Exodus 15: 22-26
Psalm 147: 1-5
Jeremiah 8: 18-22
Malachi 4: 1-3
Matthew 8: 5-9 (to “soldiers”), 10-17
It would be plain enough to see the link between the scriptures I have read. What our brother read in Philippians encouraged me to speak about it. He read that scripture in Philippians which speaks about “the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour, who shall transform our body of humiliation into conformity to his body of glory”, chap 3: 20, 21. What a wonderful transformation that is, and will be; but at the moment we are still in conditions where we are subject to what that “body of humiliation” means and implies. We are in conditions in which we are sometimes tried and tested. We are not exempt from the illnesses that beset men generally. We need healing in many different aspects. It struck me when we were reading in Deuteronomy recently (in chapter 25 which speaks of the restraint on the number of stripes used to punish a person), and it affected me, when thinking of that, that although the law is dealing with one who rightly deserved to receive those stripes, yet they were limited in number. It reminded me of that scripture in Peter’s epistle, “by whose stripes ye have been healed” (1 Pet 2: 24); I suppose he is referring to Isaiah chapter 53, that wonderful chapter in which the sufferings of Christ are so clearly portrayed and spoken of in detail. How affecting they are! As we all know, that scripture says, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed”, v 5. No doubt that refers to His atoning sufferings. How affecting that He “bore” those: as Peter quotes, “by whose stripes ye have been healed”. That is a very affecting matter to speak of. Surely it would affect all our souls to think about that, that such a One endured those sufferings on our behalf, and by that means we can be healed.
Where I read in Exodus, there is an early experience in the wilderness journey, perhaps indicative of the experience of young believers, who are newly on the way. The children of Israel had just begun the journey here, and so soon they came across these waters and could not drink them because they were bitter. The answer to the bitterness of the water was to cast in wood. We have often been reminded of how it speaks of the Lord Jesus and how He was here - came here personally - entering into these circumstances, which prove bitter to us. It is His entering into them that makes them become sweet, so that whatever exercise we face, we understand the Lord Jesus Himself has gone through these things when here, and He entered into them fully. The chapter we read from in Matthew’s gospel illustrates, perhaps more than in any other, the way the Lord Jesus entered into every circumstance in detail and had to do with suffering and brought in healing by His wonderful ministry of grace. I have often been impressed in reading through that chapter, for it is food for our souls, and not only food, but it has healing capacity too. And it says here, Moses “cried to Jehovah; and Jehovah shewed him wood, and he cast it into the waters, and the waters became sweet. There he made for them a statute and an ordinance”: the note says a ‘judgment’. That is not the way we normally think of judgments; we often think of them in relation to what is punitive. It means it is established before God. That is the way He operates in mercy and in grace towards us, and it is a matter that can be relied upon. There is a statement made at the end of the paragraph, which I think is very attractive. God commits Himself to it: “I will put none of the complaints upon thee that I have put upon the Egyptians; for I am Jehovah who healeth thee”. That is a very wonderful statement that God makes. He commits Himself to His people and shows His feelings of compassion for them and shows them the way that healing is to be known; He identifies Himself as their God who will heal them.
I also read in the Psalms. There are many scriptures we could have read: the Scriptures are full of instances of healing. It was often in answer to the cry of faith in one and another that God came in and showed His power in healing. How often that happened! No doubt everyone here can think of instances where that was the case. Psalm 147, which is well on in the book, of course, is a point arrived at when there is assurance and certainty. The psalmist, whoever wrote Psalm 147, says:
Jehovah doth build up Jerusalem
he gathereth the outcasts of Israel.
He healeth the broken in heart,
and bindeth up their wounds.
There was healing needed not just for physical sufferings but for sufferings in spirit too. There are “the broken in heart”, and He can provide exactly what is needed for them too, “He … bindeth up their wounds”. It says further:
He counteth the number of the stars;
he giveth names to them all.
Great is our Lord, and of great power:
his understanding is infinite.
I think that in itself is a very great comfort, just to appreciate and understand simply that He knows everything about us, all about our circumstances, things which may affect us and cause us grief. He is the One whose “understanding is infinite”, and He can bring in exactly what is needed with all the compassion which He would manifest in His dealings with us. If He can count the number of the stars and give names to them all, surely He can understand and enter into the detail of things that may affect us, and He does.
We read in Jeremiah as well and I have often thought of this scripture. Jeremiah has been spoken of as the weeping prophet, JT vol 78 p252. He was one who felt keenly the burden of what he had to convey to God’s people. Where we began to read he says, “My comfort in my sadness! My heart is faint in me!”, but I have been thinking of the last verse particularly. He raises the question, and perhaps we can take some instruction from the question that is raised, “Is there no balm in Gilead? is there no physician there? Why then is there no dressing applied for the healing of the daughter of my people?”. Sometimes we are made aware of situations which go on and on, and we might wonder why those conditions are allowed to go on. It should not be. The prophet says, “Is there no balm in Gilead? is there no physician there?”. Do we not know the One who is the great Physician? He is always available to bring in healing where it is needed. But then the prophet says, “Why then is there no dressing applied for the healing of the daughter of my people?”. He just raises that question. Perhaps we must ask ourselves if there are situations which require healing. How much do we feel them, and do we get into the presence of the One who can bring in healing, who can bring in what is needed to bring in a cure, as it says, a “dressing applied”, so there is restoration?
We read in Matthew because I was struck as to the case of the centurion, since he rightly makes clear that he believed that he only needed a word. The Lord Jesus says, “I will come and heal him”. He was prepared to come all the way, and visit that man’s house, but the centurion said in his reply, “only speak a word”. How true that is! Jesus finally said to the centurion, “Go, and as thou hast believed, be it to thee”. The word of the Lord Jesus was sufficient to bring about healing and it is still today if we hearken to His word. If we are under the sound of ministry which comes from Him in the power of the Holy Spirit, if that is attended to and answered to, then healing can come in. His presence will be known as we submit ourselves to His word.
I also referred to that scripture in Malachi which is very comforting. It says, “And unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings”. We know who that is, of course. “The Sun of righteousness” could not be anyone other than the Lord Jesus, and He will “arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth and leap like fatted calves”. That is addressed to those who fear His Name. The verse before speaks about “the proud and all that work wickedness”; we certainly do not want to be counted among that company. How much better to be in the company in verse 2: “Unto you that fear my name” the promise is “shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings”. When He comes, that is what He will do. How necessary, how needed it will be, that great work of service towards His own, and He will do that.
These thoughts have occupied me and I have felt some profit and blessing from them, and I trust they will be likewise blessed to all of us.
6th January 2015