Summary: A first person lesson on gratitude from the perspective of a former leper.
I want to tell you about my encounter with Yeshua (you call him Jesus) I will never be the same after meeting him, although I do have some regrets. You see, I was a leper in Israel, one of a small group of ten.
Being a leper is a hard life. If you have unusual spots on your body you must go to the priests to be examined. They can pronounce you unclean. Only they can rescind the proclamation and declare cleanness. But, once leprosy is identified, lepers are required to cover their mouths and shout, “Unclean! Unclean!” whenever they meet anyone in the way. We must live in isolation outside the community, away from family and friends. We are not even able to worship in the temple or study in the synagogue. I don’t understand it all, but I obey the Torah because the LORD commanded it and I trust Him. The priest would visit me every seven days to check on the progress of the sores. Once I am healed I will go through a cleansing ceremony and bring sacrifices to the temple before being welcomed back into the community. (Leviticus 13) But I had to wait.
The Rabbis have linked evil speech to leprosy. They say that if a person is guilty of lashon hara (evil tongue/evil speech), moldy spots first appeared on the walls of their house as a warning. If they did not get the hint, the spots moved to their clothing. Each of these could be dealt with by the priest trying to clean the house or the clothes. If that did not work, he could have the house demolished and the clothes burned. However, if the person still did not change their ways, the spots appeared on the body and they were declared leprous.
Harmful speech can cause someone to lose their homes, force them away from others, and ultimately cause them to lose their physical health. Once the damage is done, it is hard to fix. Our Wise king, Shlomo (Solomon) recorded for us, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits” (Proverbs 18.21).The isolation time has been good so that I could reflect on how I have been using my speech.
You see, words are important, they are the means by which God created all things in the beginning. In fact, Yeshua is referred to as “The Word” who created in the beginning (John 1.1ff). Words are the building blocks of our relationships. When we misuse them everything about us – homes, clothes, bodies are in danger. The sages say, “The power of life and death is in the tongue.” Remember when Aaron and Miriam spoke against Moses (Numbers 12)? She was struck with leprosy until she repented, Moses interceded for her (v. 13), but she had spent seven days outside the camp.
Rav Shaul (your “Apostle Paul”) tells us that sinful people are those, “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.” (Romans 3.14) He also instructs, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” (Ephesians 4.29) Speech is a powerful tool. It is life and death. It is a means of sowing and reaping as I painfully am aware.
Of course, I was alone as a leper. I waited outside the camp and was inspected by the priest every seven days. But I got so lonely that I joined with people who were like me. We formed a band of ten lepers and went about together. We stayed outside the community, but we stayed in our own little community. It was far better for us to be together and apart than alone and apart. We were able to have more safety in numbers, but then, who would want to assault a leper? We shared in necessities; we had companionship; and we encouraged one another as we went about.
There was a time in our history when the Syrians sieged Israel (2 Kings 7). The siege brought a famine to the land. God intervened frightened the Syrians. They fled, leaving their food and property behind. A band of lepers went into the Syrian camp to beg for food. What did they have to lose? They were going to die either by famine or by Syria’s sword. Yet, when they got into the camp the Syrians were gone. The lepers feasted and carried off wealth. But then it struck them that there was a better way, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, and we remain silent. If we wait until morning light, some punishment will come upon us. Now therefore, come, let us go and tell the king’s household” (2 Kings 7.9). They shared with the others.