Thank you for continuing to pray for my brother Danny’s full and complete healing in Jesus’s name! We are very thankful to God that he managed his first two weeks of radiation and chemo with minimal side effects. We know that is a direct answer to prayer.
BTW – Happy 70th Danny!!!! May you be able to celebrate many more!!
So a question that might be asked at this point in our deliberations in the Old Testament is: If God is so concerned for the health and healing of His people (and sometimes those who are not His people), why does the incidence of healing seem so infrequent in the Old Testament?
I suppose there are multiple reasons for this. I want to speak to one of them in this blog. And that reason is the shepherds of God’s people were on the most part disobedient to the call to truly shepherd the sheep, which included healing the sick. This is seen most clearly in Ezekiel 34:1-4. So let’s start there:
“Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy and say to those shepherds, ‘thus say the Lord God, “Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat sheep without feeding the flock. Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost; but with force and with severity you have dominated them.”
The prophet Ezekiel had the thankless task of prophesying against the shepherds or spiritual leaders of Israel. All of Israel would be held responsible before God for their idolatry and waywardness. But this all started with the shepherds. As someone once wisely said, “Whatever is at the top trickles down.” And whoever is at the top will be held doubly responsible for their sins and the sins of the sheep in part because of their bad example, influence and negligence.
These shepherds could have included priests and prophets judging by the rebukes Ezekiel had for them (see Ezekiel 22:26 for priests; 13:2-4,9,16 & 22:25,28 for prophets). (Jeremiah had a similar call from God and gave many stinging rebukes to the shepherds of Israel and Judah – (e.g. Jer. 10:21; 12:10; 23:1,2, 16; 50:6).
I find it interesting that in Ezekiel 34:1-4 his rebuke starts off in non specific prophetic kind of language, but then in vs. 4 he gets very specific. And the first two specific things mentioned have to do with sickness, “Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased (literally “sick”) you have not healed…” God fully intended for the shepherds of His people (whatever their title or office) to be hands on with the sick. He expected them to be His instrument of healing and comfort.
One thing I’ve observed over all these years in ministry in various places around the world and in our nation is most people do not enjoy being sick. Life is difficult enough when we are well. But when we are sick, injured, or diseased, it is doubly difficult. Our emotions and thought patterns are easily negatively affected. And I believe when we are sick the enemy of our souls seizes the opportunity to hammer us with doubts, fears, frustrations, etc. Then if the situation lingers, often a “Job’s friend” or two kicks in with their unrighteous judgment on why the situation is lingering and what caused it.
Of all of the believers I have ever known who were sick, injured or diseased, most if not all desperately wanted to be well. Most if not all felt oppressed being sick. Few if any were ecstatic over yet another opportunity to suffer for Jesus with their sickness. All of this to say, if shepherds were ever needed to help shepherd the sheep, it is when we are sick!
God never rebuked Isaiah, Jeremiah or Ezekiel for not having His heart for the sick and helping them get healed; so I assume whatever He led them to do in this regard, they obeyed. We saw in the first two blogs that the prophets Elijah and Elisha were used by God to heal the sick and/or raise the dead. And King David, whom Asaph – the writer of Psalm 78 – commended highly for being a God pleasing and effective shepherd (see vs. 70-72) – testified that he prayed even for his enemies when sick in Psalm 35:12-14, “They repay me evil for good, To the bereavement of my soul. But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth; I humbled my soul with fasting, And my prayer kept returning to my bosom. I went about as though it were my friend or brother; I bowed down mourning as one who sorrows for a mother.” So thankfully there were exceptions to the rule. But the rule was that the shepherds on the most part were not in any way used by God to heal the sick. And this evidently carried right on through the intertestamental 400 years, and into Jesus’s day as can be seen very clearly with the Jewish Pharisees, Scribes and Elders, who instead of celebrating when Jesus healed the sick, unrighteously judged, slandered and opposed Him for the same.
So what happened with the Shepherds of Israel? Why did they so miss the mark with shepherding the sick? Well many pages could be devoted to answering that question, but allow me to pose a few observations from primarily Jeremiah and Ezekiel. To a certain degree all disciples of Jesus Christ are called to shepherd the sheep God gives us influence over and to be a voice into their lives. So hopefully this will prove helpful to all of us.
First and foremost I would say from studying these two books (Jeremiah and Ezekiel) over the years, the problem started with their lack of seeking and knowing God. Jeremiah said in chapter 2:8 “The priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?’ And those who handle the law did not know Me; The rulers also transgressed against Me, And the prophets prophesied by Baal And walked after things that did not profit”. In vs. 13 God says His people “…have forsaken Me” and that forsaking Him is evil. He repeats that reality or truth in vs. 19, “….Know therefore and see that it is evil and bitter For you to forsake the Lord your God.” Then in 10:21, speaking specifically of the shepherds, Jeremiah proclaims, “For the shepherds have become stupid And have not sought the Lord; Therefore they have not prospered, And all their flock is scattered.”
The greatest call and priority for any shepherd or leader of God’s people then and today is to know and love and seek God for who He is. But if we shepherds and leaders of God’s people are honest, we have to admit many other aspects of our lives and ministry tend to get our attention.
One would think that since we shepherds are shepherding God’s sheep that we of all people would seek God and long to know Him and love Him as He so deserves to be loved. But that is often not the case with us. We have learned to ride quite far on our anointing, gifts and service sadly. It is much easier to run a church program/ministry or relay Bible knowledge to Bible knowledge seekers than it is to truly love God with our whole heart, soul, strength and mind and be used by Him to heal the sick.
Having God’s heart for the sick and knowing how He would have us respond to each and every situation He leads us into requires a level of intimacy with Him that we ministers/shepherds can easily not have, though we are very busy in ministry related activities. Sadly we have developed a church culture in North America that rewards busyness and makes cultivating a hidden life with God very difficult to attain to. Then if you come from a church background that I did that for my first 30 years did not see or teach or believe the truths I have been discussing in these blogs, then it is all the more difficult.
So because of other commitments and the length of this blog already, I’m going to bring this to a close and just ask you to pray for we shepherds. We need a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit to pursue God and the things that are closest to His heart. If you are a Shepherd or leader of Christ’s church I would ask you to pray for yourself – that the Holy Spirit would open your eyes in greater ways to what He has revealed regarding sickness, disease and healing in the Scriptures. He has been so faithful and patient with me in this journey. In many ways I feel I am just beginning to learn to live and minister like Jesus did. I often thank Him in these days that He is so faithful and committed to “finish that which He has begun in us” (Phil. 1:6).
The good news and bottom line to all of these six blogs (including this one) is that our great God and Savior cares about our bodies as well as our souls. And therefore we can all come to Him with confidence that He will listen to our cries for our own sicknesses, diseases and injuries or those of others He leads us to minister to or pray for. God bless you and yours!