BIBLE STUDY SERIES #263, 264 and 265

1 December, 1996

A NATIONAL PRODIGAL SON

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

For the last several weeks we have been digressing from our ongoing series of Bible Studies, in order to address some particular concerns which have been increasingly felt by many of our people. These relate to the loss of our heritage by our younger generations in our own times, and to the causes thereof. After we pursue a few further thoughts upon this matter, we will, in accordance with our over-all planned progression through the sequence of Scriptures, return to the matters which have held our attention in our previous lessons over the last several years, namely the Biblical account from the Call of Abram, in Genesis 12 down the centuries to the situation of the children of Israel gathered about the foot of Mount Sinai, there to receive the national covenant and Commandments which formed their part in a national marriage of the people of Israel to their (and our) Almighty God.

Indeed, while the two may, at first, seem unrelated, our ongoing progression of Bible Studies will, as we proceed, be shown to have a direct connection to the comments which I propose to set before you today. When Jesus Christ spoke the parable of the Prodigal Son to His disciples, He made it a point to address those words towards a situation which required wise correction both on the personal level, on the part of the wayward son and likewise his brother. These lessons may be applied on the personal level, and also on the wider field of the national level, wherein some serious corrective measures today seem to be needful and appropriate.

Most ministers, when they introduce any mention at all of that parable of the Prodigal Son in a sermon will attempt to relate it purely to a sense of personal commitment of wayward people back towards the re-establishment of a family relationship to Jesus Christ. Now this is certainly one of the ways in which we may receive some meaningful teaching out of it.

However, this parable has, it seems, a far wider and more in-depth application and meaning connected thereto, and such may, rather deplorably, be a rather too infrequent topic for a sermon these days. The father and the two sons may be taken as Our Father and the two tribal nations which were, even at the time when Jesus spoke these words, experiencing in a national scope that contrasting set of relationships towards Himself which the parable conveyed.

Luke 15: records the parable of Our Lord in these words:

11. And he said, A certain man had two sons:
12. And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.

Here, a brief review of history is desirable. The Kingdom of Israel over which King David and King Solomon had previously reigned in what we may term the "Golden Age" of Israel's history, and which King Rehoboam was planning to inherit upon Solomon's death, had included all the thirteen tribes of Israel. (I say thirteen because the birthright tribe of Joseph had devolved upon Joseph's two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, each of whom, in accordance with Jacob's "crossed-hands blessing" headed up a tribe in his own name.) King Rehoboam, when he came to the throne over All Israel, decided that he would institute even harsher taxation than had King Solomon before him, and that was a great mistake.

Jeroboam, a prominent leader in the nation, led the ten and a half Northern Tribes of Israel in a tax revolt against Rehoboam. These tribes formed a break-away kingdom called the "House of Israel". This meant that the remaining two and a half tribes, Judah, Benjamin and part of Levi, continued their existence as a much reduced entity, thenceforth to take the name "House of Judah", under the continuing rulership of the House of King David's descendants, ruling from Jerusalem. That kingdom, The House of Judah, thus could claim a prior existence to that of the newly-formed "House of Israel" which would thenceforth also be a kingdom with its own line of kings ruling from Samaria. The Southern kingdom, with the Davidic line of kings, would thus be counted senior in age. Our Scripture continues:

13. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
14. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.
15. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
16. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.

Here we may observe the wayward religious whoredom of the Northern House of Israel, enriched as they were by the tax money which they had refused to pay to Rehoboam, but rejecting the wise Laws of Yahweh, (Jehovah), the Almighty God which were designed to further their enrichment through such things as the rejection of usury. We see their fate as they became an object of aggression by Assyria. They were subsequently deported, in captivity, to distant fields far to the north.

17. And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
18. I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
19. And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.

The House of Israel broke free of the crumbling Assyrian Empire, and thereupon began to move to the "appointed place", towards the North-West of the continent. With the First Advent, there was initiated the preaching of the Apostles to these "lost sheep of the House of Israel", which many of these now began to accept in repentance.

20. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
21. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
22. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:

Young's Concordance lists four Greek words which have been translated by the use of the English word "robe." The particular Greek word for this robe which is placed on the returned prodigal son is the sort of long robe called a stole which is only mentioned in two other places in Scripture. One is the reference to the long robes which the Scribes desired to wear before people as a sign of religious commitment in Luke 20:46, and against whom Christ warned the disciples. The other is to the four references in Revelation 6:11 and Revelation 7:9, 13 and 14, relating to the robes given to those souls slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held, and to those white robes worn by that great multitude which no man could number, and which, John was informed, were "they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the lamb." Continuing:

23. And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
24. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
25. Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.
26. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.
27. And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.
28. And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.
29. And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:
30. But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.
31. And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.
32. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.

The presence of the angry elder brother, who resented the fatherly love bestowed upon the younger son and who refused to enter the banquet hall is, as The Companion Bible indicates, the point of the parable, because it was addressed to that portion of Judah to whom Jesus spoke the parable, namely, those of the Pharisees and scribes, and the faction which they led in opposition to The Messiah and His followers.

Such a descriptive parable will certainly contain lessons for the commitment of an individual, but it may also be applied to a national tribal grouping of people who have collectively sought forgiveness of The Almighty God for past refusal to obey His Commandments, but, upon seeing their error, now seek to serve their God and to apply His Laws nationally.

Let me give you just one illustration. God told His people in the Law given to them at Mount Sinai and recorded in Exodus 22:25: "If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as an usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury." Deuteronomy 23:19 says: "Thou shalt not lend upon usury to thy brother; usury of money, usury of vituals, usury of any thing which is lent upon usury." These laws alone would have alleviated God's people from most, if not all, of the oppressive weight of insuperable national debts. Surely it is high time for the modern-day Israel nations, whom we of the British-Israel-World Federation continually aver to be the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples, to return to our Father and to receive His blessings as He welcomes us back into His national fellowship as His submissive family. We shall continue our studies next week.

8 December, 1996

CLEANSING THE LEPER

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our ongoing series of Bible Studies has, during the last month, been held in abeyance as we digressed to discuss the matters associated with the subject of "Remembering." As we are today returning to pick up the Bible story which we had previously been following, I ought to introduce our new listeners to the series by a brief overview. We began this series at Genesis 12 several years ago, with God's Call to Abram. We studied the story of his descendants in Exodus and now in Leviticus, where they are gathered at Mount Sinai. A sequence of recent Levitical chapters pertains to matter of ceremonial contamination, the manner by which such a condition is to be avoided and the response when it does occur. We had most recently been studying, in Leviticus 13, laws relating to the discernment of leprosy in a person or object thus contaminated.

Today, therefore, we pick up our Scriptural account at Leviticus 14, wherein the manner of cleansing for that condition, upon its evident abeyance, is explained. Let us begin at Leviticus 14:1:

1. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
2. This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing: He shall be brought unto the priest:
3. 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;
4. 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:
5. And the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel over running water:
6. 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:
7. 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.
8. And he that is to be cleansed shall 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.
9. But 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 he shall shave off: and he shall wash his clothes, also he shall wash his flesh in water, and he shall be clean.
10. And on the eighth day he shall take two he lambs without blemish, and one ewe lamb of the first year without blemish, and three tenth deals of fine flour for a meat offering, mingled with oil, and one log of oil.
11. And the priest that maketh him clean shall present the man that is to be made clean, and those things, before the LORD, at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation:
12. And the priest shall take one he lamb, and offer him for a trespass offering, and the log of oil, and wave them for a wave offering before the LORD:
13. And he shall slay the lamb in the place where he shall kill the sin offering and the burnt offering, in the holy place: for as the sin offering is the priest's, so is the trespass offering: it is most holy:
14. And the priest shall take some of the blood of the trespass offering, and the priest shall put it upon the tip of the right ear of him that is to be cleansed, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot:
15. And the priest shall take some of the log of oil, and pour it into the palm of his own left hand:
16. And the priest shall dip his right finger in the oil that is in his left hand, and shall sprinkle of the oil with his finger seven times before the LORD:
17. And of the rest of the oil that is in his hand shall the priest put upon the tip of the right ear of him that is to be cleansed, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot, upon the blood of the trespass offering:
18. And the remnant of the oil that is in the priest's hand he shall pour upon the head of him that is to be cleansed: and the priest shall make an atonement for him before the LORD.
19. And the priest shall offer the sin offering, and make an atonement for him that is to be cleansed from his uncleanness; and afterward he shall kill the burnt offering:
20. And the priest shall offer the burnt offering and the meat offering upon the altar: and the priest shall make an atonement for him, and he shall be clean.
21. And if he be poor, and cannot get so much; then he shall take one lamb for a trespass offering to be waved, to make an atonement for him, and one tenth deal of fine flour mingled with oil for a meat offering, and a log of oil;
22. And two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, such as he is able to get; and the one shall be a sin offering, and the other a burnt offering.
23. And he shall bring them on the eighth day for his cleansing unto the priest, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, before the LORD.
24. And the priest shall take the lamb of the trespass offering, and the log of oil, and the priest shall wave them for a wave offering before the LORD:
25. And he shall kill the lamb of the trespass offering, and the priest shall take some of the blood of the trespass offering, and put it upon the tip of the right ear of him that is to be cleansed, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot:
26. And the priest shall pour of the oil into the palm of his own left hand:
27. And the priest shall sprinkle with his right finger some of the oil that is in his left hand seven times before the LORD:
28. And the priest shall put of the oil that is in his hand upon the tip of the right ear of him that is to be cleansed, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot, upon the place of the blood of the trespass offering:
29. And the rest of the oil that is in the priest's hand he shall put upon the head of him that is to be cleansed, to make an atonement for him before the LORD.
30. And he shall offer the one of the turtledoves, or of the young pigeons, such as he can get;
31. Even such as he is able to get, the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering, with the meat offering: and the priest shall make an atonement for him that is to be cleansed before the LORD.
32. This is the law of him in whom is the plague of leprosy, whose hand is not able to get that which pertaineth to his cleansing.

Of this Scripture passage, The New Bible Commentary states: "The ritual for the cleansing of the leper is given in detail and is quite elaborate. In some respects it resembles the consecration of the priests (chapters vii-ix) and the ritual for the day of atonement. It covers a period of seven days, with special rites on the first and eighth. Cleansing is specially stressed (xiv. 8,9) and this involves shaving of the hair (cf. Nu. viii. 7). Hyssop is used as at the Passover (xiv. 4ff.; cf. Ex. xii. 22), together with cedar wood and scarlet which are also used in making the water of purification (Nu. xix). The releasing of one of the birds into the open field (xiv. 7) suggests the sending away of the scapegoat (xvi. 21f.). But there may be no connection. The ritual of the first day restores the leper to the camp but not to his home and the intimacies which were associated with it. Note that it was not sacrificial. The blood was not brought to the altar. The rite was one of purification. On the eighth day the cleansed man is to offer three lambs in sacrifice: a he-lamb for a trespass offering, a ewe for a sin offering, a he-lamb for a burnt offering. In the case of the poor, birds may be substituted for lambs as sin and burnt offerings. But apparently, as indicated by verse 21, the trespass offering must be a ram. The ritual of the oil is particularly detailed and impressive. It is to be placed on the right ear, thumb and toe, of the leper, on which the blood of the trespass offering has already been placed, and to be sprinkled with the finger of the priest seven times before the Lord. Then the rest of the handful is to be poured out on his head (cf. viii. 23f.). This apparently represents the consecration of the restored leper to the service of his covenant God. It suggests an analogy between the admission (in this case, the readmission) of an unclean person (a Gentile) into the congregation of Israel, God's holy people, and the consecration of an Israelite to the special and peculiarly holy function of a priestly mediator between Israel and their God. Since the leper had for a time been debarred from the community and the service of the sanctuary, which involved the payment of tithes and offering of sacrifices, a trespass offering is required to atone for his failure in these respects. The order of the offering of the sacrifices is trespass, sin, burnt offering. The fact that the meal offering for these three sacrifices is three tenth parts of fine flour justifies the conclusion that a meal offering was to be offered with each of the three sacrifices, since one-tenth was the regular meal offering with a lamb (Nu. xxix. 4; Ex. xxix. 40). Although the leper is constantly described as 'unclean' and not as a sinner, despite the fact that the 'stroke' of leprosy may, as in the case of Miriam, be the punishment for grievous sin, it seems proper to see in the fact that leprosy is dealt with so elaborately, an indication that this particularly loathsome and intractable disease is to be regarded as a type of that indwelling sin in which all the afflictions and ills of mankind have their cause and origin. If death is the curse pronounced by God upon sin and contact with death is defiling, then disease which undermines health and is a stepping-stone to death carries with it a certain defilement whether it be infectious in the medical sense or not. We cannot affirm with certainty that the mention of hyssop in Ps. li ('purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean') contains an allusion to the cleansing of the leper and justifies the inference that David is thinking of himself as a moral leper. But it seems not improbable." We shall continue our studies next week.

