Lepers R Us
by Joseph Franks
There has not been a consensus among scholars as to the actual meaning of “leprosy.” Some have believed it to be identical to Hansen’s Disease. Others have preferred to present it as a wide-ranging diagnosis used for various infectious diseases or skin disorders. Whatever it was, whether life-threatening or not, it was a result of the Adamic fall. It was a curse from God and a horrible malady. This was especially true if one was an Israelite living underneath the Mosaic civil and ceremonial system.
When someone suffered from leprosy, it was his duty to immediately vacate the household and present himself before a priest. If the infected person chose not to take this action, a person with knowledge of his disease was required to turn him in to the authorities. One with leprosy was not to live life as normal and take the risk of harming those around him.
Following the priestly examination, when the leprosy did not appear to be chronic, the individual was allowed to carry on. A later examination was required to make sure the initial assessment of the priest was correct. However, when the leprosy was deemed to be chronic, the poor Israelite was publically pronounced, “Unclean.” From this point on, he was to wear torn clothes, let his hair grow long, wear a veil that covered his mouth, dwell alone outside the camp, and cry, “Unclean, unclean” to all who came near. (Lev. 13:45-46) He was a blight to society and a dead man walking. His physical suffering was enourmous. Quite often, body parts lost feeling, function, and were lost all together. In addition to the physical agony, there was great relational suffering. Loving fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, children, parents, friends, pastors and fellow worshipers were separated one from another. As the leprous individual resided outside the camp, those within the gates were not allowed to come and provide comfort. The only people the sick one could associate with were those suffering in like manner. Additionally, one can only imagine the soul suffering. Emotional and mental anguish were an everyday occurrence. Lonely, hopeless, meaningless, depressed, suicidal — all these words and concepts would have been terribly familiar to the one rotting away.
However, God could choose to reverse the curse. He could decide to naturally or supernaturally heal the leprous one. And if God chose to do so, ceremonial worship was to take place. (Lev. 14) The formerly leprous man or woman was to bring two birds, a cedar stick, and scarlet yarn to the tabernacle. One bird was killed; its blood was allowed to fall into a bowl of fresh water. Then, the scarlet yarn, cedar stick, live bird, and healed individual were dipped or sprinkled with the bloody water. Consequently, as the man was publically pronounced, “Clean,” the live bird was set free to fly away. The saved man was to wash, shave, and return to his home. Then, he was to come back to the tabernacle with his family and worship on the eighth day. God had done a good work, and it was time to celebrate the merciful work of the Great Physician.
Friends, we are like the leper. Sin is our infectious disease, and it is dangerous to us and all who surround us. Sin has cursed our physical bodies, our relational societies, and our emotional state. Because of sin, we are dead men walking. Because of Adam’s curse, were are “unclean” and separated from God and those who acceptably worship him. All of us have this disease. All have sinned and fallen short of God’s expectations. There are none who are good; none who are healthy; none who are righteous; no — not even one. Ultimately, the destiny of all such lepers is fixed; unhealed spiritual lepers will dwell outside the heavenly gate – forever.
But God reserves the right to fix that which ails us. Moses preached this every time he performed the second miracle given him by the Lord. (Ex. 4:6-7) His sister, Miriam, learned this truth as well. (Num. 12:1-10) Naaman was cleansed by the prophet (2 Kings 5), and Jesus made it his business to love the lepers of his day. (Luke 17) And Jesus treated not only physical leprosy, but spiritual leprosy as well. Jesus became a man despised, rejected, and acquainted with grief and sorrow. He was one from whom men hid their faces. (Is. 53) He took the leprosy of sin upon himself that he might be the Great Physician and heal sinners of all their physical, relational and emotional diseases.
So, what ought we to do if we find ourselves struggling physically from the leprosy of sin? What ought we to do if cancer is eating us alive? Are our bodily functions failing? Is death on the near horizon? Trust in Jesus who promises to save our souls and heal all our sinful diseases. He may chose to grant us health and vitality in this life. For sure he will grant us a regenerated body in the upcoming New Heavens and New Earth.
What ought we to do if we are struggling relationally? Come to Jesus. He is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. He is a constant companion who promises to never leave us or forsake us. And he has a body, a family, or a church who extends his care and compassion. Jesus and his Church have fellowship waiting for the isolated and lonely.
What ought we to do if we are struggling emotionally? In the Garden and on the cross, Jesus experienced our pain and anguish. He understands our emotional despair and mental misery. He offers his Holy Spirit to all who become his disciples. With Christ and his Spirit come love, joy, peace, patience, kindness etc …. (Gal. 5) He is the Great Physician and the Great Psychologist. He helps the double-minded and gives emotional rest to the weary.
Then, after receiving these benefits from Jesus Christ, we ought to grab our family and give him his proper worship on the eighth day — or the first day. In the Gospels, the Lord Jesus was greatly saddened by the lack of gratitude shown by the ten lepers. He remains greatly saddened by the lack of worship displayed by those who have received his healing touch. Appreciative worship is the proper response of those who have been set free from the leprous curse of Adam. Let us give glory and honor to the one who took our curse so we might receive his blessings.