Lessons From The Horrible Disease of Leprosy
In the mid 1970's I saw leprosy for the first time. I had read of it in the Bible from the days of my youth. Reading about leprosy gives no real concept of what it is like. Since that first time of seeing leprosy I have seen it many times. Each time the sight lingers in my mind. Leprosy disfigures the person and makes their presence horrible to the beholder. God gave very specific instructions concerning dealing with leprosy in Leviticus 13:1-46.
Presently there are approximately 6,500 cases of leprosy in the United States. About 90 percent of those with leprosy are immigrants from countries where the disease is endemic. There are 200 to 250 cases reported each year, with about 175 of these being diagnosed for the first time. The States and US Territories with the largest numbers of leprosy cases in the United States are California, Texas, Hawaii, Louisiana, Florida, New York and Puerto Rico. Leprosy can be present at any age, but cases in patients less than 1 year of age are rare. However, up to 20 percent of cases occur before the age of 10. In children in the United States, leprosy occurs equally in males and females. In adults, the disease is twice as common in males as females.
Leprosy is not just a superficial disease but it was a deep-seated malady. In Jewish history the leper was to be excluded from the camp. The leper was required to allow the hair of his head to go loose and his clothes must be rent. When meeting someone on the road he was to cover his upper lip and cry unclean. "And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip, and shall cry, Unclean, unclean. All the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be." (Leviticus 13:45-46) The life of a leper was and is a horrible life.
In Luke 17:11-19 we have an account of Jesus healing 10 lepers. "Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, 'Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!' So when He saw them, He said to them, 'Go, show yourselves to the priests.' And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. So Jesus answered and said, 'Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?' And He said to him, 'Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well." From this account let us learn to:
Recognize our blessings. Let us recognize the blessing of living in a country where leprosy is not an epidemic. Think about the 10 leper who were healed. Did the nine rec≠ognize the great blessing they had just received from the Lord? Do we recognize our blessings? Many of God's blessings are contingent upon man's obedience. God shows mercy "to thousands, to those who love Him and keep His commandments." (Exodus 20:6) The promise comes after we have done God's will. "For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise." (Hebrews 10:36) Many of God's blessings are Spiritual blessings. Paul said, "For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13) Some of God's blessings are temporal or physical. Paul said, "On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come." (1 Corinthians 16:2) Count your many blessings! Do not complain and be ungrateful, but be thankful.
Remember the source. Every good blessing comes from the hand of God. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning." (James 1:17) Paul was constantly aware of what God had done and what God was doing in His life. "Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us." (Ephesians 3:20) Paul said, "God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work." (2 Corinthians 9:8) Like David let us learn that the source of all our blessings is God. David wrote, "Lord, by Your favor You have made my mountain stand strong; You hid Your face, and I was troubled." (Psalm 30:7)
Respond with thanksgiving. Learning to be grateful to God for our blessings is a huge step in living a truly Christian life. Nine of the lepers did not respond with thanksgiving. Only one returned to say "Thank you." And Jesus was hurt as a result. We should constantly "give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you." (Colossians 1:3) We should constantly practice the words of Psalm 118:1, "Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever." "O give thanks unto the Lord." What a challenge it is to develop this spirit of thanksgiving. Complaining comes easier than being thankful for all of us. I have learned that when I complain a lot, I do not feel so good, but when I am thankful, my spirit is lifted. I believe that as we obey Godís Word He can help change each of us into a more thankful person.
These nine words can change your life (1) Recognize your blessings, (2) Remember the source, and (3) Respond with thanksgiving. To become a Christian you must hear the gospel (Romans 10:17), believe in Jesus as the Christ (Mark 16:16), repent of all sins (Acts 17:30), confess Christ as Lord (Romans 10:9-10), and be baptized for remission of sins. (Acts 2:38) After baptism remain faithful to God. (Revelation 2:10) There are definitely reasons to be pessimistic and some of them maybe emotionally and intellectually justified, but none of them change the fact that it is better to be thankful. If I have learned one thing in my life, I hope it is how to how to have the faith to be sincerely thankful for the grace of God and His many blessings.
By Charles Box, Walnut Street Church of Christ, P.O. Box 551, Greenville, Alabama 36037 USA