And the LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying,…
cf. Psalm 19:12; 1 Timothy 1:13. We have already had occasion to discern as a clear lesson of the old ritual that sin is a nature. The old law did not confine itself to overt acts, but insisted on "sins of ignorance" being regarded as elements of guilt (cf. chapter 4.). Then again we have sin shown to originate in birth (chapter 12); we have its tangible effects strikingly illustrated in the law of the leprosy (chapters 13, 14); and now we have the analysis of sin completed in these laws about issues.
I. IT IS A PHYSICAL FACT THAT MEN AND WOMEN MAY BECOME UNCLEAN WITHOUT ANY ACT OF VOLITION ON THEIR PART. Into the particulars of menstruation and of gonorrhea benigna it is unnecessary to enter. The chapter before us states the fact, and asserts the legal uncleanness which is thereby entailed. If involuntary results entail uncleanness, it is clear that voluntary elements entering in (verse 18) must increase the sense of uncleanness. Experience confirms the Divine decision. There is a sense of uncleanness which arises as soon as the man or woman becomes conscious of the issue.
II. IT IS EVIDENT FROM THIS THAT SIN HAS A SPHERE OF OPERATION BEYOND CONSCIOUS VOLITION. Just as physically a man or woman contracts uncleanness during the unconsciousness of sleep, so morally we find sinful issues coming forth from the evil heart and nature ere ever we are aware. In strict conformity with this fact, Jonathan Edwards was accustomed to analyze his dreams, believing that, in these involuntary movements of the mind, the moral tendencies of the indwelling spirit may often be detected, and by greater watchfulness subdued. "No mind," says Dr. Shedd, "that thinks at all upon sin can possibly stop with the outward act. Its own rational reflection hurries it away, almost instantaneously, from the blow of the murderer - from the momentary gleam of the knife - to the volition within that strung the muscle and nerved the blow. But the mind cannot stop here in its search for the essential reality of sin. When we have reached the sphere - the inward sphere - of volitions, we have by no means reached the ultimate ground and form of sin. We may suppose that because we have gone beyond the outward act - because we are now within the man - we have found sin in its last form. But we are mistaken. Closer thinking, and what is still better, a deeper experience, will disclose to us a depth in our souls lower than that in which volitions occur, and a form of sin in that depth, and to the bottom of it, very different from the sin of single volitions. The thinking mind which cannot stop with mere effects, but seeks for first causes, and especially the heart that knows its own plague, cannot stop with that quite superficial action of the will which manifests itself in a volition. The action is too isolated - too intermittent - and, in reality, too feeble, to account for so steady and uniform a state of character as human sinfulness. For these particular volitions, ending in particular outward actions, the mind instinctively seeks a common ground. For these innumerable volitions, occurring each by itself and separately, the mind instinctively seeks one single indivisible nature from which they spring. When the mind has got back to this point, it stops content, because it has reached a central point." This most important truth, then, is most powerfully presented by this law regarding issues. We are held responsible for much more than the voluntary element in life.
III. THE FRUITLESSNESS OF THESE OUTCOMES OF NATURE SHOULD ALSO RECEIVE A PASSING NOTICE. The issues spoken of in this chapter are, with one exception, fruitless issues. In no plainer way could the fruitless issues of man's evil nature be illustrated. If "out of the heart are the issues of life," out of man's evil heart of unbelief are issues of fruitlessness and death.
IV. FOR THESE UNCLEANNESSES, INVOLUNTARY AND SECRET, GOD PROVIDED A FITTING ATONEMENT. It is very noticeable that, while the reality of the guilt in these cases is made manifest, it is the smallest sacrifice, two turtle-doves, or two young pigeons, which God requires. There is no exaggeration in dealing with the secret sins. Done in ignorance, they are not placed upon the same level with voluntary transgressions. At the same time, they are not winked at. The sin offering is, of course, a type of Christ, our Atoning Sacrifice. It is on the ground of his atonement that we ask cleansing from secret faults (Psalm 19:12) as well as from conscious transgressions. In truth, we are encouraged to come and to acknowledge that sin is a much larger matter than we are conscious of, that, in fact, it goes beyond all our conceptions, but at the same time is within the reach and grasp of our Lord's atoning power. If he thus sets our secret sins in the light of his countenance, it is that he may have them entirely removed. Saul may have committed his sin: of persecution ignorantly in unbelief, but he needs to obtain mercy on account of them (1 Timothy 2:13). Superficial views of sin would lead men to imagine that a sin done in ignorance is not a guilty thing. God thinks differently, because he looks into the heart and discerns the deep-seated source. The burnt offering was to express the renewed sense of consecration which the cleansing brings. Out of defilement the soul passes, by Divine grace, into devotion. The whole analysis of sin in these chapters (13-15) is profound and philosophical. In fact, portions of Scripture apparently repulsive become replete with wholesome truth when handled humbly and reverently. - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the LORD spake unto Moses and to Aaron, saying,