The first week of each month, we examine one of God’s Names to learn more about Who He is and how Jesus reveals and showcases this incredible attribute to us in the flesh (for He is God in the flesh).
In today’s study we examine God’s Name “Jehovah Rapha”: the God Who Heals.
God is a healer and delights in healing—physically, emotionally, and most importantly, spiritually. This amazing attribute finds it ways throughout all of Scripture, climaxing in Jesus Christ … and is still true today.
Discover this important aspect of God’s nature, for we all need our “bitter waters” healed and made sweet.
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One of my favorite stories in the Old Testament is a bit obscure but incredibly profound.
After escaping Egypt and walking on dry ground through the Red Sea, the Israelites find themselves three days in the wilderness (a barren desert) without water.
They are at the point of no return.
Their bodies are craving liquid, and they have come too far to turn around—to do so would mean death. They have nowhere to go … except to God.
Sitting right in front of them is a body of water, but it’s undrinkable. The waters are polluted, contaminated, bitter.
I imagine the first person who saw the glimmer of water on the horizon picked up his pace and rushed to the water’s edge with relief and rejoicing. Sticking his hand down into what he presumes will be his salvation from thirst, only to spit it back out and gasp in horror that what he thought might save the Israelites from dehydration is nothing more than a facade. It’s water all right, but worthless to meet their need.
They called that place Marah (meaning bitter), and the Israelites, whom scholars tell us was likely around two million in number, complain and murmur against Moses. They cry out, “What shall we drink?”
The Israelites, mere days before, saw the miraculous movement of God in the ten plagues against Egypt. They experienced His provision as He opened the Red Sea and made a way of escape, causing the entire Egyptian army to be destroyed in the process. And yet they believed that God would lead them into the desert and destine them to die of dehydration.
How often we too have lost our focus.
We hear such promises such as “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5) or “Cast all your care upon Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7), and we nod in agreement but despair in our next breath. How fickle our faith can be.
In their despair and desperation, Moses cries to the Lord; and the passage says “and the LORD showed him a tree” (Exodus 15:25).
A tree? Seriously? How is a tree going to fix bitter waters?
Yet, in trust and faith, Moses throws the tree into the bitter water and the water wasn’t merely made pure … it was made sweet.
Have you ever had water so clean and pure that it tasted sweet? I have, and it’s better than any flavor-filled liquid you could offer me.
After giving a command to listen and obey His commands, God makes a profound statement, “For I am the LORD who heals you” (Exodus 15:26).
And contained in that statement is another Name of our God: Jehovah Rapha—the God who heals.
While this is the only place the actual Name appears, the Hebrew word rapha shows up 67 times throughout the Old Testament.
Strangely, the first time we see the act of healing in Scripture, the word isn’t used … and stranger still, it is before sin entered the world. After putting Adam into a deep sleep and taking a rib from his body to form Eve, Genesis 2:21 says that God “closed up the place with flesh.” God healed the wound He made in Adam to form the bride.
And as you follow the idea of rapha throughout the Old Testament, you see three distinct areas God healed:
- Physical (see Genesis 20:17; 2 Kings 20:8; Psalm 103:2-5; Jeremiah 30:17)
- Emotional (see Psalm 147:3)
- Spiritual (see Psalm 41:4; Jeremiah 3:22)
The God Who Loves to Heal
But it was all leading up to the point where that same God, Jehovah Rapha, took on flesh and demonstrated His love for His people.
In Jesus, who is the exact imprint of God’s nature (Hebrews 1:3) and the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15) and in Him dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9), we see a God who loves to heal.
The prophet Isaiah, in talking about the coming Messiah, said:
- But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).
- The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor; He has sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound … (Isaiah 61:1).
And that’s exactly what we see. Jesus preached among the poor, healed the brokenhearted, caused the mute to hear, the blind to see, the lame to leap, the dead to spring to life, and the demons to flee.
Jesus went throughout all Galilee teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all sorts of diseases among the people. His fame went throughout all Syria. And they brought to Him all sick people who were taken with various diseases and tormented with pain, those who were possessed with demons, those who had seizures, and those who had paralysis, and He healed them (Matthew 4:23-24).
So much so, that John records “Now Jesus did many other signs [miracles] in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book … Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 20:30, 21:25, ESV).
