Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Law and Health

Food is an area where many misapplications and misinterpretations of Scripture have taken place. One of the more obvious examples of this is Ezekiel bread, which is supposed to be based on the ingredients found in Ezekiel 4:9. Somehow they missed the fact that God was telling Ezekiel to make this bread as a sign of judgement upon Jerusalem (and that it was supposed to be cooked over dung, see verses 12 and 15). 

Well, I am not free of guilt myself in this area. In my book, near the end of my discussion on clean and unclean foods, I said the following:
God is good, and His guidance in life by His law is a blessing. God has said in Exodus 15:26, 
"If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your healer."
Now in my book I made the point that the Old Testament food law is helpful as an eating guideline (i.e. there is a physical "uncleanness" in the unclean foods the ceremonial uncleanness was built upon), but that it is no longer a binding law on believers (Mark 7:15-19, Acts 10:12-16, Col. 2:16-17). So why did I then treat it as a law and connect it to Exodus 15:26? I mainly was trying to overcome a common antipathy that people have to the Old Testament laws. But my application of Exodus 15:26 was unclear and somewhat misleading. 

So what would a proper application of Exodus 15:26 be? God is indeed good, and His guidance in life by His law is really a blessing. When we, as his children adopted in Christ, obey God's moral law as children  who listen to the voice of the Lord our God (found throughout the Bible, summarized in the Ten Commandments) God will graciously bless us as His people as texts like Deuteronomy 28:1-14 describe. And we can only be His children by His gracious redemption. In fact, this passage in Exodus come right after God delivered His people from bondage and slavery (a type of Christ's redemption). The diseases that are mentioned in this verse are the plagues that God sent on Egypt for disobeying Him and persecuting His people. Redemption is unto life in its fullest sense; rebellion is unto death in its fullest sense. 

So does this have anything to do with health? Yes, it does. Physical and spiritual aspects are often interconnected in the Christian life. Some of the Corinthians were dying because they were coming to the table unworthily (1 Cor. 11:29-30). The Bible teaches that honoring and obeying parents contributes to a longer and better life (Eph. 6:1-3). James gives explicit advice for those who are sick, and the instruction of highest priority for him was not food or medicine. 
"Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another,that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working" (James 5:14-16).
As was the case in 1 Corinthians, our sins against each other can affect our health in a bad way. And whatever sickness we have, it is the Lord who is sovereign over its healing. Prayer should be an immediate response to physical distress. 

Of course, we need to keep in mind the examples of Job and of the man born blind in John 9. Not all sickness is because of personal sin. And death is the final enemy to be overthrown (1 Cor. 15:26), and so we will deal with weakness and decay until the resurrection. 

Also, there is a connection between the moral law and healthy living. The command "you shall not murder" (Ex. 20:13) includes a command to preserve the lives of others and ourselves. This involves healthy food, exercise, etc... Also, following the moral laws of the Bible, such as those against being drunk (Rom. 13:13) and being anxious (Matthew 6:25), will tend to promote a healthier life over all. And yes, the guidelines of the Old Testament food law, washing your self in various circumstances, and other similar laws, while they are no longer binding as ceremonial laws, may contain an element of moral instruction. This element may remain in that we should preserve life, and as general guidelines they help in that regard.

To sum it up, we ought to be thankful for the deliverance from bondage and death that Christ brings. As thankful Christians we ought not to grumble against God like the Israelites did in the wilderness, but should listen to our Father's voice, love Him, and keep His commandments. We should rely in prayer on Him for our health, and act to preserve life when we can without being anxious. 


P.S. More needs to be said on the nature of blessings and curses and I hope to post something on the topic soon. Also, if you want a little more on the dietary laws, you might want to read this earlier post: Rushdoony on the Dietary Laws.

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