“…because you have relied on the king of Syria and have not relied on the LORD your God, therefore the king of Syria has escaped out of your hand …. and in the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa became diseased in his feet. His disease was severe, yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but the physicians.”
The intention of this article is to discuss health care within the context of Asa, king of Judah. The Holy Scripture has much to say about the topic.
We have already seen in a previous post that political self-reliance ends in catastrophe for the people of God. Backroom deal-making disguised as diplomacy and its twin, bribery, will only bring about disaster. Asa made what he thought was a clever strategic accord with his enemy’s enemy instead of remembering that dependence upon God is the only thing can bring about lasting victory against oppressors . The complex arrangement with the pagan king, Ben-hadad only led to additional war instead of the desired peace . Had the United States only learnt these lessons, too, when it had courted the regimes of Mao Tse Dung in the 1940s and Saddam Hussein in the 1980s perhaps we would not have the wars and fears in our current times. It is too late to reverse the US of A’s mistakes in diplomacy, but we can still attempt to learn how to avoid a health care disaster. But it is highly unlikely that our country will learn from Asa’s health care mistakes either.
Two years before he died, Asa contracted a disease in his feet. Most commentators agree that this disease was gout. Historically, gout is known as “The Disease of Kings” or “Rich Man’s Disease.” Gout is traditionally considered more common among affluent individuals, who may regularly drink and eat rich food and wines. Gout usually attacks the big toe (approximately 75 percent of first attacks); however, it also can affect other joints, such as the ankle, heel, instep, knee, wrist, elbow, fingers, or spine. In some cases, the condition may appear in the joints of small toes that have become immobile due to impact injury earlier in life; the resulting poor blood circulation can lead to gout. Whatever nature was the disease, it was fatal.
Asa had recently put Hannai, the prophet of God, in prison in an attempt to silence him. As punishment God put Asa in his own “prison.” Just punishment always follows and is befitting of the crime. “His disease was severe” the Scripture tells us.
“Yet, even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but the physicians.” The Scripture does not condemn the use of doctors or medicine as some insidious cults claim. Scripture usually speaks positively of those who heal ; medicine is God’s gift .
Asa making use of medical doctors was his duty if he was ill. But trusting the physician only, and expecting from the doctors results without considering their healing source was from God only, was his sin. The help of creatures must always be used with an eye toward the Creator. Our dependence on life and health must start with God without whom the most skillful and faithful doctor of medicine has no value.
Important note: to infer from these passages that Asa sinned in consulting a doctor, and that Christians should abstain from calling medical advisors when out of health is unreasonable and stupid. The Apostle Paul took Luke the physician with him on his missionary journeys; it may be argued that he did not regard medical science as inconsistent with his religious principles to either give or accept medical advice.
What was Asa thinking? Asa should have consulted God about his malady. Had he done so, he might have been cured. He did not bow a knee or offer any prayers to the LORD. He did not seek God’s mercy, nor did he recognize His providence in the matter. Asa sought medical aid from mere human physicians only instead of the healing from the great and Almighty Lord God of Israel. It is also believed that during the time of Asa there existed famous healers, hailing from Egypt, who are credited with astonishing powers ; some believe they used not only medicinal remedies but also spells and incantations. Asa put his trust in these naturalists and magicians only instead of seeking help from the One True God, the Holy One of Israel.
It is interesting to note the very different attitude to doctors taken by Ben Sirach, the author of the apocryphal book Ecclesiasticus (c. 200 B.C.). He writes, “My son, in thy sickness be not negligent; but pray unto the Lord, and He shall heal thee. Put away wrongdoing, and order thine hands aright, and cleanse they heart from all manner of sin… The give place to the physician, for truly the Lord had created him; and let him not go from thee, for thou hast need of him. There is a time when their very hands is the issue of good. For they also shall beseech the Lord that He may prosper them in giving relief and in healing for the maintenance of life.”
Asa’s sin lay in having recourse in the doctors and in medical science only, and not seeking help from the Lord, who is the ultimate healer of diseases . The error of the king was not in consulting the physicians, but reposing trust in them to the exclusion of the Lord. Asa died in the arms of the physicians instead of the Lord. Unbelief was the real cause of Asa’s death. Perhaps it is the cause of many deaths to this day. It is still true that physicians cannot cure without divine blessing. Dependence on government health care only with any exclusion of God will bring exactly the same result.
To be continued …