Volume 7

The Cleansed Leper

J. Taylor

Page: 239

Matthew 8:1 - 4; Leviticus 14:1 - 20

You will no doubt conclude that I propose speaking about the cleansing of the leper, and I hope to do so, the Lord helping me, but before I come to that, I wish to say a little as to the holiness of God, and it was for this reason that I read Matthew 8. The Lord there, as you will observe, had come down from the mountain. He had been sitting there, so to speak, upon His throne, for Matthew presents the King to us not merely in title but in power, and the King had been giving the laws of His kingdom. You will remember that in Matthew's account of the transfiguration, he speaks of the Lord's countenance shining as the sun and His garments being white as the light. This was ever so; from the time of His coming into the world He was essentially holy, but that holiness found its expression on the mount of transfiguration. As on the mount of legislation, as I may call it, in Matthew 5, He is virtually sitting upon His throne and unfolding the laws of His kingdom, and all is essentially holy and pure; they are holy laws, pure laws.

Isaiah, who in spirit had seen Him, could say, "I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple", Isaiah 6:1. The throne of God and the temple of God go together; they depend upon each other, and both are marked by holiness; as John says, "These things said Esaias when he saw his glory and spake of him" John 12:41; it was the glory of holiness. It was after this vision that he spoke of Him; no one can speak rightly of Jesus save he who sees His glory. All the apostles contemplated the glory of Christ. "We contemplated his glory", John 1:14 "which we have seen with our eyes", John says 1 John 1:1. Well, Isaiah saw His glory and spake of

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Him; he saw Him high and lifted up, His train filling the temple; he heard the six-winged seraphim saying one to another as they veiled their faces in the presence of His glory, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory" Isaiah 6:3. All this had taken form in the incarnation, for He was, according to Matthew, "born King". Matthew 2:2. The Magi from the east came to Jerusalem inquiring, "Where is he that is born King of the Jews?" Matthew 2:2. You will recall, too, that in reply to Pilate's question, "Art thou a king then?" He says "To this end was I born and for this cause came I into the world". John 18:37. Yes, He was born king, and in kingly dignity and authority He ascends the mount and unfolds the law of God, the laws of His kingdom. He was truly holy; the seraphim might indeed say, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts", Isaiah 6:3 and every word that He uttered on that mount indicated His holiness, and that He was the King, and that He was there for God, and that He would enforce the laws of God, the rights of God. I desire, therefore, that we should be reminded of the holiness of God, and that that holiness is to be maintained, and maintained to the utmost. It is to be enforced, and yet, wonderful to say, the leper can be brought into accord with it. The King has come with means by Him of bringing the blackest sinner into accord with God, the holy God, and infinite holiness; not only into accord with His righteousness, but into accord with His holiness, for God is holy. He could say to this poor, vile leper, "I will, be thou clean", Matthew 8:3 and his leprosy was cleansed.

In Leviticus 14 we get the means under the law of cleansing the leper, and so in that remarkable vision of Isaiah to which we have alluded, we find, alongside the display of the glory of the holiness of God, the means of cleansing. There was one there who felt the effect of the light that shone; Isaiah himself said, "Woe is me" Isaiah 6:5; and so it always is, as the light

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of God shines through the gospel today into some sin-weary, sin-worn heart. I would appeal to such a heart to make the admission before God made by Isaiah "Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts". Isaiah 6:5. Has this ever been true to you? Has the light that shines in the face of Jesus in heaven radiated into your dark heart through some preacher of the gospel? Has the sense come to you, 'I am undone, for I have seen the King in His glory'? There is sure to be that confession if you come into the presence of God, and confession brings the cleansing; without it there can be no cleansing, for cleansing and forgiveness are for the confessor, So that directly Isaiah makes his confession one of the seraphim, who knew and proclaimed the holiness of God, flew and with tongs took a coal from off the altar and touched his lips with it, and the sinner was cleansed, his iniquity was taken away, his sin was purged.

