He shall let go the living bird - This might as well be called the scape-bird; as the goat, in Leviticus 16, is called the scape-goat. The rites are similar in both cases, and probably had nearly the same meaning. We have already taken occasion to observe (see the end of the preceding chapter at Leviticus 13:58; (note)) that the leprosy was strongly emblematical of sin; to which we may add here: - That the leprosy was a disease generally acknowledged to be incurable by any human means; and therefore the Jews did not attempt to cure it. What is directed to be done here was not in order to cure the leper, but to declare him cured and fit for society. In like manner the contagion of sin, its guilt and its power, can only be removed by the hand of God; all means, without his especial influence, can be of no avail.
The body must be sprinkled and washed, and a sacrifice offered for the sin of the soul, before the leper could be declared to be clean. To cleanse the spiritual leper, the Lamb of God must be slain, and the sprinkling of his blood be applied. Without the shedding of this blood there is no remission.
When the leper was cleansed, he was obliged to show himself to the priest, whose province it was to pronounce him clean, and declare him fit for intercourse with civil and religious society. When a sinner is converted from the error of his ways, it is the business, as it is the prerogative, of the ministers of Christ, after having duly acquainted themselves with every circumstance, to declare the person converted from sin to holiness, to unite him with the people of God, and admit him to all the ordinances which belong to the faithful.
When the leper was cleansed, he was obliged by the law to offer a gift unto the Lord for his healing, as a proof of his gratitude, and an evidence of his obedience. When a sinner is restored to the Divine favor, he should offer continually the sacrifice of a grateful heart, and, in willing obedience, show forth the virtues of Him who has called him from darkness and wretchedness to marvelous light and happiness.
Reader, such was the leprosy, its destructive nature and consequences, and the means of removing it; such is the spiritual evil represented by it, such its consequences, and such the means by which alone it can be removed. The disease of sin, inflicted by the devil, can only be cured by the power of God. Art thou a leper? Do the spots of this spiritual infection begin to appear on thee?
Art thou young, and only entering into the ways of the world and sin? Stop! bad habits are more easily conquered to-day than they will be tomorrow.
Art thou stricken in years, and rooted in transgression? How kind is thy Maker to have preserved thee alive so long! Turn from thy transgressions, humble thy soul before him, confess thine iniquity and implore forgiveness. Seek, and thou shalt find. Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world!
Hast thou been cleansed, and hast not returned to give glory to God? hast not continued in the truth, serving thy Maker and Savior with a loving and obedient heart? How cutting is that word, Were there not Ten cleansed? but where are the Nine? Thou art probably one of them. Be confounded at thy ingratitude, and distressed for thy backsliding; and apply a second time for the healing efficacy of the great Atonement. Turn, thou backslider; for he is married unto thee, and will heal thy backslidings, and will love thee freely. Amen. So be it, Lord Jesus!