The Horror Of A Leprous Heart
Three people at different times and in different place are all struck immediately with a moderately advanced stage of Leprosy. Why? And how does this phenomenon speak to us?
There were three offices, functions or callings in the Old Testament life of Israel for which an anointing of oil is known to have been required. The Prophets, the Priests and the Kings. There were people who fulfilled one of those offices. There were people that functioned in two of those offices. However, nobody, excepting Jesus Christ, ever occupied all three offices. Nobody could occupy any of these functions or offices without the anointing. Nobody fulfilled any of those offices without God’s call, anointing and enabling. The calling, the anointing, the enabling and the functioning were all termed and facilitated by God’s own decision making processes. God’s kingdom is built on God’s terms.
One cannot be a prophet on one’s own terms. Miriam speaks harshly against Moses. She prophesies as well as her brother, she claimed. God calls her and Aaron to answer the question as to why they spoke against Moses. As the Shekinah of the divine presence lifts off the three siblings it is revealed that Miriam has been smitten with Leprosy. Incurable, destructive leprosy was in the mix of mishandling her divine call with ungodly motives. It’s all there in Numbers twelve.
Secondly: One cannot be a priest on one’s own terms. Many generations after Miriam, King Uzziah, one of the best kings Judah ever had, for some strange motivation rooted in pride and arrogance took it upon himself to act as a priest – a job strictly assigned by God only to Levites. The kings, of course, were of the tribe of Judah. The priests in post at the time (eighty one of them) scolded Uzziah for such an act, and he argued angrily with them. God’s immediate response was for a white spot of leprosy supernaturally to break out on Uzziah’s forehead. And so the “unclean” king is rushed out of the temple and spends the last eleven years of his life separated from the world, socially dead and physically dying of leprosy. It’s all there in 2 Chronicles twenty-six – and confirmed in the early part of 2 Kings 15.
Lastly, one cannot reign as a king in life one one’s own terms. Having gone to the king of Israel to be cleansed of leprosy, Naaman is referred to a man in an even higher position of another Kingdom. We are speaking of the mighty Elisha. To Naaman, Elisha fulfilled a purpose that even the king couldn’t order to happen. Naaman is healed. Elisha refuses Naaman’s proffered kingly gifts as payment for the cure. After all, Elisha neither healed Naaman, nor did he as much as meet him as far as we are told. But Elisha’s hitherto well trusted servant Gehazi, fancies some of the royal gifts that Naaman had brought with him, originally for the king of Israel. He privately lies to Naaman, persuading him to give a couple of suits and other goods to Gehazi for some imaginary new students at Elisha’s school of the prophets. Dramatically, as the servant returns and Elisha asks him where he had been, Gehazi gives the classic answer that preachers have cashed in on for years: “Nowhere in particular.” Elisha looks into the whites of Gehazi’s eyes and tell him that, “the leprosy that was removed from Naaman will cling to you.” And, yet again, leprosy was instantly physically seen by folks present. That leprosy did indeed cling to Gehazi.
No matter how historic and ancient these three stories are, I promise you that they are totally relevant to you and I in these early years of the twenty first century – indeed these accounts are relevant to all generations. Old Testament they may be, but the truth embedded within is eternal.
- MIRIAM IN NUMBERS 12 – UNGODLY MOTIVES IN THE HEART OF A PROPHET.
The more active in the prophetic a person becomes, the more it becomes absolutely essential to walk free of prejudices, grudges and jealousy. It is deadly dangerous to have bitterness and resentments whilst receiving divine communications and ministering to the people of God. Those attitudes will destroy the purity and power of the gift and the character and world-view of the prophet.
Miriam had been used in the prophetic. In fact she is indeed referred to as a prophetess. Numbers 12 simply records that all she said to her sibling, Aaron, was, “Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” (Numbers 12:2 ESV). In our blindness, we may be sometimes guilty of trivializing such remarks. Reading through the lives of Moses, Miriam and Aaron, we have grounds for suggesting that Aaron said nothing back to Miriam, but silently and wimpishly nodded, just as he did when he built the idolatrous bull calf at the foot of Sinai. Neither of Moses’ siblings were happy, simply because Moses had married a black lady. But if that was their genuine grievance, why did they whinge about their brother on the matter of his gifting i.e. his status as a prophet? They are grieved of one thing and complain about another. Oh the exceeding sinfulness of the sin principle that dwells within us.
Several times in the Pentateuch little statements are made by people that seem slight and of little consequence, yet have absolutely huge and dramatic impact on the entire mass of the children of Israel as well as on the life of the ones that spoke the simple lines. Read the story of the spies that were sent to spy out the Promised Land. Life and death is indeed in the power of the tongue. Miriam, at this point defines for us the death carrying tongue.
