Notes below based on sermon preached at One Church Home on August 28, 2022
This week we are adding to our understanding of how GREAT our God is by looking at another of His compound covenant names: Jehovah Rapha, the LORD who heals.
We must understand that God’s names are not just what we call Him; they are how we know Him. Each name reveals something about God’s character, who He is, how He loves us, and how we relate to Him.
He is Jehovah—our God in covenant relationship with us, the only One worthy of our obedience and submission to his Lordship over every aspect of our lives.
Because He is our covenant-keeping Jehovah, He is also the LORD, our provider—Jehovah Jireh and the LORD, our healer—Jehovah Rapha. He is all those things (and more) all the time, even when we don’t see or recognize it.
We are like the blind man that Jesus healed at Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-26), who said after Jesus had spit on his eyes and laid hands on him:
24 … “I see men like trees, walking.“
We see God. We believe in Him. We may see Him moving and working. But we don’t always see Him clearly; we miss the fullness of all He is and all we are in Him. We have been saved, but we are being sanctified, made whole. We are being healed.
25 Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.
Sometimes, the greatest obstacle to our spiritual growth, to living the abundant life that is ours in Christ, is our misperception of who God is and our false expectations about how He demonstrates His love for us.
We think that being Jehovah Jireh means He will give us everything we think we need or perhaps everything we ask Him for. And when He doesn’t—because He loves us too much to provide us with anything other than what He knows is best for us, we decide that we can’t trust Him as our provider, and maybe He isn’t worthy of being our LORD.
But our misunderstanding of what it means for God to be “the LORD our provider” and the myriad of ways He provides so much more than our often self-centered wants and desires doesn’t change anything about who He is. He is still Jehovah Jireh; we just miss the blessing of knowing Him in that way.
The same is true for Jehovah Rapha. If we don’t understand what it means for God to be “the LORD our healer,” we can miss the miraculous ways He works in our lives to heal and restore us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
In Hebrew, Rapha means not only “to heal” but also “to cure, mend, repair thoroughly, restore, or make whole.” The word appears 67 times in the Hebrew Old Testament. And while physical healing is often included, as our covenant-keeping Jehovah Rapha, God’s greater purpose is to restore our relationship with Him and to help each of us grow into wholeness as the image-bearing son or daughter He created us to be. As we look at scriptures about Jehovah Rapha, let’s dig deep to see not just what or who He is healing or restoring but also why.
God’s first revelation of Himself as Jehovah Rapha in Exodus chapter 15 came after He restored the sweetness and purity of water that had become bitter, making it drinkable for the thirsty Israelites (Exodus 15:22-26).
The water was not all that had become bitter. Exodus 1:14 tells us that the Egyptians had made the lives of the Israelites “bitter with harsh labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their harsh labor, the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly.”
Bitterness is unresolved, unforgiven anger, hurt, or resentment because of bad experiences or a sense of unjust treatment. The Biblical Counseling Coalition describes bitterness as “the result of anger changing from an experience to a belief.” Our beliefs define us—who we are and how we behave.
We see the bitterness the Israelites experienced in Egypt has taken root in the Israelites’ persistent murmuring and complaining.
- In Exodus 5, they complained against Moses and Aaron because Pharaoh made their work even harder after Moses asked him to let God’s people go.
- In Exodus 14, they murmured and complained as the Egyptians chased them to the edge of the Red Sea.
11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”
- And in Exodus 15, just three days after witnessing the LORD’s miraculous parting of the Red Sea and their deliverance from the Egyptians, they again grumbled as they stood at the bitter water of Marah.
Instead of trusting that God would provide, that He would heal them physically, emotionally, and spiritually and restore all they had suffered in Egypt, they had come to expect (to believe) that their lives would be bitter.
James Williams writes in his book, Consequences of a Bitter Heart, that
“Bitterness is the best way I know to punish yourself for someone else’s sin.” Among the many consequences of bitterness, he says that bitterness fails to see God’s real purposes in a situation, causes us to miss out on God’s grace (for ourselves and others), contaminates and defiles those around us (Hebrews 12:15 says, “many” others), gives place to the devil in our hearts and lives, and can make us physically as well as spiritually ill.
But the Good News is that we are in a covenant relationship with the GREAT I AM who is who He is even when we don’t see or understand! He is still our Jehovah Rapha.
Even as they grumbled, Jehovah was both merciful and gracious. He showed Moses a log (some translations call it a “tree”) which Moses threw into the water, turning it from bitter to sweet.
