Jehovah-Rapha, "The Lord Our Healer"
Updated: May 2, 2022
I was reading an article recently that shared some funny (and some tragic) first-date stories. One guy dropped his date off at the front door and then drove down a few spaces to parallel park. Apparently, he wasn’t very good at it and, after three of four failed attempts, was so embarrassed that he gave up and drove off, leaving his date there at the restaurant!!!
Normally on a first date you’d be on your best behavior. You might be nervous to share everything about yourself at first, not knowing how the other person would react to your quirkier side. But if the relationship continues and becomes committed, you will probably find it easier and easier to let your guard down, not fearing to be yourself. That kind of openness fostered by trust one of the greatest gifts that committing to another in marriage brings!
Matthew Henry says that sense of security is one of the reasons we should study the names of God…
The better we know God, the more we will trust him.
The more we trust God, the more frequently we’ll seek him in prayer and commit our needs and ways to him
God never fails those who trust him, so the more we seek him the more we benefit from his unfailing care.
Egypt: A First Introduction
In the book of Exodus, the descendants of Abraham are being re-introduced to the Lord after almost 400 years without direct contact. Stories were circulated of course, but the Israelites of Moses’ day had not had their own personal experience of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The ten plagues on Egypt definitely displayed God’s power, but also resulted in negative consequences for the Israelite slaves. Angry at Moses’ insistence that they be allowed to leave, the Egyptians set out to make their task harder. That’s quite the “First date” isn’t it? What they weren’t aware of was that God was working out a plan to provide a much safer and more lasting deliverance than they could have expected otherwise. Just like in any relationship, it was going to take time and experience to get to know both what He is capable of and also what character governs his use of that great power.
Red Sea Incident- A Demonstration of Power and Care
Almost immediately after leaving Egypt they have an opportunity to see those two elements come together. Stopped in their tracks by the Red Sea, and pursued by a furious Pharaoh and his charioteers, the people respond like anyone who does not yet know or trust a God like Yahweh: they fearfully wail and mourn and complain. They assume the worst without even thinking to ask for help from the one whose power over nature had been so clearly displayed in the ten plagues. I can’t fault them for not dropping to their knees immediately and asking for the sea to be parted. They don’t have the advantage of hindsight to know exactly how God will deliver them. But they should be learning at the very least that he’s willing and able.
As the waters come crashing back down on the Egyptians, not only are all of the Israelites safe, but they never again have to fear the Egyptian army: a better outcome than if they had never been put in that difficult position to begin with. There’s a good lesson for us here too, isn’t there? While we don’t relish the thought of a trial, those who endure them with eyes opened to what God might be demonstrating about himself find themselves grateful in the end.
The first half of chapter 15 records a praise song sung by the jubilant Israelites. It includes such exclamations as
V.1 I will sing to the Lord for He is highly exalted.
V.6 Your right hand, O LORD, is majestic in power
V.11 Who is like you among the gods, O LORD? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in praises, working wonders?
V.17 You will bring them and plant them in the mountain of your inheritance
V.18 The LORD shall reign forever and ever!
This song overcomes their inhibitions and bursts forth with dancing and shouts and praises and music.
Then, just three days later…
Bitter Waters at Mara- A Test of Trust
Then Moses made Israel set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. 24 And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?”
I believe we see three helpful truths in this incident which, when combined with the overall flow of thought as we’ve seen it thus far, compel us to get to know God so that we might trust him and ultimately, as Matthew Henry suggests, know the blessings of his faithful care.
1. We often experience trouble immediately after a great victory because of God’s desire to test (v.25b) whether our faith has grown based on the prior experience of his grace.
We can be sure of two things based on what we’ve already seen of God: First, they aren’t wandering around by accident and, second, they aren’t going to die of thirst. I admit that’s easier to confess from my office chair than it would have been for these weary Israelites. But then, I can only read of the divided waters of the Red Sea, whereas they felt the wind on their cheeks and the solid ground beneath their feet. Regardless, we experience a similar pattern in that we often face alternating experiences of God’s great deliverance followed by challenges wherein we’re called to trust based on what we just experienced.
When, with parched throats and whimpering children they see that oasis, the water itself seems to be their savior. That savior lets them down when it proves to be undrinkable. The response of their heart is exactly like the water: Bitter. This reminds us of a second principle:
2. If we fail to trust God’s power and goodness, our trials will tend to make us bitter at the person or thing that we perceive is preventing us from having what we need.
I will add to this that we are always trusting SOMETHING. In this case it seems like they’re trusting Moses as the one ultimately responsible for their welfare, so it becomes his fault that they have no good water to drink. This has been a major emphasis of our Life Group study on anger. Most of our ungodly expressions of anger arise out of errors in our belief system!
Helpfully, Moses does the reasonable thing and turns to the Lord in prayer.
25 And he cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.
The Lord instructs Moses to throw a tree in the water. There is no tree we know of that can physically freshen up a stagnant water source. This clearly is a miracle! But why a tree? Why not merely declare the waters to be purified and let it be so? I think it becomes plain in the way that the Lord reveals himself to the people in verse 26
A New Name: Jehovah Rapha- The Lord Your Healer
25There the Lord made for them a statute and a rule, and there he tested them, 26 saying, “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your healer.”
27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they encamped there by the water.
The word for healer can refer to a physician. Healing, therefore, often refers to physical recovery from illness or injury, but the Hebrew language allows it a much wider berth than that. Throughout the Old Testament, physical healing becomes a parallel for fixing something broken or restoring someone to his or her rightful place and purpose. Just consider some examples:
o Physical (non-medical) Healing
2 Chronicles 7:14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
o Emotional Healing:
He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
o Spiritual Healing
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
It is to point to this last form of healing that I believe the Lord has Moses push a tree into the pool of water that day. In so doing, he pointed to another tree that would be used to cleanse our hearts of sin! This includes our chief sin: a lack of trust in the God who cares for us so much that he would provide His Son for us to cleanse and heal us!
1 Peter 2:24 (ESV)
24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
Peter makes a direct connection from the cross, a tree, to healing and thus make the final principle clear:
3. Those who trust in the Lord for Salvation can trust him for everything else related to life.
Jehovah-Rapha, the Lord our Healer, has proven his willingness to heal our greatest illness: sin, so that we would know that we can trust him in everything else too.