In our Bibles, we find many names of God, names like El Elyon “the most High God” back in Genesis 14, El Roi “the God who sees,” in Genesis 16. “El Shaddai” the all-sufficient one in Genesis 17, Jehovah “the self existent one,” Back in Genesis 2, Jehovah Jireh “the Lord who provides” in Genesis 22. Many names of God reveal more of His character and nature to us. In this post, we are going to focus on the name Jehovah Rapha “The Lord who heals.”
I would say there is a sensible unfolding of God’s revelation of Himself to us. Scripture begins by revealing God as (Elohim), a God of great power, and then (Jehovah), a God who is eternal in His nature and essence. The (most high God), a God who sees all, Almighty, a provider, a healer, our banner, and so on and on and on…. all the way up to Emmanuel “God with us” in Matthew 1:23! And what a fantastic revelation of God in Christ this is Sacrificial, self-less love!
In these names, there is a progressive revelation of Jehovah meeting every need as it arises in the experience of His redeemed people–saving, sustaining, strengthening, sanctifying, and so on; and not only for the redeemed of that day but for God’s saints in all ages. The things that happened to Israel, the apostle Paul tells us, were our examples:
“Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1Corinthians 10:6).
Well, let’s look at THE NAME Jehovah-Rapha –It means Jehovah heals. Jehovah means “self-subsisting—the self-subsisting one heals! The name Jehovah-Jireh, you may remember, arose out of the incident of Jehovah’s provision of a substitute in place of Isaac whom He had commanded Abraham to sacrifice upon the altar (Gen. 22). The name stands for Jehovah’s great provision for man’s redemption in the sacrifice of His only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who was the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world.
This name of God, Jehovah-Rapha arises out of one of Israel’s earliest experiences in the wilderness, as told in Exodus 15. Let me remind you what is going on in the biblical narrative, and then we will zoom in to our text for this morning. In chapters 11 and 12, the Lord tells Moses that he is bringing one more plague on Pharaoh and Egypt. It is the plague of the death of the firstborn. This plaque would break Pharaoh and Egypt, and he would send the sons of Israel out of the land.
Next, we have the great Exodus of Israel (12:33-). The Egyptians gave them all kinds of gold, silver, and even clothing as they left Egypt. Scripture says: “thus they plundered the Egyptians (vs. 36) after 430 years as slaves in Egypt! In chapter 13, We see the Lord leading the people by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. The Lord directs the people to turn back and camp before pa-hahiroth so it would appear to Pharaoh that the people were wandering around. Pharaoh’s heart is hardened, and he gets his army and chariots together and pursues Israel. The sea is divided by the Lord, Israel crosses over on the dry ground, But….Pharaoh’s entire army was lost (14:28). After this fantastic victory, Moses and all Israel rejoice and sing a song to the Lord (Chapter 15). Let’s read this together.
Here we find an amazing song of praise and adoration unto the Lord, and rightly so, He just saved them miraculously from the Egyptians by parting the sea and closing it up on their enemies!!
But this same chapter which records Israel’s triumphant song, also records the second murmurings of discontent and bitterness. In the first flush of victory, they went along joyfully the first day and perhaps even the second day. But the way was hot and weary, and their water was giving out. The third day was well along, and still, there was no water. Their throats were parched. They felt their plight becoming desperate. They forgot the might and mercy of the God who had so marvelously delivered them. In their anxiety and anger, they murmured against Moses in bitter complaint (vs. 24).
Can you imagine their feelings of relief and joy as they first came in sight of this well, but what angry disillusionment when they find the waters bitter–an aggravation and a mockery of their thirst.
This setback maddened them; what were they to do? Were they and their children to die there of thirst? BUT THEN God showed Moses a certain tree, which, when cast into the waters, turned those waters from bitterness to sweetness so that the people drank. They were refreshed and strengthened for the journey ahead. Their murmuring was turned to praise as their confidence in Jehovah and His servant Moses was renewed. Then we read in verse 26 that “God made a statute and regulation and there He tested them.”
“If you wilt diligently hearken to the voice of Jehovah thy God, and will do that which is right in his sight . . I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am Jehovah that heals you” (i.e., Jehovah-Rapha)
Just like in Abraham’s trying experience in the mount, there came a new and comforting name of God, Jehovah Jireh, —so out of Israel’s bitter experience in the wilderness, there comes another new and comforting name of God, Jehovah- rapha, (Jehovah heals). The word Rapha appears sixty times in the Old Testament, always meaning to restore, heal, cure, or a physician, not only in the physical sense but also in the (moral) and (spiritual) sense. And Jehovah here pledged Himself on condition of their obedience always to be their Healer.
Perhaps the first lesson we may draw from this story since these events are all examples is humanity’s need for a physician’s healing–even in a physical sense. The Old Testament reveals a number of instances in which God’s power is manifested, and sometimes by natural means, to heal the bodies of men. A notable example is King Hezekiah, who was healed and granted a definite additional span of years to live (2 Kings 20).
Nothing is more obvious, tragic, and costly than the toll that sickness has exacted from our human life and happiness. Disease is rampant the world over and has brought untold havoc. It is no respecter of persons and stretches out its tentacles into all classes and communities. It is a grim fact of human existence with which mankind has always had to cope and which has called for the exercise of our best minds, efforts, and resourcefulness to try and overcome.
Friends, The many hospitals and institutions everywhere, built and maintained at a great cost, bear witness to the prevalence and tragedy of sickness in the world. How appropriate, then, to the physical need of men is the name Jehovah-Rapha!
But man’s need for healing is even more significant in the spiritual realm. For here, the ravages of sin are even more grim and obvious. The tragedy and sorrow, and pain are even greater. Using the physical characteristics of a man, the prophet Isaiah describes the (moral) and (spiritual) condition of his people:
Notice the language used:
“The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and raw wounds: they have not been closed, neither bandaged, neither softened with oil” (Isaiah 1:5, 6).
The moral and spiritual sickness of mankind is an open, running sore. The heart of man is desperately sick, says Jeremiah 17:9. Herein is the heart’s fundamental disease–the sin that alienates it from God–the sin that manifests itself in open and secret evil of every kind. How desperately mankind needs a healer, a physician!
Brothers and sisters, sin is like the waters of Marah in our text, to which the children of Israel came in the wilderness. It is (NOT) sweetness and life (but) bitterness and death.
Yet the antidote to its poison, the remedy for its sickness, is ever near-even at hand, just as it was near the waters of Marah. For at those waters, God performed His miracle of healing by means of a tree growing nearby. It was the tree of God cast into the waters there that healed and sweetened them.