Priesthood: 27. Leper Washes

Leviticus 14:8‑9  •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Thus we have seen that in the first place all was done for the leper, not by him. Another was active, not himself. He was to be brought to the priest; and the priest had to go forth out of the camp. The all-important thing was, not that the leper, but that the priest should look and ascertain that the sore of leprosy was at a stay, or rather healed in the leper. The priest had to direct the means then to be employed; and when one of the clean birds was killed in an earthen vessel over living water, it was he that took the other live bird with the various accompaniments he had prescribed, dipped them and the live bird in the blood of the killed bird, sprinkled the leper therewith, and pronounced him clean, letting the live bird go free. Now, and not before, we are told of the leper's activity.
“And he that is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes, and shave all his hair, and bathe in water, and he shall be clean; and after that he shall come into the camp, but shall dwell outside his tent seven days. And it shall be on the seventh day that he shall shave all his hair off his head and his beard and his eyebrows, even all his hair shall he shave: and he shall wash his clothes, and he shall bathe his flesh in water, and he shall be clean” (vers. 8, 9).
The blood shed and sprinkled, precious and efficacious as it is judicially for the unclean, is not all. There is and must be a moral cleansing also by the water of the word applied to the sinner. Out of the pierced side of Jesus flowed not blood only but water, of which the inspired witness bore record. To this John also refers in his First Epistle, chap. 5 “This is he that came through water and blood; not by water only, but by water and blood.” The sinner needs for blessing not only expiation, but purification.
Here it is typically presented. We know that all is vain unless our hearts are purified by faith; but these shadows as usual do not rise above external actions. “And he that is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes, and shave off all his hair, and bathe himself in water, and he shall be clean.” However strange it may appear for the priest to have pronounced the leper clean in ver. 7, this is the sure and cheering ground for beginning the practical work of cleansing himself as in vers. 8, 9. To be pronounced clean by divine authority affords the highest assurance; but it does not supersede the moral cleansing which Jehovah enjoins in all respects. On the contrary it gives invaluable encouragement to enter on and go through every detail as here. “His garments,” what is displayed to the eye, are at once to be dealt with, and the Spirit applies the word to cleanse them. Former things must be judged by the expressed will of God. But there is much more to be heeded. “All his hair” he had to shave. This belongs to his person; the natural comeliness attaching to man's head must be shorn, and himself must bathe in water. There is no sparing of aught wherein impurity might lurk. The efficacy of Christ's death and resurrection, by which alone one could be pronounced clean before God, only makes it the more incumbent to cleanse oneself from every pollution of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in fear of God. Then is it added, “and he shall be clean.”
“And afterward shall he come into the camp, and shall abide out of his tent seven days.” Even so, though made free of his public position, he cannot enjoy his individual place till the purifying is complete. With such nice care as to every minute source of defilement is the full cleansing of the leper guarded. Now there is in the gospel what meets each and all more thoroughly than any of these requirements of the law; and this, by a redemption which is “eternal” and thus superior to legal demands of time. Of this the robber saved on the cross is a clear proof and witness; for his case is really an example, though unbelief of God's grace and Christ's work treats it as an exception to the deprivation of a vast deal of the blessing. So naturally do saints swerve, from the light which already shines, to the shadows of the law.
Verse 9 makes plain that the purifying goes on to the last. “And it shall come to pass on the seventh day that he shall shave all his hair, his head and his beard, and his eyebrows, even all his hair shall he shave, and he shall wash his clothes, and shall bathe his flesh in water, and shall be clean.” It is open to our notice that on the last day of the set term the washing is ordered still more minutely than ever, the beard and the eyebrows, no less than the head, and “his flesh” to make the bathing explicit. How blessed for us that we have One to apply the word to our souls and ways in the power of God's Spirit! If the fathers of our flesh chastened us for a few days as seemed good to them, the Father of our spirits so does for profit, in order to the partaking of His holiness.