Diseases

* How obeying God’s laws can keep us from diseases

God told the Israelites how to diagnose contagious skin diseases and mildew so they could avoid them or treat them.  These laws were given for the people’s health and protection.  They helped the Israelites avoid diseases that were serious threats in that time and place.  Although they wouldn’t have understood the medical reasons for some of these laws, their obedience to them made them healthier.  Many of God’s laws must have seemed strange to the Israelites.  His laws, however, helped them avoid not only physical contamination but also moral and spiritual infection.

The Word of God still provides a pattern for physically, spiritually, and morally healthy living.  We may not always understand the wisdom of God’s laws, but if we obey them, we will thrive.  Does this mean we are to follow the Old Testament health and dietary restrictions?  In general, the basic principles of health and cleanliness are still healthful practices, but it would be legalistic, if not wrong, to adhere to each specific restriction today.  Some of these regulations were intended to mark the Israelites as different from the wicked people around them.  Others were given to prevent God’s people from becoming involved in pagan religious practices, one of the most serious problems of the day.  Still others related to quarantines in a culture where exact medical diagnosis was impossible.  Today, for example, physicians can diagnose the different forms of leprosy, and they know which ones are contagious.  Treatment methods have greatly improved, and quarantine for leprosy is rarely necessary. (NLT)

Leviticus 14:54-57 – “These are the instructions for dealing with the various kinds of contagious skin disease and infectious mildew, whether in clothing, in a house, in a swollen areas of skin, in a skin rash, or in a shiny patch of skin.  These instructions must be followed when dealing with any contagious skin disease or infectious mildew, to determine when something is ceremonially clean or unclean.”

* Leprosy explained

Leprosy (here called “a contagious skin disease”) is a name applied to several different diseases and was greatly feared in Bible times. Some of these diseases, unlike the disease we call leprosy or Hansen’s disease today, were highly contagious. The worst of them slowly ruined the body and, in most cases, were fatal. Lepers were separated from family and friends and confined outside the camp. Since priests were responsible for the health of the camp, it was their duty to expel and readmit lepers. If someone’s leprosy appeared to go away, only the priest could decide if that person was truly cured. Leprosy is often used in the Bible as an illustration of sin because sin is contagious and destructive and leads to separation. (NLT)

Leviticus 13:1-3 – The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “If some of the people notice a swelling or a rash or a shiny patch on their skin that develops into a contagious skin disease, they must be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons. The priest will then examine the affected area of a person’s skin. If the hair in the affected area has turned white and appears to be more than skin-deep, then it is a contagious skin disease, and the priest must pronounce the person ceremonially unclean.”

* Leprosy, much like AIDS today, was one of the most feared diseases of the time. Some forms were extremely contagious and, in many cases, incurable. In its worst forms, leprosy led to death. Many lepers were forced out of the cities into quarantined camps. Because Naaman still held his post, he probably had a mild form of the disease, or perhaps it was still in the early stages. In either case, his life would have been tragically shortened by his disease. (NLT)

2 Kings 5:1 – The king of Aram had high admiration for Naaman, the commander of his army, because through him the Lord had given Aram great victories. But though Naaman was a mighty warrior, he suffered from leprosy.

* Jesus heals both physical and spiritual sickness

Jesus preached the gospel—the Good News—to everyone who wanted to hear it.  The Good News is that the Kingdom of Heaven has come, that God is with us, and that he cares for us.  Christ can heal us, not just of physical sickness, but of spiritual sickness as well.  There’s no sin or problem too great or too small for him to handle.  Jesus’ words were good news because they offered freedom, hope, peace of heart, and eternal life with God. (NLT)

Matthew 4:23-24 – Jesus traveled throughout Galilee teaching in the synagogues, preaching everywhere the Good News about the Kingdom.  And he healed people who had every kind of sickness and disease.  News about him spread far beyond the borders of Galilee so that the sick were soon coming to be healed from as far away as Syria.  And whatever their illness and pain, or if they were possessed by demons, or were epileptics, or were paralyzed—he healed them all.

* Sin is an incurable disease

Leprosy, like AIDS today, was a terrifying disease because there was no known cure.  In Jesus’ day the Greek word for “leprosy” was used for a variety of similar diseases, and some forms were contagious.  If a person contracted the contagious type, a priest declared him a leper and banished him from his home and city.  The leper was sent to live in a community with other lepers until he either got better or died.  Yet when the leper begged Jesus to heal him, Jesus reached out and touched him, even though his skin was covered with the dreaded disease.

Sin is also an incurable disease—and we all have it.  Only Christ’s healing touch can miraculously take away our sins and restore us to real living.  But first, just like the leper, we must realize our inability to cure ourselves and ask for Christ’s saving help. (NLT)

Matthew 8:2-3 – Suddenly, a man with leprosy approached Jesus.  He knelt before him, worshiping.  “Lord,” the man said, “If you want to, you can make me well again.”

Jesus touched him.  “I want to,” he said.  “Be healed!”

* Diseases will one day be no more

Matthew continues to show Jesus’ kingly nature.  Through a single touch, Jesus healed; when he spoke a single word, evil spirits fled his presence.  Jesus has authority over all evil powers and all earthly disease.  He also has power and authority to conquer sin.  Sickness and evil are consequences of living in a fallen world.  But in the future, when God removes all sin, there will be no more sickness and death.  Jesus’ healing miracles were a taste of what the whole world will one day experience in God’s Kingdom. (NLT)

Matthew 8:16-17 – That evening many demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus.  All the spirits fled when he commanded them to leave; and he healed all the sick.  This fulfilled the word of the Lord through Isaiah, who said, “He took our sicknesses and removed our diseases.”

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