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Date:         Tue, 25 Jul 1995 11:31:19 +0200
Reply-To: Christian explanation of the Scriptures to Israel 
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From: Teus Benschop 
Subject:      The Scriptures opened, 41
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1. Numbers 30:2       - Pay your vow
2. Leviticus 13:1-28  - The plague of leprosy
3. 2 Corinthians 2    - The minister a sweet savour of Christ

1.   Numbers 30:2 - Pay your vow

Weekly reading: Numbers 30:2 - 36:13

If  a  man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to bind his  soul
with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all
that proceedeth out of his mouth. (Numbers 30:2)

     "If  a man vow a vow unto the LORD, he shall do according to  all
that  proceedeth out of his mouth". So, if you promise something,  you
must  do  it.  If  you  not do it, you break your  promise.  You  said
something to do, but you break your word. Then you are a liar. But  if
you perform your vow, you do what you were obliged to do. There is not
any merit then, for you did but your duty.
     "If  a  man swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he  shall
not  break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth  out
of  his  mouth". So, what is said about the vow applies  also  to  the
oath. There is a difference however, for the oath is stronger than the
vow.  When vowing, you don't call upon the Name of God, but  when  you
swear,  you take God as a Witness, that you speak the truth.  Breaking
an  oath  is therefore worse then breaking a vow. When you  break  the
vow,  you make yourself a liar. But when you break the oath, you  make
God a liar. Now, this latter is worse then the first.
     When  a  man  "swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond",  what
does  this binding his soul mean? This can best be explained  when  we
look  to the common function of a bond. Something is bound with a bond
to  keep it in its place. Likewise a soul is bound with the bond of  a
vow,  to  keep it in its place; that is, the soul is bound to  perform
what  he has promised. The bond keeps it in its place, that is  should
do what it promised.
     It is a good thing, yes, even necessary, to promise the LORD that
we  shall  obey Him. Or, to promise that we will love Him.  This  will
urge  us the more to do so, and if we forsake it (what happens  daily)
to  condemn  ourselves the more. These things help us to show  who  we
really are, namely bond-breakers.
     There are examples in Scripture of men who vowed vows. See Jacob.
"And  Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep
me  in  this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment
to  put  on, so that I come again to my father's house in peace;  then
shall the LORD be my God." (Genesis 28:20,21) He said: "If God give me
all my needs, then He will be my God".
     Sometimes, it happens that one promises something to do,  but  he
does  so  rashly,  and  thoughtlessly. It can  be  that  one  promises
something  to  do, what the law actually forbids. What  then?  He  has
vowed  it  to do. If he does it, he transgresses the law. But  on  the
other hand, if not does it, he breaks his vow. So, in either case,  he
transgresses the law. Herein, you see that a man can bring himself  in
such  a situation, that he always must sin. Whatever he does, he  will
sin.  When he keeps his vow, he sins, but also when he breaks  it.  An
example  of  this can be found in Jephthah. He vowed a  vow  unto  the
LORD,  that, when the LORD gave him the victory, whatsoever came forth
of  the  door of his house, he would offer it up for a burnt offering.
Now, this vow was done too rashly and thoughtlessly. For, his daughter
was  the first, who met him at his house. When Jephthah would keep his
vow,  he had to offer his daughter up for a burnt offering. Now, since
it  is  forbidden to kill, he would transgress. But on the other hand,
when  he would break his vow, he also would transgress. In that  case,
he had to choose the least offensive sin, that is, he had to break his
     The LORD also swears. But since there is nothing higher than  Him
to  swear by, He swears by Himself. We are assured that He never  will
break His words. He says in Psalm 89:34-37:
    My covenant will I not break,
    nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.
    Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David.
    His seed shall endure for ever,
    and his throne as the sun before Me.
    It shall be established for ever as the moon,
    and [as] a faithful witness in heaven.
The LORD, our God, has sworn unto David (and He will not lie) that his
seed  shall endure forever. There will always be one of David's  seed,
who  sits  upon  his throne. Now, since there are no common  kings  of
David's  line, we have yet one King, but one much better. The  Messiah
is  sitting upon David's throne, and will reign forever. The Lord  has
sworn  (and  He  will not lie) that David's seed will endure  forever.
Jesus  Christ,  the Son of David, is now ruling over His  church.  His
throne shall be established forever.

