Luke 10:19. “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy. Nothing will harm you.”
The promises of God are many, like God’s character they are too numerous to mention in one reflection. Now, I understand, most Bible teachers don’t start in Luke 10 when exploring the manifold promises of God, but I’d like to explore one aspect that has and is on the forefront of many people’s minds, God’s promise of protection.
Early in Israel’s history, God had to remind them of this reality, Deuteronomy 31:8 “And the LORD, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”
Was Israel completely free from harm during this time? On the contrary, we read of hunger, thirst, disease, poisonous snakes and attacks from every side, heat, and cold. The trials Israel faced were beyond what you’d expect from such a promise.
What about the apostles, did they see any harm come their way?
A brief survey of their lives reveals being stoned to death, various forms of crucifixion, boiled in oil, death by sword, burned and even flayed alive. The list would require an R rating if made into a movie, too gruesome for children.
How about the church? What have we witnessed of those who have steadfastly maintained their faith in spite of societies acceptance?
From the earliest days of the church, there has been nothing but persecution, bloodshed, and suffering. There have been many books written on this subject, one of which is considered a classic in “Foxes book of martyrs”, which gives a long list of saints, faithful until death.
So if Jesus said, “nothing will harm you”, He must have been indicating something other than their bodies.
There have been many people who have taken scripture to mean what they hoped it meant. Their hope is usually founded on what they hold dear, one of which is their health. This always seems to be at the top of the list in prayer chains, such as “Martha needs prayer, her cancer has returned”, or “Jenny needs prayer, she fell and broke her back”. The list is endless of all who simply want to feel better.
But is that really God’s desire…that we, feel better? Is our health His priority?
Many would lay claim that since Jesus’ ministry included so much healing, that it must be God’s priority. But does the fact that Jesus healed so many indicate He wanted everyone to ‘feel good’? What about the ones He healed, they all died, at what point does God say it’s no longer an option for you, you’ve lived long enough?
Taking a brief look at how God has considered healing, we can look at the prophecy of Isaiah 53:4-5 “Surely He has borne our griefs, And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
5But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripe we are healed.”
This scripture is dear to many, for it describes the suffering our Messiah was to endure for us. Jesus embodied this description and did so 700 years later. He suffered as Isaiah described, but why has there been the confusion? We see griefs, sorrows, transgressions, iniquities, peace and healing. There is this list of spiritual benefits we gain from Christ’s redemption then suddenly, many apply physical healing as a conclusion.
Most would agree that this scripture reflects our spiritual condition before God. We grieve and sorrow because sin brings trouble upon the head of those who practice it. Our sin is a transgression before God. We transgress His laws when we sin, we are therefore found guilty.
1 John 3:4 describes sin as breaking God’s moral law: “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.”
Iniquity is likewise a reflection of sin, Proverbs 22:8 “He who sows iniquity will reap sorrow, And the rod of his anger will fail.”
We then begin to see the affect of Jesus bearing our sin upon the cross…Peace. We see many letters of the apostles reflecting this peace with God and Paul states in Romans 5:1. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,”.
This ‘enmity’ which means “the state or feeling of being actively opposed or hostile to someone or something”, between God and man, because of sin was brought to rest or rectified by Jesus as Paul describes in Ephesians 2:14-18.
Jesus’ death fulfilled the requirement of law for sin, which is death. Jesus himself said He didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfill it in Matthew 5:17.
Finally we come to the reason Jesus bore His stripes, (which was vividly portrayed in the gospels, and we know that Jewish tradition was no more than 40 lashes as described in Deuteronomy 25:3), that we might be healed.
This is where we see the desire for good health surpassing the value of redemption.
We see this progression of God changing our spiritual condition, position and future with this one mighty act and then to apply physical healing as a reason for dying on the cross seems a bit preposterous. If this was the case, if Jesus died so we might be healed physically, then He didn’t die for everyone as John 3:16 or 1 John 2:2 describes. Not everyone recovers from sickness or disease, we know this through observation. Not even Timothy or Paul, they suffered physical illness, and yet God seemed content to leave them in that state.
Another problem arises with this thinking, that if your not healed, it must be a faith issue or sin in your life. We see these thoughts dominate many church doctrines, frankly to the detriment of people’s faith.
The term “healed”, in Isaiah is the Hebrew word Rapha, which means heal but also means “powerless ones”, according to abrim publications. This might explain why Paul refers to this in Romans 5:6 “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.”
Maybe when Job stated in 26:2 “”How you have helped the powerless! How you have saved the arm that is feeble!”, he wasn’t necessarily referring to physical weakness but to the sinner and his spiritual weakness before a strong and mighty God.
We so often want to be comfortable and yet our comfort hasn’t seemed to be God’s priority, our spiritual healing is His priority. This healing from sin lasts into eternity, our physical healing lasts only a lifetime.
Jesus reminded us that this world is not our home in John 17:16, and these bodies are perishable but we will put on incorruption in 2 Corinthians 5 and 15.
So as I conclude this thought, I want to encourage you of what awaits those who receive the true healing of salvation, that Jesus afforded on the cross:
Revelation 21:5-7 “5And the One seated on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Then He said, “Write this down, for these words are faithful and true.” 6And He told me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give freely from the spring of the water of life. 7The one who overcomes will inherit all things, and I will be his God, and he will be My son.”
This is our true heritage….