Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Good health is something we take for granted—until we start to lose it. When our health takes a downturn, we quickly begin to question our habits and diet. God has designed the human body so that it is a finely tuned instrument that is the most resilient on earth. It can endure fractures and adhesions, constant pain and great stretches of tedium.
However, it is a fragile instrument because it is not built to handle excess, whether in the form of nourishment, fuel or additives. Unlike machines, it chokes on poisons when ingested in unending doses and mistaken for fuel. Though it has moving, feeling and thinking parts, they can be misused. God has provided us with an “owner’s manual” that tells us how to operate the human body. That manual is the Bible, a book that contains instructions for proper maintenance. Although it isn’t a medical text, it is God’s Word, and in its pages He reveals many basic principles for good physical, mental, and spiritual health.
A major part of the Bible’s health instruction dates back to the time of Moses. Yet in our day, many researchers and medical doctors are stunned at the accuracy and effectiveness of its many provisions. The Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia tells us that the laws given by God to Moses contain remarkable rules pertaining to public health which concerns us even today: water and food contamination, sewage disposal, infectious diseases and health education. These issues were all dealt with in the Mosaic health laws. Many of these same laws are found in most basic law codes of the ancient world. Some of them were forgotten by Christians until the late Middle Ages. Some no longer apply because of modern medicine, technology, and nutritional practices.
The Bible gives us the foundational key to physical and mental health. That key is simply this: “My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity . . . This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones” (Proverbs 3:1-2, 8). It should not surprise us that obedience to God’s commandments and other laws would promote health. When we obey them, we operate in accordance with His instructions. As our Creator, He knows what’s best for us: “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). He commands us to treat our body as a temple and that we should take care of ourselves. We should not consume things that will harm us, and we should especially not consume things in excess which might cause us harm.
Some biblical statements about health are specific, such as: “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). The ancient Egyptians suffered from the kinds of diseases that have ravaged mankind throughout history. Autopsies on Egyptian mummies have revealed evidence of cancer, arteriosclerosis, arthritis, tuberculosis, gallstones, bladder stones, parasitic diseases and smallpox. They suffered many diseases because they did not understand the health principles God gave to Moses.
The Good News is that Jesus died for our sins, we should not fear God’s punishment while on earth. He will not bring forth diseases as a means of punishment, as some have claimed. In the Middle Ages, people claimed that the Black Death was a punishment from God. Since the early 1980s, people have claimed that HIV/AIDS is a punishment from God. These same people claim that earthquake, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters are punishments from God. They are not. Jesus came to earth to bring us a new covenant, and to absolve us of our sins. If we believe, are baptized in the newness of life, allow our sins to be washed away, and follow God’s teachings of love and acceptance, then we shall walk with God and provide a healthy and honorable view of ourselves as Christians. We can live a life in God’s example.
The biblical instructions regarding health, maintenance, and recovery from illness involve application of cause-and-effect principles—based on true science—that were given thousands of years before scientists developed the technology that enabled them to discover germs, bacteria, viruses, genes and the like. Modern medical science has discovered many principles of good health, but they originated with God who designed and created the miracle that is the human body.
What the Bible says about health is that those who follow God will generally be healthy. That does not necessarily mean that those who don’t follow God will always be sick. Nor does it mean that God’s people will be absolutely free of disease. The Bible says, “I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well” (3 John 1:2). Obviously, God is more interested in our spiritual health than our physical well-being, but He does want us to be physically healthy as well. On the other hand, disease is a result of Adam’s sin, and even the most righteous may suffer. After all, Job was righteous, but God allowed him to suffer disease and hardship as a test of his faith.
It was not until the modern era that men obtained detailed knowledge of human physiology and medicine. Yet the Creator God, who is sometimes called the Great Physician, knows everything about us, and He’s provided the necessary keys to good health. The choice to obey the Lord and reap the resulting benefits is ours to make.