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Healing Throughout the Bible

Jesus the Healer

by Dennis Pollock

There is a thread of healing that runs throughout the entire Bible. From God healing the pagan king Abimelech in response to Abraham's prayer in Genesis to the healing leaves of the tree of life described in the book of Revelation we find that God is a healing God. One significant test of any doctrine is its plain and prominent place in the Scriptures. If you are attempting to establish a doctrine on one or two obscure verses, which could be interpreted several different ways, you are on pretty shaky ground. But if you can show Scripture after Scripture and verse after verse which plainly confirm your assertion, you have a pretty strong case.

In the area of healing the Bible gives abundant testimony both to God's willingness and ability to heal. As the Lord took Israel out of Egypt and established them as His covenant people, He had quite a bit to say about healing and health. As they made their way through the wilderness that separated Egypt from Canaan they came to a place called Marah. The water there was bitter and not fit for drinking. We read, "So he (Moses) cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree; and when he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet." The water had been blessed by Moses' act of obedience, and had been transformed from bitter to sweet. God took advantage of this situation and made it an object lesson to teach His people about His healing grace. He told them, "If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you."

The Lord Who Heals Us

God not only promised to heal; He declared Himself as the Lord who heals. He stated that healing is a part of who He is. There was a condition however. He began by saying, "If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes…" That if turned out to be a mighty big if.

Later, in Exodus 23, after giving Israel various laws about how they were to live and behave in this new land into which He was bringing them, God again speaks of His healing grace which would be available for His people:

So you shall serve the Lord your God, and He will bless your bread and your water. And I will take sickness away from the midst of you. No one shall suffer miscarriage or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days. (Exodus 23:25,26)

These promises are so plain and so explicit they can mean nothing else but exactly what they say. God was promising Israel divine health, as they faithfully followed His laws and served Him as their God. Some perhaps might be tempted to write this off as "religious language" which sounds pretty and inspirational, but wasn't intended to be taken literally. But God knows nothing of such language. He always means what He says and says what He means. He does not lie, nor does He exaggerate. If God tells Israel that He will take sickness out of their midst, He must surely mean that He will take sickness out of their midst. No barrenness, no miscarriages, people living into old age – these are the things He promised and this is precisely what Israel could have had, had they served the Lord their God and diligently heeded His voice.

Your Days Fulfilled

JesusIt is interesting that God promises that they will fulfill the number of their days. He is clearly saying that not all people fulfill their days. We have often had an erroneous notion of the sovereignty of God. We sometimes think that we all have a fixed number of days given to us by God or by fate, and when your number is up, you've had it. And there is nothing you can do about it. But this is not what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches that our days can be shortened or they can be extended. In Deuteronomy God tells Israel: "You shall have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure, that your days may be lengthened in the land which the LORD your God is giving you" (Deuteronomy 25:15). One of the ten commandments is both a commandment and a promise: "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you." The idea is that if you honor your parents your days are long; if you don't honor them they may be shortened. Proverbs tells us this about wisdom: "Length of days is in her right hand, in her left hand riches and honor."

According to the Bible there are things we can do which will extend our lives, and other patterns of living which will decrease them. Simple logic should tell us this as well. When someone abuses their body, fills it with junk food, never exercises, and is overweight by fifty pounds or more, it is probably best not to attribute their premature death to the sovereign will of God. Notice God said that He would bless the bread and water of His people. He did not say He would bless their Twinkies and their Pepsis and their doughnuts and their cinnamon rolls. As branches of Jesus Christ, the True Vine, we are the only means He has of producing fruit in this world and bringing a blessing to all people. Even though it is true that when we depart from this life, we are immediately present with the Lord, which is far better than anything we experience in this world, still we owe it to the world to stay around as long as we can. We are too valuable. Our world will never hear the gospel from the Hollywood stars or the pundits or most of the popular singers. They desperately need the housewives and plumbers and school teachers and mechanics and all the rest of the ordinary folks who have found redemption in Christ Jesus. We must live as long as we can and stay as healthy as possible for the gospel's sake. Eating healthy, exercise, and trusting Jesus as our Healer make a powerful combination toward that end.

