"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."
How very good God has been in giving us such plain pictures in his Word; setting forth man's moral condition, and his own great deliverance, through the death and resurrection of Jesus. And certainly there are few more striking than the picture or type of the two birds. To a person deeply anxious to know, with certainty, that he is cleansed from sin, this picture is most valuable. I have seen such, brought by the blessed truth set forth in this type, into the most abiding confidence of faith. And God gives me this confidence, that many more will be brought, by this little paper, into his own perfect peace.
Let us now look at the picture. This was the law appointed of God, in Israel: — "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."
What a terrible picture of sin, leprosy is — what a living death of wretchedness and desolation. The disease itself most loathsome. The person covered with sores so as to be unfit for human eye. Wandering alone, or with others in like wretchedness. Those most dear to him not allowed to come near. His food left him by a brook, or under a tree; or living as best he could from the wild fruits of the desert. At times there must have been heart-aching longings for home. One thing was very remarkable, if the leprosy had covered him all over, from head to foot, all turned white, then he was clean.
The priest is appointed of God to express God's mind, or judgment, in the case. The manner of his cleansing was this, — "Then shall the priest command to take for him that is to be cleansed, two birds (the margin reads sparrows) alive and clean, and cedar wood 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 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 fields." (Lev. 14:4, 7.)
Then the priest comes down to this poor, anxious leper, by the brook in the valley. Solemn moment for the poor leper; will he be rejected and left in his wretchedness; or cleansed and restored to his longed-for home? He watches every movement of the priest; one bird is killed: its blood falls into the earthen vessel. How expressive of the death of Christ. And now the priest takes the other bird in his hand; watch him. He dips it in the blood of the dead bird; you see the blood on its feathers. He sprinkles the blood on the poor leper seven times, the perfect number. He is about to speak the sentence of God on the poor, anxious leper; the leper listens with breathless silence. He fixes his eyes on that live bird, held captive in the priest's hand — thoughts of happy home rush into his mind — his liberty is bound up in that little captive bird. If it is let go, then the leper is free. The priest pronounces him clean — the bird is let go loose into the open field — tears of joy gush down the cheeks of the cleansed leper — his streaming eyes gaze on the flight of the blood-stained bird, a living witness of his cleansing and liberty.
Ask him how he knows he is cleansed, and his reply would be, — the priest of God pronounces me clean. The bird is free, and flown away, that is how I know. Yes, as certain as the living bird is flown away, so certain is it that he is cleansed. For this is the way God has made known his mind to the poor leper. The bird could not be set free; until he was pronounced cleansed. Then followed the washing of his person in water. Nothing could be more plain, or more precious, than the truth thus set forth. The one bird shewing the death, and the other the resurrection of our blessed Lord. This is God's only way of cleansing the wretched sinner from his sins. And, blessed be God, your case cannot be too bad for God's cleansing. If you are a sinner all over; if like the leprosy, having spent itself turns white; if you have spent all in sin; if character, health, friends, home — if all is gone. If weary of life; however wretched and desolate, God meets you in the death of his own beloved Son, with the certainty of the forgiveness of all sins, through his blood, to every one that believes.
I think I hear my reader saying, Yes, yes, I have read that the blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin, but how am I to know that it cleanseth me? You say, "my poor, trembling, anxious heart wants to know that! can you tell me?" Oh, yes blessed be God, his word leaves no uncertainty. How did the leper know he was cleansed? He believed God's priest, and the token he gave him in the living bird. And has not the precious blood of Jesus been shed; has it not been spilt on this earth, as the blood of the bird that was killed? One bird could not be killed, and then let fly, so there had to be two, to shew the death and resurrection of our precious Substitute. Watch that bleeding Surety die for sin, and then laid captive for you (trembling believer) in death. Now, as the blood of the bird was sprinkled seven times on the leper, before the living bird could be set free, has not God as surely pronounced his judgment, as to the perfect, and everlasting efficiency, of the blood of Jesus for every one that believes him? The bird was let loose because the leper was cleansed — Christ is risen — the believer is purged. You don't suppose that the priest, if he had the mere feelings of man, would pronounce the words so as that the leper could not tell whether he was cleansed or not — nothing could be more cruel than such uncertainty. There was the priest's word, and the bird was flown loose away. This gave him the utmost certainty and joy. And can we then suppose that God has spoken in his word so indistinctly as to leave the anxious believer in cruel uncertainty? Oh, no; God could not have spoken more plainly. He says, having raised the captive surety from the dead, "Be it known unto you, therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins, and by him all that believe are justified from all things." Do you believe Jesus died on the cross, bearing your sins in His own body on the tree, there taking our place as Substitute for our sins? Just as the bird could not be let go unless the leper was pronounced clean; so Christ our Surety could not be let go from the prison of death, if His blood had not purged our sins. But God by the very raising of our Substitute from the grave, pronounces every believer justified from all things. I repeat again, the leper knew he was cleansed; the priest said so; the bird was free in the open field. I know I am forgiven, and justified from all things, God says so, and my captive Surety, the blessed Jesus, is risen, and free in the highest heavens. God could not give me a greater proof of the certainty of my justification, than He has in raising Jesus from the dead, for my justification.
Then, do you believe the precious blood of Jesus has been shed? And do you believe that God hath raised Him from the dead? Then God pronounces the forgiveness of all your sins through Jesus. Nay, more, He pronounces you and every believer justified from all things. God pronounces every believer justified. This, gives you the clearest certainty.
Now, as the leper being cleansed by the sprinkled blood, then washed his person in water; so, my fellow-believer, being justified, let me beg of you to seek the constant washing of the Word. Your standing is certain, justified from all things in the risen Christ. But your walk needs the constant washing of His precious, priestly service.
As the blood upon the ear, the thumb, and the toe of the cleansed leper, and the oil upon the blood, so may we who are bought with His precious blood be filled, led, and kept by the Holy Ghost. Yea, may body, soul, and spirit, be henceforth sanctified wholly unto Him. Amen.