I. Healing in the Psalms
"The psalms remind us again of the intimate connection in the Israelite mind between sin and sickness on the one hand, and divine favor and healing on the other hand, reflecting a worldview in which physical restoration is taken as an indication of spiritual reconciliation" (Brown, 119).
Those psalms generally recognized as dealing with sickness and healing include 6, 30, 38, 41, 88, 91, 102, 103. Observations:
1. In several psalms there is evidence that sickness was often used by God as discipline for sin.
See Pss. 6:2-3,6-7; 32:1-7; 38; 41:1-4; 88:1-9,15-18; 102:1-5,8-11; 119:67,71,75 (although "affliction" need not always refer to physical illness).
Brown points out that "while the restored worshiper would be quick to acknowledge that it was good that he had been afflicted . . . , the affliction itself was not perceived as being a good thing. Rather, it was the necessary and fitting disciplinary tool to get him back on the path to life -- both spiritually and physically. Thus, God may use sickness to chasten a straying child, but this again proves the rule: Sickness indicates to the sufferer that something is wrong and that he or she has gotten off the path of life and is out of the favor of God. Proper response to this discipline is confession of sin and repentance, after which, the lesson having been learned, the sickness could be healed and complete fellowship with God restored. Chastisement had served its purpose" (240).
2. In Psalm 103 we see that the healing of diseases is as much a part of who God is and what He does as the forgiving of iniquities.
Note the emphasis in v. 3 on the word "all". No sin is too dirty or defiling or dark or wicked that God cannot forgive it. So, too, no disease is too deep or crippling or long-lasting or resistant to medicine that God cannot heal it.
* Does the juxtaposition in v. 3 of the forgiving of sins and the healing of diseases point to a causal relationship between the two?
II. Healing in the Proverbs
The general rule expressed in Proverbs is that the path of wisdom and godliness leads to well-being, protection, and life, whereas the path of folly and sin leads to disaster, disease, and death.
See esp. Prov. 3:7-8; 4:20-22.
* There are a number of texts in Proverbs where one's emotional and/or spiritual state is portrayed as having an impact on one's physical condition. See Prov. 12:25; 14:30; 15:13,30; 17:22; 18:14.
III. Healing and Suffering in Job
A survey of the opening chapter of Job will help us understand the reasons for his suffering:
A. Job's Character - 1:1-5
1. His piety - v. 1
The author makes it clear that Job's suffering would not be the result of Job's sin.
2. His prosperity - vv. 2-3
Observe the use of the numbers 3,7,10, all symbolic of completeness, wholeness, which highlights how God had richly blessed his servant.
3. His posterity - vv. 4-5
B. Job's Calamities - 1:6-22
1. Satan's accusations - vv. 6-12
Job was a complete puzzle to Satan. He couldn't bring himself to believe that anyone would serve God for nothing. His diabolical conclusion was that Job served God for what he could get out of Him. Job's piety, reasoned the devil, must be a calculated effort to milk God of His gifts. Worship, thought Satan, is nothing more than a man-made device to flatter God into generosity. So Satan accuses God of having bought Job's loyalty with health and wealth.
2. Satan's assault - vv. 13-22
a. Woe! vv. 13-19
b. Worship! vv. 20-22
Some initial observations:
First, the book of Job is not primarily concerned with: (1) who is responsible for suffering (the sinner, Satan, God, none of the above?); nor (2) why do the righteous suffer? nor (3) the theological debate over the goodness of God and the existence of evil. Rather, Job is primarily concerned with faith . . . faith in the midst of unexplained and undeserved suffering. It is also about whether or not God is worthy of our devotion and affection even when He is silent, hidden, and seemingly inactive.
Second, the calamities that overwhelmed Job came as a complete surprise. Such things were not expected for the godly. The point is this: the book presupposes that God generally blesses the righteous and curses the unrighteous. In other words, the suffering of the righteous is a mystery.
