Our Spiritual Health and the Kidneys
1. Why are we glad to have our kidneys functioning well?
GOOD physical health depends quite a bit on the state of our kidneys. The longer we live, the more we come to appreciate that fact. Kidneys can make us well aware of their presence in our bodies by severe pains due to some malfunction from various causes. Then we may find it hard to stand up and walk erect. And yet, for the best health of our bodies, we would not like to lose one of our kidneys. Grave injury to both of them or loss of both of them would spell death for us. How glad we are to have both of them and keep them working well!
2. Why, often, is a checkup of kidneys advisable, and with what health does the Bible associate the kidneys?
2 Often a visit to a medical doctor will mean a careful examination of how our kidneys are doing. Their role in connection with bodily well-being is so important, and, hence, their functioning needs a checkup. This has been the case ever since the healing profession learned of the anatomy of the human body. Long ago a scientifically minded king wrote a number of wise proverbs. Naturally, then, he had something to say about the heart, the liver, the kidneys and the bones. Wisely he said: “A calm heart is the life of the fleshly organism, but jealousy is rottenness to the bones.” (Prov. 14:30) He also speaks of the exultant feeling that a person could experience in the kidneys. (Prov. 23:16) Very anciently the kidneys were associated with our well-being not only physically but also spiritually. The state of a person’s spiritual health is the more important. It deserves safeguarding.
3. In appreciation of the Creator, what wonder of the human body did the psalmist mention in Psalm 139:12-14?
3 The kidneys are notable among the wonders of the human body. They were specially mentioned in a melody composed by King David of Jerusalem. In appreciation of the Creator he went on to say: “Even the darkness itself would not prove too dark for you, but night itself would shine just as the day does; the darkness might just as well be the light. For you yourself produced my kidneys; you kept me screened off in the belly of my mother. I shall laud you because in a fear-inspiring way I am wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, as my soul is very well aware.”—Ps. 139:8, 12-14.
4. To make what point did the psalmist David here mention the kidneys?
4 Well, now, why did King David specially mention the kidneys? It was in order to make his point. He was magnifying the depth of penetration on the part of God’s spirit and visual powers, reaching as far down as into Sheol, the common grave of mankind. God can also peer down deep into the human body, as far down as the kidneys, these being below the heart and the diaphragm and toward the base of the spine. And when God created the embryo and kept it screened off in the belly of David’s mother, he could see down to the location for these deep-seated organs. Nothing blocked his visual powers or the range of his creative spirit. Indicating the deep location of these sensitive organs, the greatly afflicted patriarch Job said: “My kidneys have failed deep within me [or, literally, “within my bosom”].”—Job 19:27, NW; Leeser.
5. (a) How is the depth of kidneys beyond human sight indicated still more? (b) Why were kidneys no insignificant part of ancient sacrifices to God?
5 We bear in mind, too, that the kidneys are encased in a layer of fat up to half an inch or more thick, depending on a person’s size. This signifies still greater depth for these organs, deep beyond human sight. Their being covered with such a heavy layer of fat made kidneys a specially precious part of the animal sacrifices that Jehovah’s people anciently offered to him. For instance, regarding the first animal sacrifices reported as being offered to God, the ones offered by Adam’s son Abel the brother of Cain, it is stated that he “brought some firstlings of his flock, even their fatty pieces.” (Gen. 4:4) These would include the kidneys. Also, regarding the sacrifices to be offered to Jehovah by the Israelites, we read repeatedly of “the two kidneys and the fat that is upon them” as being assigned to Jehovah. (Lev. 3:4, 10, 15; 4:9; 7:4; 8:16) Kidney fat burned well and produced a pleasing odor. So kidneys were no insignificant part of sacrifices to God.
6. The Christian sacrifice mentioned in Romans 12:1 would include what organs here under discussion?
6 At Romans 12:1 the apostle Paul tells Christians who were objects of God’s tender compassions: “Present your bodies a sacrifice living, holy, acceptable to God.” Such a sacrifice would include the kidneys as well as the heart. Such Christians would rightly put their heart and kidneys into God’s service.
HEART AND KIDNEYS SCRIPTURALLY ASSOCIATED
7, 8. How do the kidneys’ reactions affect the heart?
7 In the Sacred Scriptures the heart and the kidneys are regularly associated together. This reflects the fact that in the human body these same organs have a relationship together.
