Monday, April 1, 2013

The Lord My Healer

During my prep time for my upcoming Ladies' Morning Out lesson this week, I've been doing some thinking about the name Jehovah Rophe.  This name for God comes from Exodus 15, when God commands Moses to put a log into some water that was bitter in order to make it drinkable for the Israelites.  All this took place in order to teach the Israelites that if they listen to and obey God, he would keep them free of the diseases that plagued the Egyptians, "for I am the LORD, your healer" (Jehovah Rohpe).

And then, in Numbers 21, the people are grumbling against God and against Moses about the harsh conditions of the wilderness, so God sends some snakes to bite them.  As a result, several people died.  The people ask Moses to pray to God and ask him to take away the snakes.  So Moses does, but God tells him to make an image of the snake that bit the people and put it on a pole.  All those people who have been bitten, God says, can look at the snake and be healed.

This raises some interesting questions.  Why did God choose to heal the people of their snake bites in this way?  Why didn't God just "snap his fingers" and have everyone be healed?  Was there something particularly cleansing or soothing about the bronze serpent on the pole that it had some medicinal effect?

No, God wanted to show them that he alone was their healer.  They needed him.  They were totally dependent on him and owed their very lives to him.  Without him, they would die.  Looking at the bronze serpent was a reminder that God sustained them, and it was his power that healed them.  It caused them to focus on him as their healer and sustainer.

Fast forward to our day in age.  We don't look at bronze serpents to be healed.  Instead, we go to doctors.  But God is still the same as he was back in the time of the Israelites in the wilderness, and he still has the same power to heal.  God could heal us of our ailments with a thought.  Then why doesn't he?  Why do we go to doctors?

There are some more-extreme brands of Christianity that believe that patronizing doctors and using medicine is a sign of disbelief in God's power to heal.  And there are some in the less-extreme brands of Christianity (such as the evangelical tradition) that believe something similar.  If God can heal, then why don't we trust him to do so?  Is it a sign if unbelief if we go to a doctor?

No, I don't think so.  I think doctors and medicine are the "bronze serpents" of our day and age.  Just as looking at a bronze serpent was the vehicle by which God healed the Israelites in the wilderness, so are doctors and medicine the vehicle by which God heals in our time.  But we need to remember that it is God who heals, and not doctors.  Just as the Israelites were to look at the bronze serpent and realize that it was God who sustained them and healed them, so are we to visit the doctor and remember that it is God who sustains us and heals us.

I once heard John Piper say that the reason that God gave us money was so that we could show the world that money is not our god.  That's a fascinating statement, when you think about it, and I think it also applies to the way we think about healing and medicine.  God has given us doctors to show us that he is the healer, and so we can show the world that we trust in God to heal, and not in doctors.  He is the one who makes healing through doctors and medicine possible.

If we were to visit the doctor and not give a second thought to God's healing power through doctors, we would be unwise.  It is only God's power that allows doctors to be able to do what they do, and it is only God's wisdom that enables medicine to be able to perform its healing function.  If he were not sovereign over doctors and medicine, they would be powerless to help us.  Doctors have no power to heal, and medicine no power to save without the power and will of God behind them.

So then, I believe Christians can and should go to doctors and use medicine, because it is the power of God at work in their lives.  It is The Lord My Healer manifesting his power and might in this world.  That being said, to visit doctors or take medicine without a recognition of God's power and sovereignty over said doctors and medicine is unwise to the point of sin.

When we're sick, let's go to the doctor; when we feel crummy, let's take some medicine.  Let's just not forget that it is Jehovah Rophe, The Lord My Healer, behind it all.

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