The seraph in Isaiah 6 did not suffer on the altar, nor did he take the live coal in his hands; no, there were tongs for him. The suffering belonged to Him who sat on the throne, to none else, and He did not use tongs. Our Lord Jesus Christ was made sin and as made sin, He suffered, He endured the fire of the altar of God, He endured the judgment for sin; the tongs were not for Him, they were to be used by the seraph as they are by the preacher today. The sufferings on the altar belonged to Jesus, He who sat upon the throne. He whose holiness was celebrated by the seraph in chapter 6 is He who in chapter 53, when bearing our sins, made His soul an offering for sin. He endured the full force of the fire on the altar of God, the full judgment of God against sin; "who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree" 1 Peter 2:24. Think of that, "in his own body"! And

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this cleansing was for the prophet, as it is for the blackest sinner who comes to Jesus, for He has suffered for sin. The King has brought with Him, so to speak, the means by which He can set you up consistently with the holiness of the throne of God. And so in Matthew 8 the Lord comes down from the mount, having spoken these wonderful things in chapters 5,6 and 7, every word of which is pure, tried in the fire, conveying the holy claims of the throne of God; words which will abide when the world and every material thing has disappeared. He had been speaking for God; words which will abide for ever, for His law shall endure throughout all generations, Well, He comes down from that mountain, having uttered things which in the force of them must have consigned us for ever to distance from God, were it not that He who could sit on the throne of His glory and give utterance to His holy law could be the sacrifice for sin, and maintain the holiness of God in respect of sin; "who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree". 1 Peter 2:24. Had He not done so, these wonderful sayings, this law of His, must have expelled us for ever from the presence of God, for who could conform to it? But He went down, as I said, and bare our sins; He bore the full force of the judgment of God, so that there is cleansing. As He came down from the mountain great crowds followed Him. No doubt their interest was enlisted by His wonderful sayings, but there was one man among them who knew that he was a sinner; he was a leper and needed cleansing, and he says to the Lord, "Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean" Matthew 8:2.

Many, probably, were attracted by the beatitudes as they fell from the lips of Jesus, but the leper said nothing about these. Let no one take the beatitudes in his mouth who is not cleansed by the blood of Jesus; they do not fit. Men take them up and adorn

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themselves with them, but they know not what they do; they are playing with fire, talking about the beatitudes and living in sin, living unrepentant lives, and disregarding the rights of God. Men live under a lie; they have not accepted the judgment of God against sin, yet they presume to live up to the beatitudes as though they had a right to them. This leper said nothing about the beatitudes, what were they to him? He knew himself to he outside the realm of all privilege; he was a sinner, he was a leper; what could he do with them? He had no footing in the congregation of Jehovah, he had no place in the sanctuary of God; but he is concerned about his sins, that is to say, about his leprosy, and he says, "Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean" Matthew 8:2; that is the first thing; he desired cleansing. Before we attempt to claim the beatitudes, let us seek forgiveness; before we sing in the choir, let us get our sins forgiven; before we become church members, let us know forgiveness of sins. The first question to be faced is that of our sins. The prodigal, when he came to his father, said, "I have sinned against heaven" Luke 15:21; that was the first thing to be dealt with. One is moved as one thinks of how men and women take up the things of God glibly on their lips, talk about the wonderful sermon on the mount, and yet they have never confessed their sins to God. You have to face God about your sins; leave the sermon on the mount until your sins are forgiven. It was His disciples whom He taught on the mount. That wonderful sermon, as it is called, is for believers. So this man is not talking about what the Lord said on the mount; he was a leper and he knew that the Lord could cleanse him if He would. Many a one would say "if thou wilt", but we can tell you, if you have realised you are a guilty sinner, that the Lord will. It is not only that the Lord can cleanse you, but He will; He says, "I will". Matthew 8:3. It is not only

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a question of His power, but of His disposition; He wills to cleanse you! If there is anything one loves to speak of, it is the disposition of Christ to bless.

How delightful to the heart of Christ, as surrounded by these throngs of people who followed Him, to hear one sinner, one leper, asking Him to cleanse him. Are you ready to take your place with this man? Will you not ask Him to cleanse you? He was not any different from the others, for they were all lepers morally: that is to say, "All have shined and come short of the glory of God". Romans 3:23. But have you ever said to Him, 'O God, have compassion on me -- the sinner'? There were great crowds following the Lord when He came down from the mountain, as there are thousands of people outwardly following the Lord now, but they do not know that they are lepers, nevertheless they are; they are sinners, but they do not admit it; they do not confess it, and hence they do not get cleansed, and they are unfit for the congregation of God; they are unfit for that light that shines from the throne, the holiness proclaimed by the seraphim, and, if unfit now, they may be so eternally. We must all give account of ourselves to God. Let there be no mistake about it, death is not the end; the throne of God will remain, as your soul will exist, and you will have to say to God after death, as it says, "after death the judgment". Hebrews 9:27. If you are unfit for the presence of God now, you will be unfit then, unless you repent in this day of grace. And so, while there were crowds following the Lord as He came down, there was one man among them who knew that he was a leper, and he knew that the Lord had power to cleanse him, but he was not so sure about His disposition toward him. If there be anyone here who has any doubt as to the disposition of Christ to cleanse you, I would point you to the cross. Why did He go there? He needed not to go on His own account, for in Him sin was not, but His presence here