15 December, 1996

A LEPROUS HOUSE

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our present series of ongoing Bible Studies began several years ago with God's Call to Abram in Genesis 12. It has taken us down the centuries since that time and through the Bible Story of his descendants, Isaac, Jacob who was re-named Israel, and the tribal family of Jacob which was constituted a national wife to Yahweh, (Jehovah) Himself at Mount Sinai after their emergence from the harsh school of Egyptian bondage through the miracles of The Exodus.

We have studied a succession of Scripture passages recorded in the Books of Genesis, Exodus and, lately, Leviticus. The latest in this series was the passage taken from Leviticus 14:1-32 which we studied last week. Today, our Bible Study is based upon Leviticus 14:33-57, which I shall read with the customary insertion of appropriate comments as we progress.

33. And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,
34. When ye be come into the land of Canaan, which I give to you for a possession, and I put the plague of leprosy in a house of the land of your possession;
35. And he that owneth the house shall come and tell the priest, saying, It seemeth to me there is as it were a plague in the house:
36. Then the priest shall command that they empty the house, before the priest go into it to see the plague, that all that is in the house be not made unclean: and afterward the priest shall go in to see the house:

The Companion Bible notation at verse 33 draws attention to the fact that "The law of cleansing persons addressed to Moses alone; that about houses, &c., addressed to Aaron as well." Also in the same reference, we find the notation that "Here we have the first of four prospective laws, having no immediate bearing." Thus, we note that these instructions apply after entry to Canaan. The New Bible Commentary says of the passage "The leprosy of a house is dealt with separately because it concerns the future. 'when ye be come into the land of Canaan' (xiv.34). Cf. xix.23, xxiii.10, xxv.2, which also refer to this future time. Israel was at the moment dwelling in tents; and the leprosy of stone houses was a matter which did not yet concern them. The words 'and I put the plague of leprosy in a house' (xiv.34) are decidedly arresting. They suggest, and have been taken to imply, a special supernatural plague visited upon a house because of the sin of its builder (like leprosy in an individual). But it is to be remembered that the Bible frequently ignores secondary causes and agencies. We note here the same regard for property as in the case of the garment. The destruction is to be restricted as much as possible. It is also to be noted that the ritual for the cleansing of the house is the same as that prescribed for the first stage in the cleansing of the leper, that which restored him to the congregation of Israel."

We might also, keep in mind that the Canaanites had religious practices which might well have left their dwellings, as well as themselves, contaminated. Israelites entering that land might, therefore, have used some of these dwellings and thereupon discovered some indication of this condition. This Biblical passage, therefore, indicates what steps these Israelites must follow in order to contain or eliminate this plague condition. As The Companion Bible notes, this passage is separated from the law for leprous men and garments, in the form of an appendix. Also noted therein is some information regarding the word "plague." It states "House leprosy is here represented as being supernatural. This was peculiar to Palestine and to houses of Israelites. The Targum of Jonathan renders this: 'And if there be a man who buildeth his house with stolen goods, then I will put' (the plague of leprosy in a house of the land of your possession)."

37. And he shall look on the plague, and, behold, if the plague be in the walls of the house with hollow strakes, greenish or reddish, which in sight are lower than the wall;
38. Then the priest shall go out of the house to the door of the house, and shut up the house seven days:
39. And the priest shall come again the seventh day, and shall look: and, behold, if the plague be spread in the walls of the house;
40. Then the priest shall command that they take away the stones in which the plague is, and they shall cast them into an unclean place without the city:
41. And he shall cause the house to be scraped within round about, and they shall pour out the dust that they scrape off without the city into an unclean place:
42. And they shall take other stones, and put them in the place of those stones; and he shall take other morter, and shall plaister the house.

