“Why doesn’t God always heal as He promised He would?” – Systematic Theology Essay 3

Posted: November 15, 2011 in Systematic Theology, Theology

The question, “Why doesn’t God always heal as He promised He would?” requires more than an answer. I think it’s necessary to first go back and lay a foundation of answers to the questions “Does God heal?” and “Does God promise to heal?” before we can answer this accurately. Let’s start with the most basic question, “Does God heal?”
Psalms 103:1-5, “Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sin and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
Psalms 147:1-3, “Praise the Lord. How good is it to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him! The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the exiles of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
Job 5:17-18, “Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal.”
2 Kings 2:19-22, “The men of the city said to Elisha, ‘Look, our lord, this town is well situated, as you can see, but the water is bad and the land is unproductive.’ ‘Bring me a new bowl,’ he said, ‘and put salt in it.’ So they brought it to him. Then he went out to the spring and threw the salt into it, saying, ‘This is what the Lord says: ‘I have healed this water. Never again will it cause death or make the land unproductive.’ And the water has remained wholesome to this day, according to the word Elisha had spoken.”
Hosea 11:1-4, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me. They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images. It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them.”
Luke 6:6-11, “On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. But Jesus knew what they were thinking and sad to the man with the shriveled hand, ‘Get up and stand in front of everyone.’ So he got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, ‘I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?’ He looked around at them all, and then he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He did so, and his hand was completely restored. But they were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.”
Matthew 4:23-25, “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.”
Mathew 8:14-17, “When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him. When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took up our infirmities and carried our diseased.’”
Acts 4:8-12, “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: ‘Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.”
No matter where you turn the page to, and no matter how you read it, I think Scripture makes it blatantly obvious that God heals. God not only heals our bodies, sin, and infirmities but also our environment and those close to us as well as those far off and groups of people as a whole. This, however, only draws more attention on our second question, “Does God promise to heal?”
Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 that there is a time for healing, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”
God identifies Himself as the God who heals in Exodus 15:22-26, “Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, ‘What are we to drink?’ Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There the Lord made a decree and a law for them, and there he tested them. He said, ‘If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.’”
Jeremiah 30:12-17 displays God as just, merciful, and protective of His people and that He will heal them even though their own sin and guilt brought them where they are, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Your wound is incurable, your injury beyond healing. There is no one to plead your cause, no remedy for your sore, no healing for you. All your allies have forgotten you; they care nothing for you. I have struck you as an enemy would and punish you as would the cruel, because your guilt is so great and your sins so many. Why do you cry out over your wound, your pain that has no cure? Because of your great guilt and many sins I have done these things to you. ‘But all who devour you will be devoured; all your enemies will go into exile. Those who plunder you will be plundered; all who make spoil of you I will despoil. But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds.’”
Deuteronomy 32:39, “See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand.”
2 Chronicles 7:11-14, “When Solomon had finished the temple of the Lord and the royal palace, and had succeeded in carrying out all he had in mind to do in the temple of the Lord and in his own palace, the Lord appeared to him at night and said: ‘I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices. ‘When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
Jeremiah 33:2-9, “This is what the Lord says, he who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it – the Lord is his name: ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’ For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says about the houses in this city and the royal palaces of Judah that have been torn down to be used against the siege ramps and the sword in the fight with the Babylonians: ‘They will be filled with the dead bodies of the men I will slay in my anger and wrath. I will hide my face from this city because of all its wickedness. ‘Nethertheless, I will bring heath and healing to it; I will heal my people and will rebuild them as they were before. I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against me and will forgive all their sins of rebellion against me. Then this city will bring me renown, joy, praise and honor before all nations on earth that hear of all the good things I do for it; and they will be in awe and will tremble at the abundant prosperity and peace I provide for it.’”
We can clearly see that God promises over and over again to Israel that He will heal them. I would dare to say that when “His people” really are His people He will heal them of not just their afflictions, but also their sin and their land and bring to them more than they deserve. However, God is not limited to healing only His people, by His grace and mercy He heals as He chooses and as He is welcomed to do as He pleases. We’ve only looked at Old Testament cites so far about promises, but is there any place in the New Testament where God promises us that He will heal? What does the New Testament say about healing today?
In 1 Corinthians 12:27-28 we see that God gives gifts of healing along with other gifts for us to use, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.”
1 Peter 2:18-25, “Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” This shows that we have ultimately been set free even in suffering, and have been ultimately healed even if we receive beatings for doing right.
Hebrews 12:7-13 gives us a similar idea, that in our suffering and hardship there is something being accomplished and that we will see benefit and healing come from it whether it is our own or someone else’s, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. ‘Make level paths for your feet,’ so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.”
James gives us instructions about prayer and of what to do in our circumstances in James 5:13-18, “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.” Notice it doesn’t say “and this might happen”, it says “will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up.”
We get a glimpse of future healing and restoration in Revelation 22:1-5, “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” And again just before this in Revelation 21:4, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
So, why doesn’t God always heal as He promised He would? I feel like we’ve gotten our answer through the Scripture already, and it’s not an easy answer to take. We can take Scripture as it is or we can ignore the part(s) we don’t like, that is our choice, but if we look at Scripture as it is I am convinced of this: Although He can heal us and has promised to heal us (and will faithfully fulfill His promise), God isn’t required to heal us on this side of eternity. If we’re honest with ourselves, the answer we want is “Why doesn’t God always heal now as He promised He would?” but the reality is He never did promise that. We can be sure of our healing and of everything being made right, and Scripture tells us that He will never put on us more than we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”) And that He works all things for our good (Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”). It never promises us instantaneous healing or relief, though it may come that way. All I can say now is that it’s a matter of faith, can you still trust God if He doesn’t heal you now? It’s hard to believe that it will work out for the best for us to remain the way we are, but He truly knows best and wants the best for us. I’m going to choose to trust His decision whatever that may be, as my friend Paul says, “Either God’s God or He’s not.”

EDIT:
Paul (the author of most of the New Testament Paul, not my friend Paul.) put what I’m trying to say really rather nicely in Romans 8 and 9. I’d encourage you to read them as whole chapters if not the whole book, but if you don’t have the time, check out Romans 8:18-27 which tells us about our future glory and how even in our suffering our glory is on its way and 9:14-29 which tells us about God’s mercy and soverienty. It’s not just about healing and how we are not healed, but about trusting God’s choice. Yes, He will perform miracles and heal. Yes, He will heal all of His people’s diseases and wounds. Sometimes now, sometimes later, sometimes on the other side of eternity, but He is faithful to heal and He is soveriegn in His decisions and His will is perfect. How good is it to know that even in His soveriegnty that He’s on our side and looking for the best for us (you can find that in the rest of Romans 8, if you want to read it)?

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