“Cleanliness is next to godliness!” the old adage goes. But perhaps it’s even more true that godliness leads to cleanliness. Let’s consider this together.
“He (God) said 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” – Exodus 15:26 ESV
When I first wrote this article, the Coronavirus was not in the headlines. In fact most of the world had never heard of such a disease. Today, in early March 2020, the news of this virus has spread across the globe. Amidst all the fear, the CDC (Center of Disease Control) is advising people to carry out basic hygiene. You would think that the health organizations are reading out of Torah —
In Numbers chapter 19, God through Moses, instructed the people of Israel in some of the ways they were to keep clean to avoid diseases and death.
The CDC has outlined the proper method for hand washing. “The hands should be vigorously lathered and rubbed together for 15 seconds, under a moderate-sized stream of water….There is no good substitute for routine hand washing with soap and running water.” A.C. Steere and G.F.Mallison, Annal of Internal Medicine 83(1975):685
Let’s compare modern hand-washing with the biblical method in Numbers 19:
• Running Water: to rise off germs.
Biblical Method: Water was showered from a hyssop branch.
• Time: to assure a thorough job.
Biblical Method: The washings were repeated over a period of seven days. Between washings germs were killed by the sun and by drying.
• Antiseptic soap: to kill germs
Biblical Method: Hyssop contains the antiseptic thymol, theactive ingredient in Listerine.
• Vigorous scrubbing: to dislodge germs from crevasses.
Biblical Method: The soap contained cedar oil; a skin irritant to encourage scrubbing. The soap also contained wool fibers, making it the ancient equivalent of Lava soap. Once the soap was on you, you had to scrub to get it off.
A few months ago I watched a three-part documentary titled: “Inside Bill’s Brain” about how Bill Gates thinks and what he is doing as a celebrated Tech Visionary, a business leader, and philanthropist.
Politically and socially I probably differ with Bill Gates, but I do admire and recognize his heroic efforts in stemming the tide of some of the worldwide problems like disease eradication, helping to create new forms of energy, especially with clean nuclear inventions, and, yes, even to help stop destructive climate change. Not surprisingly, Gates’ solutions are almost entirely technological.
Many of the problems with regard to disease could be solved not only by “new technological solutions,” but I believe by “behavioral solutions.”
With regard to disease eradication, I took a special interest on account of what the Torah outlines. As most of you know, the Torah is filled with basic sanitation principles. While Europe was ravished by the Black Plague in the 12th century, the Jewish population experienced far fewer deaths than the general population. In fact, on a recent tour to Europe I discovered that all the tour guides whether from Germany, Austria, Netherlands, or Bulgaria, each attested to the reality that the Jews were far more immune to the black plague than any of their secular counterparts.
While we walked, I asked each tour guide why they believed that to be the case. Only one of them knew. I shared how it all had to do with their keeping the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. In Exodus 15:26, God told Moses that if he and the people of Israel would follow His commands and decrees, they would “have none of the diseases”which were so common among their neighbors.
As mentioned above, in Torah God gave sanitation instructions like washing one’s hands in running water (Numbers 19), burying one’s excrement outside the city (Deuteronomy 23:12, 13), digging wells so they would have their own water supply, (Proverbs 6:15,16), quarantining people when they were sick (Numbers 5:1-4), and burying the dead by night fall so as not to be contaminated (Deuteronomy 21:23).
These practices set the Jewish people apart from the culture at large. Many of the surrounding cultures did the following:
–Placed their garbage, including excrement, in nearby streams and canals
–Kept the bodies of dead relatives in their homes
–Never washed hands in running water
In fact, in Wertheim Germany when the rest of society was dying from the black plaque, the German people blamed the Jews for poisoning their wells. The Jews were simply digging their own wells and drinking from them so as not to be contaminated by the pollutant waters of their neighbors.
Once again we discover that Torah address every area of life and when an individual or a group of people obey it, God grants them success. Success emotionally, physically, socially and, of course, morally. After our tours in these various countries we interacted with many people on our river cruise about the things we learned. We enjoyed fascinating, instructive, and spiritually based conversations as we dialogued on a whole variety of topics with different people from various ethnicities and backgrounds.
One of the main points I sought to communicate was this:
The Bible is so relevant today, and has much to say about how a society ought to operate, and how it can find success and prosperity.
In each case people were intrigued and many shared how they never knew the Bible addressed so many relevant sanitary issues.
In view of the publicity surrounding the Coronavirus, please take initiative in your casual interactions with others to talk about the profound truth of what the Bible says with regard to essential hygiene. You will find this surprisingly fun and the responses from people will also surprise you!
One of the huge challenges for Christendom today is to look beyond one’s personal faith to the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27 KJV) in order to find out how we can address broader issues. I recommend you read “None of These Diseases” by S.I. McMillian, M.D.
I would never have thought that I would be talking about sanitation guidelines from the Scriptures with non-Christians☺! Since we don’t have these sanitation problems here in America, I would have thought these truths to be irrelevant, yet disease caused by unhealthy practices are killing millions of people around the world at this very moment.