God looks on the heart. And on the ground of Miriam’s heart, mind and attitude at that moment, God addresses both Aaron and Miriam together with Moses as the three siblings stood in a line before God.
There is a syndrome, a common-place dynamic within man that can so easily criticize a person outwardly, yet not for the same reason one is against a person inwardly. Nobody knows for sure whether Moses was widowed before he married the Ethiopian (Cushite) woman, or if he had simply taken a second wife. But when Moses wrote the book of Numbers, chapter 12:1 tells us what he knew of Miriam’s motives, and then 12:2 tells us what she actually said that covered up the real motive. She was ashamed of the true motive for belittling her baby brother Moses. “Surely I have the right to speak like that! After all, if it wasn’t for me we would not have known how the Egyptian princess found him and then hired mother to nurse him! I, Miriam have full right to be his superior!”
The big issue, however, is that she was as good as dead when God’s glory lifted. Why? Because Miriam had been smitten with Leprosy. But the leprosy of the heart and mind was obviously rampant before anything was seen in her flesh.
SELF AFFLICTED SPIRITUAL LEPROSY?
In addressing this principle in the Spirit, we are addressing many gifted people around the globe. I believe parallels of this phenomena afflict many and greatly dilute effectiveness, authority in the spiritual realm and the power of God. I believe in my early days as a Christian I myself was riddled with this very same syndrome. I was jealous in a petty and spiteful frame of mind of others who seemingly were blessed with more than I had. I still confront myself regularly on all issues that relate to this thought process in the heart. People are prone to put themselves at the centre of life and all things important. Bad attitudes and error of perspective infallibly interferes with anything gifted by the Spirit of God. Read about Balaam. Read about the old prophet and the man of God in 1 Kings 13. Read about Jonah. Jonah was not smitten by Leprosy, but three days in the acidic belly of the whale undoubtedly left him scarred for life physically. Oh God! Give us pure hearts. Blessed are those who are pure in heart for they shall see God. That’s a promise Jesus made.
So in an attempt to understand more of this scenario of self-harm in the spirit, allow me to make my first proposition.
Note my words: What Leprosy does for the body, sin does for the soul.
Miriam already had a spiritual form of leprosy prior to her words with Aaron in Numbers 12. Follow my logic when I suggest that the physical leprosy was merely the exposing of the spiritual contagion in Miriam’s heart. Similar to Oscar Wilde’s novel “The picture of Dorian Grey,” where the evil character of Dorian Gray was stopped from showing the rottenness of the man through all his sinful corruption, and was transferred by occult means to a portrait that was painted of him and hidden in his attic. The story is really a classic parable. This principle, however, is not at all fiction. Miriam reaped in this life what she had sown. However, she was utterly ignorant of the rottenness of her sowing. The harshness of the judgement was proportionate to the weight of evil in the words that came out of her heart against Moses. The Leprosy showed how God perceived her heart.
I say that Leprosy has similar physical impact to sin’s spiritual manifestation in the human heart because of the following phenomenon concerning the disease and the self-developed sin of Moses’ sister.
- Leprosy has an extremely long incubation period. Like flowers in a vase that look beautiful for a while even though they have lost their life source the moment they were harvested, we can spend days saying, “What a lovely bouquet – and it has lasted so long!” But they were dead once they were separated from the plant. It is just as true for a person to have had leprosy indwelling their system for as much as 3-4 years – sometimes longer I am told, before there is any sign than shows itself to be exactly the horror filled entity that it is. How horrible for Miriam that the judgement of her evil was manifested so instantly. However, we must ask: How long had she had this malignant jealousy towards her brother. I feel confident to suggest it was before Moses had married the Ethiopian. It was God’s judgement, yes! Et it was concurrently self-inflicted by Miriam herself.People can be indulging in sin, unseen and unknown to any human eye, and have absolutely no sense at all of the gravity of their actions and/or thoughts. The sin of her character assassination against her brother would not have brought such a harsh judgement, perhaps, if Miriam had not received the light and glory of God in her prophetic reception of the word of God to be delivered to the people.