2.   Leviticus 13:1-28 - The plague of leprosy

This  chapter  deals with the plague of leprosy. A leper was  unclean,
and could not stay in the midst of the congregation. In verse two, the
text says: "When a man shall have in the skin of his flesh a rising, a
scab,  or  bright spot, and it be in the skin of his flesh [like]  the
plague of leprosy; then he shall be brought unto Aaron the priest,  or
unto  one of his sons the priests". When one seemed to have the plague
of  leprosy, he was to be brought unto the priest. It was the task  of
the priest to discern between clean and unclean. They had to do so  in
all  matters, including leprosy. The people had to reject the  unclean
things, but to accept and pursue the clean.
     Leprosy was more an uncleanness than an illness. It could be very
infectious.  That is why the leper could not dwell among  the  people.
Also they might be infected, and become lepers. In its contagiousness,
leprosy  well portrays sin. Also sin is an uncleanness.  Also  sin  is
very  infectious. Sin, allowed to dwell among the people, will  infect
them all. Like the leper was expelled, we must drive out also sin.
     Leprosy was a plague often inflicted immediately by the  hand  of
God.   Miriam's  leprosy,  and  Gehazi's,  and  king  Uzziah's,   were
punishments  of particular sins. We see that Miriam's leprosy,  as  is
said,  was a punishment for her pride. "And the anger of the LORD  was
kindled against them; and he departed. And the cloud departed from off
the  tabernacle; and, behold, Miriam became leprous, [white] as  snow:
and  Aaron  looked  upon  Miriam, and,  behold,  [she  was]  leprous."
(Numbers 12:9,10) Since then leprosy could be a plague sent by God, it
is  no  marvel  there was care taken to distinguish it from  a  common
distemper, like we see that is done in our chapter, by the priest.  If
"it  is  a  plague of leprosy: and the priest shall look on  him,  and
pronounce  him  unclean", verse 3. If it is not leprosy,  "the  priest
shall pronounce him clean: it is but a scab", verse 6.
     As is said, the judgement of leprosy was the task of the priests.
Leprosy is a figure of the pollutions of a men's minds by sin. Sin  is
the  leprosy  of the soul, and like common leprosy defiled  the  whole
man,  so  also moral leprosy, sin, defiles the whole conscience.  One,
having  sinned,  well  knows that, and he feels himself  ashamed.  His
conscience,  which was at rest before, is now disturbed. That  is  the
result  of  sin, which defiles conscience. A priest could not  cleanse
one  from his leprosy. He only could observe that one was a leper, and
pronounce  him unclean. It is the same with the law. Through  the  law
can  but  observe, that he is a leper. The law has not  the  power  to
clean  one  from his sins. Only God can do that. When He forgives,  He
cleanses one from his leprosy.
     Our  whole  chapter, Leviticus 13, is filled with rules  for  the
priest, to guide him in his judgement of the leper. "If you see  this,
then it is leprosy. If you see that, then it is another disease. If it
is  leprosy, then you shall pronounce him unclean, but if it  is  some
ulcer,  he is clean". We see that the judgement was not easy. Likewise
is it a work of great importance, and of great difficulty, to judge of
our  spiritual  state. We all have cause to suspect  ourselves,  being
conscious  of  sores and spots; but whether clean or  unclean  is  the
question. We all are full of spots. But, are we clean or unclean? That
is  the  question. Are our sins forgiven? Then we are clean. Are  they
not forgiven? Then we are unclean.
     The priest must take time in making his judgement. When it seemed
to  be  a leprosy, the priest could not judge immediately. "The priest
shall  shut  up  [him that hath] the plague seven days",  verse  four.
Applying  this to our spiritual leprosy, on sin, it teaches all,  both
ministers  and  people,  not to be hasty in  censures,  nor  to  judge
anything  before the time. It would be a bad thing to  acquit  a  real
leper, and to condemn one who is clean from it.
     If  one was brought unto the priest, and it appeared that he  was
clean,  he nevertheless had to wash his clothes. "If the plague spread
not  in the skin, the priest shall pronounce him clean: it [is but]  a
scab: and he shall wash his clothes, and be clean", verse six. Why was
it,  that  he had to wash his clothes? For, he has never been unclean.
It  is, because the person was suspected to be a leper. This suspicion
was  already enough ground for some defilement, so that he had to wash
his  clothes.  So also, who not has sinned in reality, but  has  given
some  suspicion,  he  is in some degree unclean,  and  must  wash  his
clothes, nay, himself, in the blood of Christ, to become clean.

