Metzora – “Diseased Ones”

Today’s Parasha is called Metzora which means “Diseased or Leprous One”.  It covers Leviticus 14-15.  Chapter 14 is a continuation of the laws concerning lepers.  If an Israeli was suffering from leprosy, and had undergone teshuvah (chuvah) (repentance), and had apparently been healed, he would first call for the priest to examine him.  If the priest saw no sign of tumah (uncleanliness), then a second examination would be scheduled 7 days later.  If the Metzora was free from disease, the process of tahara (purification) would begin.

If after a second exam, he was deemed fit, the priest would require him to obtain some cedar wood, scarlet thread, hyssop, and two turtle doves – all of which seem to have cleansing properties and are used in this two-bird ritual.  The release of the live bird is reminiscent of the scapegoat.  The live bird being driven into the fields may symbolize the leprosy being banished outside the camp of Israel.  Following this, the leper would be required to wash his clothes, shave off all his hair, and bathe in clean water.  Seven days later, he could return to the camp.

Adonai’s instructions on this matter were specific and were expected to be followed if you hoped to re-enter the camp after having tzara’at (leprosy).   If you had a skin disease, you had to remain outside the camp, in order to prevent others from being contaminated.  You were required to yell out “unclean, unclean!”  to warn others not to approach you.  When an unclean person came in contact with a clean person, the clean person was no longer clean.  For leprosy, a priest would put his hands on you during the cleansing and purification process unly when he was certain you had been healed.

The Scriptures include several stores of encounters with lepers.  For example, in Matthew 8, a crowd gathered around Yeshua and a leper knelt before Him saying, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean”.  Immediately, the leper was cleansed.  The significance of this event is that Yeshua touched the leper when nobody else ever would; nor did He become unclean; but rather the leper became clean!  When Yeshua spent time with sinners, He never became tainted with sin.  He always rose above and used His time to heal.  Brothers and sisters, we may not have His same abilities, but we do have a calling and a commandment from the Lord to spread the Good News, which means we will be among sinners, but we must not participate in sin.  This is the challenge for us  –  to bring salt and light to those in our midst, but not to let the darkness from outside come into our lives, or to lose our distinctive flavor as those following Messiah.

The Haftarah is 2 Kings 7-20 which describes four leprous men sitting at the gate of Samaria during a famine.  Because they were lepers, they were not allowed into the city.  The people in the city were starving to death because they were under siege by the Syrians.  The lepers took their chances and went to the Syrian camp hoping to find food.  When they arrived there, they were astonished to find only animals – horses, donkeys, and food, but no soldiers.  God had miraculously sent the soldiers fleeing.  The four lepers ate some food and hid some treasure.  But quickly, they realized that they could not keep this to themselves so long as people in the city were starving to death.  They had good news to share!  So they informed the gatekeeper.  The Samaritans could then gather the food from the Syrian camp and were delivered.

Brothers and sister, we are very much like those lepers trapped outside the camp.  Our only hope is the death and resurrection of Jesus and His choosing us to do His work.  That is what sets us free from the leprosy of our sin and condemnation.  The four lepers were at their crossroads.  They discovered extremely good news and they did not keep it to themselves, but told others.  In the same way, God commands us to spread the Good News (even if people regard us like lepers).  The Lord delights to use unlikely people to accomplish His purposes.  We were once like lepers – slaves to sin, but now we are slaves of righteousness through Yeshua.

In Matthew 9:20-22, a woman who had suffered a discharge of blood for 12 years, came up from behind a crowd and touched the fringe of Yeshua’s garment.  This woman would have been considered unclean, yet her faith was strong enough to motivate her to approach Yeshua.  Messiah turned and said “take heart daughter, your faith has made you well”.  Instantly, this woman was healed. Jesus went outside the camp to cleanse these people and bring them back inside the camp.

Do you feel like a leper – like you are outside the camp – that you have too many scars or wounds from the past to be forgiven?  There is nothing you have done that cannot be overcome by the forgiveness of God through repentance.  Nothing is beyond Adonai Eloheinu’s reach or touch.  Satan would have us believe that we are too far gone and not worthy to be with Yeshua.  And you know what?  We aren’t worthy – we can’t earn it.  Eternal life is a free gift.  God’s grace brings us back if we repent, turn away from that sin, and yield to Him.

If you are going through difficult times, believe that they are meant for you to grown, and for others to see your victory through those struggles and take hope.  We are never alone.  Tests build our character.  Instead of the spiritual lepers we once were, we are now the bride of Messiah Yeshua.  God has given us incredible Good News to proclaim,  much like He did with the lepers; but it means we need to take some risks and speak up.  We are approaching Passover and remembering how the Lord has blessed us beyond measure.  Let us renew our commitment and seize opportunities to talk to those outside the camp.