God's Divine Healing: A Means of Redemption, Part OneMonday, September 26, 2005
One morning, a couple of years ago, I made my usual stop by Dunkin’ Donuts for my medium cinnamon spice coffee with two creams and two sugars. Danny, one of the three nationals from India who are employees there, was wearing a hospital bracelet and sporting a piece of gauze and tape where it appeared as if he had an IV. I asked about it and he responded that he had been to the hospital with some severe stomach and throat pains. His English isn’t as good as the other two employees, and he is perhaps the most physically unattractive of the three. But he is very friendly and he has helped me many a time with my Hindi. I’m wondering if the symptoms he described have something to do with the condition I have – acid reflux. If so, that is extremely painful. But perhaps it is something else.
Upon returning to the truck I began praying for Danny that God would heal him and do it in such a way as to, first, break the reputation of Danny’s Hindu gods, and second, magnify the reputation of my God. This got me thinking on the way to the office that morning. I began to wonder how many times in Scripture God converted someone to Himself through divine healing. So I commenced to a brief study of this in order that I could first, bolster my prayer life for Danny and other unbelievers I know, and second, have an apology or defense for my God and His wonderful work of redemption when those for whom I pray are miraculously healed. Over the next few days I'll share my discoveries. And I'll start with the first here in this post.
First, a movement through the OT reveals that the nations surrounding Israel were pagan nations whose beliefs were very superstitious, just like my friend Danny’s. Hinduism is a pagan religion based almost completely and entirely on superstition and religious rites and rituals.
As with every pagan religion, sickness and suffering is blamed on evil spirits, which must be driven out by the magical powers of a religious priest or village witchdoctor whose use incantations or formulas. “Without knowledge of the one true God, such vagaries of reasoning were doubtless inevitable. Epidemics wrought havoc among these peoples, often causing them to flee their lands to get away from supposed evil spirits to which they attributed disease” (The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, 3:55). Perhaps this is something Danny sought to do – flee Gudjarat, India where he is originally from to escape the sickness he may have been enduring.
But the tone of the sentence I just cited is something I’m not entirely comfortable with. There is a truth about what those pagans believe. They believe that their sickness and suffering are caused by spirits or gods. If it is caused by a good god, then they must be appeased so that health can return. If it is caused by evil gods or spirits then they must be stopped or exorcised to see health return.
The truth in this is the biblical fact that evil spirits do cause sickness and suffering. This is evidenced over and again in the NT when Jesus travels to various cities healing the sick and casting out demons. On more than one occasion there were demon-possessed individuals who were tormented physically with maladies and diseases.
The truth is also in the biblical fact that our God good causes sickness and suffering. Job is a classic case of this truth, as well as Jesus Christ on the cross. When He causes it, it could be for the good of the person enduring it, as in the case of both. Or it can be for punishment, as in Leviticus 26:15,16; Deuteronomy 28:61; Psalm 107:17,17; 2 Kings 5:27; Micah 6:13; Acts 5:4-6, 9-10; 13:11; and 1 Corinthians 11:30.
The missing ingredient, of course, is reason. Why would an evil spirit cause sickness and suffering? Why would a good God cause it? The fact that pagan religions don’t have any answers to these important questions is what actually drives them, I believe, to look for answers and help, even if through their local witchdoctor or shaman.
And even that act of looking for answers is in and of itself a reflection of biblical truth. Many people are searching for truth. They want healing and happiness. They want redemption. This is not true of all, of course, for the Bible clearly teaches that everyone has gone out of their way to do evil and no one actually seeks after God(Rom. 3:10-13). But the Bible also teaches that God has put eternity in the hearts of all men, putting in them something mysterious that reaches out, even groping to find the divine in the midst of their darkness (Acts 17:27).
What God did, then, in healing those pagans whom He healed in Scripture is to give reason to suffering and sickness. There was a purpose in it. The purpose was to bring those unbelieving persons to Himself so He could heal them from sickness and save them from sin. Redemption was the end of it all. God’s purpose was to make His name great. So miraculous healing and power encounters such as exorcism were gospel-centered means of redeeming the lost.
The next few posts will recount the biblical examples of this in Scripture, toward a conclusion of continuity for today.