As we continue through our message series about the biblical names of God, we come today to the name Yahweh Rapha, which means “The Lord who heals.” As we begin, I want to turn your thoughts to the idea of healing. What does it mean to be healed? Is there something for which you need healing?
In our modern world, we tend to separate physical, spiritual, and mental healing. Somehow, we’ve come to believe they are three separate spheres. Even though we appreciate the interconnectedness of the mind, body, and soul, we still treat them as three separate and practically unrelated parts of a person’s life. Doctors work primarily to heal the body with little or no concern for spiritual matters. Pastor’s focus on saving souls, but do little to address physical health. And we still haven’t figured out mental health is inseparable from physical and spiritual health.
Modern people arrogantly believe we are better informed about everything than people in past ages. However, the ancients were not ignorant of the interconnectedness of mental, spiritual, and physical healing. In fact, they would not even describe them as interconnected because they would not even conceive of them as separate issues. What was true then is true now. Healing—true healing—is encompasses every aspect of life--een extending beyon the individual person to the community and even creation.
We can sense the wholistic healing power of God in the Exodus story. God delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. He convinced Pharaoh to let God's people go free and God lead them to freedom through the Red Sea. However, just because the Israelites were no longer in physical bondage doesn’t mean they were free in their own hearts and minds. Their people had spent 400 years as slaves in Egypt. One does not simply stop thinking like a slave overnight. It requires healing and that healing may take generations to take full effect.
22 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. 23 When they came to the oasis of Marah, the water was too bitter to drink. So they called the place Marah (which means “bitter”).
24 Then the people complained and turned against Moses. “What are we going to drink?” they demanded. 25 So Moses cried out to the Lord for help, and the Lord showed 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. 26 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 Hebrew name of God is hidden in this passage. I don’t know why they didn’t list it as they have in the previous passages we’ve read in this series. To see the name, you have to look at the original Hebrew where God’s name in the text is Yahweh Rafa. Some may pronounce it Jehovah, but most scholars agree Yahweh was the original pronunciation until the middle ages when people wanting to refrain from saying or writing God's proper name used the vowels from AdOnAI (the Hebrew word for Lord) with the Ancient Hebrew YHWH (or JHVH). This produced Jehovah.
Also, the second part of the name Rafa or Rapha can also be spelled/pronounced variously as Rafa, Rapha, Rophe, or Ropha. The letters/sounds P and F are closely related and shift over time and in different regions in human language. For instance in English we say "Father"; in Spanish they say "Padre"; and Germans say "Vater". So Rafa could have been pronounced a variety of ways.
Ok, enough of the nerd stuff. What does this have to do with healing?
Rafa means healing. In the ancient, biblical sense it wasn’t just medical healing. It was an all-encompassing, wholistic healing of every part of a person’s being. And not just a personal healing, it was a healing for the whole community and even the whole world. You may recall from the creation story in Genesis that all of creation was corrupted when Adam and Eve first sinned. Our sin doesn't just effect us; it effects others and even creation. Therefore, all creation needs healing. Yahweh (the Existent One, the Great I Am) said, “I am the Lord who heals you.”
God wanted to heal the Israelites. He wanted to change their thinking from slaves who lived with a scarcity mentality—just trying to survive day by day, hour by hour—to a people who trusted God completely and knew, in His love, they had nothing to fear. He wanted them to know in their heart they were royalty and priests with the holy task of showing God to the whole world.
We see the Israelites' sickness in their spasmodic thinking. Just three days after Yahweh miraculously parted the Red Sea and they walked across on dry land, the Israelites have lost faith and are complaining about the bitter water they’ve found at the oasis in Marah. These people have a long road to find healing.
So God gave them many rules and traditions to guide them toward a wholistic healing where they finally accepted and trusted Yahweh as their creator and Lord. These rules, which we call the Old Testament Law would also set Israel apart as a peculiar people who would represent God to the whole world—because God’s desire is that every nation and all people (even all of creation) would know Him and find healing and wholeness and deliverance from slavery to sin.
Yahweh provided for the physical needs of His people. He showed Moses a piece of wood to throw into the bitter spring at Marah and it made the water good to drink. Some translations say it was a tree, but the original Hebrew literally means a piece of wood. It cold have been a branch or a stick; that makes more sense than throwing a tree into the water. The wording is vague. There was a very famous piece of wood Moses is known for carrying. I like to think God told Moses to use his staff he to make the water of Marah sweet. It was the same staff God turned into a snake to show Pharaoh God is more powerful than the Egyptian gods. It was the same piece of wood Moses raised to part the Red Sea. I I can imagine God answering Moses' cry for help about the bitter water by saying, “Hey, remember this? Remember this simple piece of wood I used to do all those other miraculous things to save your skin? Use it to make the water sweet!”
