And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,…
As leprosy is evidently a remarkable emblem of sin, so must the cleansing of the leper represent the purification of the sinner, and the laws of the cleansing, the provisions of the gospel. The text brings under our notice -
I. THE CONDITIONS REQUIRED. These were:
1. That the leprosy be healed.
(1) Healing and cleansing are distinct things. The priest did not heal. Before proceeding to cleanse he had to see that the leprosy was healed (verse 3). Our Lord healed lepers, and then sent them to the priest to be cleansed (see Matthew 8:2-4; Mark 1:40-44; Luke 5:12-14; Luke 17:14).
(2) The gospel of this is that repentance is not salvation. The body may be healed, outward reformation may be considerable, while the heart is morally putrescent (see Matthew 23:25-28). The leper, though healed, unless also cleansed, must not enter the holy place or eat of the holy things. A genuine change of heart will manifest itself in a pure life. When these exist together, fellowship with God is established.
2. That the priest certify the fact.
(1) "He shall be brought unto the priest," viz. for this purpose. He is brought by his friends, or they apprise the priest of his condition. Those are the true friends of sinners who bring them to Jesus in person or in prayer.
(2) "The priest shall go forth out of the camp." This did Jesus, who came to seek and save the lost. The Pharisees found fault with him for mingling with "publicans and sinners" when he acted as the priest among the lepers.
(3) The repentance that satisfies Jesus is genuine (see Luke 18:10-14). And this he certifies in his offices of cleansing.
II. THE OFFERING MADE.
1. The sacrifice.
(1) This consisted of two birds. We say "this in the singular, for the birds must be together viewed as one sacrifice. Unitedly they were intended to prefigure the one true Sacrifice for sins.
(2) The birds were "alive," to represent him that" hath life in himself."
(3) They were" clean." They might be sparrows or quails - any wild birds of the clean kinds. Cleanness was requisite to foreshadow One whose birth and life were spotlessly pure.
2. Its treatment.
(1) One bird was killed over running or "living" water, which was the emblem of the living, purifying Spirit of God. Blood and water together flowed from the opened side of Jesus (see John 19:34, 35; 1 John 5:6, 8). The infinitely superior virtue of the blood of Christ lay in that, being God as well as man, he was able to offer himself through the eternal Spirit without spot (Hebrews 9:13, 14).
(2) The "living bird" was dipped "in the blood of the bird that was killed," to show that our guilt was laid upon the soul of Jesus as well as upon his body. This truth is indeed expressed in the blood shed; for the "blood is the life of the flesh." But to impress it upon us it is here presented under another figure (see Isaiah 53:10-12).
III. ITS APPROPRIATION. This was:
1. Through the sprinkling of blood.
(1) The atonement availed the leper nothing without the application of the blood to his person. So the blood of Christ avails only to those who appropriate its benefits by faith.
(2) The blood was sprinkled upon the leper "seven times" to express perfection and sufficiency, and to point to the seventh period or rest of the gospel (Hebrews 4:10), in which the atonement by Christ satisfies all the promises of the types. Then he was pronounced "clean."
(3) The next thing was to let the living bird, stained with the blood of that killed in sacrifice, loose in the open field. What a lively picture! As the leper is assured that he is clean he sees his guilt carried away, and loses sight of it as the bird disappears in the wood. So does Christ bear our sins into oblivion.
2. Through the washing of water.
(1) The leper was to wash his clothes and appear in clean white linen, the emblem of the "righteousness of the saints."
(2) He had also to shave off all his hair, which had been dishonoured by the plague, that a new growth might crown him in purity.
(3) He had likewise to wash his flesh; and that too "seven times," to express the thoroughness of his purification (comp. 2 Kings 5:10; also Psalm 51:2). But the true purifier is that sevenfold Spirit of the gospel, issuing as the river of life, from the throne of God and of the Lamb (Revelation 5:6; Revelation 22:1).
3. By the ministry of the word.
(1) The blood was sprinkled upon the leper by means of a whisk composed of "cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop." A branch of hyssop seems to have been tied to a handle of cedar by a thread of scarlet wool. But the materials used were evidently intended as emblems, else they would not have been so carefully specified. And we find these very materials on another occasion, thrown into the fire of the altar, to be consumed with the red heifer (see Numbers 19:6).
(2) As to the hyssop and cedar, they seem to be, as it were, at the extremes in the kingdom of trees, and so generally represent that kingdom. For Solomon in his wisdom "spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall" (1 Kings 4:33). We know that the servants of God are compared to trees (Psalm 1:3; Psalm 92:12; Isaiah 61:3). They are various in their abilities, yet all serviceable as ministers and instruments of the gospel (1 Corinthians 12:21).
(3) As to the wool; it is from the fleece of an animal proper for sacrifice, and its colour is that of blood. A cord of the same colour was hung from her window by Rahab, to express faith in the blood of the Passover to protect her and her house from destruction. It would not be lawful in her to sacrifice a lamb and sprinkle its blood; but she did what she might, and expressed her faith by this sign (Joshua 3:18, 19). The scarlet cord of a common faith in the blood of Christ binds his servants together, and in their unity makes them efficient instruments in carrying his gospel to mankind.
(4) If it be asked why should the cedar and scarlet and hyssop be burnt with the red heifer, the answer is that there is a sense in which faithful ministers may be "offered upon the sacrifice and service" of the faith of those they benefit (see Acts 9:4; 2 Corinthians 1:5, 6; 2 Corinthians 4:10; Philippians 2:17; Philippians 3:10; Colossians 1:24; 2 Timothy 1:8; 2 Timothy 2:10). - J.A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,