Torah Portion: Metzora (Leper) (Leviticus) Vayikra 14-15
Haftorah Reading: II Kings 7:3-20
This week our Torah portion continues with the discussion of clean and unclean issues dealing with people. In last weeks section in verses 13:1-4 we read where the word used for man was “adam” rather than the more common word, “ish.” This shows the connection between this disease and the fall of mankind in the garden. Then death, disease and sin entered the world and we still suffer from the effects of the actions of Adam and Eve. Here again we read where one of the effects of the illness of leprosy is rooted in our spiritual nature, in that this disease, as well as other things, can separate us spiritually from G-d. Yeshua and His blood can cleanse us from this separation. However, it is very important for us to do what we can to not come under the influence of the issues we read about this week. Remember, this is at least 3 chapters devoted mainly to one ailment and its effect on our connection with G-d.
I want us to look closely at the process by which a leper becomes clean and is reinstated into the community as well as examples in the New Testament where we see this process in action. However, first I want to say a few words about this last Shabbat before Passover. In Hebrew it is known as the Great Shabbat. Why is this and what can it teach us in our own spiritual life? This is the Shabbat just before the children of Israel’s freedom from Egypt. It reminds Jews of their impending freedom from slavery, as it should us as well. It can remind us of what G-d has done for us in freeing us from the slavery of sin. It should remind us that G-d is faithful. As He was to Israel, so He is with us. So today, I think we can all praise Him who set us free from sin and allows us, desires us to walk in His ways. Reminders are important, days set aside to reflect and remember what the Father did for His people Israel and for us the grafted in ones.
Now back to the leper. As we talked last week, remember this sickness was believed to be caused by gossip or an evil tongue. The first thing that happened was the person was quarantined from contact with any other person. To be declared free from the illness the person was examined by a priest, not a doctor. This gives us another hint that the problem at its root was spiritual.
We see leprosy mentioned several times in scripture. In Numbers 12 Miriam was afflicted. In Exodus 4:1-6 we see where Moshe was struck with leprosy when he spoke badly of the people, saying they would not believe him. Speech is a singularly human gift. When it is misused it can devalue a person, a person made in the image of G-d.
Now let’s talk about the cleaning process. What was used in this process? Scarlet cedar and hyssop was used. These same items were also used in the service of the Red Heifer (contact with a dead body.) Why do you think hyssop was used? It was a scrub plant, never very big and grew low to the ground. Maybe G-d is showing all of us that He can use even the smallest of things in His work, whether a tall cedar or a small bush, we all have worth in G-d’s sight. For the leper it may have encouraged him that he was of value and worth being restored. He had not fallen completely. G-d wanted to redeem him.
Hyssop was also used in applying the blood to the door of Hebrew homes at the first Passover. This was done for the same reason, to remind Israel that G-d was there to redeem them from their lowly positions as slaves.
The last act of being readmitted into the community was to go to the priest completely shaven, go through the water and be anointed with the blood and oil on his right ear, thumb and large toe, in order to show him he was expected to live differently now in everyway.
In the book of Matthew 8:2-4 we see a scene play out between Yeshua and a leper. Yeshua healed him and told him to go to the priest, present himself, offer his offering. Yeshua told the man to follow exactly what we have read here in Leviticus. He would have followed the process here. Being anointed with oil to show the return of G-d’s presence in his life. The blood of the sacrifice to show the redemption of the person (like us) and water to show that all that was, was left in the water and he came out renewed, a reborn person and was fully restored.
Yeshua understood the symbol of these words of Torah and told the person to be obedient to the pattern of G-d set out in our verses tonight. This should give us as believers a deeper understanding of the depth of G-d’s love for us and a provision for us to be clean before the Father.