Two sources of sickness

I found Selwyn’s comments to be worth considering, especially this statement: “The subject of divine healing presents more problems than any other subject. A greater number of letters have been sent to me about  this topic than any other issue.” Why do you think that this is the case?  We have a loving relationship with the one and only God, who created the universe – why should we, have any difficulties with the idea that our God can and will heal people, especially when it brings those involved into a deeper relationship with Him?

Selwyn’s description of the two main sources of disease, sickness and physical disharmony is also useful: “The sources are: (1) actual structural disease brought about by, for example, heredity, accident, contagion, ignorance, abuse, poverty and unbalanced nutrition; and (2) functional (which may pass into, or manifest itself, as structural disease) brought about by incorrect mental, moral and spiritual attitudes. … My own view is that about 75 percent of our illnesses and maladies are functional, and about 25 percent are due to structural faults or damage.”

The important point is that any sickness – either physical, because of some flaw in our genetic make-up, or susceptibility to an infectious or mutagenic agent; or, due to some flaw/disorder in our mental attitude (eg depression). Can be taken to God in prayer; recall what’s written in James 5:13-15 (NLT): ” Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven.

This is general advice, there are exceptions – Paul prayed three times to have a ‘thorn in his side’ removed, and God did not take the ‘thorn’ away, because the suffering the ‘thorn’ caused, prevented Paul from becoming proud (in regard to his supernatural experiences). That is, the damage that would have been caused by pride to Paul, would have been far worse than the effects of the ‘thorn’. So too, if God does not heal us, after we have taken the issue to God in prayer, then it is because of a greater good – in regard to God’s purposes being achieved. This is a difficult concept to consider but one we must face. Do you agree?

Jehovah Rophe

Selwyn now looks at another of God’s titles, Jehovah Rophe, which means ‘The Lord who heals’.

In the verses, set for reading and meditation we have this account of God’s instruction to his people, and a condition under which a promise is given, Exodus 15:22-26 (NLT): “Then Moses led the people of Israel away from the Red Sea, and they moved out into the desert of Shur. They traveled in this desert for three days without finding any water. When they came to the oasis of Marah, the water was too bitter to drink. So they called the place Marah (which means “bitter”).  Then the people complained and turned against Moses. “What are we going to drink?” they demanded.

So Moses cried out to the Lord for help, and the Lordshowed him a piece of wood. Moses threw it into the water, and this made the water good to drink.  It was there at Marah that the Lord set before them the following decree as a standard to test their faithfulness to him. He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his sight, obeying his commands and keeping all his decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.”

The key point is: IF the Israelites obey His commands THEN they will not suffer any of the diseases – that were sent on the Egyptians. God does sometimes use illness to punish or correct/refine a person – this aspect cannot be ruled out, however, I think it’s an exception rather than a general rule.

Selwyn says: “We can be grateful that medical science contributes to our physical health, but when medical science fails ther is still God. Indeed, I can testify to the direct healing God gave me when medical help proved ineffectual.”

There are some people who believe that ‘today’, God does not heal people – the last time it happened (almost, two thousand years ago) was to demonstrate the divinity of Jesus while He was alive or shortly after His resurrection, to also establish the credentials of His apostles; and, that purpose is not required today – they say, that ‘miraculous healing’ stopped at the end of the Book of Acts’. Their view is that God helps people through their illnesses but he does not heal people.  This view is wrong. Like Selwyn I too have been a witness to the healing of people that is difficult to explain by medical science – sometimes, it’s not clear cut, there is a role for faith.  Critics will state, ‘how many recorded cases are there of amputated limbs being restored?’  I believe God can regrow limbs, but I also think that there is often (but not always) an element of faith – some room for doubt – to separate the sheep from the goats. What do you think?

Not a needle – a nail

Selwyn has picked another great reading for meditation, just pause for a moment on the highlighted parts – Isaiah 53:1-12 (NLT):

Who has believed our message? To whom has the Lord revealed his powerful arm? My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him. He was despised and rejected – a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.

Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins!

But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.

All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.

He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. Unjustly condemned, he was led away. No one cared that he died without descendants, that his life was cut short in midstream. But he was struck down for the rebellion of my people. He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave.

But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands. When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins.

I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier, because he exposed himself to death. He was counted among the rebels. He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.”

I liked the Amy Carmichael story, and I think Selwyn’s opening and closing lines presents a good summary. “Yesterday we said that God, being love, was bound by His very nature to create man and to create him free. Some then argue, ‘God, by making man free, must also accept responsibility for man’s sin.’ Well, He did. He accepted that responsibility and discharged it upon the cross. … Deep down on the inside we all know that our sin has hurt God, but we did not see it clearly until we saw it on the cross.”

We cannot begin to understand God’s love until we have reached the point where we can see that we are rebels, to the full extent that we justly deserve the death penalty. Then and only, do we feel in our hearts the love of Jesus for us; as He felt the spear being driven into His heart – suffering death – having, taken our place, on ‘our’ cross. Do you agree?

Why was man made free?

I especially like the following: “God is willing to do more than give Himself to His creation – He is prepared to give Himself for it. Quietly but purposefully God is revealing through His names that He is not just interested in giving gifts to His people; He is prepared to go to the utmost lengths when necessary and give Himself.”