The Companion Bible notes that these "hollow strakes = sunken places" (in the surface of the wall). It also draws our attention to the concept that spreading leprosy "is a bad sign in noting the presence and workings of our inward corruption." There is further an interesting point raised regarding the use of the word "he" and of the word "they." The reference states "Of the verbs in these three verses, note that two are in the singular, viz. v. 42, 'he shall take', and 'he shall plaster'. Hence the authorities of the second temple interpreted the plural of the owners of the 'party wall', and the singular of the owner of the affected house." I might explain that this observation reflects the fact that there was a great likelihood that, in a lawless and hence dangerous place and time, houses in towns would be built "wall to wall" to crowd as many people as possible within the protective walls of the town. Such conditions would, however, be conducive to the spread of disease, and so the injunctions here listed for God's Israel nation would be conducive to the preservation of their good health.

43. And if the plague come again, and break out in the house, after that he hath taken away the stones, and after he hath scraped the house, and after it is plaistered;
44. Then the priest shall come and look, and, behold, if the plague be spread in the house, it is a fretting leprosy in the house: it is unclean.
45. And he shall break down the house, the stones of it, and the timber thereof, and all the morter of the house; and he shall carry them forth out of the city into an unclean place.
46. Moreover he that goeth into the house all the while that it is shut up shall be unclean until the even.
47. And he that lieth in the house shall wash his clothes; and he that eateth in the house shall wash his clothes.

We now come to the process of declaring a house clean when the evidence warrants such a ritual. Here we can see the close parallel with that performed for an individual who is cleansed from his leprosy.

48. And if the priest shall come in, and look upon it, and, behold, the plague hath not spread in the house, after the house was plaistered: then the priest shall pronounce the house clean, because the plague is healed.
49. And he shall take to cleanse the house two birds, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop:
50. And he shall kill the one of the birds in an earthen vessel over running water:
51. And he shall take the cedar wood, and the hyssop, and the scarlet, and the living bird, and dip them in the blood of the slain bird, and in the running water, and sprinkle the house seven times:
52. And he shall cleanse the house with the blood of the bird, and with the running water, and with the living bird, and with the cedar wood, and with the hyssop, and with the scarlet:
53. But he shall let go the living bird out of the city into the open fields, and make an atonement for the house: and it shall be clean.

We now come to the summary verses of the chapter:

54. This is the law for all manner of plague of leprosy, and scall,
55. And for the leprosy of a garment, and of a house,
56. And for a rising, and for a scab, and for a bright spot:
57. To teach when it is unclean, and when it is clean: this is the law of leprosy.

Keil and Delitzsch devote some fourteen pages to a quite thorough discussion regarding the thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of Leviticus which concern leprosy, and in these, they deliver some very useful observations. Although we cannot take the time to read the whole, I might briefly note some points which they have made.

Regarding the ceremony to mark cleansing from leprosy, which was symbolic of sin, we find the use of two birds, an earthen vessel and running water, cedar-wood, scarlet and hyssop, which are all given an explanation. The leper was destined for death (as the bird which is killed), but freed to escape (as the living bird when this bird was first dipped, along with the cedar-wood, scarlet and hyssop, in the mingled blood and water of the one that was killed in its place). The blood symbolised life with the flowing water of purification. Cedar-wood was considered antiseptic, and hence symbolised continuance of life, the coccus colour freshness of life or fullness of vital energy. The hyssop was a symbol of purification from the corruption of death. Sprinkling seven times indicated a readmission into the covenant, made with the blood and water of life and purification. In this we see the Blood of Jesus Christ upon the Cross as the substitute bearing the penalty of death in substitution for our death.

Shaving and washing must follow, and a seven day period of devotional waiting for admission to fellowship with Jehovah. This would require a repetition of the shaving and washing, and presentation of the sacrificial observances in rites which had been denied during the period of leprosy. The anointing with blood and then with oil symbolised the devotion of the members of hearing, doing and walking (observing God's Law) in the service of The Almighty God.

The Almighty God always adheres to His Own Laws. Hence the law concerning cleansing of a leper, and of a house which contains a leprosy is a law which God will Himself obey in connection with a national sinful state, as with a leper, and in connection with a national house just as with a single dwelling. Here there can be no separation of Church and State! We shall continue our studies next week with some attention to the observances of Christmas.

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