Third, the experience of Job is to be viewed as the exception, not the rule. What God allows to happen to Job is not indicative or characteristic of God's nature or dealings with His people.
Fourth, note well that God himself refuses to afflict Job. Rather, He grants permission to another (Satan) to do so. See 2:3-6.
Fifth, it is important to remember that Job never discovers Satan's role in this affair. Job is never told that his suffering is the result of an encounter between God and the Devil. Thus we have a perspective on Job's experience that he never did.
Sixth, the extent of Job's suffering is described in various places throughout the book. This suffering began following Satan's second assault (2:1-10).
* He suffered from painful sores/boils (2:7) which led to intolerable itching (2:8). His appearance was disfigured (2:12; 19:19). He suffered loss of appetite (3:24a), depression (3:24b-26), sleeplessness (7:4), nightmares (7:14), festering sores and broken skin (7:5), scabs that blackened and peeled (30:30), high fever (30:30), excessive weeping and burning of the eyes (16:16), putrid breath (19:17), an emaciated body (17:7; 19:20), and chronic pain (30:17).
Seventh, contrary to what some have said, Job did not suffer because of some specific sin that he had committed. Several things confirm this: (1) There is nothing in the text which asserts or implies that Job was living in unbelief, doubt, or disobedience. To the contrary, 1:1,8 and 1:22 testify to his holiness. (2) If Job had been living in unbelief and rebellion, Satan would have lost his reason for afflicting Job. Satan wanted to prove that Job's obedience was conditioned on the blessings God bestowed. If Job was in fact living in disobedience, what reason would Satan have had for carrying through with his scheme? (3) God's own testimony is clear. Read 2:3. a) Here God repeates the affirmation of 1:8 concerning Job's character. b) God asserts that in spite of what has happened Job still holds fast his integrity. And c) God says that Job was afflicted without cause, i.e., apart from any fault in Job himself that might have justified his suffering. (4) Finally, after Satan's final assault we are told again that "in all this Job did not sin with his lips" (2:10).
The remainder of the book of Job focuses on four things:
(1) The interpretation and counsel of Job's "friends". Their interpretation is that Job's suffering cannot be explained other than as the penalty for Job's sin. Their theology allowed no place for unexplained, undeserved suffering. Their counsel was therefore simple and to the point: confess and repent.
(2) Job's vigorous defense of himself. Job refuses to concede to his friends' explanation. He will not confess sin of which he is not guilty. Although his faith in God's goodness is stretched, it never breaks.
(3) God finally breaks His silence. What He does not say is almost as shocking as what He does say. He offers Job no apologies for his having suffered. He offers Job no compliments his having endured. He offers Job no explanations as to why it all happened in the first place. All God says is: "Look at the world around you and explain what you see. Job, do you really know who I am? If you can explain the majesty and unfathomable mysteries of the physical world, perhaps then I will feel obligated to explain to you the complexities and confusion of the moral world."
(4) Job's health and fortune are restored to him. Indeed, "the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning" (42:12a). See 42:10-17.
If you had been one of Job's friends, unaware (as Job was) of the heavenly encounter between God and Satan, would you have prayed for his healing? Would you have grown weary and frustrated and filled with doubt when nothing happened? Would you have been tempted to accuse Job of sin? Read and evaluate Michael Brown's interpretation of the story:
"Although modern opponents of divine healing often point to Job's sufferings as proof that God sometimes wills sickness for his obedient children, that proposition cannot be supported by the text. The situation is far more complex, and one in which it is Satan -- in open antagonism to the beneficent character of the Lord -- who is associated with sickness and wanton destruction. That he receives divine permission to carry out his nefarious schemes can only be explained in light of the larger heavenly stakes [see chps. 1-2] . . . . It cannot, however, be interpreted as broadly indicative of either the nature of God or his general plans for his people, although one could rightly argue that for the ultimate good of his servants as well as for his own glory, he might allow the enemy to test and attack them. He will, of course, turn it for good in the end, given the continued cooperation of his children" (169).