Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sickness: diagnosed and its cure

MP900400830[1].jpgYahweh, the health giver is also Yahweh-Tsidkenu, the God of righteousness.  The story of Israel highlights the fact, you cannot have one without the other. The nation wanted abundance from the land, victory of invaders and good health. What they walked away from was righteousness. This meant they walked into judgement. God keeps His word. Four hundred and ninety years after entering the land of Promise, Israel was in bondage to Babylon. The reason is 2 Chronicles 36:15-21. This had been foretold in Deuteronomy 28.

Ill health usually takes time to possess a person. It can be aided by the individual’s poor habits and unhealthy lifestyle which ultimately causes serious damage, even death. A similar principle is noticed in the long slide into the moral, spiritual, mental and national illness and decay of Judah. Isaiah the prophet stressed the cumulative effect of this under the diagnosis of Yahweh. Jeremiah also emphasised this truth. We will get his health assessment another day. The prophets, when speaking about healing refer to God’s work on and in the Nation, not the individual. What they say takes us back to the Leviticus and Deuteronomy readings.

Christians delight in Isaiah 53, and rightly so. Some, with a particular mind-set and teaching concerning (Christian) healing lay claim to the same chapter. Is this justified? It often appears that promoters of healing miss Isaiah’s point and Moses’ warning. Look at Isaiah chapter one. Notice the straight talking of the prophet in describing the Nation’s health. Is it any wonder it was heading for captivity! ‘The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and bleeding wounds; that have not been drained, or bound up, or softened with oil.’ Isaiah 1:5-6 (emphasis added).

It cannot be done here due to lack of space, but as you read the prophets make a note of the Nation’s condition. Leaders and the general community imagined God couldn’t see their practices, or if He did, He was indifferent to them. How easy it is to confuse the long-suffering patience of the Lord with indifference. The curse found in Deuteronomy 28 was operating slowly but surely. Sadly, the Nation’s spiritual sensitivity was dead.

One last act of grace was extended to Judah through Isaiah. Yahweh invited the leaders and people to a discussion in Isaiah 1:18. He offered cleansing from their sin (and thereby deliverance from the full force of the curse). The condition, their willingness and obedience. But in chapter six you read they were so hard-hearted they were deaf to God’s appeal. The result, no healing. How could their Covenant keeping God deal with them and fulfil His promises and purposes? Only by the eliminating of their disobedience, iniquities and the curse. What could make this possible? It would require more than the animal sacrifices.

A great note is struck in Isaiah 52. It is a promise to Jerusalem and deals with redemption and the return of the Lord to Zion. That hasn’t happened yet. How could it take place if the curse is still in force? It couldn’t! This is the backdrop to God’s revelation concerning the Suffering servant of Isaiah 53. He is appointed to be the sin-bearer, curse remover and the healer of the Nation’s sickness. We are prone to taking this chapter to ourselves without realising its primary application. It is dealing with Israel’s ‘infirmities, diseases, transgressions, iniquities.’ Verse 8 sums it up ‘He was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people.’ (Emphasis added) We believe this took place at the cross of Jesus Christ. The sadness is the Nation as a whole didn’t then haven’t yet realised it. The words of Jesus declare a day when the Nation will have eyes to see and a heart to believe. I cannot read Isaiah chapters 54-57, 62 and ignore such a future reality. ‘I have seen their ways, but I will heal them’ (57:18-19 emphasis added). Such healing requires the imparting of righteousness. That comes from the relationship with Jesus Christ as the suffering, crucified, risen, and now victorious Servant of Isaiah 53.

The wonder of wonders for me as a Gentile is recorded in Ephesians 2:11-22. That which Jesus achieved on the cross for Israel is open for me, for you. We do not become Israeli but members of the body of Christ. Romans 11 explains that and offers insight into the future for Israel.

©Ray Hawkins 24th August 2015.

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