- Leprosy initially just interferes with external appearance. One of Leprosy’s first visible symptoms are the flaws and bumps and whitening of the skin seen by all, but only realized by the subject when shown a mirror or by the touch of their own hands. Lepers mainly know of such disfigurements of feature because of the observations of others.Sin in the gifted can often be seen by the masses. Yet I have found it to be true that the awe of the crowd when seeing such awe inspiring gifting – especially in the prophetic and the supernatural in general – cause people to remain silent over a minister’s flaws of character and lifestyle. God have mercy on us! We are living in perilous days where folks home in on personalities and adulate leaders instead of having concern the whole body of the church. Sin may be seen in leadership, yet ignored by “respectable” Christians not wanting to be the whistle-blower of what others may see as rank betrayal of God’s anointed. Eternity must be made to weigh heavily on our meditations of our expected present and future. Righteous judgement exalts any nation, church or group of believers. Proper judgement, even if unpleasant for the present, must harvest blessing in the long term future. Symptoms so obvious to the onlooker, are often only feelings of “God is overlooking my sin because of my special gift” to the subject – if indeed the presence of the leprosy can be felt at all by the subject. Indeed, they might not be felt because …
- Leprosy develops generally with severe numbness in the extremities. A certain amount of feeling simply disappears as Leprosy develops. One can touch, and not know they are touching. Overall muscle weakness also runs rampant throughout the entire body. In the heart of man, inability to handle the symptoms of the fact of being in sin is the parallel. Persistent habitual sin numbs the conscience and a person’s awareness of right and wrong. Indeed, western society as a whole, is at the leprous development of calling right wrong, and wrong right. The numbness has struck the leprous western society right across the board. The muscles of intelligence and discernment have weakened to the point where the discussion and consideration of some sinful activities are debated as if they are right and good and proper. We would hold our hands up in horror if it was the unsaved world alone. However, we become dumbstruck, as Christians, when we see the same logic of evil – the same spiritual leprosy manifesting in the church. Judgement must commence in the house of God.
- Inability to feel pain becomes total. Logically after the numbness and weakness takes its firm seat and has the freehold of the subject, what follows is reduced feelings of pain – more often than not – totally removed. This is, obviously, life threateningly dangerous in the physical. But it parallels in the realm of the spirit. Just as lepers can put their hands in fire or boiling water without the slightest twinge of pain while the body parts are destroyed, so it is that when sin is persisted in, the sinning character gets to a point where consciousness of evil, and even social sensibilities become totally non-existent. The majority of the British families that made their fortune in the slave trade were high profile Christian people. The history books tell us that the wealthy Christians in the southern states would leave Sunday morning church to visit the slave market on their way home. Spiritual senses were just deadened and numbed. The spiritual self-inflicted leprosy of judgement carries with it an ever developing inability to appropriately respond to wrong actions that bring pain to themselves as well as others – including their own loved ones. One could be happily playing pat-a-cake with death itself, and not even know the eternal horror of one’s play-mate.
- Leprosy’s ultimate cruelty is the dropping of digits and sometimes even limbs. Fingers and toes can snap off like the breaking of a chocolate biscuit. The only scant mercy of such a tragedy taking place is that by the time this happens, the hand and other digits are totally numb and any loss cannot be felt. One has to literally be told, “Your fingers are gone!” Noses sink back into the face leaving two nostrils on a flat nasal area. Some long term issues are obviously scars that cannot be regrown and simply have to be managed as a life long disability. In the same way the spiritual leprous manifestation causes sensitivities to the Spirit of God to diminish and sometimes disappear.
There is more to be said, but I feel my point is made. Whatever gifts a person has – and here in Numbers 12 we are talking of the prophetic – it must never be used as a rationale that believes “I am more important than any other Moses on the face of the earth. Miriam was irrational in her evil thoughts. We only have one prophetic song from her immediately after the crossing of the Red Sea, and Moses generously referred to her as a prophetess. We have the entire Pentateuch from Moses – the man who spoke face to face with God. Moses, incredibly, humbly had no gripe against his sister. It was God that stepped in on behalf of his friend and servant. Ah! There are those that fight for God – and then there are those that God fights for.
The call is for us all as “Miriams” to emulate the “Moses” characters in our life and vision, and not to evilly criticize them with base motives of jealousy or remarks of their lifestyle. Such attitudes are murderously leprous.
2. UZZIAH IN 2 CHRONICLES 26 – BELITTLING OF ONE’S OWN ANOINTING AND CALL
We need to learn that whatever state we are in, good or bad, rich or poor, praised or criticized to be content, and just persistently get on doing what is right and what we have to do. Uzziah let the praise of man get to his head. He was the greatest king that Judah had seen for many years. But king is what he was. He seems to have lost perspective of the boundaries and traditions handed down to him by God through Moses. Let the king be king. It is not wise to step outside of the gifting and anointing that God gives each individually. He was anointed to be king. Solely as the monarch – nothing else. But stepping outside of the anointing one has been given can kill. Ask king Uzziah and he would be able to spend eternity lecturing us all about it.
