Imagine you are in Vienna, Austria, in the year 1847. The city has been home to Mozart, Brahms and Beethoven. It is a thoroughly modern city in the 19th century and the medical capital of the world. But at the city’s general hospital, 1 out of every 6 women in the maternity ward dies, along with their babies. Think about that: 1 out of every 6.“If you give careful attention to the voice of the Lord your God, do what is right in his sight, give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon you, which have been brought upon the Egyptians, for I am the Lord your God who heals you.”~ Exodus 15:26
A young doctor by the last name of Semmelweis tried to figure out why. He noticed that the doctors who delivered babies were the same ones who performed the autopsies on dead patients in the back room—WITHOUT WASHING THEIR HANDS.
After rediscovering several Old Testament hygiene laws regarding the touching of dead bodies, the seclusion of new mothers, and the proper washing of hands, Dr. Semmelweiss enforced the style of washing hands in hospitals still used to this day. The Jews were even advised to wash their hands with hyssop, and it’s interesting to note that hyssop contains a natural antiseptic called thymol, which is an active ingredient in Listerine.
This is just one of many fascinating stories recounted in the book None of These Diseases written by Christian medical doctors McMillan and Stern. I think as Christians we have too often dismissed the health laws in the Old Testaments books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, saying that we are under grace and not the law and so we don’t need to follow them. But after reading this book, I believe it is because of God’s goodness and grace that He chose to enlighten the Jews about healthy practices that they might live long fruitful, healthy lives—so that the Messiah could be born through a healthy bloodline.
Some of the medical facts in this book are startlingly. For instance, while we may consider circumcision a religious ritual, the doctors who wrote this book provide startling health statistics that show that uncircumcised boys are 10 times more likely to suffer with urinary tract infections throughout their lives than circumcised boys. Urinary tract infections can lead to many other diseases in the body’s other organs. In Acts 15:29, early church leaders in Jerusalem advised gentile Christians not to drink blood or eat animals that had been strangled without having the blood drained from their bodies. Is this religious advice or sound medical practice?
Well, consider this: when mad cow disease first appeared on the scene no one knew what it was or where it had come from. Some scientists have now concluded that mad cow disease was caused by British farmers grinding up the corpses of dead cows—blood, bones and everything—and mixing it into the cattle feed. They then fed this their cattle. People can get mad cow disease from eating contaminated beef. It can take up to 10 years before the victim even realizes she is ill, and by then, it’s too late, for her brain will have turned spongy and her central nervous system will have started to break down.
Was God being unreasonable in his health requirements to the Jews? Absolutely not! It was part of His plan of love and grace for the Chosen People. He wanted them to be healthy and whole. As Christians, let’s not dismiss these rules and regulations too lightly. God is the great Physician. He loves us and wants us to live long healthy lives too.
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