Monday, November 12, 2007

Naaman the leper, a dirty Jordan River, and ... clay?

Can clay heal leprosy? How about water-borne clay?

This one today again is not precisely about evolution. Just a mind teasing, intriguing, thought provoker.

My most recent issue of Science News has an article entitled "Clay That Kills: Ground yields antibacterial agents." Following are the link and reference:

Science News, Week of Nov. 3, 2007; Vol. 172, No. 18 , p. 276.

SN says (in part):
"A fistful of slimy green clay may be just what the doctor ordered. Researchers studying a special type of French clay found that it smothers a diverse array of bacteria, including antibiotic-resistant strains and a particularly nasty pathogen that causes skin ulcers in some parts of the world. ...
The researchers found that the clay, which they refer to as CsAg02, is strongly alkaline, with pH ranging from 9.4 to 10. It's also rich in a chemical form of iron that gives it a characteristic green color. But many other clays have similar properties, says Williams.
To assess the effects of the clay on different microbes, the scientists incubated a variety of bacterial cultures with either CsAg02 or a similar clay. CsAg02 completely stopped the growth of Escherichia coli and Salmonella typhimurium, common causes of food poisoning, and of various strains of mycobacterium that lead to skin infections and ulcers."

So why is your fearless blogger blathering about clay? Because in the Bible, a great many texts report on both the suffering and healing of persons afflicted with leprosy. According to Wikipedia, "Leprosy, or Hansen's disease, is a chronic infectious disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae."

One of the most famous stories in the Bible is found in II Kings 5:1-18, the healing of Naaman, a commander of the army of Aram (approximately Syria today), a nation that at that time (around 800 BC) oppressed Israel. But Naaman was a leper. When he was told by a young Jewish slave girl that the prophet of God in Israel could cure him of his disease, Naaman received permission from his boss, the King of Aram, to go to Israel to be healed. When he was finally led to the door of Elisha, the prophet of God, Elisha sent a messenger to say to him,
"Go, wash yourself seven times in the (river) Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed."

As pride would have it, the great man Naaman initially refused to go into the waters of the Jordan. He said,
"I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of Jehovah his God, wave his hand over the spot, and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Arbana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the rivers of Israel? Couldn't I wash in them and be cleansed?"

So he turned and went off in a rage.

But Naaman was finally persuaded by his servants to put away his pride. The result is recorded in the Bible:
"So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy. Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, 'Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.' "

So there you have it. Once pride was put away, obedience to the command of God led to an unthinkable healing.

So did God use divine intervention, contravening natural chemistry at that point to heal Naaman? Or did He provide the prophet Elisha with divine supernatural knowledge of how to use the natural order of God's created things to effect the healing? Either way, it is God's work to God's glory.

But it sure is intriguing to know if maybe some of that "dirty" Jordan River water contained loads of bacteria-squelching clay. Evaluating Jordan-borne clays for antibacterial properties could be an intriguing research project, eh?

A corollary (which in actuality is primary) to this story is to consider the question of how, 2800 years after Naaman, our personal pride can cause us to refuse submission to God. Due to pride do we ... refuse to admit we are sinners, refuse to confess Jesus as Lord, refuse to put on Jesus in baptism, refuse to let Him lead our lives? Here is the greatest story ... that our obedience can lead to a far greater healing than that of Naaman's diseased flesh. Humbling ourselves before God can lead to the healing of our sin-diseased souls and lead to reconciliation with the great God of Heaven and Earth who is the Giver, Sustainer, and Final Judge of our eternal souls.

And, like the cleaner but ineffectual rivers of Damascus, the healing of our souls does not come by some more convenient (or socially comfortable or politically correct) way which we might desire. As Jesus said in John 14:6,
"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

By God's grace and by God's mercy, may we put away our own willful pride so that God's greatest work may be accomplished in us.

In awe, respectfully submitted,



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