8 How well the heart is performing can be indicated by the kidneys’ action, which shows whether the blood circulation is poor. We know that the kidneys play a vital part in keeping the bloodstream pure, clean, as they are eliminative organs. When we have an emotional strain, the kidneys respond, for there is a production of hormones that reduce the caliber or bore of the blood vessels. This heightens the blood pressure and makes the heart work harder. In a spiritual way also the Bible links heart and kidneys.
9. Acting as what does Jehovah examine our kidneys, and what life prospects does outcome of the examination affect?
9 Jeremiah 17:10 is an instance of this. The verse reads: “I, Jehovah, am searching the heart, examining the kidneys, even to give to each one according to his ways, according to the fruitage of his dealings.” Jehovah makes such an examination, not as a medical doctor would, but in a judicial way. He looks, not at their purely physical state, but at the moral and spiritual state as connected with those body organs. This is the sense conveyed in Psalm 7:9, where we read: “God as righteous is testing out heart and kidneys.” As our physical life depends to a large extent on the condition of our kidneys, so our eternal life in God’s incoming realm of righteousness, peace and perfect bodily health depends upon what God as Judge determines us to be, as disclosed by heart and kidneys. According to our ways of life, what will he give to each one of us? What will he find the fruitage of our dealings to be, for his guidance in giving us what is appropriate, deserved? Will it be destruction or eternal life?
10. To what did Jeremiah liken Jehovah when He became an enemy to Israel, and in what did the kidney wound result?
10 We do not want Jehovah God to become our enemy. (Jas. 4:4; Isa. 63:10) Ancient Israel had that occur to it. Then the prophet Jeremiah wrote as if he represented the whole nation of Israel, at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonian armies in 607 B.C.E. He likened Jehovah to a bowman in the war and said: “He has trodden his bow [for his use], and he sets me up as the target for the arrow. He [by then shooting] has brought into my kidneys the sons of his quiver.” (Lam. 3:12, 13) Barbed arrows, shot at a person in flight and plunging deeply into the kidneys, spelled death for the one trying to escape. Such a deadly wound for the people represented by Jeremiah meant death for the kingdom of Judah as an independent nation with a Davidic king at Jerusalem. How sad!
11. To avoid Jehovah’s arrows in the coming “great tribulation,” we have to take seriously His examination of what part of us?
11 At present we are living in “the last days” of Christendom, which was foreshadowed by unfaithful Jerusalem and the kingdom of Judah of those ancient times. For us now to avoid, as it were, the arrows of Jehovah in the coming “great tribulation,” we must take heed to our “kidneys.” We must consider seriously the examination of these vital organs by Jehovah as the Examiner thereof. What does he find our moral, spiritual condition to be deep down inside us, as it were, at the kidneys? Is it bad, or does it favor our gaining eternal life? This figurative seat of what we really are—we want to keep it functioning healthily. To do so, we need to watch what we eat and drink. Such a thing is true with respect to the literal kidneys. It also applies in a spiritual way.
12, 13. (a) What one thing does the Christian congregation drink, and with what effect upon itself? (b) For what drink did the apostle Peter encourage the Asia Minor Christians to form a longing?
12 At 1 Corinthians 12:13 we read: “For truly by one spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink one spirit.”
13 That “one spirit” is God’s spirit. We are encouraged to pray for it to be given to us in needed measure. (Luke 11:13) When all members of the Christian congregation drink this “one spirit,” it preserves the harmony and unity of the congregational body under the headship of Jesus Christ. It refreshes us like a drink. (Rom. 12:11) To the Christians in Asia Minor, the apostle Peter wrote: “As newborn infants, form a longing for the unadulterated milk belonging to the word, that through it you may grow to salvation.” (1 Pet. 2:2) Of course, later, growing children get weaned away from milk and start eating solid food.—Heb. 5:14.
14. To gain eternal life, to what must we grow and by what means?
14 For eternal salvation we must grow to Christian maturity, adulthood. To that end we must feed upon God’s Word as a whole, not limiting ourselves to the primary or elementary Bible teachings. We must feed upon its advanced teachings, its counsels, admonitions, instructions for full-grown Christians. This will benefit us to the very depth of our Christian being. King David referred to such divine advices when he wrote: “The measuring lines themselves have fallen for me in pleasant places. Really, my own possession [within these measuring lines] has proved agreeable to me. I shall bless Jehovah, who has given me advice. Really, during the nights my kidneys have corrected me.”—Ps. 16:6, 7.
