Jehovah Rapha: The God Who Heals
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As a youth, to say I was injury-prone would be an understatement. By the age of 20, I had broken three collar bones, one thumb, sprained two ankles, and had two knee surgeries, not to mention scores of cuts, floor burns, and stitches. Almost all of these were sports-related injuries. I played basketball up through college, and in high school played football, lacrosse, and golf. Except for golf, which I gravitate to in later years for leisure, I was drawn to the physical, high impact sports.
During football season one year, I broke my thumb. I was sad to be sidelined from football, but worse was the prospect of not being ready for basketball come winter. After six weeks in a cast, the doctor gave me the go-ahead and the cast was removed in time for basketball season. When I got home, the first thing I did was run out back and shoot hoops.
Now imagine for a moment being born without the ability to walk. Each day of your life you must deny the urge to stand up, tempered by the enduring reality of your immobility and dependence on others. In Scripture, we read of such a man, born without an ability most take for granted. The man was forced to rely on others for food, daily hygiene, and other basic needs. Each day he was carried to the Temple and laid at the Beautiful Gate where he sat and begged for alms.
During the first century, the Temple was the center of the social life of the Jewish people. Positioned at the Temple gate, the man hoped to draw some compassionate, good-Samaritan-like generosity from passers-by. He would have been glad if one donation gave him the ability to get by for a day. He would have been thrilled if, with a single gift, he had everything he needed for the rest of the week. With the prospect of a one lump sum providing enough to live on for the rest of his life, he would have been overjoyed. And that is precisely what the apostles proposed, a gift beyond what any amount in alms could accomplish. When they heard the man begging, Peter called for his attention and said:
“'I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.' And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God” (, NRSV).
Not only could the man walk, but he went forward jumping. The gift of bodily healing he received that day restored the man in a way a gift of gold or silver alone could not. The healing of his legs penetrated the source of his pain and disability. Now the man could carry out daily activities on his own, earn a living, and take part in other everyday activities most take for granted.
But the story doesn’t stop there. We find that something more than outward healing had taken place. The physical healing the man experienced traced to an even deeper source of restoration, namely, a change in the man’s heart:
“And by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you.” (, NRSV).
Through faith in Jesus’ name, the man was made strong, healed not only of a genetic disability but unto “perfect health”—even his soul.
Healing is a divine attribute, communicating God’s very character. God is called the “Lord who heals”—in the Hebrew language, Jehovah Rapha () — 15 times in the Old Testament. It is simply who God is. We look forward to a day when God will heal all things, restoring everything we see, in the accomplishment of “a new heaven and a new earth” ( , NIV). God’s healing power is all-encompassing, and will one day finally restore our bodies, our souls, the land we walk on, and the heavens above.
Perhaps you or someone you know needs that deeper source of healing today. God can (and does!) heal our bodies, finances, and relationships. But the greatest news is that our faith accomplishes the perfect health that brings eternal life.
Copyright © 2021 Paul J. Palma. Used by permission.
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