3.   2 Corinthians 2 - The minister a sweet savour of Christ

2 Corinthians 2:
15  For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ,
    in them that are saved, and in them that perish:
16  To the one [we are] the savour of death unto death;
    and to the other the savour of life unto life.
    And who [is] sufficient for these things?
17  For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God:
    but as of sincerity, but as of God,
    in the sight of God speak we in Christ.

Paul,  here, is speaking about the task of the true ministers  of  the
gospel.  "We are unto God a sweet savour of Christ". When he says  "we
are",  he  means "all the true ministers, including myself". They  are
not  only a sweet savour unto God, because many are saved through  the
preaching of the gospel, but also in those that perish. That may sound
harsh  in our ears, that the ministers of the gospel are also a  sweet
savour in those that perish. Yet, it is so, for Scripture says it. But
in  the first place, the ministers are a sweet savour unto God in them
that  are  saved.  For, in the believers, God's  grace  and  mercy  is
revealed.  The grace and mercy, which are in God, become then  public.
When  one is saved, God is honoured because of His goodness. Secondly,
the  ministers of the gospel are also a sweet favour for God,  because
the  ungodly perish. How then? Because in the damnation of the wicked,
God's  righteousness becomes public. When there were no ungodly, God's
righteousness  would always be hidden. In that case, only  a  part  of
God's virtues would become evident. But now, in them that perish,  and
in  them  that  are  saved, God's whole nature, to speak  so,  becomes
visible, and will be praised.
     Paul  continues with "To the one we are the savour of death  unto
death; and to the other the savour of life unto life". What does  this
mean? Let's first look to the "savour of death unto death". The gospel
is a deadly savour for the unbelievers. Why? Is then the gospel deadly
in  itself?  No, surely not. The gospel, seen in itself, it  the  good
message  of  life. Why is it then a deadly savour to the  unbelievers?
Because,  since  they reject the gospel, since they reject  that  good
message,  they cause their own judgement to be heavier.  The  ungodly,
when  they had never heard any gospel, could not oppose that. But now,
when they have heard God's Word, and they believe not, they oppose and
resist it, and thus their sin is greater.
     The  true ministers are also "the savour of life unto life".  How
so?  Because  by their preaching of the gospel, they spread  the  good
savour of God's mercy. All those that hear that, and believe it,  will
smell that savour. That gospel is aiming at their life. The message of
Christ  crucified  is a source of life for all that  believe  in  Him.
Through Christ, they receive eternal life. They are passed from  death
unto life.
     Then  it is said: "And who is sufficient for these things?"  This
means, who is able to be a sweet savour of Christ? Who is able to be a
savour of death unto death, and a savour of life unto life? The answer
is: nobody is able to do that in own strength. It is, as Paul says  in
the next chapter: We are not sufficient of ourselves to do such things
as preaching the gospel, "but our sufficiency is of God", 2 Cor.3:5.
     "We are not as many, which corrupt the word of God". Some corrupt
the  word of God by giving it some human colour. With that new colour,
it  sells better, they think. The distort the Word of God, so that  it
can please wretched men. The pure Word is too hard for the people,  so
they soften it, that is, they corrupt and pervert it. Since a man does
not  like  to spend his life in the service of God, the false  gospel-
preachers corrupt the Word, in order to make it light digestible. Now,
says  Paul,  we  are not as many, who corrupt the  Word.  "But  as  of
sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ".  We
keep the Word pure, and do not make wax of it, so as to disform it  to
man's  pleasure.  Paul speaks it "as of God", that  is,  his  Word  is
inspired  by God. Many of the false prophets of that time  poured  out
their  own  inventions, the dreams of their own corrupted  heart.  And
also  in  our time, the world is full of this sort of people. But  the
true  ministers speak according to Scripture, and do not deviate  from
     Let we then check to what kind of minister we are listening. Does
he  corrupt  the  Word, to please his hearers? or does  he  speak  the
truth,  regardless of what the people think? Does he deceive you  with
his  own fancies, or, rejecting his own and your dreams, does he speak
the pure Word? Take heed then, for with a corrupted Word, you'll never
reach  heaven. Listen only to those ministers, sent by God, who preach
you  the truth, and who not cease, day and night, to warn you, and  to
exhort you.

Teus Benschop  |  t.benschop@pobox.ruu.nl  |  editor of the list Chr-Exp

           "A Christian explanation of the Scriptures to Israel"

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