Health and Healing

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Take a drive through any American village, town or city, and you’ll see them all over the place. They’re as easy to spot as churches. Drugstores are everywhere. Even in relatively small towns, you’ll find two or three or more drugstores. They’re all peddling the same goods and services and the prices are all more or less the same.

What’s true of drugstores is also true of hospitals and clinics. They’re all over the place. Even the dreaded ObamaCare hasn’t dampened American’s enthusiasm for their health. We spend billions of dollars a year on prescription medication and check-ups. Even as Americans are heavier than ever, we continue to obsess over taking vitamins and supplements and in eating only free-range chickens.

It might surprise you to know that the Bible has a lot to say about health, healthy living, and healing. Wondering about eating too much? Check it out:

When you sit to dine with a ruler, note well what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony. Do not crave his delicacies,for that food is deceptive. (Proverbs 23:1-3 | NIV84)

That’s a bit over-the-top, and we know it shouldn’t be taken literally, but it’s sound advice nonetheless. God is keenly interested in the state of the health of His people. Let’s see what the Bible has to say about the issues of health and healing.

Exodus 15:22 – 26

He said, “If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.” (Exodus 15:26 | NIV84)

The Hebrews had been delivered from generations of bondage in Egypt. The people had witnessed the power of God as He miraculously led them to freedom. What must it have been like for these people to see the Red Sea parted before their eyes? Surely their faith had been emboldened. Not just the parting of the waters, but all the miracles surrounding their deliverance must have impregnated them with powerful faith – faith that could stand the test of time and move any mountain. Actually, that wasn’t the case at all. The fact is, the people did see the power of God firsthand. But did they have faith enough to help them in their day-by-day lives? What happened to them at a place called Marah would train them to trust God for the simplest of things: drinking water. Water is something most of us never think about until we turn the tap on and nothing comes out.

You can well imagine how frustrated, angry and disappointed the people were when their spiritual high came to an end and they had no drinking water. They had left Egypt only to end up in a desert wilderness with no food, no water, and no prospects.

The people did as people are wont to do: they complained bitterly. Poor Moses felt the brunt of the people’s murmuring, and he did what a believer in God should do: he took his problem to God. Moses was just a man. He knew water was scarce in the desert; he had spent decades in the desert caring for sheep. What could he possibly do for the people? The answer was nothing! This problem was too big for him. But it was nothing for God to deal with, so God gave Moses some instructions.

Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. (Exodus 15:25a | NIV84)

It took faith for Moses to throw a piece of wood into the bitter water. It probably made no sense to him. What was that piece of wood going to do? But Moses tossed it in as God wanted him to do. God’s ways don’t always make a lot of sense to us, but it’s better for us and people around us if we’d just do what He wants us to do.

That wood seemed to cure the water. However, as you know if you’re read the history of Israel in the wilderness, it didn’t do much to improve their faith. Here God performed a special healing: He miraculously healed a pool of bitter water. That piece of wood didn’t do anything to the water, it was the power of God the healed the water. The piece of wood was really nothing more than a prop God used to teach the people a lesson by giving them a decree and a law to abide by:

He said, “If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.” (Exodus 15:26 | NIV84)

That lasts phrase, “I am the Lord who heals you,” is frequently used by evangelists and faith healers as they pray for the sick. It’s Biblical to pray for the sick. Christians should be doing that more often; they should be trusting in God’s healing power more than in human physicians and drugs. But what we shouldn’t do is take a Bible verse out of context, because when we do that, we’ll always be disappointed.

In this story, God promised His people that just as He healed the bitter waters at Marah, He would heal Israel by providing material needs (like safe drinking water), and more importantly, He would the people of their own sinful nature. The problem at Marah was not really the water, it was the sinful attitude and faithlessness of the people. In this decree and law given at Marah, God wanted to take away their spirit of complaining and replace it with stronger faith.

If we would put forth the effort to trust God more and obey His Word, He would increase our faith and give us a more “God-centered” attitude about the problems in our lives, including health problems. So instead of being fearful and full of dread when facing a health crisis, if we are living in obedience to God, our first thoughts won’t be ones of fear or anger or complaint, but a quiet faith in God and an acknowledgment that He is in control.

2 Kings 2:18 – 21

Here is another instance where God used water to teach a lesson.

Then he went out to the spring and threw the salt into it, saying, “This is what the Lord says: ‘I have healed this water. Never again will it cause death or make the land unproductive.’ ” (2 Kings 2:21 | NIV84)

Once again, God’s people had water trouble. The residents of Jericho wanted the prophet’s help with their need for drinking water. We have to give these thirsty people some credit for doing the right thing. Back in chapter 1, King Ahaziah had a problem and he did exactly the wrong thing:

After Ahab’s death, Moab rebelled against Israel. Now Ahaziah had fallen through the lattice of his upper room in Samaria and injured himself. So he sent messengers, saying to them, “Go and consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron, to see if I will recover from this injury.” (2 Kings 1:1-2 | NIV84)

What a contrast between how the king dealt with his problem and how the people of Jericho theirs. Jericho had real problems. Bad water, which was killing the land and causing miscarriages among the women, made the future of Jericho bleak.

