and of goats cannot take away sin, so neither if we could shed rivers of tears, would they suffice to expiate one single offence; much less could they wash out the stain which we have contracted by a whole life of sin. It was because of the insufficiency of all other means, that God sent his only dear Son to die for us. The blood of Him who was “Jehovah’s fellow,” was an ample satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. No other atonement was necessary: nothing can add to the perfection of it. By means of it, God is reconciled to sinners; and nothing is wanting, but that the sinner himself should dip the hyssop in that precious blood, and sprinkle it upon his own conscience [Note: Hebrews 9:12-14.]. This is the use which we are to make of the blood of Christ: and if we apply it thus to our souls in faith, it will “purge us thoroughly from our iniquity, and cleanse us from our sin.”]

2. The Spirit of Christ must be applied to renovate our nature—

[As the leprosy denied the whole man, so does sin pollute our whole souls. Our nature is altogether corrupt: and we must be renewed in every part, before we can enter into the kingdom of God [Note: John 3:3; John 5.]. In our present state, we should not be capable of enjoying the divine presence, even if we were admitted to it. But how can this new nature be obtained? We can no more create ourselves anew, than we could create ourselves at first. We can no more give ourselves a spiritual nature, than vegetables can endue themselves with animation, or animals with reason. The spiritual life is, if we may so speak, a higher scale of existence: for though our faculties remain the same, they acquire a totally new direction as soon as ever the spiritual life is infused into our souls. Hence the true Christian is unequivocally called “a new creature [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:17.]:” and hence arises our need of a divine Agent to bring us to this state. For this purpose therefore the Holy Spirit, the third Person in the ever blessed Trinity, is given to us: he is offered to us, to sanctify us throughout [Note: Titus 3:5.]. To this end we must seek his influence, and submit to his operations. Thus shall the effectual working of his power transform our souls into the divine image [Note: Ephesians 4:23-24.], and make us “meet for the inheritance of the saints in light [Note: Colossians 1:12.].”]

But these points will receive additional light, while we consider,

II. The manner in which the blood and Spirit of Christ are to be applied, in order to their being effectual for the ends proposed—

From the rites used in cleansing the leper, we learn, that the application both of the blood and Spirit of Christ must be,

1. Particular—

[Doubtless our whole man needs purification both from the guilt and pollution of sin. But the application of the blood and oil to the ear, the thumb, and the toe of the leper, seems to intimate, that every member of the body, and every faculty of the soul, whereby we either receive or execute the will of God, needs a special purification from guilt and corruption. Great is the guilt we have contracted in hearing, since we have not been obedient to the voice of God. Great is the guilt we have contracted in the whole of our walk and conduct, since we have walked in our own way rather than in God’s, and done our own will rather than his. Now it is proper that we should call these things to mind, and humble ourselves before God on account of them, imploring mercy for every particular offence, and seeking a renovation of every particular faculty and member; that so our powers may all become “instruments of righteousness unto God [Note: Romans 6:13.].” Not that we are to be so occupied with the consideration of our particular offences as to forget that we need a thorough renovation: no; after having put the blood and oil on the parts which seem most to need their influence, we should “pour the remainder of the oil upon our head,” that it may flow over our whole body [Note: ver. 18.], and that we may “be sanctified wholly in body, soul, and spirit [Note: 1 Thessalonians 5:23.].”]

2. United—

[Neither the blood nor the oil were on any account to be omitted in the purification of the leper: nor can either of them be omitted in the restoration of our souls to God. In vain shall we profess to be justified by the blood of Christ, if we be not also sanctified by his Spirit: and in vain shall we profess to have experienced a renovation of our souls by the influences of the Spirit, if we do not trust entirely in the blood of Christ for pardon and acceptance. In the consecrating of Aaron and his sons to the priesthood, almost the same services were performed as at the purification of the leper: the blood was to be put on their ears, thumbs, and toes, and then, together with the oil, to be sprinkled on their bodies and their garments [Note: Exodus 29:20-21.]. The same idea was suggested by the sprinkling of bleed mixed with water in the preparatory part of the leper’s publication: and it was also intimated by the effusion of blood and water from our Saviour’s side, when he was pierced by the spear [Note: John 19:34-35]. St. John, who alone records that remarkable? fact, lays great stress upon it in his first epistle, reminding us that “he came by water and blood, not by water only, but by water and blood [Note: 1 John 5:6.].” Doubtless these things were designed to teach us, that God has united the pardoning virtue of Christ’s blood, with the sanctifying operations of his Spirit: and that “what he has joined together, no man should presume to put asunder.”]