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upon earth brought to light the leprosy of man. We read in Job that God saith to the snow, "Be thou on the earth", Job 37:6 so the presence of Christ here was a testimony to the holy requirements of God. The life of Jesus here was a testimony to the holiness of God, all was holy, all was pure, He was "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners", Hebrews 7:26. Such was Jesus! He was intrinsically holy and yet He could say to this man, "I will, be thou clean". Matthew 8:3. As sin is brought to light by the presence of Christ in all its hideousness to God so it is removed, for He put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. How else could He cleanse this man save by taking it upon Himself and bearing it away? On the cross He vindicated God by suffering for sin; as bearing the judgment of God He could say, "but thou art holy". Psalm 22:3. He recognised that He was dealing with a holy God and that a holy God was dealing with Him as He was bearing our sins, and He bore them away, so that the blackest sinner may be forgiven; his soul may be made as white as snow, his soul can be brought into correspondence with Jesus Himself, the holy One of God. He offers forgiveness now, to the vilest sinner.

Well now, the Lord said to this man, "Go show thyself to the priest". Matthew 8:4. I have in mind to open up a little, by the Lord's help, what was in His mind when He told him to do that. The Lord did not take the place Himself of being the priest. He was the King. He put forth His hand and touched the leper, an act which no priest in the Old Testament times could have done, for none could touch a leper without defilement save the One who took upon Himself the leprosy; no one but Jesus could touch a leper, and He did it. But then He says to the cleansed man, "Go, show thyself to the priest, and offer the gift which Moses ordained, for a testimony to them". Matthew 8:4.

In speaking of this I want to come close, not only

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to those who perhaps know not forgiveness yet, but to every one of us, so that we may see how God would have us as believers in perfect accord with Himself. The Lord knew well what was involved, He knew well what was written in the law of Moses; He knew what Leviticus taught as to the cleansing of the leper, He knew the spiritual import of Leviticus 14; and so I want if I can to apply the passage in its spiritual force so that we as believers may see its spiritual application and the provision there is for us so that we may be in accord with God, not only in His righteousness, but in His holiness. What I would remark, in referring to this type is, that many of us do not go beyond the two birds, and hence, never go further in our souls' enjoyment than our own tents, whereas God is waiting to bring us on the eighth day into accord with His tent. There is a very great difference between your tent and His! There is no ark of the covenant in your tent! There are no cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy-seat in your tent! No, these belong to the divine tent, they belong to God's tent. Now the divine thought; that is God's purpose, is to bring you into perfect accord with His tent, and that you should be perfectly restful there.

The first provision for the leper who was to be cleansed was that the priest was to go outside the camp to where he was. The leper was outside the camp: let no one who is unforgiven assume that he has a place inside, for he has not; whatever he may assume to have, he has no place within; outside the camp was his place, and when the leprosy ceased to operate, the priest went out to him there; an allusion no doubt to the movement of the Lord in coming out to where we were. Then the priest takes with him, according to the provision, two birds, living ones, with cedar-wood, and scarlet, and hyssop. These things are to be brought to the leper outside the

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camp; then one of the birds is to be slain, as it says: "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 the running water: and he shall sprinkle upon him that is to be cleansed from the leprosy seven times ... and shall let the living bird loose into the open field". Leviticus 14:5 - 7. Now I want to show you that the two birds, the one killed and the other dipped in the blood of the slain one with the cedar-wood, the scarlet and the hyssop, have reference to what I may call the objective side of the gospel; the thing is done throughout for him that is to be cleansed. The man has nothing to do with it; he was sprinkled seven times, it is cleansing from the divine side, and it is complete. The thief, as we have often remarked, went straight to heaven on the ground of the finished work of Christ upon the cross; he never shaved his hair, he never washed his clothes, he never brought the he-lamb, nor did he offer the ewe-lamb. He went to heaven, to paradise, on the ground of a finished work by another, on the ground of what God had done in the cross of Christ, a work perfect and complete. Thank God! The one bird slain is the death of Jesus. One who had power to go back into heaven but who submits to the hands of men, and is slain. But then there is the bird dipped in the blood of the slain bird, which is a figure of resurrection, and Jesus is raised again apart from the question of sins, in the power of His own blood. There are myriads of people who are as sure of going to heaven as any of us, for the operations indicated in these birds refer to what God has effected in the death of Christ; it is perfect, the cleansing from that side is perfect and complete, and is the basis of everything for our souls. I would