How quickly people forget God's providence—even when we've been through something tremendous. Traditions help us to remember and celebrate. They can help us heal. This past Sunday, Robert and Melissa Starling placed flowers in the sanctuary of my church. It was a special occasion for their family. You see, July 18th is the birthday of their son Harrison. Harrison was born healthy but developed a virus within a couple of hours of birth and got terribly sick. He did about a week later. It was a terrible loss, as you can imagine. However, God used that situation. My wife was a nurse who took care of Harrison in the NICU. And I hear that some friends of mine from Atlanta had a grandson in the NICU and wen to pray for hi and his family, and it turned out it was the same family my wife was caring for. We prayed for healing, but it didn't come in the way we expected. Harrison went Home to be with the Lord in Heaven. And it took many years for Robert and Melissa to heal from losing their son (they are still healing). But one way they have been healing is to place flowers on Harrison's grave every year on his birthday. However, this year, the Starling family placed them in the sanctuary of my church because they joined as members of our church. They were not attending church before Harrison's death. But now, Melissa has transferred to my church and Robert has professed his faith in Jesus and been baptized along with their two sons who will be growing up learning about Jesus. God has taken all these broken pieces and arranged them together into a beautiful mosaic of healing.
Healing Isn’t Always Easy
Healing and growth aren’t always easy. Sometimes they hurt. Kelly and I listen to an amazing podcast by Radiolab about how a baby first starts to breathe.[i]
A baby spends 9 months inside the womb.
Until the moment of birth, the baby gets all it’s blood through it’s umbilical cord. So that useless scar everyone has on the belly that seems so useless, used to be one of the most important areas of your body. Through it, the baby receives all the nurishment and oxygen it needs to live.
Ababy can’t breathe because it’s living under water of the womb. Their lungs are useless.
Then at the moment of birth, the lungs have to fire up and get to work. There’s a door in the wall of the heart—between the left and right side of the heart. In adults, the door is completely walled off, but it's open in unborn babies because the lungs aren’t working and the blood flows to the umbilical chord. At the moment of birth, the door in the babies heart closes so the blood and oxygen stops flowing through their belly button and starts going through the lungs to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. When a baby is born, it is wet and feels cold for the very first time in it’s life. It’s quite a shock to go from the perfect temperature of mother's womb to the cold light of day in the real world. When that cold air hits the baby’s skin, the skin sends little signals to the baby’s breathing center in the nervous system and BOOM! the baby starts breathing and the door in the heart closes and the blood begins to flow to the lungs and the baby has a heart and respiratory system just like every other human being on earth. It’s just one of a million of God’s amazing miracles that happens in our first moments of life, but as you can imagine, it’s incredibly shocking and painful for the baby. Why do you think they come out crying? Fortunately, that pain serves a purpose. It’s vital. Otherwise, we would all be flopping around like a fish out of water trying to breath through our belly buttons!
Healing and growth aren’t always easy. Sometimes it’s very uncomfortable or just plain hurts. I want you to know that you don’t go through that pain alone. God goes through it with you. Think about the Israelites wandering through the desert. People sometimes think it was cruel for God to make them wander there for 40 years before entering the Promise Land. Do you think they were going through that wilderness alone? No. God was right there with them. He told them to build a tabernacle, a tent in which God would live with them. God could have been in the glory of Heaven, but He chose to wander through the desert with a bunch of whiny, rebellious, sinful former slaves for 40 years. He was with them.
When you are going through whatever painful suffering and healing you must face, remember God left the glory of Heaven to live among us in our broken world and even suffered the agony of dying on the cross in order to heal you and our whole world. And God is with you in your pain now because He is Yahweh Rafa—the Lord who heals. The healing of Yahweh is complete and wholistic. It covers you from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet. It penetrates to the very center of your soul and extends out to your family, to your community, and to the whole world. Think of it, when you get your life right with God through Jesus, it effects stars that are trillions of light years away. Furthermore, it’s not a temporary healing—as all physical healing is in this life. God’s healing is eternal and leads to eternal life where there will be no more sickness or sorrow or suffering or death.
Along the way, God may give you some rules and traditions to follow. These are not meant to restrict us from enjoyment, but are merely the roadmap to the perfect place we want to be--the place of healing and wholeness. God knows how we should live because He designed us and every part of creation. God heals us on every level of our being when we follow His perfect plan for life through Hus Son, Jesus the Christ.
Yahweh Rafa says, “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.”
So, I want to invite you to pray for God's healing—a healing that encompasses every aspect of your life and ultimately leads to eternal life with God as Lord.
Are you weary from weary and carrying a heavy burden?
Do you need to forgive or be forgiven?
Pray to Yahweh-Rafa, the Lord who heals you.