June 24, 2020
Biblical Studies

In Serves You Right: Loving Those We’d Rather Hate I discuss leprosy, the disease that was to be Naaman’s undoing had his wife’s Hebrew slave not intervened. Many afflictions in the Ancient Near East fell under the broad category of leprosy. Some were skin ailments that disappeared on their own. Others were more serious, and some killed. We do not know which kind of leprosy Naaman had, but the textual evidence suggests it was the deadly strain.

             Scripture views leprosy as a picture of sin. One reason is because it caused separation. A leprous person, garment, household item, or dwelling (some of the “leprosy” was actually invasive fungus or mold) had to be isolated, observed, treated, and declared clean before being restored to normal public contact. The same protocol is used during these days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Contagions—leprosy was extremely contagious—require separation.

           The experience of Judah’s King Uzziah is a case in point. 2 Chronicles 26 records Uzziah’s rise to power in the region. Ascending the throne at age sixteen, Uzziah “did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. He set himself to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God, and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him prosper” (2 Chron. 26:4-5,ESV).

           The following verses catalogue Uzziah’s many accomplishments: the expansion and improvement of infrastructure; victory over Judah’s enemies; the development of better food production; and the enhancement of national security through the enlargement of the military force and the invention of war machinery. “And his fame spread far, for he was marvelously helped, till he was strong” (2 Chron. 15b, ESV).

             Then things went south.

             The next verse tells us that “. . . when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction” (2 Chron. 26:6a, ESV). He assumed authority he did not have, and entered the temple to burn incense even though he was not a priest. Azariah the high priest and 80 priests who were also “men of valor” (read, “armed reservists”) withstood him, begging him not to commit this sin of pride and presumption. Their rebuke enraged him, and even as he held the censor in his hand ready to burn his unauthorized incense, “leprosy broke out on hisforehead” (2 Chron. 26:19), ESV). The priests rushed him out of the temple, and this time he did not oppose them. Because God struck him, he lived as a leper in a separate house and was banned from the temple for the rest of his life.

             Pride underlies virtually every sinful act and attitude. It was true of Lucifer (AKA Satan), Adam and Eve, Aaron and Miriam, who opposed Moses, and Naaman. It is also true of us.

             Just as leprosy cuased separation from the community, sin causes separation from God. God alone can remedy this, and sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to live as part of the human race he created. He, too, would experience the dreadful separation from the Father when he bore the sins of humanity in his own body at his crucifixion. Because Christ was separated from God, we can be reconciled to him through faith in the finished work of his Son.

Rob Heijermans

Rob Heijermans (rhymes with “fireman’s”) is a church planter and Bible teacher who has served with Biblical Ministries Worldwide since 1979. He is a 1977 graaduate (B.S. in Bible) of Lancaster Bible College. His travels have taken him to forty countries on four continents, including detailed research for this book in Israel. He has three married children and ten grandchildren. He and his wife, Madeleine, live in Ontario, Canada.

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