As we have seen in previous posts, water and oil in Scripture symbolize the life-giving and purifying qualities of Jesus Christ, Who is the Living Water (Jeremiah 17:13; John 4; 7:38), and of the Holy Spirit, Who ignites believers with holy fire. Since the Fall, man’s sin nature has brought the curse of sickness and death (Genesis 3). But God provides health, healing, and even eternal life, as symbolized by water and oil in Scripture.
Water cleanses us from disease. Modern science has explained the germ theory of disease, or how infection spreads through bacteria and other microbes. But long before germ theory was understood, God gave His chosen people instructions to maintain health and prevent infection by washing. This is yet another example of the supernatural, God-breathed inspiration and scientific accuracy of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16).
Levitical law defined ”unclean” conditions, including touching dead bodies, animal carcasses, and human waste, which we now understand are highly likely to promote spread of infection. God’s prescription to the Israelites was not only physical isolation from these bacteria-laden dangers, but washing with water in the event of contamination (Leviticus 11:32; 14:8-9, etc., Numbers 19:13-21).
At the same historical time period, Egypt, which was considered the most advanced civiliztion of its day, was ”treating” open wounds by rubbing them with animal dung! Small wonder that Jews following God’s law survived plagues while pagans perished!
It was not until millennia later, in the mid 1800s, that Hungarian physician Ignaz Semmelweis made a revolutionary, but unpopular discovery. Infants delivered at a teaching clinic by medical students who were dissecting cadavers had a much higher death rate than those delivered by midwives, or even than infants born on the streets to prostitutes. Semmelweis theorized that ”cadaverous particles” were transferred from the corpses to the newborns via the medical students’ hands.
This led to an understanding of germ theory and antisepsis, and to a dramatic reduction in obstetrical and surgical mortality through the simple practice of thorough hand washing before doctors delivered babies or performed operations. Physicians of the day considered this advice to be insulting, but when they humbled themselves and washed their hands before deliveries or surgery, survival improved significantly. Even today, signs in public lavatories, restaurants, and throughout hospitals remind us to wash our hands to help prevent disease.
Elisha cleansed Naaman of leprosy by commanding him to wash seven times in the river Jordan (2 Kings 5:6-14).At first, Naaman’s pride almost kept him from the cure, as he insisted that rivers of Damascus were superior to the Jordan, and he expected that he would have to perform some difficult or amazing feat to be healed.
How often does our own ”reason” and ”science” (1 Timothy 6:20) hinder our faith and keep us from following God’s simple prescription for spiritual healing? When Naaman finally obeyed, his flesh became like that of a little child, and he was clean (v. 14). If we have the faith of a little child (Matthew 18:3) in Jesus Christ, Son of God, Who died as the perfect sacrifice for our sins, and in His resurrection, we too will be cleansed from sin and receive eternal life (1 Corinthians 15 1-4;John 3:16).
Water is a symbol not only of physical cleansing, but of spiritual purification and restoration through faith in God’s Word (Ephesians 5:26; Hebrews 10:22). God refreshes His people with springs and streams in the desert (Isaiah 35:6), and we need and long for Him as much as the deer craves water from the brook (Psalm 42:1).
While beneficial in its own right, water is also the perfect medium to carry healing ingredients to our bodies. Many drugs have to be swallowed with a full glass of water, and many medicines are formulated as water-based syrups or tonics.
Jesus changed water into wine (John 2), described as the good wine. This suggests that it was new wine or grape juice, carrying all the healthful nutrients of the grape without any of the harmful effects of alcohol. New wine was most highly prized in Bible times because of its very short shelf life -- there was no way to stop the fermenting process that would turn the natural grape sugar into alcohol and then into vinegar.
Paul told Timothy to take a little wine to treat his stomach, and not just water (1 Timothy 5:23). Most likely this reflected contamination of the water by parasites causing intestinal disease, as we may learn, to our regret, if we drink tap water in undeveloped countries!
