Yahweh-Rapha, Healer - Exodus 15:26

I am the Lord who heals you, says Exodus 15:26. This is a hard topic to discuss. We want, I want, the healing that God bring be instantaneous and immediate and of full restoration of body and mind. We cry out to Him all the time for healing of our friends, for ourselves, when the pain is upon us, when we see suffering and hurt in those we love particularly. Yet we know that it does not always happen that way, we are not all immediately and fully healed.

I know what God is and can do. He is sovereign and able to do all things, given that he created us and everything around us, it only makes sense that he can also repair that which is broken. But many, if not all of us, continue to walk around broken. We are broken people in a broken world. Yet, we have the verse ‘I am the Lord who heals you.’ And we have Psalm 103:2-3 that says too ‘Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases.’

We might look at the beginning of the verse from Exodus, which says if we listen carefully and do right in the eyes of the Lord, and clamor to say that it is our fault that we are not healed. Please do not repeat that lie. We have not brought this on ourselves because of our own sin. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. In that case, we should all be walking around with sickness and pain that is palpable. Instead, we are told by our Lord that he is healer. Yahweh Rapha.

So, how do we explain this lack of full, immediate healing? There is no answer that will satisfy the person who asks this question. This is the fundamental wrestling with faith kind of question. I know and accept and truly believe that God can heal anything and everything – the earth, humans, animals, all of his creation. But it doesn’t always happen. We can give reasons, but in the end the reason that you or me isn’t healed may be yet another reason. We can likely list them together: we live in the fallen world, full of sin and so sin lives here too; God’s answer has been delayed like in Daniel 10; we have to live with consequences of our own actions, and so on. But the reason that we struggle with this is because we understand that God can but it hasn’t happened in our circumstances, so we don’t really care why, we just want to change the circumstances. But we also know we cannot change the circumstances.

David lived this out for us. In 2 Samuel 12:14-23, David clearly knew that God heals. He pleaded with the Lord to heal his son. David did nothing else during this time except fast and plead. He seems to have neglected his duties as king since his advisors pleaded with him to get up and eat.  When God did not grant it and there was nothing more David himself could do, he washed and went on. He knew that God could change the ill to health but accepted that he didn’t.  We can take this as an example to cry out to God about our circumstances, our illness, our pain and to accept that healing is possible, but not always given as requested.

I admit this is not much comfort, but there is comfort to be had in all this. Rapha is the transliterated word from Hebrew which is generally translated as ‘to heal’ in English. The word is also ‘take care of’ in the sense of nursing someone to health, taking care of them. It is a wonder to think that God himself is taking care of me in my suffering and ministering to my needs in the pain and hurt that I feel, that you feel. Rapha is also translated as ‘become fresh’ and ‘purified’ as well as ‘repaired.’ The sense of ‘become fresh’ is a certainty that we can hold on to when we cry out to him; prayer always seems to lend itself to feeling refreshed and at peace (the word also means ‘pacify’).

If the minimum of rapha is to feel refreshed, peaceful and taken care of by God himself, then it is enough. But if that is all we expect or ask, it would be selling short our God, who is Healer. I think we should plead and beg as David did, and rely on the peace of his ministering presence in our anguish as we cry out to him, Yahweh-rapha.

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