Healing in the OT

Throughout the Old Testament, we consistently see that God is able to heal, and willing to heal, both among His chosen people, and in the midst of those who were not. God preforms healing, describes Himself in such terms, and promises health and healing among His people. In the books of the law, in the books of history, in the Psalms, and in the prophets, a God who heals is recorded again and again.

Let’s look at a non-exhaustive list of examples of healing in the Old Testament. We will take a little liberty to group them not in order of occurrence, but in a thematic approach, with some added commentary.

The God who Heals
When God describes Himself, we should take note. In Exodus 15:26, God directly links healing with His character by declaring, ‘I am the Lord, your healer’. Nothing is more direct than when God describes Himself, and He says that He is a healing God. In this passage the ‘I AM’ construct of God name is used to link healing directly to His eternal, unchanging nature. God revealed Himself as the great ‘I AM’ to Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3, and this Exodus 15 passage is one of many times that God expands the I AM revelation to reveal more of Himself to us.

One the of greatest arguments enabling us to pray for healing today is backed by the unchanging nature of how God describes Himself, He is the God who heals. Not a god who once healed in the past. Not a god who may heal in the future. But God who heals, in the ever present ‘I am the Lord, your healer’.

God Heals Barrenness
The first recorded healing is found in Gen 20:17-18 (ESV) “Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children.” God is directly attributed to healing Abimelech as well as others in his household, specifically to cure barrenness. God is repeatedly shown to be concerned for the barren, opening Sarah’s womb in Gen 21, as well as Hannah’s, the mother of Samuel the prophet (1 Sam 1:9-20). Elisha prayed to God to healed a woman to bear a son (2 Kings 4:8-17), Elizabeth’s womb was opened, mother of John the Baptist (Luke 1:13,14) among others recorded in Scripture.

God heals kings
Some interactions with God include both a cursing and the healing. In 1 Kings 3, Jeroboam, the first king of northern Israel, sought to seize a prophet of God, and his hand withered when he gave the command. For working against His appointed servant, God wounded Jeroboam’s hand, but when he cried out, the prophet interceded to the Lord and the Lord restored Jeroboam’s hand. It isn’t suggested that all illnesses are punishments for God, far from it, but regardless of the origin, calling out to the Lord for healing is a good thing.

Another story is about king Hezekiah who during a grave sickness was told his days had come to an end, and to place his house in order (2 Kings 20:1-7, 2 Chr 32:24-26). But that night, he desperately prayed to the Lord God, and God sent the prophet Isaiah to tell the king that God had heard his prayers, and had added 15 years to his life.

Raises the dead, and heals foreigners
Our God who heals isn’t limited to just the effects of illness, injury or disease, but He can also raise the dead to life. Through Elijah the prophet, God raises to life a widow’s son. Elijah calls upon the Lord, and He listens, “21 Then he stretched himself upon the child three times and cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, let this child’s life[a] come into him again.” 22 And the Lord listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived.” 1 Kings 17:17-24 (ESV). Similarly, Elisha in 2 Kings 4:18-37 prays to the Lord on behalf a boy who had died.

God, known as the healer
It is so important that God be known as a healing God that He emphasized it in the promise to return Israel from exile. Jeremiah 33:6 says, “Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security. “ Even though the context of this passage is the judgment of Israel into the exile along with the promise of eventual return, we must see that the first act of God redeeming His people is to heal them and the land. Before promising to return them to the land, before the promise of peace and security, He promises to Heal them.

God expects us to seek Him first in all ways (Matt 6:33, ‘seek first the Kingdom’, Pro 3:6 ‘in all ways acknowledge him’), and this includes healing.  It isn’t enough to know that God heals, He actually expects us to seek him first regarding our illnesses. It is specifically noted when king Asa does not seek the Lord regarding a disease in 2 Chr 16:12. Also in 1 Kings 1, king Ahaziah lays sick and he sends messengers to priests of a foreign god, but the Lord sent Elijah to confront him from not seeking the Lord. God takes notice when kings and His people did not turn to Him regarding sickness and disease, for they should have remembered the God who heals.

Beyond these specific examples, the Old Testament is replete with passages of the Lord healing, or responding to healing prayer. From Solomon’s dedication of the temple, to various Psalms (103:3 ‘who heals all your diseases’) and Proverbs mentioned healing through God’s hand, and the many promises of God to heal in the books of prophets. The Lord our God is a healing God. He directly states this attribute in His identity as ‘The God who heals’ and then emphasized it directly in the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus.

— An excerpt from an upcoming book, (Super)Natural Theology, a look at moving our theology into a daily expectation of God moving in our midst.

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