Of the three great inflictions of leprosy in the Bible - and there are three only - one is linked with the priests - Miriam, and Aaron; one with the kings Uzziah; and one with the prophets - Gehazi, Elishas attendant: prophet, priest, and king are all subjects of the awful thing called Sin. One, Miriams, was the penalty for a constant temptation to womankind - jealousy; one, Uzziahs, the penalty for a constant temptation to ministers - spiritual pride; and one, Gehazis, the penalty for a constant temptation of the ordinary man (especially the business man) - covetousness. Moreover, they are so graded as to be perpetual examples of sin and its judgment. Miriam, the saintly believer, caught in a sudden fall, confesses, and is cleansed on the spot: Uzziah, intoxicated by blessing, falls heavily, and dies impenitent - excommunicate, but not lost: Gehazi, in closest touch with spiritual things - a professor but not a possessor - suddenly stands revealed as a leper to the remotest generation and for ever.
A lady once had her photograph taken. When the photographer developed the plate, dark spots appeared on the face, which had been totally invisible to the eye. Next day smallpox appeared, of which the lady died. What a picture of sin! The Sun saw death where all others saw only life.
A Christian worker in
A BIRD DIPT IN BLOOD
By D. M. PANTON.
The first act of our glorious Priest in handling leprosy is, by an extremely careful diagnosis, to determine whether the man is a leper. For as disease is not natural to the human body, so sin is an abnormal horror to the spirit: the spirit of a man is made for righteousness exactly as the body is made for health; and though both are born germed, and so death-doomed, both put up some measure of resistance which varies greatly in different cases. Sin incubates, and so requires Divine diagnosis. There are records of cases of leprosy, says Dr. Ernest Muir, which apparently must have been infected upwards of thirty years before the symptoms developed. On the other hand there are instances where the disease developed within a few weeks. The average incubation period is generally supposed to be about eight years.* Now the acid test of leprosy, according to the Levitical regulations, is that it is subcutaneous; that is, it is beneath the surface, and inside the man. There were burning boils (13: 23, 28) which were not leprosy, as there are infirmities, temperamental defects, honest mistakes, which look like sin but are not; but if the appearance be LOWER THAN THE SKIN, it is the plague of leprosy (Lev. 13: 20). So our Lord says Out of the HEART come forth evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, railings: these are the things which defile the man (Matt. 15: 18). The other proof is expansion. If the scab be SPREAD in the skin, it is leprosy (13: 8). Sin spreads over the man, and through the man, and at last strikes down into the vitals - leprosy usually kills suddenly and unexpectedly by striking a vital organ: it spreads through a family, through a nation, through a race, through a world. One sin made Miriam a leper: one sin sent out Gehazi a leper white as snow. Its permeating horror is the vital fact of sin.
* Handbook on Leprosy, p. 6. Does not sin begin to be very manifest about the age of eight?
Now our view of sin is so disastrously
defective that no study could be more beneficial than a study of the
leper. All disease, since it is merely
death begun, is the fruit of sin; but leprosy is the peculiar product and
parable of iniquity; and the horrible mutilation and distortion of the
exquisite body and its functions is the identical horror which sin works in the
spirit of a man.
* The man who had leprosy in the head was accounted unclean in an especial degree (13: 43, 44): he was utterly unclean. Sin never assumes so dangerous a phase as when it appears in the form of a perverted judgment or a darkened conscience. When a man calls evil good, and good evil, he is in the last stage of moral decline and death is at hand (W. Clarkson).
Also in the way it works leprosy reveals, in the physical realm, an amazingly accurate counterpart of the great malady in the spiritual realm. The sudden sight of a man who has ruined another by a deliberate business fraud, or the snake-like cheat, or the assassin, or the vilely unclean, is like coming suddenly on a leper with a face half rotted off, or hands lifted as stumps: the stench, the sores, the atrophy, the dropt-off limbs the features run into one - such rotting characters, suddenly met in life, confront us with horror. Even so Aaron pleaded for his sister Miriam:- Let her not be as one dead, whom the flesh is half consumed when he cometh out of his mothers womb (Num. 12: 12). On the other hand, there are lepers who look perfectly whole and healthy, as there are sinners who appear quite un-morally rotted. A leper may be a spreader of the disease, says Dr. Muir, before he is aware that he suffers from it; and the public and the medical profession are so ignorant of the symptoms of early leprosy that the disease is often well advanced before it is diagnosed.* Moreover, as leprosy ranges between total insensibility and acute agony, so the sinner can experience anything from complete total unconsciousness of sin to the very torments of Hell in the conscience. The onset in by far the greater number of cases, says Dr. Muir, is at first slow and insidious. The attention of the patient may first be drawn to lack of sensation (P. 7). Just as pain is natures violent protest against the presence of disease, so is an agonized conscience a no less violent protest against the presence of sin; but both can pass: sin consumes the fine nerves of conscience, and rots away moral sensation until the sinner is past feeling (Eph. 4: 19), approximating to the pathology of demons cauterized in the conscience as with a hot iron (1 Tim. 4: 2).
* Handbook, pp. 76, 95.
