King Hezekiah is dying. He is even told so by the Lord (2 Kings 20:1). And so he does what we would hopefully do. He weeps; and he prays (20:3). And in this particular case, God intervenes with a message that He will heal the king and extend his life 15 years (20:5-6). But then we find an overlooked element to this story in 20:7 when we see the same prophet Isaiah who delivers God’s message to Hezekiah also ordering that a “cake of figs” be placed on the boils on the king’s skin. A typical "cake of figs” was a hot, soft mass of figs and most likely some other ingredients used by some physicians in the ancient near east to treat lesions and infections of the skin. Without the fervent prayer, the cake may have had little or no effect. But it is significant that the healing for Hezekiah comes after the treatment of the fig cake. The focus of the passage is on God as the healer. But the cake of figs plays a role as the means by which God extended His healing grace.
Where are we going with these thoughts? The account of Hezekiah’s illness is one of many examples that we see of God extending healing grace through the medium of material means. When God found Elijah in a state of despair in 1 Kings 19, the first thing He did was cook for him. Before He even got into the “therapy sessions” that follow (which are important in that account), He first saw that the body needed nutrition and began with physiological treatment. Some of the accounts of Jesus healing people involve Him using His own saliva (Mark 7:32-35; 8:22-25) or even making a mud paste to rub on the eyes (John 9:6-7). Now obviously, saliva in and of itself has no power to give sight to the blind or hearing to the deaf. But perhaps He is affirming that God many times still shows His intervening grace and power through material medicinal treatment. Even the notion of holistic treatment (for body, mind, and soul) of the afflicted in the Scriptures is described through the image of a tree’s “leaves for healing” (Ezekiel 47:12; Revelation 22:2).
A survey conducted by Dr. Matthew Stanford found that approximately 25% of 300 Christian participants who had been diagnosed with mental illness or had family members diagnosed with mental illness said “their church either discourages or forbids the use of psychiatric medications.” I know this is a small sample size, but I find such a statistic alarming. Now these thoughts today on medication are not just about mental illness but any form of bodily illness as well. And I know we can debate the benefits of natural medicine vs. synthetic medicine, and that’s fine to have those discussions as long as we handle them with love and grace instead of binding an opinion on others. But the point of all this is to say that rejection of medicine in the name of faith in God is not a notion I see in the Bible. Yes, God can intervene with or without material medicine. We have biblical example of His intervention through unexplainable ways. And we celebrate those moments when we see them! But we also find times of His grace extending to the afflicted through the means of medicine. Don’t put your faith in a pill, in a surgeon, or in any form of treatment. Keep it in God. And do not overuse or abuse any means of treatment. But also know that part of how God may be healing you and answering your prayer is through the work of doctors and scientists who have merely cultivated the ingredients the Creator has placed here for our good (1 Timothy 4:4-5).
To His Glory,