After asking His previous question, the Lord withdrew from the immediate presence of Miriam and Aaron. It was then that Miriam found herself covered with leprosy. Aaron begged for forgiveness for the both of them.
Moses prayed for God to heal Miriam and the Lord asked another question.
If her father had but spit in her face, would she not bear her shame for seven days?
Spitting in a person’s face is a universal sign of rejection. When God withdrew from the presence of Miriam and Aaron, it was a sign of rejection, like spitting in their faces.
According to the law, anyone who touched anything unclean was required to leave the camp during a time of cleansing. In ancient times, a person with leprosy was considered unclean and was removed from normal social life. After seven days, the person with leprosy would appear before a priest to be examined (Leviticus 13). Once a person was cleansed of his or her leprosy, they could reenter then camp.
God instructed that Miriam be shut up for seven days outside the camp so that afterwards she could be received again. Miriam and Aaron obeyed God. Miriam stayed outside the camp for a week and the group didn’t move on until she had rejoined them. Miriam could have been out indefinitely but she wasn’t. God dealt graciously with her.
When Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses, it wasn’t because the Lord convicted them to. Their wrongful grumbling was addressed by God Himself. Miriam’s discipline in the form of a skin disease must have humbled her greatly. Her inward pride affected her words and actions. God made Miriam’s outward appearance look like her heart.
Why leprosy? Let’s consider the similarities between leprosy and gossip.
- Leprosy is contagious and so is gossip. As leprosy poisons the body, gossip poisons peoples’ minds.
- Leprosy causes numbness and a person can hurt themselves for lack of feeling. Gossip desensitizes our hearts towards others and makes us less compassionate.
- Leprosy can permanently damage someone’s eyesight. Gossip causes us to view others differently and we may never be able to see them clearly again.
Leprosy is curable and so is gossip. If someone is gossiping, don’t listen. Remove yourself from a person who gossips. Wait until the person can control his or her tongue before you engage in frequent conversation.
Does gossiping have a hold on you? Are you the one who speculates about others or spreads thoughts of unflattering possibilities? If so, you must stop. There is a time and place to talk about other people (see guidelines in Matthew 18), but it is best to avoid talking about someone else negatively. If you have a complaint against someone, talk to that person about it. If that person won’t listen, then you can consider talking to a third party.
If your outward appearance looked like your inner self, how much difference would you see? Do you strive to keep up a pleasing exterior, but secretly harbor private sins? Do you feign friendliness to those you actually despise? Are you openly social to those that you speak poorly about to others?
Whatever we struggle with, be it gossiping or something else, we can always go to God, our High Priest. We can seek Him with confidence that He is able to cure us of ourselves.