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assure everybody here tonight who is in the light of these birds as to that. The one slain, His life taken, is the death of Jesus; One who had power to go back into heaven, who, as He said, had power to command legions of angels, who was beyond the reach of men, but who submitted to men and was slain, but, as slain by men, effected atonement for us and glorified God. So the cleansing of the leper is a certainty, but then, that is where many are, but it is not where God would have us, they have not come to the sanctuary of God. Peter says Christ suffered "the just for the unjust that he might bring us to God", 1 Peter 3:18. True enough, He brought God to us; God came out in the death of Jesus and showed that He is for us, and that He has effected redemption, that is seen in the two birds. We know that God is for us; but "Christ ... suffered ... the just for the unjust that he might bring us to God" 1 Peter 3:18 -- that is another matter. How many of us have been brought to God? I repeat that God has been brought to us in the death of Jesus, and the soul who has faith in that death is as sure of eternal salvation as Paul was. He would say to any distressed sinner, "I will, be thou clean". Matthew 8:3. It is His disposition towards you, but have you been brought to God? The end in the gospel is that you should be brought to God in His sanctuary.

After the bird was slain, and the man sprinkled seven times, and the living bird let loose, the man himself begins to move; he is now to begin his part. You say, 'I did not know I had any part'. Up till then all has been done for him, but now he begins to act. The question of our eternal salvation is all solved and settled in the death of Christ as set out in the two birds; you are fit for heaven, but you are not going to heaven straight away like the thief; he went at once, he never shaved his hair or washed his clothes. But if we are to remain down here in the light of the death of Jesus, we must see that we

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have to do with God in His house, and that He has great things for us there, and He has much to do with us and by us. So here in verse 8, we find the leper has to "wash his clothes and shave off all his hair, and wash himself in water that he may be clean; and after that he shall come into the camp, and shall tarry abroad out of his tent seven days". Leviticus 14:8. God came out to him in the priest; that is, in the death of Jesus, God came out to us, to where we were, and that settles the question of our relationship with Him eternally; that is fixed, but now the man must begin to wash his clothes. What about my surroundings? If the light of God has come out to me where I am, if I have been in this world affiliated to it and marked by its ways and customs, am I to go on in these? No, I am not to go on in them. Christ suffered "the just for the unjust that he might bring us to God", 1 Peter 3:18 and that is what He is aiming at, and if you are to be brought to God you have to move out of your present circumstances. He moved out of His to bring us to God; He came where we were, and now He looks for us to come out from the circumstances of defilement in which we once had our part that He might bring us to God, and if we are to be brought to God we must wash our clothes; do not mistake it. We may stay where we were with our filthy clothes; that is to say, in our defiled circumstances, but God will not stay in them with us. He came out to us to deal with the question of sin, to make known to us His disposition, and how effectively He has dealt with our sins in the death of Jesus! But having had my part in sin I have to wash my clothes and shave my hair, and to wash myself from all the pollution of the world. I may have been in some social circle, in other words I may have been in the world. A young girl may have been fitted to shine there; been brought up from childhood to shine in that circle, taught to dance, to sing, to play cards,

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and all that was necessary to make her shine in the world, and to make her attractive. But she found out she was a leper, and look at her now! All her hair shaved off; all her colour gone, all that made her attractive in the world washed away. They will not want her now, they will not receive her, with her hair shaved off. How different! Thank God if they will not receive you; but you do not want to be received; as being shaved and washed you are on your way into the camp, to being brought to God.