The Psalms list healing as one of the benefits of God: In Psalm 103 David triumphantly declares, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases." David rejoiced that in God he had found One who forgave all his sins and healed all his diseases. It sounds like David had been reading some of those promises given to Israel in the Torah, such as the one from Deuteronomy 7, which says, "You shall be blessed above all peoples; there shall not be a male or female barren among you or among your livestock. And the Lord will take away from you all sickness, and will afflict you with none of the terrible diseases of Egypt which you have known…"

New Covenant Healing

Space does not permit us to list all the many Old Testament promises of health and healing, but clearly God made healing a vital aspect of the benefits He promised to His covenant people. It's almost enough to make you want to be an Israelite. Of course many would say, "Yes, but we are not under the Old Covenant today. In those days God blessed His people in physical and material ways, but under the New Covenant through Christ, God blesses us spiritually." Certainly the spiritual blessings are far superior to the physical blessings, but this does not mean that God has somehow stopped being the Healer of His people. When Jesus appeared, healing played a huge role in His ministry. Matthew tells us: "Now Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people" (Matthew 4:23). Peter sums up Jesus' earthly ministry with these words: "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him" (Acts 10:38). I find it fascinating that Jesus never once turned someone away who came to Him for healing. Of the thousands upon thousands of people that came to Him for the healing of their bodies, not one time do we find our Lord telling them, "I do not wish to heal you," or "it is not God's will for you to be healed." Jesus healed fat people and skinny people, rich people and poor people, young people and old people, spiritual people and carnal people."

Some might argue, "Sure Jesus healed people then, but after He went back to heaven He stopped all that, and now He just wants us to get saved and live morally, and forget all about this healing business." That might sound like a good argument if you never read the New Testament, but for those who know the Scriptures it has no weight. Jesus charged His disciples: "And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover." Jesus made the healing of the sick a trademark of His followers. Healings are supposed to be associated with believers! And if you don't believe that, read the book of Acts which chronicles the first generation church. Healing is all over the place! It not only brought the blessing of health, but God used it to draw many to Christ. After Peter ministered healing to a lame man named Aeneas, we read, "So all who dwelt at Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord."

No Expiration Date

And in case you are of the mind that healing was somehow cancelled with the completion of the Scriptures or the death of the last apostle, consider these two things: First James instructs us: "Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up." Notice that there is no expiration date on this charge! It would have been silly to have this in the Bible if it only applied to the first-generation Christians. If that were the case it should have been written in disappearing ink which would automatically erase itself after about 70 years. But the verse is still in our Bibles. Anointing sick people with oil, prayers of faith, and the Lord raising them up are things that are never supposed to disappear from the church of Jesus, who is the Lord our Healer.

Secondly, records abound of miracles and supernatural operations of the Holy Spirit far beyond that first-generation church. Justin Martyr (a.d. 100-165) wrote to the Jewish Trypho "that the prophetic gifts remain with us." Augustine, who lived around 400 years after Christ's birth, carefully documented no fewer than 70 instances of divine healing in his own diocese during a two-year span. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He has not lost His wonderful compassion upon ascending to heaven. Nor has He lost His ability to heal.

The evidence is clear – our God is a healing God. And the Savior He has sent to die for our sins is also concerned about our bodies. No, we won't live forever in these present bodies. We will age and our bodies will finally give out, and we will go and be with the Lord. But until that time, let us look to our wonderful Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, for healing and health. Let us say with David, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases." And unlike the Old Testament promises of healing, today we are healed not on the basis of keeping all God's commandments perfectly, but on the basis of faith in the Righteous One, the Lord Jesus Christ. Long ago Isaiah prophesied, "He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses."


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