Foundations are extremely important. The strength of the foundation determines the scope of the building project, whether it is a building, a ministry, a life, or a theological belief. As followers of Jesus, we must recognize that the foundation of the New Testament is laid in the Old Testament. The people of the O.T. looked forward through the Mosaic Law and its sacrificial system toward the coming of the Messiah. But we, as N.T. believers, must interpret that Law and sacrificial system through what Jesus (the Messiah) did. In other words, without Jesus Christ, much of the O.T. makes little sense to us.
The Old Testament is a progressive revelation of who God is and what God desires. Over time he revealed his character, his attributes, and his holiness—the essence of who he is. This culminates when the invisible God became flesh, giving us a fuller revelation of who he is in Jesus Christ. If you want to know who God is, how he acts, and what is important to him—look at Jesus. He is the invisible God made visible.
We often forget when we read the O.T. that God was calling a people to be singularly his out of a sea of paganism where idolatrous worship was filled with all types of sexual perversion and human sacrifice. Every nation, tribe, village and even individual families had their deities they worshipped. The world was filled with false deities—demons and wicked spirits who caused calamity and were believe to be the source of ill-fortune, sickness, disease, and death. This is the atmosphere out of which God calls a people to worship him alone—a holy people. We often fail to interpret O.T. passages through this lens and when we do, we end up with a religion filled with countless rules, rituals, and regulations rather than a relationship meant to be experienced through grace. In other words, we attempt to enjoy the benefits of grace through the labor of the law, which is impossible.
What does this have to do with healing you might be wondering? Everything! To understand the heart of God we need a proper foundation to build a biblical theology of healing. There is little revelation of an afterlife in the O.T. Sheol (the Pit) was a shadowy place where the dead, both the righteous and the wicked, resided until the resurrection. Therefore, most people believed the reward or punishment for the kind of life one lived was received, not in the afterlife, but right now. God was seen as the giver of all good things, as well as the dispenser of misfortune and pain, which included sickness and pain. In other words, one reaped what one sowed…now! The Law was crystal clear about what they could expect if they obeyed, and what would happen if they disobeyed. People began to believe that health and wealth were rewards of God, while sickness, poverty, and misfortune were divine punishments. People came to believe that all sickness was the result of sin. As the O.T. developed, the rabbis taught that healing could only come after one’s sin was forgiven. The sinner must appear before the priest and repent. No repentance—no healing! This strand of belief still permeates the church today.
Yet God revealed himself to his people as Jehovah Rapha (literally—I Am That I Am Healer). God’s name reveals who he is—his essence—not just what he does. God is saying, “I am healing. Healing is who I am!” Remember, the O.T. is a progressive revelation of God’s identity and his will.
In the next blog, we will look at two seemingly different strands of thought on healing that appear to be diametrically opposed. In reality, they are not opposed when we look back at the O.T. through the lens of Jesus and find his interpretation. Jesus did not ignore the old covenant, he fulfilled it. Then he established a new one, but the foundation for the new one is foreshadowed through the former one.