So Miriam was confined outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on till she was brought back. Numbers 12:15
Medical professionals many times are asked the question “Is it contagious?” Family and friends ask this question not so much for the patient, but because they fear for their own health. If the illness is contagious, there is a period of isolation so as not to infect others until the period of infectivity has passed. If the infection becomes chronic, stigma may result. The infected person is often further isolated in the community even if the problem is not contagious.
When we read Numbers 12, we learn that God considers sin as contagious, thereby requiring isolation. Miriam was diagnosed with leprosy. She developed this disease as a punishment for her pride and jealousy towards Moses. She and Aaron were envious of the attention Moses was receiving as the leader of the Israelites. God made Miriam a leper as a punishment for her pride and thus associated her sin with disease.
We must be very careful here. While all disease is related to sin, not all disease is related to specific personal sin. In this case Miriam’s disease was related to specific personal sin, pride and envy.
We learn that both disease and sin have consequences. When we sin, we do not only affect ourselves. Initially, it appears only Miriam will suffer from this disease. However the whole nation of Israel had to wait for Miriam to be healed before moving on, creating a delay in their journey of seven days. How often when we sin do we think of all the people we affect? Typically we are only thinking of ourselves.
Finally, we find out just how merciful our God is to us. While He could have left Miriam to deal with the consequences herself, isolated from the community, in shame with an incurable disease, He restored her. Moses acted as a mediator and offered a simple prayer, “God, please heal her.” God provides a mediator for us and our patients, Jesus Christ. He is the cure for our fatal disease, sin.
We are no longer contagious. We also have the incredible privilege of being God’s instrument of mediation. Many times a day we have the opportunity to pray with our patients though we must do so with sensitivity and permission. In doing so we bring about reconciliation with God and the ultimate physical and spiritual healing we all need.
Further reading: Numbers 12, Proverbs 16:18, Philippians 2:1-11