As Jehovah Jireh, He could have led them to fresh water—as He later did at Elim (Exodus 15:27), an oasis with 12 springs and 70 palm trees. But there was no fresh revelation of God’s character at Elim. The revelation came as He led them first to bitter water to not only show Himself faithful as their provider but also to reveal Himself as Jehovah Rapha by first restoring the water to make it their provision. And all of it He did because He is the LORD, Jehovah, a God of covenant with His people, always caring for and protecting them, revealing Himself in new ways to help them grow in their knowledge of Him, their trust in Him, their obedience to Him. Our GREAT God is all that He is all the time.
And because He is and He always acts with intention, as He did when He provided the ram for sacrifice in place of Abraham’s son Isaac, and later, the manna for the Israelites in the wilderness, God’s revelation of Himself, His provision and healing, came with a test. God declared himself the LORD their healer if they would only listen to Him and obey.
25 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord 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. 26 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.“
We tend to think of testing as negative. But it serves such an important purpose. Two of the ways the Cambridge Dictionary defines a test are:
- A way of discovering, by questions or practical activities, what someone knows, or what someone or something can do or is like.
- A situation that shows how good something is.
In life, testing reveals something about the person being tested—what does he or she know? What can they do, or what are they like? How good are they at something?
In the Bible, testing isn’t about what we can do or what we are like. It’s what we believe about what God can do and what He is like. Do we really believe that He is great? Do we really believe that He is good? And do we trust that He will demonstrate His power and goodness toward us? What’s being tested is our faith.
The Hebrew word for test in Exodus 15 is nasah. In the Bible, the purpose of nasah or testing is to discover and then walk in Truth—God’s Truth.
The Truth for Abraham when He was called to sacrifice Isaac was that the LORD is our provider. What He was calling Abraham to do, He would provide for Him to do, just as He did for us in sending Jesus.
The Truth for the Israelites at Marah is that He is not only the LORD our provider, but He is also the LORD our healer. He can turn bitter things sweet, and he can restore all that has been lost. If we let Him, He will take the painful and challenging things that have happened to us and use those very things for our good and His glory.
It was not primarily right actions God was looking for in the Israelites; it was right hearts. As God guided them into the desert with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, His sole purpose was relationship, to be their God, for them to be His people. But it meant they would need to let go of the past, leave Egypt behind, and learn to trust His love and provision.
Forgiveness is the key to letting go of past hurt, sadness, and disappointment. Paul tells us:
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Ephesians 4: 31-32
31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
A good counselor will tell you that until we forgive, we cannot be free. Until the Israelites forgave the Egyptians, they would always be bound. Physically they had been freed from slavery. Emotionally, they were still enslaved, bound to an ungodly belief system about themselves and, more importantly, about God.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that what happened was ok. It means we are giving the right to judge that person over to God. We are also choosing to no longer allow the bad things that happened to us to define our beliefs—about who we are and, more importantly, who God is.
We don’t need to forgive God—He hasn’t done anything wrong that needs forgiveness. But often, we need to repent for how we have thought about what happened and how we have thought about Him. We may be angry or resentful at God for not intervening in the way we wanted Him to or expected Him to. It’s we who need His forgiveness for sitting in judgment about Him rather than trusting His love for us. We repent for our lack of faith and trust, renounce any false beliefs (or unbelief) about God, affirm the Truth about His goodness and love, and receive His healing in our hearts and lives. When we do, we come to know Him as the LORD, our healer; our Jehovah Rapha. And that experience changes everything.
More than a thousand years after Jehovah Rapha used a tree to heal the bitter waters of Marah sweet, God would use another tree in the shape of a cross to offer healing to us all.
I Peter 2:24
“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”
It is the best and most important kind of healing you can experience. Receive His healing today. Be willing to give Him all that has wounded your heart, allowing Him to wash away any bitterness, and walk with Him toward wholeness, trusting in His goodness and love.
For further study, read:
Courage to be Healed: Finding Hope to Restore Your Soul by Dr. Mark Rutland.
You can also learn more about Freedom Prayer at FreedomPrayer.org.
Note: all scripture references are from the New International Version. (2011) BibleGateway.com
Questions for reflection or discussion:
Do you know God as your Jehovah Rapha? What are some ways He has healed you physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually?
How have those experiences changed you and your relationship with Him?
Have there been times when you’ve prayed for healing and it didn’t come, or it didn’t happen in the way or on the timeline you wanted or expected? Have you kept believing and trusting in His power, goodness, and love even when healing is delayed or looks different than you expected?
Do you have any bitterness in your heart about things that have happened in your past? Are you willing to give those to Jesus, allow Him to restore the sweetness of your spirit, and move you toward wholeness?
What Truths about God have you learned through testing that you might not have learned any other way?
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