15. How far down into David did Jehovah’s “advice” go, and so what was said to do the correcting of him in the nights?
15 We note that the psalmist David bypasses the heart and mentions what is farther down, the kidneys. Of themselves the literal kidneys did not correct David. The “advice” given by God did this. But this divine “advice” had got away down into David’s being, into the innermost recesses of David’s being as a worshiper of Jehovah. Being taken in so far down within him, the “advice” was there to stay. Being embedded and rooted so deeply inside him, it was there to be part of David. It could not be eradicated, taken away from him by other humans.
16. Why could such correction of David well take place “during the nights,” and in what way?
16 Because it had settled so deeply within, the “advice” was identified with the “kidneys.” Viewed from this standpoint, the kidneys could correct David, reprove him, show him the better way or give him the right answer. During the nights when he had wakeful hours upon his bed, such correction could take place, for he was all alone with his thoughts and God’s spirit could stir up the “advice” that Jehovah had given him during the day. In this way David got a good look at himself, for just what he was.
17. The kidneys represent the seat of what, and so Jehovah sees what when he peers at this?
17 Thus, just as the “heart” represents the seat of motivation and appreciation, the “kidneys” represent the seat of something personal. Of what? Of one’s genuine personality. One’s underlying personality affects one’s motivation. Peering at that seat of personality, God sees what an individual really is in his basic reactions. So the “kidneys” do affect the “heart,” even figuratively speaking. By taking the “advice” of Jehovah to ourselves and sincerely applying it to ourselves as personalities, we benefit our spiritual health. We are purified to be “the real thing.”
18, 19. (a) Why might we appear to men to be one thing but to God another thing? (b) How was Jehovah far away from the kidneys of certain ones who had him near in their mouths?
18 To men we might appear to be one thing, but to God, whose scrutinizing eyes pierce the surface appearance and circumstances and probe into the lowest depths of us, we are really another thing. Material and social well-being does not always mean a good relationship with God, a close intimacy with him. If we are not careful, we could be classed with those Israelites who seemed to have God’s favor and backing, but who inwardly were estranged from him. Of such ones, Jeremiah 12:2 says: “You [God] have planted them; they have also taken root. They keep going ahead; they have also produced fruit. You are near in their mouth, but far away from their kidneys.”
19 So, when things go nicely and pleasantly with such kind, they may take God’s Word in their mouths and do a lot of talking about him. Yet, deep within themselves—in their real subsurface selves—they do not have a close tie with God. He plays no real part in their inward lives. He is “far away from their kidneys.” His “advice” is not implanted away down inside them. So, when they persecute Christians, their “kidneys” do not correct them!
EXAMINATION AND CORRECT DIAGNOSIS
20. Rather than let our hearts become soured toward God’s organization, what should we have our kidneys do?
20 Well, then, let all the religious hypocrites prosper materially and popularitywise as long as God permits. Far be it from us to envy their prosperity and their getting ahead in this world. We attach higher value to spiritual things, the things that really count with God and that signify his favor and approval. Long ago the psalmist named Asaph, a temple musician, did some incorrect reasoning. He misread outward appearances and got into a poor way spiritually. He said: “My heart was soured and in my kidneys I was sharply pained, and I was unreasoning and I could not know; I became as mere beasts from your standpoint.” (Ps. 73:21, 22) Rather than feel sharp pain deep within us, it is far better to let our kidneys correct us. We do not want our hearts to get soured toward God’s visible organization as if they were spoiled. We do not want to become like mere unreasoning beasts from God’s standpoint.
21 Let us remember: We are now under special examination. Ever since the birth of the Christian congregation on the festival day of Pentecost of 33 C.E., when this congregation began to drink the “one spirit” (the outpoured spirit of God), we have been under more than Jehovah’s scrutiny. (1 Pet. 4:17) We are now also under examination by the appointed head of the Christian congregation, Jesus Christ. Among the messages sent to seven designated congregations in Asia Minor, the glorified Jesus Christ made this warning statement: “All the congregations will know that I am he who searches the kidneys and hearts, and I will give to you individually according to your deeds.”—Rev. 2:23.
22. (a) The fact that Jesus’ eyes are “like a fiery flame” indicates what to us? (b) Examination of heart and kidneys by Jehovah and Jesus Christ ensures what to us and so encourages us to what?
