For the week of August 20, 2022 / 23 Av 5782
Torah: D’varim/Deuteronomy 7:12 – 11:25
Haftarah: Isaiah 49:14 – 51:3
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And the LORD will take away from you all sickness, and none of the evil diseases of Egypt, which you knew, will he inflict on you, but he will lay them on all who hate you. (D’varim/Deuteronomy 7:15)
The last time I commented on this verse was two years ago (Avoiding Disease). We were still in the early stages of the COVID era. At that time, I explained that the “diseases of Egypt” were not the ten plagues, but illnesses arising due to ungodly living. Israel was promised health as a result of following God’s ways. What was true then is still true today. God’s directives regarding lifestyle, sexuality, sanitation, etc. result in life. Ignorance and neglect of these principles lead to sickness and death.
We live in a post-biblical age. The Western World was built, imperfectly, on biblical principles. While adherence to these principles has ebbed and flowed through the centuries, generation after generation have been instructed in a very particular approach to morality. During this time, for the most part, people who ventured away from biblical morality knew they were doing so. When they suffered consequences, they had a good idea why.
It’s not like that anymore. For many years, we have been told that we are nothing more than the result of meaningless, impersonal forces; truth can’t be known; everything is subjective. Therefore, there is no right and wrong, no objective morality. This would explain why shame has taken the place of guilt as the main reaction to our sense of being out of sorts with the world. Guilt requires a clear sense of right and wrong. Without that, we are left with a much fuzzier uneasiness with ourselves. We know there is something wrong with us but don’t know why. We don’t know why because we have become ignorant of God’s ways as revealed in Scripture.
This ignorance undermines the vast amount of scientific knowledge we have acquired in the past several centuries. Whether we are aware of it or not we are the product of centuries of cultures that were not only biblically informed to a significant extent, but also thoroughly experienced in an approach to life based on biblical foundations. Many people would be surprised to learn that without the Bible we would have never seen the emergence of the vast array of beneficial technical advancements we so treasure. Collectively we know far more about sickness and health than any generation before us. What we know today is the result of centuries of investigation and implementation. In other words, we know how this stuff works. And yet, we are seeing an increase in certain infections as never before, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in particular. And then there’s monkeypox.
Technically speaking, monkeypox isn’t an STI, but you don’t have to be a medical professional or investigative reporter to realize that the vast amount of monkeypox cases is due to certain sexual behaviors. And yet the messaging we receive, be it for STIs or monkeypox, is anything but avoiding the behaviors that put people at risk.
I remember years ago when the vaccine for the human papillomavirus (HPV) was promoted in the region of Canada where I live. HPV is an STI that especially affects young people in their teens and twenties. It is of particular concern to women in that it may lead to cervical cancer. The vaccine was touted as the solution to the problem. I remember seeing a promotional poster for the HPV vaccine in my doctor’s office waiting room. What troubled me was the implication that it was assumed that young girls were having casual sex despite the health risks. I don’t doubt that children and other unmarried people are having casual sex, but to make it sound as if the risks of contracting HPV were so out of their control that it required a medical intervention assumes the complete rejection of biblically directed morality. Teaching sexual abstinence to young people is thought of as a useless, if not oppressive, venture. Sexual appetite may be difficult to curb, but when did fighting urges become a bad thing?
I fear we have forgotten what it means to be truly human. I say, “forgotten,” because we in the West once knew. But now we are immersed in such an abundance of scientific knowledge, offering all sorts of solutions, while being blind to God’s prescribed and effective preventative measures.
We suffer for nothing. God’s word is still available to us. Not only can we put the brakes on the snowballing cultural decay, God, through the Messiah, is available to forgive and heal us if we are willing to trust him and do life his way.
Scriptures taken from the English Standard Version