“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing: He shall be brought unto the priest: And the priest shall go forth out of the camp; and the priest shall look, and, behold, if the plague of leprosy be healed in the leper; Then shall the priest command to take for him that is to be cleansed two birds 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 the 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 field.”
Leviticus 14:1-7 KJV
The ceremonial cleansing of the leper found in Leviticus 14 is a wonderful picture of what Christ has done for us through His incarnation, death, and resurrection. A deeper look of this ceremony will warm our cold hearts, and fill us with joy at who Christ truly is.
We learn that the Lord Himself instituted this cleansing process. He provided a way in which a defiled and outcast Israelite could, when healed, be restored to normal society. In verse 3, the priest had to leave the holiness of the sanctuary to visit a disease-infested area in order to do God’s work, for the leper could do nothing on his own: he was fully dependent on the priest. Our Lord and Savior voluntarily left heaven and came to this vile, sinful earth to cleanse filthy people like us (John 6.38; Phil 2.5-7). The priest had to spend time with the leper; he had to ‘look’ and ‘behold’, examining the man’s condition. Nothing can be hidden from the eyes of our great Cleanser: all is open to Him. As the Lord moved among men, He saw what sin had done, the bondage it brought, and the death it caused. Yet in His dignified holiness He remained uncontaminated, while simultaneously displaying unwavering compassion towards sinful people like us.
In verses 4-7 we see three objects and two sparrows. Each object suggests a different aspect of the Lord Jesus Christ. The cedar wood hints at the grandeur and strength of His divine person, while the scarlet testifies to His earthly greatness. As eternal God and perfect man, the Lord conducted Himself during His earthly ministry with a unique majesty and righteousness which impressed all around. But the lowly hyssop reminds us of His amazing humiliation, the scorn and disdain He endured at the lips and hands of His creatures.
The first sparrow had to be ‘killed in an earthen vessel over running [literally, living] water’ (v 5; Gal 4.4; Heb 9.14). The Lord took on Himself genuine humanity so that He might die and be the sin bearer. Only through the incarnation could He could rightly become our kinsman redeemer. The second sparrow, along with the cedar wood, scarlet, and hyssop, was then dipped in the blood and sprinkled seven times on the leprous man. After that, the living bird was released in an open field (v 7). How fittingly this pictures the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 3.15)! Having by His death brought complete satisfaction to the heart of God, the Lord conquered the grave. His triumphant resurrection proved He was everything He said He was, and demonstrated He could do everything He promised. Finally, the leper was sprinkled seven times and pronounced clean.
Every believer ought to ponder the astonishing reality of what took place on our behalf at the manger, the cross, and the tomb. The glorious God of heaven intervened in human history so that defiled and helpless sinners could be proclaimed clean in His sight. All praise be to His holy name!