I have heard several bible teachers tell the historical facts of William Branham. I have read much myself. As a gifted man that was used in evangelistic purposes with the breath-taking anointing of the miraculous he was outstanding. It was God. But when he started “teaching” stuff that was and still is considered utterly heretical by many, his whole world went awry. When asked about his motivation for trying to “teach” he is on record for saying words to the effect of, “I simply like to do it.” It is believed by some authoritative commentators that he was removed from this life simply because of the confusion he brought to the body of Christ. He was surrounded by sycophants and “yes” men. Those that saw something wrong whose grace should have supplied the character to correct the man for trying to move under an anointing that was not his, simply left him. A move of God that could have changed the world dissipated into huge numbers of church leaders being afraid of what a ministry of the miraculous can do to a man’s self-image.
Exactly the same thing happened here with King Uzziah. “Everybody tells me what a wonderful man and king I am,” surely I am better gifted and charactered than these petty priests. The greater should intercede for the masses – and I am the greatest.”
The celebrity status that was his as monarch was not enough for Uzziah. He did some amazing things and was blessed for it. The biblical text tells us truly what a great man he was. It is wise, however, never to believe what others applaud you for – especially when many would have a variation of ulterior motives for licking one’s boots. It is a Christ-like attribute of character to willfully ignore the praise of others. The press tells lies. Uzziah’s consciousness of strength, ability, leadership and having folks constantly submissive to him, led to all the symptoms we listed above when discussing Miriam. It is a form of conduct that harms anybody – but for one anointed for a calling under God we enter into the disaster area of leprosy. The actions of Uzziah did not in themselves warrant the judgement of God. But the satanically destructive motives and attitude that his ludicrous act of shaking incense inside the temple sprang from was larger than any action.
Where the 80 priests were at the time King Uzziah entered the temple we are not told. Uzziah, however was caught by “men of valour.” They were bold and courageous to confront a true descendant of the Davidic line. Utterly unused to being corrected, or told what to do, Uzziah threw his teddy out of the pram. However, truth was he was raging at God behind the authority of the priests.
I have, in my life, met many people, both sexes and all classes, who had great skills, giftings and job descriptions who seriously bewailed the fact that they couldn’t do what they would prefer to do. Footballers who longed to be pop-singers instead, CEO’s who pined to be in a different line of business. Uzziah was a good king and a man really deeply blessed. But we are not just talking of longing for a different source of employment. The pride and arrogance that erupted from his heart because of the adulation he received and the praise that was heaped into his ears virtually destroyed the man. Oh how we need to hate those things that God Himself hates – and pride and arrogance are certainly near the top of the ladder, if not the top of what He labels as an abomination. Malignant actions are first rooted and conceived in the heart and mind of man.
Miriam’s leprosy was removed shortly after its inception because of Moses’ prayer to God on her behalf. But there was no equivalent “Moses” to pray for Uzziah. Uzziah was out of the public eye for the rest of his life. Yes, he was still in office. But the practical rule was given to his son before his time. It was the self-inflicted leprosy of the spirit that was the incipient cause of his physical complaint.
3. GEHAZI IN 2 KINGS 5 – LUSTING FOR KINGLY THINGS WITHOUT KINGLY CHARACTER
You will immediately ask me how there is anything to do with kings or kingship here. I will explain from the historical context before I explain the New Testament application.
The little girl that Naaman had kidnapped to be a servant and slave to his nobility in Syria set Naaman off on a hunt. The little girl told Naaman’s wife that if only he could see the prophet in Samaria, he would be healed of his leprosy.
Syria was a heathen, pagan nation. In pagan lands their kings often were their gods. And where they were not acclaimed as a god, the monarch would often surround himself with occult “prophets” and either direct them what to say, or make what they say subject to his own requirements. The little girl talked of “the prophet in Samaria.” So Naaman goes straight to the king with a caravan full of kingly clothes, and huge amounts of silver and gold, and a letter from the king of Syria. To Naaman’s understanding, he was going to be negotiating with a special kind of royalty that even had authority over incurable leprosy. He went with the presupposition of buying his health and had absolutely no concept of what sort of man this kingly prophet was like.
The Syrian general must have been astonished when the king of Israel had a tantrum because of his loss of any kind of resource to assist him. The king was truly lost in it all and saw only a long-time enemy trying to pick a fight. It was clearly an irrational thought on his part. Who on earth would send their best general alone into an enemy’s camp to pick a fight?
