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mike, i found todays section on leprosy quite challenging. part of my work is to help people with skin problems overcome associated psychological difficulties - in fact i have just finished a six week group. two of the big issues are how other people perceive them (scabby, dirty) and the social isolation they can impose on themselves / others impose on them. i must say i found matthew henry's commentatary particularly unhelpful as it seems to reduce skin conditions to just something visited on people by God and then tries to bring Jesus into it by the back door when he was never hinted at in the pasasge - i am happier with your ideas about 'better the exclusion of one than the illness of the whole nation'. the bible is after all inherently practical.

it strikes me that a better response from christians is to do what they can to help people with leprosy today (and other skin conditions too as it probably wasn't just what we know today to be leprosy that moses was talking about) - i like the links to the WHO. People may also want to know about Lepra - the UK charity who coordinate some extremely valuable work:

http://www.lepra.org.uk/lepra.shtml

I was moved by the verses in today's Psalms regarding the brevity of life. This is mentioned in other books in our Bibles as well, it just touched me today. Am I using my brief time here well? I shall close for now and pray about that.
In Christ,
Michael

The whole managing skin disease aspect of the priestly duties made me think that as the pastors of God's people they were responsible for so much more than just the spiritual. As we minister to people today (lay or clergy) we should be involved in healing of physical, spiritual, social, and emotional needs... This aspect of our calling as the priesthood of believers is not just on a spiritual dimension. God cares for whole people and whole nations. That is why he has provided such minute detail for us in Leviiticus. (I am, by the way, for the first time, learning to LOVE Leviticus:-)

One of the things that we must be careful of is dismissing things as irrelevant or unnecessarily out of date and out of touch with “modern times,” everyone thinks, whatever the time period is, they are in modern and sophisticated times.

May I ask Rob to hold off on any judgment of what this “isolation” meant to the community of Israel and the people involved. “Leprosy” (as per King James) of the skin, clothe, walls of the house (to be read at a later date) represented “sin,” which not only causes someone to be isolated from the community, if known about, but isolates and isolated us from God. Remember God’s way is not our way nor are His thoughts the same as our thoughts. God provided in His covenant with His people, Israel, healing; and because we have not all taken hold of that healing doesn’t mean we are any worse off then any other believer.

What I’m afraid of is that we are in danger of shaping the Word to fit our perspective of life when we read something that either doesn’t make sense to us or doesn’t fit our vocation, job or chosen life style, molding and shaping the Word based on a personal perspective.

Father God I ask that the veil of misunderstanding be lifted from our spiritual eyes and ears so that we will see the way You look at life, that we will see life from Your point of view. In Jesus’ might and glorious name, Amen and Amen.

Grace and peace,
Ramona

I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on television, but I believe that the separation mentioned in Leviticus in our reading today has sound medical reasons, not social ones. It helps to remember that there is a difference between the Law that God gave Moses, and the legalism that the Pharisees of Jesus' day practiced.

Ramona, I'd like to offer my observation that Moses in this passage is not talking about sin, he is writing down the distinctive hygiene and medical directives that God handed to his people Israel. These were way ahead of their time in other cultures and in marked contrast to the gentiles surrounding the Jews at that time. There may be some underlying principles beneath the verses in this passage, but I would hesitate to spiritualize the text and miss what God was actually saying.

Rob, I agree with your concern about people simplifying these diseases by declaring that they were a "punishment" from God on certain people. My God is a God who heals and who protects his people. That's who I see in Leviticus, not a God who inflicts disease on his people and then castigates them, throwing them out of the fellowship of the congregation.

I read very specific medical descriptions of the sores, the skin and the hair surrounding it. I read the diagnosis and the treatment prescribed. I read almost as much about being pronounced "clean" as being pronounced "unclean". This sounds like a program for health, not for condemnation.

Mark 6:12,13 Then they were on the road. They preached with joyful urgency that life can be radically different; right and left they sent the demons packing; they brought wellness to the sick, anointing their bodies, healing their spirits. -- This is the heart of God, this is the message of God's kingdom, this is the mission of God's church.

Mark 6:18-20 For John had provoked Herod by naming his relationship with Herodias "adultery." Herodias, smoldering with hate, wanted to kill him, but didn't dare because Herod was in awe of John. Convinced that he was a holy man, he gave him special treatment. Whenever he listened to him he was miserable with guilt--and yet he couldn't stay away. Something in John kept pulling him back. -- That "something" in John is the same something that lives in all who name the name of Jesus. That something is the Holy Spirit who lives and works in us. Praise God!! What would I have on my own merit that could keep the attention of a king?

Psalm 39:4-11 Tell me, what's going on, GOD?
How long do I have to live?
Give me the bad news!
You've kept me on pretty short rations;
my life is string too short to be saved.
Oh! we're all puffs of air.
Oh! we're all shadows in a campfire.
Oh! we're just spit in the wind.
We make our pile, and then we leave it.
What am I doing in the meantime, Lord?
Hoping, that's what I'm doing--hoping
You'll save me from a rebel life,
save me from the contempt of dunces.
I'll say no more, I'll shut my mouth,
since you, Lord, are behind all this.
But I can't take it much longer.
When you put us through the fire
to purge us from our sin,
our dearest idols go up in smoke.
Are we also nothing but smoke?
Amen Mike! God is on the throne. He has lifted me from the pit of a "rebel life", but because he did it - not me, I shut my mouth before him except to thank him and bring my offering of praise and worship.

Bless you Yahweh!

Lots going on in today's readings! First, I am not a doctor, but I have been in the healthcare profession for 27 years and considering the fact there was no medicine in those days except herbs (which I'm sure were not plentiful in the desert), the instructions God gives the Israelites is remarkably ahead of the times. Contagious skin diseases did spread rapidly, and the quarentine prevented wholesale infection, unfortunately, the Pharisees and other legalists added many of their own laws to these basic instructions-the basis behind all of Jesus' rebukes to this group. Of course, we have our own Pharisees today doing exactly the same thing-but that is a discussion for another time. Two things jumped out at me today. The first is the story of the death of John the Baptist. I am doing a women's study by Beth Moore called Believing God, and the lesson last week was talking about having faith even when we don't understand what God is doing. She used John the Baptist in a way that really convicted me. To summarize, she asked us to try to imagine what John the Baptist was thinking as he was in jail. He knew that Jesus was the Messiah, and he knew he was the forerunner to Him, can you imagine what he must have thought-wondering why, if Jesus was the Messiah, he was still in prison. He probably had the same expectations that most of the Israelites held for the Messiah and so wondered why Jesus wasn't saving him. This really convicted me because so many times I want God to reveal His purpose to me so that I might understand; and yet, here was a prophet who loved God and was diligent in his obedience whose great faith was even further tested by not understanding the meaning of the Kingdom of God. And I think God will reveal to me-a sinner, a rebel,the proverbial black sheep He has to keep bringing back to the fold? As Beth points out, the wonderful thing about this is that the second the sword hit the rock, God was telling John come sit with me and watch this play out. How wonderful and mysterious are the ways of the LORD.
The second thing that jumped out at me was David's psalm today...especially verses 6&7. "6 We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth for someone else to spend. 7 And so, LORD, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you." Does this not sum up our current life experience, or what? Thank you, O Father God, that because of your precious Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ, we can approach You and put all of our hope in You-and You will continue to perfect us until we meet face to face. Amen!

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