Leviticus 13:45, 46
And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and his head bore, and he shall put a covering on his upper lip…
The stringent rules for the treatment of the leper are not sufficiently explained by sanitary considerations. The Jews saw in the leper a symbol of the sinner visited with the displeasure of God. His was a stroke of smiting ("plague of leprosy") from the hand of Jehovah, which made him "utterly unclean" (verse 44). The instructions of this chapter may convey to us important truth respecting the sinner's condition. To behold it thus forcibly depicted may administer a wholesome warning.
I. THE CORRUPTION EFFECTED BY SIN. Cannot but shudder at:
1. Its loathsomeness, destroying man's appearance, making him offensive to the sight. How abominable is wickedness to the pure eyes of God, and if our moral sense were keener, what constant shocks should we receive from the wicked conduct of men! What want of taste to indulge in sin! what disharmony of relationship it introduces!
2. Note its tendency to spread until it becomes total. The commission of one crime often leads to another which still more impairs the soul; the inordinate gratification of appetite in one direction is provocative of intemperance in another; to lose modesty is often to lose natural affection. At last the whole constitution betrays the effects of sin, body, mind, and spirit are alike unpleasant to contemplate.
3. Its destruction of vital power. It was termed by the Jews a "living death." Of its worst form, where the limbs mortify and drop off, no special mention is made in the Law; indeed, the supposition is that, after the expiration of a certain time, the disease will have so spread as to become harmless, and the man may be termed "clean" (verse 17). The disease appears to have become more malignant in subsequent ages, and thus to typify even more accurately the waste of strength produced by evil habits. The mental and moral faculties are enervated by sin, the sinner is led captive by the devil at his will. To understand a principle we must push its application to extreme consequences, and if we would entertain fitting conceptions of sin we must regard it not when most refined, not when in its commencement, but in its gross final results. To dread fire, think of the conflagration that visits a town with disorder and ruin!
II. THE EXCLUSION IT ENTAILS FROM HOLY PRIVILEGES, The leper was separate from the people and the sanctuary.
1. Contact with the sinner defiles, except in appointed cases, where the servant of God in fulfillment of duty (as the priest in examination) seeks out the moral h per. If men mingle with sinners, having Christ's end in view, to do them good, the association is pardoned. Otherwise "one sinner destroyeth much good," "evil communications corrupt good manners." Men should naturally shun the company of the debased as they would the presence of those afflicted with an infectious disease.
2. The semblance of sin must be guarded against. All that appears like it (verses 5, 6) needs suspicious treatment. Better to err on the safe side, not pronouncing at first decidedly, but watching the operation of a plan, or society, or principle, and ere long its true character wilt be manifested by development.
3. Continuance in sin means separation from the Church and the fellowship of right-minded people. The leper must "dwell alone, without the camp." Our Lord and his apostles insisted on the maintenance of discipline in Christian bodies. The persistent sinner will find himself eventually cut off from intercourse with his former friends, for ungodliness is an effectual barrier, creating uncongeniality of sentiment and behaviour.
4. Dismission from the presence of God is the worst penalty of sin. The Psalmist might lament his enforced absence from the tabernacle where he had seen the power and glory of God; but how much more the man who was so near the hill of Zion, and yet so far off by reason of symbolical impurity! Sin kept God and man asunder, and to remove it came the Lord Jesus Christ. The awful sentence finally pronounced upon the unrighteous is "Depart from me!" What absence of joy and peace and love is contained in the words, "the outer darkness"!
III. THE EXPRESSIONS OF FEELING THAT BEFIT THE SINNER'S STATE.
1. Grief. The leper wore the garb of mourning. There needs the godly sorrow that worketh repentance. Reflect not simply upon the sad consequences of sin, estrangement from God, deprivation of his favour, but upon their source, and learn to hate sin as an abomination.
2. Humiliation. The uncovered head attested the leper's shame. "I abhor myself" is fitting language for polluted lips.
3. Acknowledgment of guilt. Listen to the cry, "Unclean!" The upper lip was shrouded in a covering that enjoined general silence, except on the approach of a stranger, who might be thereby defiled. "We are all as an unclean thing." When sin lies heavily upon the conscience, it is felt to be no time for ordinary conversation, much less for frivolous gossip, though under such a veil anxiety is often hid.
CONCLUSION. By the Law was the knowledge of sin, but by the gospel is proclaimed its remedy, forgiveness and. sanctification through Christ. The priest was not dependent upon his own judgment, but was guided by fixed rules in deciding upon leprous cases. Yet he did not heal; the sufferer was left to nature's care, and to indulge the vague hope of recovery. The gospel bids all sinners lay aside their fears and rejoice in a panacea that never fails. The interposition of God by prophets which resulted in miraculous cures of leprosy prepared the way for the marvelous works of the Redeemer, who evinced by his restoring the body to health his power also to heal the soul. Thus what was faintly foreshadowed under the old dispensation has been brightly revealed in the new. The enumeration of the feelings appropriate to the sinner is incomplete, therefore, without adding to them hope, in the sense not of wishful longing, but of certain anticipation of salvation. - S.R.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip, and shall cry, Unclean, unclean.