I have always been intrigued and would love to know the dates and times of the stories development and chronology. How long was Naaman waiting in Samaria before the message from Elisha came to the king? When and how did Elisha hear of the Israeli kings upset? Why hadn’t Naaman gone home in total disappointment? The answer in my mind always goes back to the little girl back in Syria, serving Naaman’s wife. She must have filled Naaman with such expectancy. It would seem, however that in the chronology of the story, Naaman simply hung around in Samaria, in the face of the king’s ignorance and refusal to help him, and was by hook or by crook determined to see this prophet who obviously had a position and a power above and beyond that of the king. “Surely this prophet must be a king – he tells the king of Israel what to do!”
When Naaman finally gets to Elisha’s house, just like many eastern kings, Elisha did not come out to even see Naaman. Naaman must have attributed to the messenger enormous reverence and respect. With the picture built in Naaman’s mind of the character and dignity of Elisha, he must have placed his awe in he who actually said to him, “Go and dip seven times in the Jordan.”
You and I know more than Naaman did. After the healing he returned to thank Elisha, and at long last saw Elisha’s face. Gehazi the servant was undoubtedly stood next to or near the prophet, basking in his role as Elisha’s right hand man. For all we know, Naaman may have entered Elisha’s presence with the ten suits of clothing, the gold and the silver. Elisha refuses the thought of any gift, and Naaman says, “Farewell.”
Then, the depth of the evil heart of Gehazi, Elisha’s Lieutenant, surfaces. “What’s the use of a job like mine if I cannot enjoy the status that it gives me? This pagan uncircumcised Syrian looks up to us, so what’s wrong with creaming a bit of his wealth.” The scripture tells us that his thoughts spoke and dictated ““My master was too easy on Naaman, this Aramean, by not accepting from him what he brought. As surely as the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something from him.” And quietly, hoping he was unseen, he left to follow the trail of Naaman. Naaman’s heart was filled with racial and religious bigotry, lust for wealth and power, a destructive desire to be noticed and appreciated, and a heart without grace and kindness.
I cannot help but wonder if Gehazi knew that once upon a time, years previously, Elisha had the same job as Gehazi had now. Elisha was servant to Elijah. Perhaps, if Gehazi had maintained integrity and character, and had walked humbly before God and man, he also may have been a great name in the scriptures.
After his lie was told to Naaman, and he had returned to the house with the ill-gotten gains, he entered Elisha’s presence to wait on him as usual. He stood before his master who asked him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?” The ISV tells us that Gehazi answered with a classic quote, “nowhere in particular.” But Elisha said to him, “Was not my spirit with you when the man got down from his chariot to meet you? Is this the time to take money or to accept clothes—or olive groves and vineyards, or flocks and herds, or male and female slaves?” There is something deeply cryptic about that part of Elisha’s answer – but that is for another day. The critical statement is that Elisha finished with, “Naaman’s leprosy will cling to you and to your descendants forever.” Gehazi left with advanced stages of Leprosy, with his skin as white as snow.
What was in Gehazi’s desires was hideously dark and evil. It seems that there had never been anything as natural as osmosis between Elisha and his servant. Nothing at all had rubbed off on to Gehazi. There is no discussion of whether or not Elisha could pray for him. Elisha’s prophetic word was that Gehazi’s family and descendants would all be lepers. What was seeded in Gehazi was too deeply rooted.
How is this message for today?
Christians are to reign in life. We are to judge angels. The church of Christ is the body of Christ. The manifestation of the Sons of God will be when Christian men and women rise and live and breathe and move in the power and authority of Christ Himself. The kingliness of the truly spiritual and Christ-like people of God will be truly as Naaman saw and perceived Elisha. The King of Israel was the man that ruled Israel. Yet, behind that king was the prophet who wanted nothing to do with politics and yet was the powerhouse behind the king. Elisha was almost a king over the king.
Gehazi attempted a pathetic plot to gain “perks of the job,” pretending and claiming divine and prophetic authority before Naaman. He hid under the name of Elisha. He manipulated in the name of his master. He was a religious “rip-off” merchant who could not see the damage and harm he was wreaking upon his own soul. His motivation was evil. Thus the harshness of the judgement. The leprosy was internal before it was suddenly seen as physical.
Old Testament – New Testament give us the same truth. One cannot play games, push politics, hold grudges, or belittle one’s own anointing and get away with it. For these three people noted in scripture who had tasted the fruits of the anointing of God, and then to willfully choose to abuse it has serious repercussions. God is merciful, but the leprous heart that chooses to turn its back on what God is doing suffers its own judgement under God.