The Cleansing of the Leper

Leviticus 13‑14  •  12 min. read  •  grade level: 8
(Read Lev. 13 and 14)
Leprosy is a terrible figure of sin. All disease is the result of sin, but the incurable character of leprosy, the terrible way it disfigures its victims, how first one joint and then another of fingers and toes are eaten away, nose eaten off, hair falling out, till the poor sufferer looks a pitiable object, makes it a striking figure of sin in its defiling ineradicable and contagious nature. Moreover it is so contagious that the victim must be segregated from his fellows.
The first mention of leprosy in the Bible was when the Lord told Moses to thrust his hand into his bosom, and when drawn out " his hand was leprous as snow " (Ex. 4:66And the Lord said furthermore unto him, Put now thine hand into thy bosom. And he put his hand into his bosom: and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous as snow. (Exodus 4:6)), as if to show the truth of the prophet's utterance, " From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores; they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment " (Isa. 1:66From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment. (Isaiah 1:6)).
Lev. 13 gives a very careful diagnosis of the disease, so that the priest could decide whether a man was a leper or not. One spot with certain characteristics would decide the leprosy of the individual. One spot reveals an inward diseased condition, just as one sin comes from a sinful nature. How good God is in giving us such a vivid presentation of what sin is in His presence. One spot might disclose the leper, but on the other hand if the whole body wherever looked at by the priest was covered with leprosy from head to foot, " then the priest shall consider: and, behold, if the leprosy have covered all his flesh, he shall pronounce him clean that hath the plague: it is all turned white: he is clean " (Lev. 13:1313Then the priest shall consider: and, behold, if the leprosy have covered all his flesh, he shall pronounce him clean that hath the plague: it is all turned white: he is clean. (Leviticus 13:13)). This seems to teach that when a sinner really owns fully his sinner-ship, it is then the mercy of God can come in, and bless him. Job in the Old Testament and Saul of Tarsus in the New Testament come to mind in this connection.
Job was a wonderful man, upright, perfect in his ways, generous, looked up to with deep respect by old and young, and then challenged by Satan, the Lord allowed him to be stripped of wealth and family in one day, to be tormented by boils from head to foot, to be tortured and irritated by his three carping friends, charging him with being a hypocrite, which he certainly was not. At last when God spoke to him he came most astonishingly to the true estimate of himself in God's presence. " I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth Thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes " (Job 42:5, 65I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. 6Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes. (Job 42:5‑6)), Would Job ever forget that day? It was the best day of his life. The leprosy had covered all his flesh. It had all turned white. He was clean. The leprosy had worked out in the flesh till there was no more flesh to work upon, and he was thus clean.
Take Saul of Tarsus. What a good show in the flesh he made. He was sincere, if ever a man was. As touching the righteousness of the law he was blameless. But one day he got a vision of Christ. He saw a light above the brightness of the sun. He was stricken down, and learned in a moment that the One he was opposing, in savagely haling His humble followers to prison, and hounding them to death, was none less than the Son of God, a glorious Savior, risen and triumphant at God's right hand. He took up his pen and wrote, " This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I Am CHIEF " (1 Tim. 1:1515This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. (1 Timothy 1:15)). The leprosy covered all his flesh. He was clean.
Of course we must be careful at this point. The flesh, the fallen evil nature with which we are born, is ever the flesh. There will be no cure for that. " If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us " (1 John 1:88If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8)), though the verse before says so beautifully and truly that " the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from ALL sin."
The type goes no further than a sinner fully realizing his sinner-ship, and owning his true condition before God, being looked at as clean in God's holy sight, though we know full well that it is only through the atoning sacrifice of Christ that blessing can come to any. -
When a man was pronounced a leper how pitiable was his condition. We read, " 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. All the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean; he shall dwell alone: without the camp shall his habitation be " (Lev. 13:45, 4645And 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. 46All the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be. (Leviticus 13:45‑46)).
Not only was the leper segregated as an individual, but he was cut off from the Congregation. Is this not typical of sin cutting a soul off from communion with God? It may be the sin of a believer is of such a nature as to cause him to be put away from the fellowship of saints on earth, as was the case of the incestuous man in 1 Cor. 5. There is a " within " and " without " in relation to God's assembly; which is a place of holiness, where evil is to be judged and dealt with, when it occurs, just as there was a within and without in the camp of the Israelites.
In Lev. 14 we read of a house being plagued with leprosy. When that was proved, the house had to be emptied, scraped and the dust taken into an unclean place. Other stones and plaster were then used, but if the plague broke out again, it is " a fretting leprosy " beyond recovery, and so the house must be broken down, stones, timber, plaster, and all carried to an unclean place.
Do we not know something of this today? Yes, it is sad to say, we do. The passage refers to a definite action on the cart of the Lord's representative here on earth (the assembly) to pronounce and carry out the judgment. A solemn responsibility where evil (moral or doctrinal) has been allowed unjudged within the house.
(paragraph damaged in BTP's copy)
The cleansing of the healed leper is most instructive typically. The priest commanded that two birds be taken alive and clean with cedar wood, scarlet and hyssop. One of the birds was to be killed in an earthen vessel over running water. The other living bird with the cedar wood and scarlet and hyssop was dipped in the blood of the bird that was killed over running water, and the blood sprinkled seven times upon the healed leper and the living bird let loose in the open field.
