Healing Comes From God - Jehovah-rapha
Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?” Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and theLord showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became fit to drink. There the Lord issued a ruling and instruction for them and put them to the test. He said, “If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.” Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water
When I was in the U.S. Air Force, I was stationed in northern Italy for two years. One summer afternoon after I arrived, I went for a run, not thinking about how hot it was in the sunny Mediterranean climate. I was used to going for afternoon runs from the days I ran track and cross country after classes when I was in high school. It hadn’t occurred to me that the situation was significantly different from the environment I was used to: Italian summer afternoons are much hotter than the Pennsylvania summers to which I was accustomed. After I got out a ways, I realized that I needed a drink of water, but I hadn’t brought any with me and none was available. None, except from the nearby irrigation ditch. Water from an irrigation ditch was not my first choice to get a drink, but since this was the only water available, I scooped up some of it in my hands. At about the moment the water went into my mouth, I spat it back out. The water was absolutely foul, smelling like sewage and tasting like chemicals! Despite not getting a drink, I was able to finish the run okay, but slowly through the day I began to feel sick. Apparently even though I spat the water out, traces of the contamination went into my system, and later that evening I had to expel the rest of it. So, I learned two important things that day: one, never go out running in Italy during a summer afternoon without water, and two, never drink from an irrigation ditch!
I can identify with the plight of the Israelites in Exodus 15 needing water in the desert and finding that the only source was undrinkable. Only their situation was undoubtedly much worse than mine: they had been going three days without water. From the previous chapters, we see the unfolding of the story when God delivered the Israelites from bondage and led them out of Egypt. Their “exodus” had led them into the Sinai Desert and our story in Exodus 15 shows them in a rather desperate situation of being without water. After three days, they find an oasis, but the water was undrinkable. God provided for the people in a miraculous way and it is revealed that the source of the people’s healing was God. And, God says of God’s own self: “I am “Jehovah-rapha,” God your Healer.
Names Of God
Two Hubs earlier, we began a series of looking at some of the compound names of God that are revealed in the stories of God’s people as they encountered God. This Hub continues this series about the compound names of God. In a lot of these stories, specific names of God are revealed, and the purpose of this name is to teach some characteristic of God. The name we saw in the last Hub was in the story of Abraham and Isaac on Mt. Moriah when Abraham built an altar, worshiped God and named the altar:“Jehovah-jireh,” meaning, “The LORD Provides.” Before that, we looked at the creation story in Genesis 2 in which God is revealed as Jehovah-elohim – the LORD God of all creation.
In both cases, something about God is revealed within the telling of the story, and as aresult of that telling, a name of God is revealed to emphasize some aspect of God that we can learn. In Genesis 2 a narrator is speaking who tells of Jehovah-elohim. In Genesis 22, it is Abraham speaking, giving the altar a name that commemorates God. Two different methods are used to tell the listener/reader something about God. In this story in Exodus 15, the name of God is revealed in yet a different way.
God Our Healer
In this Scripture reading, it is God who is the one speaking about God’s own self. And the name that is revealed is a name that God uses for Godself.
-v. 26 “I am the LORD who heals you.” In Hebrew, this is: Jehovah-rapha.
As we’ve seen before, Jehovah is the proper name for God. And here, the Hebrew word “rapha” means to heal or to make healthy or healthful; some have suggested that the word can also imply that God is our doctor or our therapist.
Translating this name from Hebrew into English gives us several options. It could be: -The LORD who heals.
-The LORD who heals you.
-The LORD is the one who heals you.
-The LORD your Healer.
To better understand the implication of this compound name for God, we have to remember also the recent events in Israel’s history. The earlier chapters of Exodus describe how the Israelites escaped from slavery in Egypt. They didn’t defeat the Egyptians due to a slave revolt or by superior force of arms, they escaped their bondage because of the intervention of God on their behalf. To rescue God’s people, God sent a series of diseases or plagues on the Egyptians. Israel was spared the effects of these plagues, but Egypt suffered terribly. This name of God, identifying God as the healer, is saying that God is the One who brings healing, not disease to the people who trust in Him.
The whole Exodus experience can then be viewed as a metaphor of the restoration to a healthy existence. The situation of Israel’s bondage was one of disorder and pathology, not a proper state of human existence. The Exodus reveals God as “healer,” and the One who liberates, redeems, ransoms, and restores God’s people to the true intention of creation.
There are several beautiful sets of contrasts in this story:
-Israel’s need contrasted with Jehovah’s provision
-The diseases of Egypt are contrasted with God’s care and
provision of Israel.
-The story begins with a total lack of water and ends with an abundance of water (both at the sweetened waters at Marah, and then later at the oasis at Elim).
-The bitter water at Marah is contrasted with the sweet water that Jehovah provides.
-Israel’s disordered life is contrasted with Jehovah’s ordered standard.
-The Israelite’s grumbling and lack of faith is contrasted by Jehovah’s provident care and challenge to trust in Him.
The story and the revealed name for God help us understand where true healing comes from and gives us clues as to what true healing is.
The first thing we need to think about is how we are healed. Healing can be broken down into three separate categories: physical, emotional/psychological and spiritual. Let’s look at each one.
Physical – This is an obvious area in our lives where we know we need healing.
-we have an injury we need to recover from
-we have an illness we need to be cured of
-we have a bodily issue of some kind that needs some attention
When we have the need of physical healing, we know what to do.