Think of the process enjoined here. The man is brought into the camp but has to remain outside his own tent seven days. How do they feel about him at home? All has to be adjusted as having to do with God. He has to get right about everything, for he cannot be in God's tent till he is right in his own; and so he remains there for seven days, a whole week. Humbling days! He is a confessed leper, and he has been cleansed, effectively cleansed, and there he is outside his own tent, and all in the other tents can see him; he has still to be isolated. Many a thing has to be gone through with God before he is fit for his tent. Have we gone through these things, beloved? Many, alas! have not, but it will have to come. I would to God that each one of us knew what these experiences are if we are to enjoy what the gospel presents to us in its fulness, we shall have to go through these experiences. But now there is an eighth day. The man has done with his own affairs now; they are all settled, things have been straightened out in his own house, everything is adjusted with him, as they must be, if we are to be with God. The epistle to the Romans implies that a man has to be adjusted if he is to be with God. Then there is the eighth day, a wholly new beginning. I would put it to you, have you started on these lines? On the eighth day you begin over again. You say 'Why, I never knew there was so much in

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Christianity. I have gone through the seven days, humbling days; I have had my hair shaved off, I have learnt that there is nothing beautiful about me, everything has come under review, I am in humiliation, for I am learning what sin really is, what it has brought me to; but I am learning, nevertheless, what the grace of God is, what the love of God has done for me, how He has taken up a poor sinner like me and cleansed me, and now I see a new day opening up, the eighth day, when a believer begins to live, not now in relation to his own tent, but in relation to God's'. That is a wonderful day! So it says, "On the eighth day he shall take two he-lambs without blemish, and three tenth deals of fine flour for a meat offering, mingled with oil, and one log of oil". Leviticus 14:10. We have begun on another line altogether now. If Jesus as the priest makes us clean, He is now going to fit us for God's sanctuary, He is going to bring us to God, to God in His sanctuary. Remember that Jesus is the priest all through, and He presents the man and those things before the Lord, at the entrance of the tent of meeting.

Now I want you to follow this, because if you do, and lay hold of it, you will be in fellowship according to God; you will not be merely a forgiven sinner, blessed as that is, but you will be in the presence of God in His sanctuary, and you will know how God has made you meet to be a partaker of "the inheritance of the saints in light". Colossians 1:12. Now you see where you are, and what have you with you? You have these two he-lambs of a year old, the development of a year. There is a certain freshness, a certain apprehension of Christ now as He is before God; there is a ewe-lamb too, denoting that affection is springing up in your heart towards God and towards Christ. Have you experienced, young believer, what this ewe-lamb means? The two he-lambs refer to Christ, but the ewe-lamb, I apprehend, has reference to that which

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is being effected in your soul, denoting what is subjective as the work of God in the soul; for the work of God in the soul goes on concurrently with the light. In other words, what we call objective is concurrent with what is subjective, and unless the subjective; that is the ewe lamb, is being developed equally with the objective, we shall be one-sided and we shall not be at home in the presence of God. Then there is the oil, the Holy Spirit. You bring the log of oil; you come to recognise that there is the Holy Spirit of God, and that He is in you, that indeed He is the power in you of having to do with God, for by one Spirit we draw near, we have access, and by the Spirit of adoption we cry "Abba, Father". Have you experienced that? That is the beginning of your relationship with God, your positive relations with God, when you know Him as Father and by the Spirit cry "Abba, Father".

Well, the details here are delightful if we go into them and understand them. The man is set up in the presence of God, in God's sanctuary; and the whole man is marked by the blood and by the oil, and what is left over of the oil is poured on his head. First, the blood is put on his right ear, on his right thumb and on his right toe; he is secured for God in every part of him, spirit, soul, and body. The blood is put on these members, then the oil; and then in the efficacy of the power and beauty of the Holy Spirit upon him, he is brought into the presence of God. It is only by the Spirit that I can be in the presence of God; I can only be there by the Spirit in a subjective way. It is by the Spirit that I cry "Abba, Father", it is by the Spirit I draw near to God, and it is in the power of the Spirit that I love God and that I love the brethren. As regards the oil, that is poured on his head, he is set up in personal dignity in the presence of God; and every one has his own dignity there, as it says in Acts 1:15, "the

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crowd of names". Every one there had his own distinction, and that distinction was by the Spirit. Thus the leper is cleansed and made ready not only for his own tent, but for God's habitation. He is set up in personal dignity with God, and that dignity and distinction are in the Spirit, and by the Spirit.

I would urge on the young people, and on every one of us, not to stop short at the two birds, but to go on to the eighth day and see the provision that is made so that we may reach God in His sanctuary, the sanctuary of His holiness, and know what it is to be in the presence of God as Christ is. "As he is", it says, "so are we in this world". 1 John 4:17. May it be so, for His name's sake.