The verses set for reading and meditation are well worth thinking about today – especially, the main point that while we were outspoken enemies of God (through our actions), He died on the cross to save us from eternal death.

Romans 5:6-17 (NLT): “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break. Still, everyone died—from the time of Adam to the time of Moses—even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did. Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come. But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.”

Hand in hand to heaven

Selwyn continues to discuss the meaning of Jehovah Jireh, ‘The Lord will Provide’. He then shows how God provided salvation for His people through the cross.

Much of the Old Testament, points to Jesus and the cross. The first half of Psalm 22, provides a good description of the suffering Servant; and the last half, the author gives praise to our Almighty King.

Psalm 22: 22-31 (NLT): “I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters.  I will praise you among your assembled people. Praise the Lord, all you who fear him! Honor him, all you descendants of Jacob! Show him reverence, all you descendants of Israel!

For he has not ignored or belittled the suffering of the needy. He has not turned his back on them, but has listened to their cries for help. I will praise you in the great assembly. I will fulfill my vows in the presence of those who worship you. The poor will eat and be satisfied. All who seek the Lord will praise him. Their hearts will rejoice with everlasting joy.

The whole earth will acknowledge the Lord and return to him. All the families of the nations will bow down before him. For royal power belongs to the Lord. He rules all the nations. Let the rich of the earth feast and worship. Bow before him, all who are mortal, all whose lives will end as dust. Our children will also serve him. Future generations will hear about the wonders of the Lord. His righteous acts will be told to those not yet born. They will hear about everything he has done.”

I think that what Selwyn has written is wonderful, but others will only see poetical and imaginery language. What do you hear?

Let us travel back through the centuries for a moment and stand at the foot of the cross. Who was it on that first Good Friday who saw clearly into the heart of God? Was it Peter? No. Was it any of the other disciples? No. It was the dying thief (Luke 23:40-43). Out of the great crowd who had gathered around the cross, he saw into the very heart of reality. And the moment he did so, he passed from perdition to paradise. He knew little about God, but when he saw the self-giving love of Christ being poured out on those timbers of torture he knew everything. Through the cross he saw God’s heart. Then, by a leap of faith, he took hold of God’s provision. One moment hell yawned beneath his feet. Another moment and heaven shone before his eyes. The cross threw back the curtains, letting him see the heart of God. And the result? A robber (who deserved death) and the Saviour walked hand in hand into paradise.”

Consequently, I think the prayer (slightly amended) for today, is also excellent: “O God, I tremble to think that though I may know much about You, unless I have met You at the cross I can never truly know You. Today, I bow down before You  – seeing into your heart as You hang on your cross, in sincere acknowledgement that You really are my Saviour, my Lord and my God. Amen.

What’s your response – will you be like one of the crowd; who, on that day walked away, never accepting what God was offering to each and everyone of us?  Or, will you be like the robber, justly sentenced to death – who sees into the heart of God and accepts His provision for eternal life? Jesus removed the barrier between God and man – we can now seek and find a relationship with God – the curtain, separating us from God has been ripped apart, by God’s own sacrifice; and, we now – by faith – can have entry into God’s presence.  It’s hard to understand why people walk away from this offer of eternal life – from a loving God, who provides. What’s your view?

Jehovah Jireh

I liked today’s study. The parallel between Abraham’s willingness to offer his son as a sacrifice and God’s intervention in the destiny of mankind cannot be missed. God intervenes in Abraham’s sacrifice and provideda substitute for Isaac – and we hear another name for God – Jehovah Jireh – ‘The Lord will Provide’.

Listen carefully to Selwyn’s conclusion: “We must be careful not to miss the significance of this thrilling revelation. God provides very many things for the people He has created. He provides the food we eat, the air we breathe and the light by which we see. But what is His greatest provision? It is atonement for our sin. The term Jehovah Jireh carries with it clear intimations of the sacrificial death at Calvary of Jesus ‘the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’ (john 1:29). It is a signpost directing us to the cross. … Only through the cross can we see fully into the heart of God.”

We could never do enough to save ourselves – but God provides – Himself, on the cross – to save us; even though we were His enemies, at the time. It’s a remarkable action – and only those who have the humility to ask God for salvation – will respond to God’s love, with love. What are your views on this?

‘Him-possible’

I liked the point that Selwyn makes about the name changes of Abram to Abraham,and Sarai to Sarah. He says: “What really was the difference? This: God put an aspirate in their names – the sound of ‘h’ . The Almighty breathed His supernatural breath into them and to signify this He added an aspirate to their names. The letter ‘h’ cannot be pronounced without using breath.”  [Some commentators – refer to the ‘ah’ sound, in the Hebrew form of the names Abraham and Sarah – as the sound of God’s breath.]

The best part of today’s study I thought was the prayer: “Gracious God and heavenly Father, breathe into me today so that instead of being weak I shall be strong; instead of uncertain, confident; instead of a servant, a son. In Jesus’ name I ask it. Amen.”

Given the current turmoil that we see around us – it’s easy to think that the world is out of control and we are powerless to do much about it.  As Selwyn mentions in today’s study, we need to remind ourselves, by reading about people like Abraham, that God is able to do the impossible. God is able to address the issues currently facing us – and He can, and will, intervene to ensure that His purposes are achieved. We must trust in God’s love, power and grace; and be confident that He is in control and is also watching over us. Do you agree?