The pool in Bethesda was said to heal those who were blind, crippled, or diseased, but only when an angel ”troubled the water.” (John 5:1-4). Stagnant water harbors disease, but flowing water in fountains and streams mixes with oxygen from the air that enlivens or quickens it, refreshing those bathing in it. With His Word alone, Jesus healed a man who had waited 38 years by the Bethesda pool to be cured of his disease (John 5:5-9). He is a quickening Spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45) bringing healing and life, and His Word is quick and powerful (Hebrews 4:12).
God in His love and grace gave us His Word to help us understand the depth and richness of His love and blessing. In Scripture, His healing qualities are symbolized not only by water but also by oil, as we shall see next week!
© 2013 Laurie Collett
Laurie, I enjoy your blog in google reader which is closing and I wondered if I may continue to receive it by email please?
Mary, New Zealand
Science discovered a lot of thing, which were written in the Scripture. It is good sign, that our faith isn't blind - we believe, but faith doesn't mean being uneducated. Greetings for You Laurie :) Have a blessed week.
I continue to be amazed by your posts, particularly with an insight into the cleansing and curative powers of water. I too have read the story of Dr. Semmelweis (sounds Jewish to me) and his brilliant analysis at a hospital in Venice, if I recall, that there was "something" transferred from the source of contammination to these poor mothers. In Dr. McMillen's book, "None of these Diseases" he gives in detail how Semmelweis was prejudiced by fellow surgeons to the extent that he ended up in an assylum, as a result of watching the dramatic rise of deaths when his "washing of hands" policy was done away with, due to jealousy and envy.
I'm looking forward to what you have to say about the oil.
Thanks, Denise! God bless,
I've entered your email address in the "send to" list! Thanks & God bless,
God's wisdom is timeless and true, and we can have faith in His unchanging Word.
Greetings & blessings to you, Zim!
Thank you for your kind words. Yes, Semmelweis died in infamy, his theories disputed and his colleagues incensed over his increasingly vitriolic attacks on them for ignoring his advice and thereby contributing to infant deaths. Whether his deteriorating behavior was related to this frustration, post-traumatic stress, Alzheimer's, or even syphilis is unclear. Ironically, he died from blood infection, 2 weeks after being severely beaten by guards in the asylum. It's sad that so many deny truth, especially the irrefutable truth in God's Word.
Thanks as always for sharing your insights, and God bless,
What a great list. All these are true, and there is another thing about water--the peace and beauty it imparts just existing. Anyone who has ever gone to sleep listening to the soft lapping lullaby of waves knows.
Thanks, MrsP! That is so true -- one of my favorite things about our beach getaway is the peaceful, soothing sound of the waves at night, under the sparkling stars.
Blessings to you,
I love the connection between the written word of God and its Spiritual meaning, I always have. It is amazing how we can understand what the Lord is speaking to us this way without any confusion isn't it. I am always blessed by the amount of scripture you include in your posts. God bless you.
Thank you for this great post!!
Praise God that the Holy Spirit indwells each believer to guide and teach us. I am so glad that you were blessed by the post, and I appreciate your lovely comment.
God bless you,
Thanks, craftyspices, for your comment & for hosting!
I'm Co-hosting with Katherines Corner this week and wanted to say hello. This is a great post, so glad I came by. I'm also your newest follower.
Angel @ sewcraftyangel.blogspot.com
PS: Hope you will visit me and hopefully want to return the follow.
Welcome, Angel! Thanks so much for your sweet comment and for following. You have a lovely blog, & I'm following you back!
God Bless and Thank you for sharing at the Thursday Favorite Things Blog Hop xo
Laurie, thanks so much for the inspiration and teaching. God bless. Linda
Thanks, Katherine, for hosting & for your sweet comment!
I'm so glad you liked the post! Thanks for hosting & God bless you too!
It is often overlooked that unclean objects were to be sprinkled with water that had been allowed to leach lye from th ashes of a red heifer, a powerful disinfectant. Jesus said the law could be summed up in loving God, and loving our neighbors. Even a seemingly irrelevant ritual such as applying that water was an act demonstrating love by ensuring others would not be infected.
That's a great point, Donald! God has His reasons for the commands He issues, and whether or not we understand them, it is best for us to obey in faith.
Thanks, Sidra, & God bless!
I think this is a very interesting post. I guess the cleansing of sin by baptism is a continuation of this.
Visiting from TGIF Blog Hop.
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