VaYiqra (Leviticus) 12:1–13:8 & 14:1–15:33
Why was leprosy such an issue in the Bible? In this week’s reading, the issue of leprosy comes up, and God is very precise in His instructions regarding how to handle the disease. Leprosy is a very contagious skin disease, and easily spreads from person to person. For this reason, a person who was diagnosed with it in the time of the ancient Israelites had to stay outside the camp, meaning s/he had to leave his family, friends, and personal dwelling, and was forbidden from offering sacrifices in the sanctuary to the Lord. It was very obvious from the outside that a person had leprosy, and no one wanted to be near this unclean person or touch him. You could say anyone with leprosy was shunned, and was basically an outcast!
Leviticus 13 describes in detail how the priests would identify leprosy:
Then the LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, “When a man has on the skin of his body a swelling or a scab or a bright spot, and it becomes an infection of leprosy on the skin of his body, then he shall be brought to Aaron the priest, or to one of his sons the priests. And the priest shall look at the mark on the skin of the body, and if the hair in the infection has turned white and the infection appears to be deeper than the skin of his body, it is an infection of leprosy; when the priest has looked at him, he shall pronounce him unclean.”
Note here that the priests had to examine the outer condition of a person’s appearance in order to determine if s/he was clean or unclean. While they were doing this to protect the rest of the people from catching this deadly disease, we can consider a possible deeper meaning of how we judge someone on his or her appearance. We should be very careful not to judge a person based on what we see on the outside; the Lord cares about the heart, and He desires for the “inside” to be cleansed and purified over the outward appearance.
As followers of Messiah, it is especially important that we not judge people by what we see on the outside. Whether it’s a physical ailment, the color of a person’s skin, ethnicity, or religious attire, we must guard ourselves from shunning people. Our own personal bias often gets in the way of seeing a person as s/he was created: in God’s image. Not only does this create barriers that Yeshua tore down by the shedding of His blood (Ephesians 2:13–14), but it can prevent a person from being healed. Our Teacher was a wonderful example of seeing someone’s heart, and not just his outward appearance:
And a leper came to Him, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying to Him, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” And moved with compassion, He stretched out His hand, and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. And He sternly warned him and immediately sent him away, and He said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a testimony to them.” But he went out and began to proclaim it freely and to spread the news about, to such an extent that Yeshua could no longer publicly enter a city, but stayed out in unpopulated areas; and they were coming to Him from everywhere.”
Note that it took a lot of faith from the leper to come to Yeshua (i.e. into the camp). He defied the social norm and religious rules of the time by daring to associate with a clean person (Yeshua); the leper risked causing Yeshua to be unclean! Yet, Yeshua “moved with compassion”, stretched His hand out and touched the leper, which healed and cleansed him. While the text does not explicitly refer to it, I believe the leper was also healed spiritually. The leper’s testimony was amazing proof of the authority that Yeshua had, and as a result many others wanted to come and receive healing as well.
What’s your testimony of the Lord’s healing in your life, physical or spiritual? Let me encourage you to share it so that others can also find healing in Messiah!
This article originally appeared on Hope for Israel, April 18, 2018, and reposted with permission.