Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground – trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…
…The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die. (Genesis 2) NIV
God gave Adam a choice between life and death.
Two trees in the middle of the garden. One gave life. The fruit of the other led to death.
God also made it clear that His will was for Adam and Eve to choose life, by His command that they NOT eat the fruit of the tree that would bring them death.
Adam and Eve disobeyed God and chose death instead of life.
Fast forward to the time of Moses, after God freed Israel from the slavery of Egypt.
Just before the surviving Israelites were to enter the Promised Land, Moses gave them a message from God.
This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life… (Deuteronomy 30) NIV
Effectively God offered the same choice that He had given to Adam and Eve. Between life and death. Both choices were conditional upon obedience to God.
If they continued in obedience, life was promised.
Disobedience would lead to death.
The purpose of life was relationship with God: to love Him, listen to Him, and hold fast to Him. And HE made HIS will totally clear. He wanted them to choose LIFE, and to choose it NOW.
I find it interesting that God prefaces this promise by calling “the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you” – those last two words seem to clearly indicate that God knew that His chosen people would fail to keep the conditions of the promise, and by doing so choose death and curses. God wanted witnesses when His offer of life and blessings was rejected. Witnesses to attest to the fact that it was the people who had failed, it was not God going back on His word.
I mentioned previously, that although this life or death choice was part of the Old Covenant with Israel, and that Covenant was rendered obsolete by the introduction of a New Covenant – the new is based on better promises, and instead of obedience to a law with hundreds of separate requirements, the new covenant and its better promises are entered and obtained through faith. Through believing in Jesus, trusting Him and His word.
Too often Christians try to distance themselves from promises made under the Old Covenant by pushing them into the next life, as if the New Covenant is all about eternity in heaven, and no longer applicable to life on earth now.
Promises of healing? There will be no sickness and disease in heaven.
Promise of life? We’ll have everlasting life after death.
But the promises of abundant life, and everlasting life do not come with a clause delaying their commencement until after death.
Jesus said “whoever lives by believing in me will never die”. Eternal life begins by living a life of faith NOW, not after death. If we don’t enter eternal life now, it will be too late when we are dead.
There is a reason to desire life and health and its no different to the reason why God has always wanted His people to have them, to the extent that HE commanded the choosing of life.
Now Choose life so that you may live and you may love the Lord your God for the Lord is your life.
Or to put it in NT terms:
To Live is Christ
We are also misled if we look to the post-death healing of our bodies instead of believing for health now when we need it.
Some try to give Isaiah 53: 4-5 a spiritualised interpretation, insisting that any healing mentioned has an entirely spiritual, not physical application. They are aided a little by the English bible translators who used the word “suffering” to translate a word that elsewhere is always rendered as “diseases”;
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed. (NIV)
Compare to the Complete Jewish Bible translation into English
In fact, it was our diseases he bore,
our pains from which he suffered;
yet we regarded him as punished,
stricken and afflicted by God.
But he was wounded because of our crimes,
crushed because of our sins;
the disciplining that makes us whole fell on him,
and by his bruises* we are healed
The latter rendering is later reflected in Matthew’s reference to Isaiah’s prophecy, which makes it clear in more than one way that Isaiah WAS referring to physical, not spiritual healing: not only in the rewording of the prophecy, but also in the events he said the prophecy was fulfilling.
When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
“He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases. (Matt 8)NIV
In my attempt to discover God’s will regarding healing, the finding of a definitive answer was quite easy. Scripture makes His will very plain. We are not left in the dark with nothing to pin our faith to.
God wants His people to be healthy and to live a full life span. His command to choose life (now) is still valid – to enable us to serve Him and to love Him.
I recently read a healing testimony from the early 20th century.
A young man dying from tuberculosis wanted to see his family one last time to say goodbye. Instead he was confronted by a woman who combined selling bibles with preaching the gospel, who told him:
…you are young, you are a Christian, and if you died today, you would go straight to heaven. But I am here to tell you that if you die today it will be the most selfish act you have ever committed. God’s plan is that we should live to be at least three score and ten. What about all the people that God ordained you to reach?
(Christ the Healer, F.F.Bosworth, 2008 ed. Chosen Books p251 – chapter by Bob Bosworth)
He asked the woman to pray for him and was instantly healed. He then lived into his eighties, dying peacefully at home, suffering no sickness, after many decades of preaching the gospel (including healing) all over the world.
I can’t help but compare this testimony to Paul’s conclusion when he considered the alternatives: “to live is Christ, to die is gain”.
I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith. (Philippians 1) NIV
I am convinced that scripture leaves no room for doubt about God’s desire for our health and life. I have to confess how hard it is for me to understand why so many people are not only ignorant of, or doubtful about, but are actually OPPOSED to the thought that healing remains valid, and would therefore reject any suggestion that God actually wants us to be equipped with health and life.
By declining to accept, believe and obey God’s command “Now choose life”, Christians follow the examples of Adam and Eve, and the people of Israel, choosing the alternative to God’s desire to give life and blessings to His people (i.e. death and curses).