Next, the condemnation of God on sin could not be more
wonderfully photographed. The types of
the Old Testament, says Dr. A. J. Gordon, are as
accurate as mathematics. When the Crusades had
introduced leprosy into
* Handbook, p. 96. Forbidden the
We have seen the patient: now we see the cure, embodied in one of the simplest and loveliest of the types. A Child of the skies, whose home is in the skies, and whose flight to and fro is the sole link between heaven and earth, appears; a clean bird, whose early nest was the foulest village in Galilee, yet whose wings are covered with silver, and her pinions with yellow gold (Ps. 68: 13). The priest shall command to take for him - that is, in place of the leper two living birds; and the priest shall command TO KILL, one of the birds (14: 4). Sin is murderous: it either kills or is killed - that is, cured: death falls, not on the leper, but on the bird, and the death of the bird is the cure of the leper. He shall sprinkle [the blood] upon him that is to be cleansed seven times, and shall pronounce him clean.*
* Pronounced clean (14: 7) in justification, and made clean (14: 11) in sanctification, the process follows the experience of the Apostolic Church - (1) blood, conversion , (2) water baptism; (3) oil, miraculous gifts: he enters the Camp (the Church) at once, but only after the Seven Days of our dispensation (14: 8) may he enter the Temple (Gods presence on high) and his own home - one of the Many Mansions.
An inherent defect in the types, deeply embedded in the nature of things, lay in the inability of a slain animal to picture Resurrection. Nature finds it impossible even to utter that which is the crowning triumph of Grace. So one bird alone could not exhaust the Type. As for the living bird, he shall take it, and shall dip the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed, and shall let go the living bird into the open field. Imputation of sin is an awful reality: Christ, after bearing sin, could only enter Heaven covered by blood. The Bird was clean; yet it was dipped, for the lepers sin was upon both birds. Who, THROUGH HIS OWN BLOOD, ENTERED IN once for all into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption (Heb. 9: 12). Gods Priest relaxes the holy grip of the Law from the sinless Bird: dipt in its fellows blood, the little Bird flashes upward, shaking the drops of salvation from its scarlet wings. The risen Lord looks down on a world sprinkled by the blood,* and His heart bursts into song (Zeph. 3: 17), like a lark poised in a flood of sunshine over a ripening cornfleld. The Bird has been slain, and the Bird has been let fly, and we are saved: who was delivered up for our trespasses - the dead bird - and was raised .or our justification - the living bird: being therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 4: 24; 5: 1).
** That Christ has bought the field, see DAWN, Vol 1. p. 350.
One final regulation is so inexplicable medically, and such a lightning-flash typically, as to go far to prove that in Levitius leprosy is a kindergarten for sin. If the leprosy have covered all his flesh, he shall pronounce him CLEAN (13: 13). If the sin has all come to the surface, and none is hidden; if the sinner has abandoned the contention that he is only partially sinful; if the man is as unreservedly a sinner as a total leper is unreservedly leprous, he is clean: that is, it is a repentance which immediately accepts the Blood, and depends for ever on the Sacrifice of Another. I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes (Job. 42: 5) cried the most wonderful of the patriarchs: in sin did my mother conceive me (Ps. 51: 5) exclaimed the sweetest of the psalmists: all our righteousness is as filthy rags (Isa. 64: 6) says the most radiant of the prophets: the chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1: 15) is the cry of the greatest of the apostles.*
of the details may be thus explained.
The Bird was killed in an earthern vessel over
running water. (1) Our Lords was a body truly moulded of dust; no iron framework, but a
weary, fragile, mortal form; dust, that He might redeem the dust that He had
made. We have
this treasure - so had He in earthen vessels, that the exceeding greatness
of the power may he of God (2 Cor. 4: 7).
(2) The vessel is full of running water. Jesus
stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst,
let him come unto Me, and drink. Let him come to the Vessel
full of the Water. He that believeth on Me ... out of his belly shall flow rivers of living, - or,
gushing - water.
This spake He of the Spirit
(John 7: 38). Jesus is an earthen Vessel full of the Holy
Ghost. Instead of the dull, stagnant,
infected flow of leprous life, He is full of the ever-vital, ever-pure,
ever-moving, life-force of the Spirit of God.
(3) Thus the vessel in which the bird was slain became a bowl full of
blood and water: so one of the soldiers with a spear
pierced his side, and straightway there
blood and water (John 19: 34). Other details may refer to
Life is too short for aught but high endeavour
Time is the best avenger if we wait.
The years speed by, and on their wings bear healing;
We have no room for anything like hate.
This solemn truth the low mounds seem revealing
That thick and fast about our feet are stealing
Life is too short.
The duty that David brought his heart to, before he had a full enjoyment of what he looked for, was patient waiting, it being Gods use to put a long date oftentimes to the performances of His promises. David, after he had the promise of a kingdom, was put off a long time ere he was invested to it; Abraham was an old man before he enjoyed his son of promise; Joseph stayed a long time before he was exalted; our blessed Saviour Himself was 34 years old before He was exalted; exalted up into glory. God defers, but His deferring is no empty space wherein no good is done; but there is in it that space for fitting for promises. Whilst the seed lies hid in the earth, time is not lost, for winter fits for a spring. We must endure the working of Gods physic. God promises deliverance from sin, but thou findest the burden of it daily on thee. Cheer up thyself: when the morning is darkest then comes day; after a weary week comes a Sabbath, and after a fight victory will appear. Gods time is best, therefore resolve upon waiting His leisure.
- Sibbes, 1577-1635.