22 Let us not forget: the exalted Jesus Christ now searches through us beyond the heart and down to the kidneys. In Revelation 2:18 he speaks of his eyes as being “like a fiery flame,” to indicate that his visual powers are very bright, sharp and penetrating to great depths. In this respect he is like Jehovah God, who is “searching the heart, examining the kidneys.” (Jer. 17:10) From this fact we know that a righteous judgment will be rendered for all those who reveal their case to Jehovah God: “Jehovah of armies is judging with righteousness; he is examining the kidneys and the heart.” (Jer. 11:20) So, if we honestly search our heart motives and examine what we really are as Christian personalities, we can take courage to reveal our “case at law” to Jehovah and to wait on him to act as the Righteous One to vindicate us.
23. Whom do we want to do the vindication of us as innocent ones, and when?
23 Of course, we do not desire to put the vindication of ourselves forward as the thing of greatest importance to us. Rather than our justifying ourselves, we want the righteous Judge Jehovah to do the vindicating of us, as Job did. (Job 19:25-27) But if, after thorough self-scrutiny, we are convinced of our innocence on the basis of God’s Word, then, without fear of being found fault with, we can reveal our “case at law” to him and wait for his “day of vengeance” to come. Making a “clean breast” of everything, we can say to the Supreme Judge: “You, O Jehovah of armies, are examining the righteous one; you are seeing the kidneys and the heart. May I see your vengeance upon them [our persecutors], for to you I have revealed my case at law.” (Jer. 20:11, 12) In that “day of vengeance” Jehovah’s arrows will pierce, not our kidneys, but those of our persecutors, producing a deep, fatal wound.—Jer. 46:10; Lam. 3:13.
24. What is the attitude of integrity-keepers respecting examination by Jehovah, as illustrated by David?
24 Christians who are keeping their integrity toward Jehovah welcome examination by him. They plead for it, just as the psalmist David did. Said David: “Judge me [or, Do me justice], O Jehovah, for I myself have walked in my own integrity, and in Jehovah I have trusted, that I may not wobble. Examine me, O Jehovah, and put me to the test; refine my kidneys and my heart. For your loving-kindness is in front of my eyes, and I have walked in your truth.”—Ps. 26:1-3, NW; Rotherham.
25. What was David asking for by requesting Jehovah to refine his kidneys, and with what confidence?
25 In David’s case, walking in personal integrity and walking in God’s truth went together hand in hand. In our own case today, God’s truth is also needed for us to walk on in integrity toward Him. Along with being examined and tested, David wanted his kidneys to be refined. He wanted God to make a proof of him as a person with a fiery procedure such as a metal refiner would make when refining gold and silver. David was sure that, despite such a searching of him through and through, Jehovah would find no “dross” in him, no uncleanness, no spiritually diseased condition. He would not be found suffering, as it were, from kidney stones.
26. Similarly, what can we integrity-keepers of today ask of Jehovah, and with what confidence?
26 Similarly, we honest integrity-keepers of today can ask God to probe us through and through, even as with the fiery process used by a metal refiner. Why so? Because we are confident that, under such a thoroughgoing probing, no sinful “dross” would come to the surface to prove that deep within us we are adulterated, contaminated, worldly, lacking in Christian integrity.
27. What findings on his examination of us will cause Jehovah to experience deep pleasure?
27 What, then, does Jehovah’s probing of our “kidneys” reveal to him today? A spiritually healthy state, we hope, as regards what we truly are as personalities. In such a case we shall prove that we have been acting wisely and we cannot but win God’s approval. On our account Jehovah will experience pleasure deep within himself. Speaking of himself as a father who has kidneys, Jehovah says to us: “My son, if your heart has become wise, my heart will rejoice, even mine. And my kidneys will exult when your lips speak uprightness.”—Prov. 23:15, 16.
28. So, to what extent will we watch the genuineness of ourselves as Jehovah’s worshipers and witnesses, with what hopes of passing the examination?
28 Ah, then, with a view to making our heavenly Father exult, we will put our hearts and our kidneys into our sacred service to Him. In being his worshipers and witnesses we will be genuine down to the very depths of ourselves. Then we shall have no secret sins to hide from him. (Ps. 19:13, 14) We shall not dread his final examination of us, no matter how deeply it probes. On such a faultless basis, we shall pass Jehovah’s examination of our kidneys with everlasting credits to ourselves. Exultingly he will issue to us a “clean bill of health.”
[Picture on page 664]
The kidneys represent our genuine personality, the kind of person we really are