SIR ROBERT ANDERSON
Secret Service Theologian
RECOGNIZING MY NEED
"Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean. And He put forth His hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately the leprosy departed from him." Luke 5:12, 13
THE ordinances of the Mosaic code
formed part of the ordinary law of the Commonwealth of Israel. Owing to our
ignorance of the "local colouring," and of the circumstances to which they were
adapted, we are often unable to appreciate, sometimes even to understand them.
But not a few of them had a typical and spiritual significance; they were "a
shadow of the coming good things." The law of the leper is an instance of this;
and it will usefully serve as a recapitulation of much that has been put
forward in preceding chapters.
As with the parables, so also with the types; intelligence is needed in deducing the spiritual lessons they are meant to teach. In neither case should we force a meaning upon every detail. But the main outlines are always clear. In the symbolism of Scripture the connection between leprosy and sin is not doubtful. And what first commands our attention here is that it was the fact of the disease, which entitled the sufferer to the services of those who were Divinely appointed to deal with it. The fact of his sin is the sinners sufficient warrant for coming to the Saviour. And the next fact is still more striking. It is stated thus - If the leprosy cover all the skin of him that hath the plague from his head even to his foot, wheresoever the priest looketh he shall pronounce him clean that hath the plague."
If we dissemble and cloak our sins, we need not look for mercy. Divine forgiveness is for sinners as such. "Truth springeth out of the earth, and righteousness hath looked down from heaven." (Psalm 85:11, RV.) And the only truth which God requires from the sinner is the acknowledgment of what he is. "Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." And with this confession of Christ must be joined the confession of sin and that must be in the spirit of the Apostles words, "of whom I am chief." No false pleas based on supposed piety or penitence will avail; no pretence of being anything, or of having anything, to create a special claim for pardon. What God demands of us is truth - the self-abasement of the full and unqualified acknowledgment of what we are.
A man who pleads his piety or his penitence is like a candidate for admission to an asylum for the pauper blind, who borrows good clothes to hide his poverty, and coloured spectacles to conceal his blindness. Such was the spirit of the Pharisees plea. And every student of human nature, knows that the publican could have made out as plausible a case as the Pharisee. But he, taking his true place, cast himself unreservedly upon Divine mercy "God, be merciful to me, a sinner." (Luke 18:13.) "The sinner" was what he really said. England has three-score gaols full of prisoners; but in a criminal court the prisoner in the dock is the prisoner. And such is the thought here such, the position of every one who really comes to the Cross.
The lepers habitation, we read, was "outside the camp"; and there, with rent clothes, bared head, and a covered lip, he was to cry, "Unclean, unclean!" (Leviticus 13:45.) The type thus teaches us the Divine estimate of sin. It goes on to teach how the sinner may be cleansed and "made nigh." We have already noticed the striking ordinance that if the disease turned inwards the leper was unclean, but that he was to be pronounced clean if and when the leprosy was out over all his body. For sin cloaked or unconfessed there is nothing but banishment and wrath. But for the "humble, lowly, penitent, and obedient" there is no reserve in Divine "goodness and mercy."
Mark the words, "the priest shall pronounce him clean that hath the plague." He was to pronounce the leper clean; and to pronounce him clean. Not that he had not the plague, or that only a little of it showed; but if and when he was covered with disease from head to foot. The common belief is that Christ Jesus came into the world to save saints. But the right word is sinners. Pardon and salvation are for sinners. Not for sinners with a 28 qualifying adjective, but for the ungodly, the guilty, and the lost. He came "to seek and to save that which was lost."
Next let us mark the time and manner of the pronouncement. One of the birds was to be killed, and its blood sprinkled on the leper. Death thus passed upon him; for such is always the meaning of blood-sprinkling. The priest was then to take the live bird, and dipping it in the blood of the dead bird - thus identifying it with the dead bird - to let it loose as he uttered the word "clean." We now understand why two birds were needed to bring out all the truth. The Lord Jesus Christ "was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification"; (Romans 4:25.) and the release of the live bird was the public fact which proved to the leper that he was clean. The resurrection of Christ is the public proof that sin has been put away.
Not that the leper felt he was clean, nor that the sinner feels he is forgiven. Some time since, an article appeared in The Fortnightly Review to prove that the feelings which usually accompany conversion may be produced by inhaling "laughing gas." And feelings, however produced, may be transient. But it is not on feelings that the believer rests, but on Divine facts, declared and, attested by "the living and eternally abiding Word of God."
A man who is content with "feeling happy" is a fool. Laughing-gas or opium will give him that feeling. And "peace in believing" is no better, unless what we believe is fact and truth, Men have been happy and at peace in believing that they were wealthy, when all the time their peace and happiness were due to ignorance of a disaster that had made them paupers. And the newspapers lately told the sad story of a man who killed himself to escape from the misery of dire poverty at the very time when he was being advertised for to inherit a fortune. What a parable to illustrate the case of "anxious sinners," who hug their misery while the Gospel is the Divine advertisement that a fortune awaits their acceptance of it!
Go To Chapter Six
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