And remember, Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
More Than Physical?
While I don’t want to downplay physical healing, I do think it is important to note that while God still heals physically, it appears that He has a bigger agenda—spiritual healing.
Whether He decides to heal someone physically or not, is according to what brings Him the most glory.
I know some incredible godly men and women throughout history who dealt with major physical struggles (such as Amy Carmichael, Hudson Taylor, CT Studd, David Brainerd, and many others)—yet all of them saw their physical ailments as a wonderful opportunity to showcase God’s goodness and glory, and their dependency and faith upon Him.
And it is important to note that even the people Jesus physically healed (even raised from the dead), eventually died.
Again, I don’t desire to downplay physical healing—physical healing can be an incredible testimony of God’s power and goodness—but it appears God’s ultimate plan is not a physical healing but a spiritual one. Jesus guaranteed we would face hardships, Paul encourages us to endure difficulties well … for the sake of the spiritual prize. The reason the early church was willing to face horrific persecution, torture, and painful martyrdom is because they knew who their God was and trusted in His promise of eternal life and a resurrected body.
Even Jesus faced physical and emotional struggles (see Hebrews 4:15; Matthew 26:36-37) which climaxed upon a painful beam of blood-soaked wood … to bring about spiritual healing through the forgiveness of sins and the destruction of the power and authority of sin itself.
Healing Your Bitter Waters
If you are dealing with a physical struggle or infirmity, I encourage you to surrender yourself afresh unto God and ask Him to do with you whichever would give Him most honor and glory—whether that be complete healing and restoration or the grace and joy to endure the difficulty well.
But all of us have bitter waters in our lives spiritually. The waters of our soul have been polluted, contaminated, and made bitter through sin. It is undrinkable and unusable to the world around us.
What is the solution to the bitter waters? A tree. It’s called a cross.
In an amazing foreshadow in the Old Testament to the power of the cross, when you allow God to plant the cross of Christ in the midst of your bitter waters, they don’t just become clean or even pure … they become sweet.
What our world needs most is not a bunch of Christians who live like the world, full of bitter water, under a facade called Christianity. The world needs Christians whose lives have been made pure, clean, and sweet by the power of the cross and able to offer the world something more than talk … something they actually possess and experience.
As Christians, our lives should demonstrate the power of our Great Healer, Jehovah Rapha.
Even in physical infirmity, torture, or difficulty, our lives should reflect that our focus and trust is in our God. Our churches should showcase the truth that if God could tear down the dividing wall of hostility between the Jews and Gentiles in the early church (Ephesians 2:11-22), He can still heal any division in His body, the Church, today. Our personal lives should demonstrate His healing power over the work of the flesh and the subtleties of sin. Rather than hide them from view, we should confess, ask forgiveness, and live in the light as He is in the light (1 John 1:7). In short, we should live as authentic Christians.
Let us freshly embrace Jesus as Jehovah Rapha, our God who heals.
1. Spend some time quietly before the Lord and allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart, mind, actions, motives, and emotions and see if there is any wicked way (bitter waters) within you (see Psalm 139:23-24). If He brings it to mind, confess and repent, and begin to walk in obedience to the Word. Allow Him to turn your bitter waters pure and sweet.
2. If you are struggling with why God wouldn’t heal every physical or emotional issue, or as an extension, answer every prayer we have with a “yes,” I encourage you to listen to my friend Eric Ludy’s message called Two-Sided Ticket (https://ellerslie.com/the-two-sided-ticket/).
3. How can God use your life to showcase His life, love, and healing to the world around you? As an “ambassador for reconciliation” (see 2 Corinthians 5:17-21) how do your life and lips declare that He is Jehovah Rapha?
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Question: How have you seen Jesus as Jehovah Rapha (the God who Heals)?
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NRJohnson (Nathan Johnson) is a Christian who has an overwhelming passion for Jesus, the Gospel, and Studying God’s Word. He is a writer, teacher, and communicator who helps other believers understand and apply the Bible as they grow and mature in their faith—desiring that they gain greater intimacy with Christ, experience the victorious Christian life, and transform the world through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Read more about him here.
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Many Christians feel frustrated because they don’t grow spiritually. The Deeper Christian Podcast helps equip Christians to understand the Word of God and cultivate a passionate love for Jesus that turns the world upside down.
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