Dear Members and Friends of IBCZ,
Ignaz Philip Semmelweis was born in 1818 in what is now Budapest, Hungary. He was a physician at a time when 25-30% of women who gave birth in hospitals died of puerperal fever/infection. Practicing medicine in Vienna and later Pest, he was able to reduce the death rate to around 1%. How did he bring about such dramatic results? By washing his hands, and encouraging the other doctors to do so. At that time, a doctor’s daily routine often began by performing autopsies. Then the doctors went to the hospital to examine expectant mothers without first washing their hands. Dr. Semmelweis was the first man in history to associate such examinations with the resultant infection and death.
Surprisingly, even with such dramatic results, most of the leading physicians and medical professors of that time rejected his conclusion. Some claimed the disease was unpreventable. Semmelweis (who interestingly enough, in 1857 declined the chair of obstetrics at the University of Zürich), lectured and debated with his colleagues, arguing, “Puerperal fever is caused by decomposed material, conveyed to a wound… I have shown how it can be prevented. I have proved all that I have said. But while we talk, talk, talk, gentlemen, women are dying. I am not asking anything world shaking. I am asking you only to wash… wash your hands.” So simple, yet many refused.
Eventually, after his death in 1865, his findings were accepted by the medical community. His influence on the development of knowledge and control of infection was hailed by Joseph Lister, the father of modern antisepsis. It was such a simple solution – just wash your hands.
It’s not only our hands that need to be washed; our hearts do also. The infection in our hearts is even more deadly than puerperal fever, for it is sin, and it leads to eternal death. Fortunately, God has provided the remedy. His grace through the death of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin.
We have been studying the life of David on Sunday mornings. Two weeks ago, we considered the account of his sin of adultery with Bathsheba, and last Sunday we examined how David cried out to God for forgiveness (Ps. 32). In the aftermath of that, David wrote another Psalm, Psalm 51. In vs. 10, he asked the Lord, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”
We cannot wash our own hearts, but God can if we simply ask. Like David, we pray that God will not only cleanse our hearts, but that He will create in us a clean heart, a heart that desires God and His good will for our lives about all. Let us pray this regularly!
Grace and peace,