Recently I was presenting a survey of the Old Testament and I was once more struck how the Bible is geared to speak to us humans in a holistic way. Humans are, after all, composite beings by design. As God is a tri-unity, so the beings created in his image (Gen. 1:27), are similarly a unity of disparate parts. Genesis 2:7 makes it clear that humans consist of material (body) and immaterial (soul and spirit) parts.
Both of these are necessary for a human being to function properly.
We observe that our soul consists of mind, will, and emotions, each of which must be addressed and kept in balance for our lives to move forward. Our spirit furnishes the link between the seen and the unseen, communing with our Creator, who is spirit. Our bodies require care and discipline to maintain them. Amazingly, the Bible addresses every single one of these aspects, reminding us that God cares about us holistically, not merely as spirits to be saved. I’m going to focus on how the Old Testament does this (as that is what inspired this piece). I encourage you to look through the New Testament to see how this topic is reflected there.
God addresses our immaterial parts through engaging our minds with the tales in the historical books, the homilies of the prophets, and the injunctions in the wisdom books. His people are repeatedly called to think and remember. Thus, the spiritual connection to God established by faith begins with the engagement of the mind. The human will is challenged to apply the principles and commands expressed in the law and the wisdom books, moving faith from the abstract to the practical. But what of the emotions? God dedicates a huge portion of the Old Testament to this topic, as the Psalms and Job are poetry. Poetry is primarily aimed at expressing emotion and the book of Psalms is full of emotions: whether good (Psalm 27) or bad (Psalm 88). God shows us how to handle and process emotions in the Psalms and in Job. Through the prophets God shows us that our emotions are reflections of the emotions that he himself has.
But what about the body? No religion has a higher view of the human body that Judeo-Christianity. The Bible recognizes that it is designed as being very good (Gen. 1:31). Through the teacher in Ecclesiastes, God commands his people, “There is nothing better for man than to eat, drink, and enjoy his work. I have seen that even this is from God’s hand, because who can eat and who can enjoy life apart from Him?” (Ecc. 2:24-25 – HCSB). Many of the injunctions in the law have to do with protecting and preserving the body. God commands his people to rest one day of each week, so they can enjoy the fruits of their labors (Ex. 20:8-11; cp. Gen. 2:2-3). An important part of worship was having a meal with Yahweh (Lev. 7:11-19). But wait, there’s more! God is so pleased with our human bodies that he devotes the whole book of Song of Songs to the glory of the body and the enjoyment of sexual union between husband and wife! Song of Songs clearly limits this union to the confines of monogamous marriage between a man and a woman, which constitutes God’s original design.
As Solomon and Shulamit describe how they view one another’s bodies, they do so unashamedly and yet completely without vulgarity or coarse language. That is how God views the bodies of his highest creation: beautifully and wonderfully made, perfect in design, meant to function in a physical world, and to exalt God.
God addresses every part of the human being in his book. He wants us to worship him as a whole, as embodied souls (or ensouled bodies), not merely as spirits. Even our worshipping him “in spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:23-24) has a physical component to it (see Rom. 12:1-2). As we read the Bible, let us remember this glorious truth and revel in the reality that God loves us in the unity of diverse parts that he designed us as.