The prophet’s solution seemed odd to say the least.

Then he went out to the spring and threw the salt into it, saying, “This is what the Lord says: ‘I have healed this water. Never again will it cause death or make the land unproductive.’ ” (2 Kings 2:21 | NIV84)

Some Bible scholars see the salt as somehow curing the water. But there is a powerful lesson here about the ritual of separation. The healing of Jericho’s water separated (or freed) the city of Jericho from Joshua’s ancient curse making it habitable for man again. Here’s the curse:

At that time Joshua pronounced this solemn oath: “Cursed before the Lord is the man who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho: “At the cost of his firstborn son will he lay its foundations;at the cost of his youngest will he set up its gates.” (Joshua 6:26 | NIV84)

Elisha’s first miracle confirmed something that God’s people knew and should never, ever forget: God, not Baal, is in control of people’s health, in this case, the fertility of both the land of Jericho and of the women who lived there. L. Bronner in his work, The Stories of Elijah and Elisha, made this interesting observation:

At Ugarit, a stone monument pictured Baal as ruling the earth’s underground waters, the Canaanites honored Baal as the god responsible for fertility on earth. By decontaminating the water in Yahweh’s name, however, Elisha discredited both ideas and showed that Yahweh truly is God.

In our day of advanced medicine and science in the treatment of all kinds of sickness and disease, Christians should keep in mind that it is He, not man, who heals people. We can thank God for doctors and medicine and scientific discoveries that have all made life better for people, but we need to keep in mind that it is God who heals, not doctors and not pills and not science. Only God can heal a person, whether that healing takes place gradually through medical treatment or instantaneously through obvious divine intervention. No man can heal another man any more than a farmer can make a seed grow into a plant.

Proverbs 3:5 – 8

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;6 in all your ways acknowledge him,and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes;fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. (Proverbs 3:5-8 | NIV84)

This group of verses is part of a larger teaching that goes from 3:1 to 4:27 in which Solomon advises his “young readers” to guard their spiritual health, which he equates with wisdom. For example:

Get wisdom, get understanding;do not forget my words or swerve from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you;love her, and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom.Though it cost all you have, get understanding. (Proverbs 4:5-7 | NIV84)

If you want to live a life full of God’s blessings, then you need to guard your spiritual state. Proverbs 3:5, 6 are quoted often but are really in the middle of a thought. Prosperity takes many forms: long life (verse 2), favor and a good name (3:8), wealth and provisions (3:9 – 10). Verses 5 and 6 talk about our responsibility and and God’s:

Our responsibility:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;6 in all your ways acknowledge him… (Proverbs 3:5-6a | NIV84)

God’s responsibility:

…and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:6b | NIV84)

Human wisdom is woefully inadequate, but God’s wisdom is never ending and is therefore sufficient guidance for life. If we trust in God’s wisdom and allow Him to control the way we go, then as Moffatt wrote:

He will clear the road for you.

We should never assume we have all the answers or solutions to our problems. As one writer noted:

We are urged not to take ourselves too seriously, but to reverence God. Such reverence will result in “healing to your body and nourishment to your bones.”

It’s all about keeping things in proper perspective. Knowledge of God leads to spiritual health and well-being, and that in turn has a positive effect of both the psychological and physical aspects of the human person.

Isaiah 58:6 – 8

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke,to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter–when you see the naked, to clothe him,and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn,and your healing will quickly appear;then your righteousness will go before you,and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.” (Isaiah 58:6-8 | NIV84)

This group of verses comes in the middle of Isaiah’s discussion of what God really wanted from His people. Not only does God want His people to pay attention to the letter of the law, but also to the idea of service – serving God and other people. God doesn’t want His people withholding food from themselves as a form of self-mortification, but rather He wants us to do something positive for other people. In the early chapters of Isaiah, we saw that the worship of God in Israel had become cold and formal and nominal. Near the end of his book, we learn that the idea of mere outward forms of repentance don’t necessarily translate into a changed heart. Fasting for a day without living right the rest of time is not nearly enough.

Over in the New Testament, fasting and tithing were encouraged by Christ but were to be closely followed by service to others. As one Bible scholar of note wrote:

No man can know God and close his heart against his brother.

What does all this have to do with health and healing? Simply this: When we live our lives honoring God and His Word and in service to others, He honors us. Beginning at verse 8 is a series of wonderful promises. They are all the result of living a righteous life: Righteousness goes before us, the glory of the Lord follows us. Among the promises God has in store for those who live right are: light, health, righteousness, protection, and answer prayers. These are the blessings reserved for devout, consecrated believers.

Does any of this guarantee that a good Christian will never get sick? Of course not. We all know wonderful, devout believers with cancer or heart disease. Fact is, we live in a fallen world and our bodies will eventually wear out. Not all of us will die of old age. Living a righteous life is absolutely no guarantee of a life of good health and healing. But living a righteous life does guarantee that no matter how sick or healthy we may be, we know that God is in control and we have faith in His will and His plan for our lives and for the lives of our loved ones. When we live right, we understand completely what Paul meant when he wrote:

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6-8 | NIV84)

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