Saturday, April 11, 2009

part 2: leprosy, a history

so generation followed generation.

most people went on with their daily lives,

some contracted leprosy,
and lived and died
in their personal tragedy.
families grieved
while carrying on with life.

a few contracted leprosy
as a sobering lesson,
afflicted by God
as the consequence of their own stubborn rebellion.

moses' own sister miriam was a leader in Israel
during the exodus
and during the wanderings.
then she criticized her brother
because she thought
he was taking too much authority and power from her.
and she didn't like his wife.
God summoned miriam and aaron and moses
and visited with them.
as His holy presence withdrew,
aaron and moses looked with horror at miriam.
she was leprous.
and though moses interceded,
miriam bore her punishment
for three days,
ostracized and outcast.

centuries later
king uzziah was making sweeping reforms in israel,
re-establishing the worship of Yahweh
and leading the people in a nation-wide revival.
he rejoiced in all that was being accomplished.
then the thought entered his mind
that he would like to lead the people in worship
by burning the incense
in God's holy temple.
but God had designated the priests alone
to burn the incense.
uzziah took the censor
and entered the temple.
he was met by a group of priests
who forbade him to transgress
the boundaries God had given him.
uzziah became visibly furious,
but before he could respond,
God intervened.
uzziah became a leper
and lived in isolation
for the remaining years of his life.

naaman, an assyrian general,
was plagued with leprosy.
through an israeli captive whom he had enslaved,
he learned of a man who served the living God, elisha,
who might be able to help him.
so he made the trip,
and was told to immerse in the jordan,
and was miraculously healed.
though he desired to give the prophet a generous gift,
elisha declined,
and naaman went on his way,
returning home.
but gehazi, elisha's servant,
disapproved of elisha's refusal,
and following naaman,
told him that elisha had some unexpected guests
and he needed some of that clothing
and some of that money
after all.
naaman gladly gave him all he desired,
and gehazi returned
and hid the goods.
but God knew,
and cursed him and his descendants
with leprosy.

centuries more passed.
the Son of God came
and with His unlimited power
cleansed lepers of their disease.
all who came to Him,
He restored to health
and life.
oh, the joy they felt
as their physical and emotional suffering
was alleviated.
they went to the priest
so he could go through the rituals
that would establish their new status
in society.
they were whole and restored.

and the sacrifices were offered.
a bird slain,
some cedar,
some hyssop,
some scarlet string,
and bird set free over the field.

offerings for sin,
for guilt,
for peace.

a dedication
of the leper
to Yahweh.

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