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 true, like God’s character they are too numerous to mention in one reflection. When exploring the manifold promises of God, I’d like to explore one aspect that has been and is on the forefront of many people’s minds; God’s promises of protection.
Early in Israel’s history, God had to remind His people of His Sovereignty and protection.
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, oppressive heat, and bitter cold were constant reminders they were not home. 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 them 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 the world’s attacks?
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 rather than what it says. Their hope is usually founded on what they hold dear, and people’s health is at the forefront of their minds. This topic of healing always seems to be at the top of the list in prayer chains. We might hear as a request, “Martha needs prayer, her cancer has returned”, or “Jenny needs prayer, she fell and broke her back”. Around the world people are praying for believers who have been kicked out of their homes and thrown in jail for expressing their faith in Christ. The list is endless for all the prayers going up to God for healing, provision, and protection.
But is that really God’s desire…that we, feel better? Is our health His main priority? If someone dies for their faith, does this happen with God being unable to preserve them?
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’ or live happy carefree lives? What about the ones He healed?—they all died, so at what point does God say healing is no longer an option for you, you’ve lived long enough or why would God allow His people to endure trouble?
If we take a brief look at how God has considered healing, we might 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.
But 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. Jesus suffered as Isaiah described, so 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 but people take it and apply physical healing as their conclusion.
Most would agree that this scripture shows how Jesus addresses our spiritual condition before God. We grieve and sorrow because sin brings trouble upon the heads of those who practice it. Our sin is a transgression against God. We transgress His laws when we sin, therefore we are found guilty.
John describes sin as breaking God’s moral law:
1 John 3:4 “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.”
When examining the chaos that sin creates, we see the effect of Jesus bearing our sin upon the cross…Peace. Many of the letters of the apostles reflected this peace with God as Paul stated to the Romans.
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”, is between God and man. Because sin was brought to rest or rectified by Jesus as Paul describes in Ephesians 2:14-18, we can now experience the peace of God in our own lives.
The paradox of God’s redemption is revealed by the way Jesus’ death fulfills the requirement of law for sin by His own death. Jesus himself said He didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfill it in Matthew 5:17.
If we reason that Jesus bore His stripes for us that we might be spiritually healed(which was vividly portrayed in the gospels and prophesied about in the Old Testament), then we can take our desire for physical healing and place it behind what God deems as far more important.
When people place their own welfare over God’s purposes, then we see their desire for good health surpassing how they value redemption.
The progression of God changing our spiritual condition of death into a position that has an eternal future was by completed by Jesus and so when people try to apply physical healing as Jesus’ reason for dying on the cross the idea seems a bit preposterous.
If Jesus only died so we might be healed physically, then He didn’t die for everyone.
1 John 2:2 “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”
Not everyone recovers from sickness or disease, we know this through observation. Timothy and Paul both suffered from physical distress, they both suffered illnesses, stomach issues, poor sight, spiritual attack, and yet God seemed content to leave them in that state.
Another problem arises with the thinking that if your not healed it must be a faith issue or sin in your life, and this thinking can ruins people’s faith. We see these thoughts dominate many church doctrines, frankly to the detriment of the people they are trying to minister to.
The term “healed”, in Isaiah is the Hebrew word Rapha, which means heal but also means “powerless ones”, 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.”
When it was declared in Job 26:2 “How you have helped the powerless! How you have saved the arm that is feeble!”, this wasn’t necessarily referring to physical weakness but to the sinner and his spiritual weakness or inability to justify himself before a just 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. Yes, God does answer the prayers of His people and He promises to supply all their needs, but what is actually considered a ‘need’ may be different from God’s perspective.
Spiritual healing carries forth into eternity, while our physical healing lasts only for a lifetime.
Jesus reminded us that this world is not our home in John 17:16, and these bodies are corruptible 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 “And 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.” And 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. The one who overcomes will inherit all things, and I will be his God, and he will be My son.”
This is our true heritage….