Until after the time of Solomon there seems to have been no departure from the simplicity of the ancient faith with respect to the body. But he laid the foundation for that departure from God by an alliance with the world which led to all the disasters of his people in the succeeding generations.
Allying himself with Egypt, and introducing its luxuries, refinements and intermarriages, there soon followed, no doubt, its physicians too, and the grandson of Solomon, king Asa, is the first example of their treatment in the entire Bible. His act is mentioned with manifest disapproval, as indicating distrust in God, and is marked by God's displeasure in its fatal termination. It is marked by a whole series of gradual departures from God through seeking human alliances in his exigencies. "Because thou hast relied upon the king of Syria, and relied not on the Lord," was the same principle which a little later caused his death. "In his sickness Asa sought not unto the Lord, but unto the physicians."
In a recently published address one speaks of those "who have not sufficient faith in God to see Him in and through the use of means," and adds, "The use of means ought not to lessen our faith in God, and our faith in God ought not to hinder our using those means which He has given us for the carrying out of His own purposes." It is strange that this distinction is not brought out by the Holy Spirit in this, the first reference to the subject in the Scriptures. Why does the Lord not blame him for not asking a blessing on the physicians? How is it that the forbidden act was not the neglect of this, but the seeking unto the physicians instead of the Lord? His going to them is not regarded as an evidence or an opportunity for faith in God, but the reverse. And is it not the usual rule of human nature to lean harder on the smallest twig of the visible and the human than upon the whole Omnipotence of an unseen God? And the real test of faith is to be willing to step out on "the seeming void," and expect to find "the Rock beneath."
The case of Naaman, a little later, is a pleasing contrast. His disease was incurable, and especially suggestive of the connection between sickness and sin. His first application was about as far back as the most ignorant and blundering soul could wish for its encouragement. Overflowing with pride and self-consciousness, he came to the prophet's door, and expected attention and consideration, but received the deathblow, first to his self-will and then to his sickness. How wisely and bravely the old prophet left him with God, and let him down into the death of self!
So it must ever he. Naaman must die ere the leper can be cleansed and the healing come. And he dies, as every other must, by an act of faith; and how simple an act! Only implicit obedience to the Divine Word. He does just what the prophet tells him, and he does it through to the end. That is faith.
For salvation, for healing, for everything, faith is to do just what God tells us, and then leave the result with Him. Are you sick? There is a command in James as explicit as Elisha's orders. Simply, promptly, fully obey it, and God will hold Himself as much bound to honor His own word as He does you to obey it.
Naaman's faith had to be continuous, abiding and persistent. Seven times had he been commanded to wash in Jordan. This involved the very essence of faith; viz., an act which at first perceives no sign of the answer claimed. Once, twice, thrice he entered the sacred river and returned. Once, twice, thrice again he repeated it. But there was yet no sign of healing. So must we believe and act and expose ourselves to the humiliation of apparent failure.
How often must it have seemed to him like a vain repetition or foolish play! But he continued until every word had been fulfilled and the order of faith and obedience explicitly, completely carried through. And then the answer came-his flesh "as the flesh of a little child," his leprosy all gone, and his soul exulting in the consciousness of new, and pure, and perfect health. So let us believe and wait and finish the steps of faith.
His subsequent history is full of instruction. First, his gratitude prompts him to make a generous return as a thank-offering, and the prophet, with a wise avoidance of even the appearance of mercenary considerations, declines at the time to receive his gift. Next, with a prompt and wholehearted consecration, he declares his steadfast dedication henceforth to the true God. And then, with a jealous perplexity about his precise duty while attending his royal master in the temples of idolatry, he asks the prophet's counsel. The prophet throws him back on God, and he goes forth to be a witness for God throughout the whole of Syria.
There is one other instance of healing in the later years of the kingdom of Judah. It is the story of Hezekiah. That it was a supernatural and, indeed, a miraculous healing, and not the result of remedies, is evident from the fact that he had been declared by God to be in a dying condition, and the distinct statement in Chronicles that God "wrought a miracle for him" (margin) and healed him. If it were miraculous, this disposes at once of the whole question of the means used; they must have been symbolical and not remedial.
His prayer is given with considerable fullness by Isaiah. It began, like many of our prayers, with a wail of unbelief. "Like a crane or a swallow he chattered," and many a modern prayer is no better. But at length he reached the point of self-despair, and with the cry, "Lord, I am oppressed, undertake for me, the deliverance came. What shall I say? He hath both spoken to me and Himself hath done it."
The faith of Hezekiah in asking a sign was very great. He asked something harder even than his healing. God has given us a still greater sign-the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. After this, nothing is too hard for us to ask or Him to do.
Hezekiah did not make the most of his new life. He allowed his blessing to lift up his heart in foolish pride, and a greater blow had to come, which left his kingdom and household a heritage of sorrow.
The attempt of some to make the healing of Hezekiah a warrant for the use of medical remedies in our sickness is fatally weak in these respects:
I. He was incurably sick, and no remedy could be a means.
2. His healing was called "a miracle," and if so, could not in any sense be natural.
3. The application used is called a sign. At least this seems to be implied in the last two verses of Isaiah.
4. It was administered by Isaiah through a special Divine revelation, and not through medical science.
5. There was no resort to physicians whatever, but from the first a simple waiting upon God.
6. The plaster of figs may have been no more than the anointing with oil in James; viz., a sign that the case had been committed to and undertaken by the Lord.
7. Hezekiah did what he was told by the Lord exactly, and faith should do just what God's Word still teaches us in sickness.