Rick Warren (The Lead pastor of Saddleback Church) has identified what he calls the five Global Goliaths:
• Spiritual Emptiness
• Corrupt Leadership
• Extreme Poverty
• Pandemic Diseases
• Illiteracy and lack of education
Warren claims that these problems are so large that every attempt by the public and private sector has failed, and that the only organization big enough to take on these problems is the network of Christian churches around the globe. Wherever God’s people are around the world, whether they be present in churches, Christian schools and orphanages, or missional endeavors we can make a difference. Moral, physical, social, educational and, yes, sanitary conditions can change for the better.
Coming To America
Think about what is happening in sanctuary cities like San Francisco, Chicago, LA, and New York with regard to the growing sanitation problem. The unhealthy conditions will get worse and worse because city officials are allowing people to indiscreetly defecate on public property with no obligation for them to be responsible and accountable to clean up their own waste. Can you believe I am writing about this ☹?
I understand that many of the solutions to these Goliaths are interconnected. It might be a good mental exercise for you to muse over the five Goliaths and determine how they relate with one another. From your understanding of Scripture, how does the Bible address such subjects?
Here are a two examples to consider:
#1 Moral Based Education in your church and local school
The Book of the Bible that Jesus most often referenced was Deuteronomy. The Jewish people survived for thousands of years because of one thing: The Law. The Law was their instruction manual which taught them to survive and thrive in polytheistic, pagan, and hostile environments. And guess what? They did! The survival of the Jews is a cultural miracle! You ask any orthodox Jew why they survived and they will answer: Deuteronomy.
Listen to these beautiful words from Deuteronomy 4:5-8.
5 “See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the LORD my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. 6 Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” 7 What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him? 8 And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?”
Friends, aren’t those words marvelous? How rich and how rewarding to know the true God of the universe and that He has granted us the privilege to know Him and to follow His very directives. This is awesome!!! By the way, the last men’s study I had in our home we stood and read these passages from Deuteronomy 4.
The foundational concept of education both for families and society is repetitive exposure to the Word of God from the father and mother (Deuteronomy 4:9; 5:31; 6:7; 11:19).
Wilber Wilberforce said, “Say the same thing with conviction 20 times a day for 20 years and it will become part of your culture. Dr. Johnson said, People do not need to be taught so much as to be reminded.” (Listen to John Patrick MD for more information).
The present-day curriculum in our public schools is shaping the minds of our kids. Change the curriculum and you just might change the school culture. There are excellent sources to give our children practical information as well as good moral behaviors. Books by William J. Bennett, Cynthia Tobias, and Zig Ziglar are excellent. They are not overtly Christian, but appeal to a broad sense of right and wrong with consequential outcomes. Approach your local school board and ask to be on the curriculum selection committee.
The Children’s Book of Virtues, The Parenting Toolbox, and The Book of Virtues, by William J. Bennett.
The Way They Learn by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias
5 Things People do Before 8:00 AM by Terri Savelle Foy
Goals, See You At the Top, byZig Ziglar
• One man in our ministry read Bible stories almost every night to his four Children while they were growing up. Even though this is not the sole factor, but a major one, because his kids are living healthy productive lives loving Christ and raising their kids in a godly manner.
• In your church ministry, whether that be in your small group, your men’s or women’s ministry, youth groups, or when the congregation meets as a whole, enlist people to read the Ten Commandments every day out loud for one month straight. In some cases, you will need the approval of your leadership team to do such things.
#2 Selecting righteous leaders in our local, state, and national elections.
“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” – Proverbs 14:34 NKJV
Exodus 18:19-21 describes a Constitutional Republic, which is the form of Government of America that founding Father John Adams described as a “government of laws and not of men.” A constitutional republic is the highest form of republican government and is one in which the representatives are elected by the people. They are not sovereign but are, instead, subject to a higher sovereign law. In our case, that law is the Constitution, and in the case of Israel, the Torah.
In Exodus 18:21 Moses lists four-character qualities that we ought to look for when electing officials and judges to public positions of influence.
“But select from all the people some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes. Appoint them as leaders over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten.”
• Capable: skilled and wise
• Honest: have a pattern of integrity, and doing the right
• Fear God: a conscious awareness that they will render an account to God for their deeds and decisions
• Hate brides: have the moral backbone to refuse to be bought
If we are looking for the near perfect person to run for office, we will not find them as most likely you and I would not qualify. However, it is relatively easy to access our two political parties and measure their platforms against what the Bible says. The party and the person that is closest to Scripture ought to receive our vote.
There is no Biblical model whereby God explicitly demands His ministers to be silent or to separate themselves from civil leaders or issues.
If you are like me, I sometimes am overwhelmed at what is happening in our country. I get discouraged and say, what I am doing is such a small thing. Look at Zechariah 4:10.
“Who dares despise the day of small things, since the seven eyes of the LORD that range throughout the earth will rejoice when they see the chosen capstone in the hand of Zerubbabel?”
Here is the explanation of the above verse. The new temple was small in relation to the former temple (Ezekiel 3:12; Haggai 2:3), yet it was a necessary beginning and its ramifications would eventually reach the whole world. The Lord announced His pleasure was upon this work and that His omniscient care was watching over and taking pleasure in its completion. In effect, He is saying, don’t despise what God is pleased with even though it might seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
No work done in the name of Christ and led by His Spirit in harmony with the Word of God is trivial in the eyes of God. Why? Because He can use small things to accomplish great things!
Accomplishing Small things with you for His Kingdom,