“By His Stripes We are Healed” – Does This Verse Promise Physical Healing? #176

Hello friends, and happy Lord’s Day to you! As has become the norm, please allow me to invite you to our church livestream at VBC Salinas on Facebook. Our church will be livestreaming Sunday and Wednesday night gatherings for the foreseeable future – so join us Sunday mornings at 11am and Wednesday evenings at 7pm! Today our leadership team is gathering together in our church sanctuary for our first church meeting together in one place since mid March – an astonishing 14 weeks ago, if my math is properly executed, and I rightly accounted for Planck’s constant, and calculated Kibble’s balance rightly. I can’t believe it has been 14 weeks – I never imagined a cataclysm that could keep the church from meeting together in person for that long. Lord – come quickly and end this pandemic!

Today’s Bible readings include Deuteronomy 25, Psalms 117-118, Isaiah 52 and Matthew 1. As a bit of trivia, Psalms 117 is the shortest chapter in the entire Bible, and Psalms 119 is the longest. Psalms 117 is also the middle chapter of the Bible. Starting over in Matthew 1 gives me a few challenges…I’m slightly worried that, after 170+ episodes that I might revisit a topic. In fact, I’ve done this before. I wrote an entire episode of the podcast on the exact topic we had covered over 100 episodes before. That took quite a bit of editing and changing to make it right, once I realized my mistake. Oh well, maybe if i’ve forgotten we’ve covered a topic – you will too!

Today’s topic is a bit of a controversial one. There is a very famous passage in Isaiah 53 that looks forward to the atoning death of Jesus on the cross, and makes the declaration that we are healed by His wounds. (Or ‘By His stripes, we are healed’ in the KJV.) Let’s read the whole passage, and as we do – ask the question: Is this passage about physical healing or something different?

Yet he himself bore our sicknesses,
and he carried our pains;
but we in turn regarded him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced because of our rebellion,
crushed because of our iniquities;
punishment for our peace was on him,
and we are healed by his wounds.
We all went astray like sheep;
we all have turned to our own way;
and the Lord has punished him
for the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:4-6

I have seen and heard many, many Christians ‘claim’ Isaiah 53:5 as a promise from God that they will be healed. ‘Claiming’ a verse is an interesting phenomenon. Basically, it works like this: You find a promise in the Bible – say Jeremiah 29:11, for example:

For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

Great verse – it was written initially to those who were exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon, and was a promise to them that God – after 70 years – would bring them back and prosper them. How many times have you seen this passage on a church sign? BUT…is it a true promise for us? Can we take this passage, and ‘claim’ it as our own? Does God indeed PROMISE to PROSPER all who claim this verse? Well, I guess the answer to that question depends on what is meant by ‘prosper,’ doesn’t it? If you ‘take’ that verse, and claim it to mean that God is going to make you rich and blessed and healthy and highly favored and successful and prosperous from the world’s perspective, you might just be disappointed. In fact, you probably will. For one:

But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

1 Timothy 6:9-10

So – wealth and riches can be very dangerous for some. For another – Jeremiah 29:11 is NOT written down as a verse that is written to all of God’s followers to promise to make them rich, healthy, powerful and prosperous. It is a promise written to the exiled people of Israel that God has not forgotten His purposes for them. Will God prosper all who are in Christ? Absolutely – far beyond our wildest dreams. Some of us on earth – in the land of the living – but most not on earth…most in eternity! So if you ‘claim’ Jeremiah 29:11 and God doesn’t make you rich and wealthy and powerful and famous… you might be disappointed! But not because God wasn’t faithful, but because you took a tiny portion of God’s Word out of context, twisted it to mean something it never meant, and then readdressed it to yourself and your context, when it was a promise that was not directly made to you. This dynamic is why it is so important to not just take a small piece of God’s Word and run with it, but to understand the greater context of what He is saying to us. When I’m talking to my children, I don’t want them to just take a short phrase I said and run with it, utterly ignoring everything else I said – I want them to listen to all of it.

Which brings us back to Isaiah 53:5. Is this passage a promise that Jesus will physically heal all of His people? I don’t believe so. In fact, I think it points to a higher and deeper reality than physical healing, and we know this because of the context of the passage of Isaiah 53, and even moreso, because of how the New Testament refers to this passage. Consider 1 Peter 2:

24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree; so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but you have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

1 Peter 2:24-25

We can also see that this passage is not here used in the context of physical healing , by Paul in 1 Corinthians, Luke in the book of Acts, or James in James 5 – all books that discuss supernatural healing in depth. Let me say this – I absolutely believe in the spiritual gift of healing, and I believe it has not ceased – it is still active in the church. (This doesn’t mean I believe in charlatan tv-preacher/healers who do outrageous things) I believe the command of James 5 still applies – when sick, call for the elders of the church to pray for you…and God will heal. That is a promise to latch on to, because that is a passage about healing.

We should ‘claim’ and proclaim Isaiah 53:5 from the rooftops – write on your bathroom mirror, share it on social media – just realize that it is not primarily speaking of physical healing, but something much deeper and more eternal – it is speaking of the death of Christ in our stead which healed us from the power of sin and death. Need physical healing now? Don’t be discouraged – look at James 5!

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 

James 5:13-16

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