The promise to ancient Israel was, "If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in His sight, and wilt give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee." Ex. 15:26. Although this promise was given to God's people anciently, it likewise applies to His people for all time. In a special sense these things were "written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come." 1 Cor. 10 :I 1.
The Egyptians undoubtedly suffered from the diseases that afflict civilized nations today, and no doubt diseases were as prevalent then as they are now. The promise of freedom from these diseases was conditional. The Lord said, "If thou . . . wilt give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee." Those who obeyed the commandments and statutes had protection. Those who failed to obey were dealt with as were the Egyptians, regardless of what their profession might have been.
In Deuteronomy 28:15 we read, "It shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes which I command thee this day ; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee." Again, we see that the Lord here made no distinction between the Egyptians and the children of Israel. Freedom from the curses was based upon obedience.
It is of interest to note some of 'the statutes which the Lord had given to afford protection from the diseases and the curses which prevailed in Egypt. The thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of Leviticus are devoted entirely to instruction regarding the course to be pursued should some contagious or infectious disease appear in anyone. The command was, "Without the camp shall his habitation be." Thus the contact with, and the spread of, the disease could be prevented. If mold or a growth of germs was observed upon the walls of a home, the house was to be emptied and shut up for seven days. After the end of seven days, it was to be inspected, and if the mold still existed, the walls were to be scraped and the place re-plastered. After this had been done, if the plague again made its appearance, the house was to be torn down and removed. It was unsafe to be inhabited. In this way protection was afforded from diseases which prevailed among those who understood not their nature and how they were communicated.
These statutes and principles were to be made known to the Canaanites as the people of God entered their land. Moses said unto them:
"Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the Lord my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it. Keep therefore and do them: for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon Him for? And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day? Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons' sons." Dent. 4:5-9.
Building Up Barriers of Influence
In addition to observing these wise regulations as a means of protection from communicable diseases, the Israelites were to be separated from the habits of the Egyptians—habits which lowered the vitality of the body tissues, and thus prepared the soil for the seeds of disease. They were admonished not to walk in the way of the nations about them. The Lord gave them statutes of health, which would enable them to build up the barriers of defense against such diseases. Disease germs must have soil in order to grow. They do not thrive upon healthy tissue. The vital resistance of the body tissues has to be undermined in order to make germ diseases possible. Thus it was possible for them to live in the midst of epidemics, and claim protection from them. I have seen sound apples in a barrel in the midst of decay. Could the history of the apples have been studied, we would have found that the tissue of the apples which were decayed had been bruised, and their resistance lowered, and hence, they succumbed to the germs of decay. The tissue of the sound apples was not undermined, and hence had protection from the germs of decay. In like manner, among Israel's host those who were protected were those whose tissue soil was not in condition to encourage the growth' of germs.
In civilized countries we have had some very destructive epidemics in the past—epidemics Which at times almost depopulated entire cities. Yet in the midst of these epidemics there were those who were not stricken down. It merely meant that the vital resistance of these people, just as in the case of the apples that were undecayed, was such that germs found no suitable soil upon which to develop.
There still exist diseases which are very much dreaded—pneumonia for example. Pneumonia has been termed "the old man's friend." It usually carries away those whose vitality is low because of age, or those in middle life who are apparently strong and robust, but whose tissues are laden with impurities. Appearances do not indicate what a man is physically. It is not the amount of tissue, but the quality of the tissue, that affords protection. Two things are essential in pneumonia, as in other germ diseases. One is to avoid exposure; and the other, more important, is to maintain the vital resistance of the tissues.
The time was, on the island of Cuba, when yellow fever carried off the great majority of the people. The disease had been endemic for centuries. The people came to regard it as an affliction of Providence over which they had no control. They were reconciled to the inevitable, as they supposed. After American possession, the causes were discovered. Sanitary condi, tions were improved. Mosquitoes, which afforded a medium for conveying the germs, were eliminated, and the disease practically disappeared. In the city of Havana not a single death has occurred from yellow fever since; whereas formerly, 15,000 deaths occurred every year. The people had perished for lack of knowledge.
Not very many years ago tuberculosis was, looked upon in America very much as the Cubans regarded yellow fever. Whole families were wiped out. It was regarded as an affliction of Providence. Yet the disease is as preventable as was yellow fever in Cuba. People perished because those who were afflicted with the disease were not required to be separated from their friends. They ate with them, using the same silverware and dishes, and slept with them. In this way the germs of disease were communicated from one to the other.
The germ of consumption is just as fatal as is the germ of yellow fever, the only difference being that in the case of the latter the lives of the victims are sacrificed in just a few days, whereas in consumption, instead of taking days, it may take months and even years, but the disease is just about as fatal. With increased knowledge as to how this disease is communicated, it is disappearing. We have merely been carrying out the instruction given to ancient Israel, "Without the camp shall his habitation be," and by proper diet and open-air life, have been building up the vitality of the body tissues.
When God, in order to fulfill to them His promise of freedom from disease, undertook to correct their habits of eating, "the mixed multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat? . . . There is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes." Num. II :4-6.
The Lord granted them their desire, but "while the flesh was yet between their teeth, . . . the Lord smote the people with a very great plague." Num. II ;33. "With many of them God was not well pleased : for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted." "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." 1 Cor. 10:5, 6, 12.
Referring to this, the psalmist said: "So they did eat, and were well filled: for he gave them their own desire; they were not estranged from their lust. But while their meat was yet in their mouths, the wrath of God came upon them, and slew the fattest of them, and smote down the chosen men of Israel." Ps. 78:29-31.
What we eat and what we drink have very much to do with the experience of the soul. Our prayer should ever be, "Feed me with food convenient for me : lest I be full, and deny Thee." And when invited to eat with sinners, the prayer should be, "Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; . . . and let me not eat of their dainties." Ps. 545 ;3, 4. The sinner who obeys the commandments of God will be treated as though he were a saint, and the saint that disobeys will be treated as though he were a sinner. Profession, and even prayer (of itself), affords no protection from disease. The promise is, "If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord . . . and keep all His statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee."