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Vayikra/Leviticus 13:55 And the priest will look, after washing the affliction, and behold - the affliction has not changed its colour
Once again as we pass through the sections of the Torah that deal with the issues of tzara'at - a skin affliction that our tradition teaches wasHaShem's supernatural response to lashon hara - gossip, slander, speaking evil of someone - we find ourselves struggling to connect our modern world, when this phenomenon does not seem to be manifested, with the ancient texts. Much has been written - perhaps most famously by the Chofetz Chaim - about the evil of lashon hara and the need to avoid it and judge others favourably, but although Jewish writers speak eloquently about the damage that can be done by careless words, they have no certain remedy to offer for stopping the offence and repairing the damage. Certainly, taking time and trouble to develop better habits of speech, thinking carefully before opening one's mouth and developing rules for not making judgements of other peoples' words and actions will reduce the scale and spread of the problem and are - indeed - fully supported by the writers of the New Covenant Scriptures, but they are all external measures, addressing future infractions. What is needed is both a change of heart so that the thoughts and comments are never generated in the first place, rather that simply being suppressed and prevented from getting out, and a means of cleansing and forgiveness for past offences.
Our text provides a clue to the problem. The word is an unusual verb form: a hotpa'el infinitive construct. The hitpa'el stem is used to indicate iterative or repeated action, something that is done and again; the hotpa'el stem adds the passive quality, denoting repeated action being done to the object. The root of the verb is , to wash, so that in this use, the word speaks of frequent and repeated washing. The person whose garment has been afflicted with tzara'at has washed it over and over again to remove the stain - as if it were persistent direct or mould - but to no avail: the mark stubbornly remains fixed and unchanged.
We have a similar problem with sin, "because the L-rd has a case against His people, even with Israel He will dispute" (Micah 6:2, NASB). And if Israel, how much more the nations of the world. How are we to get rid of the sin in our lives, to be able to be clean before G-d? G-d Himself wants to resolve the problem since He knows full well that we cannot do this ourselves; no matter how we try to remedy our behaviour, to remove the stain, it will not wash out. "'Come now, and let us reason together,' says the L-rd, 'though your sins are as scarlet, they will be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool'" (Isaiah 1:18, NASB). How can G-d say this when He knows that no amount of talking on our part will bring this about? Because He has already provided the solution in Messiah Yeshua. We know that "it is the blood that makes atonement" (Vayikra 17:11, CJB) and "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins" (Hebrews 9:22, CJB), so "the blood of His Son Yeshua purifies us from all sin" (1 John 1:7, CJB). So much so that the Scriptures tell us of a question and answer in John's apocalyptic vision: "'These people dressed in white robes - who are they?' ... 'These are the people who have come out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and make them white with the blood of the Lamb. That is why they are before G-d's throne'" (Revelation 7:13-15, CJB).
Towards the end of His ministry Yeshua told a parable about a wedding feast in order to describe the Kingdom of Heaven. After the original guests refused to come to the feast and the king's servants had filled the wedding hall with guests from the highways and byways, the king came to see that all was ready. "Now when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who wasn't dressed for a wedding; so he asked him, 'Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?' The man was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot and throw him outside in the dark!' In that place people will wail and grind their teeth, for many are invited but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:11-14, CJB).. It is essential that we not only hear G-d's call and invitation to come into His kingdom but that we wear the clothes of the kingdom - robes washed in the blood of the Lamb!
Further Study: Zechariah 3:3-5; Revelation 22:14
Application: Are you wearing the right clothes for life in the kingdom of G-d? It is not enough to simply go along, join in the activities and talk the talk. As the priest inspected those with tzara'at to see if the blemish had gone, so the King inspects us to see if we are wearing the garments He has provided: the robes of righteousness, and they only come from knowing Yeshua and accepting His free gift of salvation.
© Jonathan Allen, 2007
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