Sick woman suffering. Thermometer and pills on table.

by Brian Shilhavy

The LORD will sustain him on his sickbed and restore him from his bed of illness. (Psalms 41:3)

How Sickness was Understood in Ancient Times

The way sickness was viewed in Biblical Old Testament times and the way sickness is viewed today in the 21st century is almost in completely opposite terms.

In Old Testament times, sickness was primarily viewed as a judgment from God for sins. This view primarily stemmed from Israel’s experience in the Exodus from Egypt, when God inflicted plagues on the Egyptians.

He said, “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)

In our modern day post-Darwin era, sickness is almost always viewed as strictly a result of natural causes, with no thought given to spiritual issues such as sin. Medicines and other cures are seen as the remedy for all sicknesses. If a cure does not exist in medicine, it is believed that one will be discovered in the future through scientific research.

Both of these views are extreme and imbalanced. The Book of Job in the Old Testament, the record of a righteous man and his sufferings and sickness, completely contradicted the belief that righteous people never suffer, and that all suffering is a result of some sin in our life. Here is what was written about Job:

In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. (Job 1:1)

But as the story unfolds, Job loses everything and suffers terrible sickness as part of God’s plan for his life. His “counselors” came to try and convince him he was suffering because of some sin in his life. But God himself had declared Job “blameless.”

Jesus also contradicted the belief that all sickness was a result of personal sin:

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” (John 9:1-3)

Naturalistic View of Sickness Today

The naturalistic view today that all sickness is a result of natural causes that man can control and cure through medicines is certainly not supported by real science. There is no medicine or natural cure that works 100% of the time, and properly prescribed medicines today kill tens of thousands of people each year, and are the third leading cause of death in the US.

Our current day medical system, which historically has only been around for a relatively short time, began post Darwin and ushered in an era of great hope and expectations with the belief of being able to cure all the world’s diseases through medical technology. Many are now seeing the limitations and problems inherent in the medical system and its underlying philosophy and approach towards disease, and many are now beginning to lose faith in the medical system which is dominated by politically and economically powerful forces that dominate western culture, and plagued by corruption and fraud.

Restoration from Sickness According to King David

David’s words in Psalm 41 give us great wisdom regarding how we can be restored from sickness:

Blessed is he who has regard for the weak; the LORD delivers him in times of trouble. The LORD will protect him and preserve his life; he will bless him in the land and not surrender him to the desire of his foes. The LORD will sustain him on his sickbed and restore him from his bed of illness.

I said, “O LORD, have mercy on me; heal me, for I have sinned against you.”

My enemies say of me in malice, “When will he die and his name perish?”

Whenever one comes to see me, he speaks falsely, while his heart gathers slander; then he goes out and spreads it abroad. All my enemies whisper together against me; they imagine the worst for me, saying, “A vile disease has beset him; he will never get up from the place where he lies.”

Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me. But you, O LORD, have mercy on me; raise me up, that I may repay them. I know that you are pleased with me, for my enemy does not triumph over me. In my integrity you uphold me and set me in your presence forever. Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and Amen. (Psalm 41:1-13)

As I have noted in other articles about the life of David, sometimes he suffered sickness because of personal sin in his life, and at other times he suffered because of persecution – the sins of others. But his approach to being restored from sickness is very consistent throughout his writings. Notice the principles he teaches in this Psalm:

1. He looks to the Lord in his helpless condition.

2. He trusts in the Lord for his healing.

3. He confesses his sins.

4. He depends on the Lord’s mercy for healing – he does not see healing as something he deserves or he can purchase from disease specialists.

5. He is honest before the Lord, and before others.

David saw healing as an act of mercy from God. Being sick puts us in a helpless situation, where we recognize our dependency on God. David was honest about his own weakness and sins, and he depended upon God’s mercy for healing. “Mercy” means receiving something you do not deserve as an act of benevolence. You can’t purchase mercy – it’s free and it is totally dependent on the benevolence of the one offering it.

Contrast this with the way most people view being restored from sickness today. We are not honest about our sinfulness and dependency on God. We believe that sickness can be remedied by counter-acting the illness through drugs, rather than dealing with the root problem of the sickness. We don’t believe we need God – we believe that science and medicines have the answers to our problems via man’s knowledge, and we put our faith in medical experts.

Sadly, many people only turn to God after much suffering, and when they reach a point where they understand that man’s knowledge is insufficient, and that medical technology has its limits and faults. They spend great resources and sometimes even give away their entire wealth and family inheritance to the medical system in fighting the sickness, rather than being honest and acknowledging the source of the problem and asking God to act in mercy, trusting in him rather than man’s wisdom and technology.

And while the medical technology does work sometimes, it only deals with the symptoms, and not the root cause of the problem. Hence, even in those situations where relief is accomplished, true restoration from sickness is not accomplished, since that depends on our relationship to our Creator.

The Spiritual Connection

The ultimate restoration from all sickness, of course, is in redemption from our sins through the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ. As I have written in other articles, viewing sickness from strictly a physical perspective is historically a unique view on health, unique to our day and age post Darwin. Other cultures throughout history have always viewed the process of healing as part of the spiritual realm as well, and healing was always accomplished through appeasing those in the spirit world (usually through offering some sort of sacrifice at an altar), in addition to any physical remedies that might exist.

This is viewed as “primitive” today, but it would seem that “primitive” man may have been more intelligent than modern man in some ways, because they understood that true health could not be accomplished strictly through physical remedies.

The spiritual restoration from sickness has existed for a couple of thousand years, however, and is solidly based on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and restoring man to a proper relationship with his Creator by dealing once and for all with the spiritual and physical consequences of man’s sins.

How do you approach healing and restoration from sickness today? Do you only seek physical remedies while never giving thought to the spiritual causes of sickness? If so, you can find greater success by following the five principles listed above that David followed to be restored from sickness, and acknowledge that healing has a spiritual aspect also. Being honest before God about our spiritual condition and looking to him for healing can result in our own spirit being completely renewed through the rebirth process.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9)

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.

Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:18-25)

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