A Public Health Crisis in the bible #COVID19Series
Hello guys, in the final part of the series I focus on the laws God gave to the people of Israel in the wilderness when they encountered a public health crisis similar to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is my sincere hope that this post will further enlighten you on the topic.
In the first post of this series, I spoke against the idea that one doesn’t need to observe any safety protocols amidst the COVID-19 pandemic if they have faith in God. In this post, we will be looking at how a public health crisis was dealt with in ancient times according to the instructions God gave his people. Ultimately, we all believe God is a mighty healer and is more than able to restore health supernaturally. Nevertheless, it is abundantly evident in scripture that there were times when he instructed his people to implement some physical measures to prevent infections, the spread of diseases, and to cure them. This will be the focus of this part of the series.
The coronavirus has shaken up the whole world, affecting not only human lives but industries, big corporations, and nations. According to WHO safety protocols, two major ways to prevent the spread of the virus are:
- Humans everywhere wearing face masks in public
- People practicing social distancing in public spaces.
This invariably means there is a virus on the loose; it could be hanging loosely in the air you breathe. Adhering to these safety protocols makes sense because the virus is spread through human contact. Other measures such as quarantine, lockdowns and vaccinations have been carried out all over the world to curtail the spread of the virus too.
Christianity is a religion steeped in the supernatural. The power of God is evident in the pages of scripture. To us, the miraculous is not just a special feature of Christian ministry, it is a command from Jesus. Two times in the book of Luke, Jesus sent out his disciples and he instructed them to preach the gospel of the kingdom and heal the sick (Luke 9:2 & Luke 10:9). In Mathew 10:8 it is recorded as such:
Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
Therefore, how do we reconcile the idea that Christians can operate in the supernatural healing power of God with the idea that we have to adhere to safety protocols during this pandemic? That is exactly what this post is about, so journey with me as we arrive at the answer.
In both the Old and New Testaments, it is clear that leprosy was a disease that was regarded as a public health crisis because of its infectious nature. According to WHO, leprosy “also known as Hansen’s disease, is a chronic infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae. It mainly affects the skin, the peripheral nerves, mucosal surfaces of the upper respiratory tract and the eyes”. Its infectious nature poses danger to people who come into contact with lepers. Hence, in the Old Testament God gave ample instructions as to how to deal with the disease and diseased people. In Leviticus 13 and 14, God outlines a number of health safety protocols to be implemented by the people in their dealings with lepers. The instructions, or laws as they were called in Leviticus, were so exhaustive that they covered procedures from disease detection through a series of examinations to the prevention of the spread of the disease. Moses received these instructions and gave them to the Priests who were appointed by God to be the “medical officers” working to detect whether or not an individual had the disease. God outlined a number of symptoms they were to look out for before declaring the individual unclean or leprous. These symptoms include:
- A swelling in the skin that has turned the hair white and when there is raw flesh in the swelling, it is leprosy. Leviticus 13:10
- A breakout of the disease on the person from head to toe that has turned white. The Priest shall declare the person clean. Most probably because at that stage, the disease is no longer infectious. Leviticus 13:12-13
It may interest you to know that God also instructed the priests to quarantine people suspected to be leprous for a period of 7 days (Leviticus 13: 21:22). This is the same God who wrought mighty miracles before and during the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. How is it that he is the one outlining disease control measures the people should adhere to to curtail the spread of a disease he could zap away in seconds? Disease Control is defined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as “the reduction of disease incidence, prevalence, morbidity or mortality to a locally acceptable level as a result of deliberate efforts…”. There is no doubt, this was exactly what God instructed the Israelites to do and so they did throughout their generations.
Here are a few more Disease Control measures God instructed the Priests to carry out to prevent the spread of the disease:
- Objects and surfaces that diseased people have had contact with are regarded as unclean or infectious. Therefore, they should be burnt.
And he shall burn the garment, or the warp or the woof, the wool or the linen, or any article made of skin that is diseased, for it is a persistent leprous disease. It shall be burned in the fire. Leviticus 13:52
- Leprous people are to announce their presence in public by shouting “unclean, unclean” lest they infect others. They are to be responsible for not infecting others with the disease.
“The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip[a] and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp. Leviticus 13:46
Both in the Old and New Testaments, we see lepers ostracized in the Jewish society. At least in two different verses of scripture, we are told they were stationed at the gate of the city. One of such verses is 2 Kings 7:3, where it is said that there were 4 lepers at the entrance of the city gate. Also, in Luke 10:11-12, Jesus was met by 10 lepers as he entered a village. They stood at a distance and called out to him. This means they, too, were stationed outside the village – most probably a distance from the entrance of the village. Jesus healed them by commanding them to go and show themselves to the High Priest, which was the approved procedure one had to go through to be either declared clean or unclean. On their way to see him, they realized they were cleansed. These lepers were already following the disease control protocols God outlined in the Old Testament by socially distancing themselves from everybody to prevent the spread of the disease. Yet one encounter with Christ changed their story instantly. The point I seek to make here is that God is sovereign, wise, omnipotent and many more divine attributes can be used to describe him. Even though He has given us power to heal all diseases including infectious ones such as leprosy, he has also laid down certain principles in scripture that we can follow to prevent our getting infected and spreading diseases. These two realities are not mutually exclusive. The same bible that teaches us to lay hands on the sick and they will recover, also points out to us that we can use medically approved methods to prevent the spread of diseases and cure diseases. [I have addressed this idea more extensively in my blog on healing where I cite the example of Isaiah prescribing the use of cake of figs to heal the boils on Hezekiah’s skin. Do check it out by clicking here].
To those who insist that Christians ought not follow safety protocols during this pandemic, although I may understand where you are coming from, I beg to differ. Should we apply this same understanding of faith to all other issues of safety and wellness? Wouldn’t that mean Christians ought not lock their doors at night because the bible says “… he who watches over Israel neither sleeps nor slumbers.” (Psalm 121:4)? Again, the bible says if the Lord doesn’t watch over a city, the watchman watches in vain (Psalm 127:1). Therefore, are we saying every Christian who has a security guard at post in his/her home isn’t walking by faith?
Even if it was a matter of “faith”, we should understand that different people have different “sizes” of faith. Faith in God varies from person to person usually because of their level of maturity and intimacy with God. When Jesus descended from the mount of transfiguration in Matthew 17, he referred to the faith of his disciples as ‘little faith’ because they couldn’t cast out a devil from a little boy. Therefore, I vehemently oppose this idea that is being pushed by some men of God and specific denominations based on the assumption that everybody operates at the same level of faith. I believe faith and prudence can co-exist. I can have faith in God to do the impossible and still be safety and health conscious. It isn’t a game of choosing either to have faith and act recklessly or choose to be safety and health conscious. The point is to know what God’s word says and to do accordingly. Once we have established the fact that it is a biblical truth for us as children of God to adhere to safety precautions lest we get infected by diseases, then I believe there shouldn’t be any snide comments or mockery coming from anybody (especially Christians) towards believers who want to keep safe in this pandemic.