3. Orderly—

[It is by no means an indifferent matter what order we observe in applying the blood and Spirit of Christ to our souls, or, in other words, whether we seek justification or sanctification in the first place. It is true, that, in speaking of them, our words need not always be placed with accuracy and precision; for even St. Paul himself, when speaking to the Corinthians, says, “Ye are washed, ye are sanctified, ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God [Note: 1 Corinthians 6:11.].” But it is highly necessary that we should have clear and determinate ideas on the subject. The order relative to the leper was, that the oil should be put (on the ear, thumb, and toe, “upon the blood of the trespass-offering [Note: 7.]:” and to prevent our imagining this to mean only that it should be applied in addition to the blood, it is added afterwards, that the oil must “be put upon the place of the blood of the trespass-offering [Note: 8.].” Surely this was not so minutely ordered for nought: it plainly shews us that the blood of Christ must be first applied for our justification; and that then the Spirit will be given for our sanctification. And this is the more carefully to be observed, because it is the very reverse of what men, of themselves, are disposed to do. We are apt to seek sanctification first; and then to make our proficiency in it the ground (in part at least) of our justification: but we must come to God as sinners to be “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus [Note: Romans 3:24.] ;” and, being united thus by faith to Christ as the living vine, we shall derive virtue from him for the bringing forth this fruits of righteousness and true holiness [Note: John 15:5; Romans 7:4.].]

4. Believing—

[At the purification of the leper the priest was to “sprinkle the oil seven times before the Lord.” This denoted that, while in the performance of these ceremonies they sought the glory of the Lord, they expected from him an abundant supply of those blessings which were typically represented by them. Thus in applying the blood and Spirit of Christ to our souls, we must feel a persuasion that we are using the instituted means of our salvation; and that, in the use of them, we shall receive from God the blessings we stand in need of. Such a confidence is not to be called presumption. Presumption is the expectation of benefits in a way wherein God has not warranted us to expect them: but the most assured expectation of them, when accompanied with a diligent discharge of our duty, and a humble dependence on his promises, is in the highest degree pleasing to God, and profitable to man. The “stronger we are in faith, the more do we give glory to God [Note: Romans 4:20.],” and ensure the accomplishment of his promises to our souls [Note: John 11:40; 2 Chronicles 20:20.].]

Address—

1. To those who are conscious of their leprous state.

[The lepers were not left to judge of their own state: they were examined by the priest, and necessitated to abide by his decision. Think ye then, that, when our great High-Priest shall inspect your souls, he will not find out the marks of leprosy that are upon you? Be assured that, however they may be covered from the eye of man, they are all “naked and open (as the sacrifices were when flayed and cut down the back-bone) before the eyes of Him with whom we have to do [Note: γυμνὰ καὶ τετραχηλισμένα. Hebrews 4:13.].” O search out your iniquities, and “rend your hearts, and cover your lips, and, with the convicted leper, cry, Unclean, unclean [Note: Leviticus 13:45 with Isaiah 6:5.] !” If you be not conscious of your disorder, you will never feel your need of purification from it; and consequently you will neglect the means prescribed for your recovery, and perish in your sins. May God avert from you so heavy a calamity, and incline you to accept with gratitude his proffered mercy!]

2. To those who desire deliverance from it—

[The lepers, though in a most afflicted state [Note: For the true state of a leper, see Numbers 12:12.], had reason to be resigned to their lot, because their disorder came from the hand of God. But your disorder comes from yourselves; and therefore you should not be satisfied with its continuance one day or hour. You do well to be solicitous about the removal of it: and we entreat you never to relax your solicitude about it, till the desired healing has been imparted to your souls. Know ye then for your comfort, that the blood and oil are already prepared, and that your great High-Priest is at this moment ready to apply them to your souls. Only go to him, and he will rejoice to minister to your necessities. Go humbly, yet boldly to him: present your ear. your hand, your foot, yea, and your whole person before him. that he may put upon them the blood and oil: and doubt not but that instantly you shall be restored to God. and stand “faultless before his presence with exceeding joy [Note: Judges 4.].”]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Leviticus 14:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/leviticus-14.html. 1832.

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