We pause here. How touching are these items typically. The slain bird is typical of our Lord, who died to cleanse us by His precious blood. The bird was killed in an earthen vessel. Our Lord who was very God of very God, God the eternal Son, became a: Man, and thus came in " an earthen vessel." " A body hast Thou prepared Me " (Heb. 10:55Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: (Hebrews 10:5)). The bird was killed over " running water." Water is typical of the word of God as applied by the Holy Spirit, and running water speaks of the Holy Spirit in activity. " Christ... through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God " (Heb. 9:1414How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:14)).
As to the living bird, it was identified with the slain bird, inasmuch as it was dipped in its blood. Let loose into the open field, allowed to fly to heaven, as it were, it set forth how our blessed Lord brought to death for our sins, rose triumphantly from the dead, and ascended to glory, the proof of the victory He had won. What a testimony! Just as the bird with blood-marked wings flew to the heavens, so we read of Christ, " Neither by the blood of goats and calves but by His own blood He entered in once into the Holy Place, having obtained eternal redemption for us " (Heb. 9:1212Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. (Hebrews 9:12)). Not only was the living bird dipped in the blood of the slain bird, but also the cedar wood, scarlet and hyssop. Cedar wood and scarlet speak of man in all his grandeur. Solomon spoke of trees, " From the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall " (1 Kings 4:3333And he spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall: he spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes. (1 Kings 4:33)). The lowly stoop of our Lord from the throne of God to the manger of Bethlehem, to the cross of Calvary, puts into the dust all man's, grandeur. Does not Isaac Watt's wonderful hymn show us the dipping in blood of the cedar wood and scarlet?
" When we survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
Our richest gain we count but loss,
And pour contempt on all our pride."
As to the hyssop, emblematical of that which is mean in nature, many think the poor should be blessed because of their sad lot in this life, but the blood-stained hyssop sets aside that notion. We are all sinners. It is all beautifully summed up by the dying King Edward VII, when he asked Prebendary Carlile, Founder of the Church Army, how his tramps were. Before the Prebendary had time to reply, the King said, " Take notice, Carlile, that tramps [hyssop] and Kings [cedar wood and scarlet] need the same Savior." What a wonderful lesson for the King in all his exalted position to have learned!
Then there come the most elaborate details as to the cleansing, telling loudly that there must not only be done a work outside the sinner, but also inside the sinner, so that there may be the leaving off of all practical defilement. Holiness is insisted upon. Let the matter be crystal clear. It is the death and blood-shedding of our Lord on the cross, that gives the sinner, who believes, title before God-a title, not of works, but all of the grace of God, on the righteous ground that the atoning death of our Lord has settled the whole question of sin for the believing sinner. But on the other hand there must be moral suitability, or fitness, to be in God's presence.
There is not only the blood, but the water-blood, setting forth judicial cleansing, giving title to God's presence; the water, the cleansing action of the Word of God, giving fitness. Judicial standing first, then moral suitability. A peer of the realm may have title to appear at the King's Court, but he would never dream of appearing there in anything but court dress.
The healed leper was pronounced clean, but he had to wash his clothes, symbolic of a man coming under the influence of the grace of God giving up habits that are not suitable to his approach to God. The leper had to wash himself and shave off all his hair, setting forth something still more intimate as unfitting for God. For seven days he was to tarry out of his tent abroad. On the seventh day he had to shave the hair off his head, his beard and eyebrows, wash his clothes and himself again, and then he was clean. How God inculcates holiness in thought, talk, and ways of His beloved people.
On the eighth day the cleansed leper was to take two he lambs without blemish, one ewe lamb of the first year without blemish, three tenth deals of fine flour for a Meat Offering, mingled with oil and one log of oil. The first thing that was done was to slay a lamb for a Trespass Offering, and wave it before the Lord. Then the priest took of the blood of the Sacrifice, and put it upon the right ear of him that was to be cleansed, upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot. In this way was symbolized, first, that there is no approach to God save on the ground of the atoning sacrifice of our Lord, and second, that the amazing love of that Sacrifice claims from us nothing less than the consecration of our lives to Him, who loved us and gave Himself for us. " The love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if One died for all, then were all dead; and that He died for all, that they which live should NOT henceforth live unto themselves, but UNTO HIM, which died for them and rose again" (2 Cor. 5:14, 1514For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: 15And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. (2 Corinthians 5:14‑15)). Not only should there be a response on our side, but the glad acknowledgment of the claim that God makes on His side.
Now we see the reason for the log of oil. Some of the oil was poured into the palm of the priest's hand and with it he anointed the tip of the leper's right ear, the thumb of his right hand, and the great toe of his right foot. These members were already marked with blood. So the oil was put upon the blood. The ear is that which receives communications, the hand and foot carry them out. The oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit, and that it is only in the strength and power of God's Holy Spirit that the believer will be able to respond in the way that is suitable to such Divine love and grace. The remnant of the oil was poured out upon the head of the cleansed leper, a picture of the whole man being claimed for God.
" Love so amazing, so Divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all."
Then was offered a Sin Offering, followed by a Burnt Offering and a Meat Offering, as if to bring before the soul the different aspects of the death of Christ, showing what was needed to meet our deep need.