-we take medicine
-we see a doctor
-we undergo therapy and treatment
-we change our life situation so that we can get better
Emotional (psychological) – This is a less obvious area in our lives that at times needs healing; in a case such as this,
-we need someone to talk to about our problem (a trusted friend, a pastor, or even a counselor)
-we are dealing with an issue that will heal by getting away from the stress or trauma
-we will heal, but it will just take time
Spiritual – A spiritual problem is another area that’s often overlooked as we go about our lives and forget about God.
-we have a sin issue that needs to be confessed and repented of
-we need to give up a bad habit
-we have stagnated in our faith walk and we need to grow
All three of these are areas in which we need God’s healing: physical, emotional and
spiritual. The reality of Jehovah-rapha, God as our healer, is that we shouldn’t restrict our thinking that healing takes place in only physical ways.
If you seriously consider what is going on in the story as well as God’s response, you have to wonder why God identifies Godself as our Healer. At first the name seems out of sync with what was going on in the story. The people were in need of water. The people were grumbling to God, as if to question whether God can actually provide for them. There’s no mention of a need for healing. Then after God provides for them, God reminds them of who He is: ‘Do you remember what I did to the Egyptians, and all the plagues and diseases I brought down on them? I could do all of that to you too, you know! But I won’t; you are my people, I love you, and I will provide for you.’
Then God tells the Israelites that since they are God’s people, then they needed to act like it:
-Listen to me.
-Live by my standards.
-Pay attention to my commands.
-Keep my decrees.
If you do these things, then I will not bring you sickness, I will bring you healing. I will nurture you and take care of you.
Prayer, Stress, And Our Inner Wounds by Flora Slossen Wuelner
- Amazon.com: Flora Slosson Wuellner: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle
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The Source Of Healing
So, where does our healing come from? How does it happen? Many would argue that healing comes from natural processes; others would emphasize the role of modern medicine. But as people of faith, we acknowledge that healing comes from God. It’s true that God works through natural processes and through medical science, but it is God who is the One who brings about the healing. Before we finish with this topic, however, we need to talk about some of the factors that are involved in God’s way of healing.
1) Don’t rule out sin. Our spiritual problems, and often our emotional problems, and sometimes even our physical problems are caused by an unconfessed sin. To receive God’s healing, we need to repent of the sin, seek reconciliation, and return to God’s way for us to live.
2) Don’t rule out past hurts. Sometimes our need for emotional healing comes from something that happened in our past. We experienced some kind of abuse or trauma, and it still plagues us. We need help in getting over the emotional hurts.
*A helpful book that addresses this is: Prayer, Stress & Our Inner Wounds by Flora Slosson Wuellner.
3) Don’t rule out prayer. We so often make the mistake of rendering prayer as the activity of last resort, when it should be the first and primary activity. It’s certainly okay to consult a physician, but consult the Great Physician first!
4) Don’t rule out the faith community. We often like to suffer in silence, not letting others know what we are going through. We forget that our friends can be an important source of God’s healing process.
There is also an important responsibility of being a member of the faith community: We have the awesome responsibility of being partners with God in being a healing presence for others. So, remember to be faithful in prayer for others. Remember to look for ways to help each other with the struggles we all go through.
Perhaps you’ve heard it before, or read something like it, but it is poignant here:
When I was diagnosed with a deadly disease…
My first friend came and expressed shock by saying, “I can’t believe you’re sick. I always thought you were so active and healthy.” He left and I felt alienated and somehow very different.
My second friend came and brought me information about different treatments and gave me her opinion about what to do. She left and I felt scared and confused.
My third friend came and tried to answer my “whys?” and told me God may be disciplining me for some sin in my life. He left and I felt guilty.
My fourth friend came and told me that that if my faith was greater God would heal me. She left and I felt like my faith must be inadequate.
My fifth friend came and told me to remember that ‘all things work together for good.’ He left and I felt angry.
My sixth friend never came at all. I felt sad and alone.
My seventh friend came and held my hand and said, “I care. I’m here. I want to help you through this.” She left, I felt loved, and I knew everything was going to be okay.
Don’t rule out a miracle, but also, don’t rule out the fact that healing may come in a different form than we expect. Miraculous healing can and does happen, but sometimes healing happens without a cure. I’ve heard it said more than once from people who were struggling with a life-threatening illness that, even though they still were dealing with their condition, they were healed. Here’s a story to illustrate this:
Evangelist,Tony Campolo tells a story about being in a church where he was asked to pray for a man who had cancer. He prayed boldly for the man’s healing and that next week he got a telephone call from the man’s wife. The woman said, “You prayed for my husband who had cancer.” Campolo thought when he heard her use the past tense that his cancer had been eradicated! But then she said, “He died.” Campolo felt terrible. But she continued, “Don’t feel bad. When you saw him he was filled with anger. He knew he was going to be dead in a short period of time, and he hated God. He was 58 years old, and he wanted to see his children and grandchildren grow up. He was angry that this all-powerful God didn’t take away his sickness and heal him. He would lie in bed and curse God. The more his anger grew towards God, the more miserable he was to everybody around him. It was an awful thing to be in his presence.” Then the man’s wife told Campolo, “After you prayed for him, a peace came over him and a joy came into him. Tony, the last three days have been the best days of our lives. We sang. We laughed. We read Scripture. We prayed. Oh, they’ve been wonderful days. And I called to thank you for laying your hands on him and praying for healing.” And then she said something incredibly profound. “Tony, he wasn’t cured, but he was healed.”(Tony Campolo, “Year of Jubilee,” Preaching Today Tape #212).
The same Jehovah-rapha of Moses and the Israelites is still the God who provides healing for us today. God’s healing is available to all of us who claim faith in being God’s people.