Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sickness and God

Is sickness from God? If so, why does God make people sick? Does God still do that?

Sickness can be from God {as in, it can be possible}, but I believe, ALMOST ALWAYS, sickness is NOT from God. The reason why it is so, is because, in the first place, with rare exceptions, it is only in chastisement that, possibly a sickness comes directly from God. Secondly, we are in the era of the Lord’s favor. Thirdly, He probably would tell you, if it were from Him. Of course, here, we are referring to direct infliction of sickness by God on a person.

God’s chastisement
The word, “chastisement”, H3256 – yacar (in Hebrew) can be of 2 main meanings: one, to reform (to correct, to instruct, to teach, to discipline), and two, to punish. The word is roughly the same as chastisement which is also of the 2 sets of meanings.

Examples of chastisement as punishment: Lev 26:28 and Lev 26:18.

Then I {the LORD} will walk contrary unto you also in fury; and I {the LORD}, even I, will chastise {H3256} you seven times for your sins (Lev 26:28).

And if ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, then I {the LORD} will punish {H3256} you seven times more for your sins (Lev 26:18).

Example of chastisement as reformation: Lev 26:23

And if ye will not be reformed {H3256} by me by these things, but will walk contrary unto me; (Lev 26:23)

God does reform, instruct, teach or discipline us almost all the time, although God does not punish us almost all or all the time. Some people think that God’s chastisement only existed in the Old Testament (OT) time. No, that is NOT true. God’s chastisement is on-going, from ancient of times, to New Testament (NT) times, and to End times.

We find this written in the Books of Proverbs:

11My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction:
12For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth (Proverbs 3:11-12, KJV)

In the New Testament Book of Hebrews, we read this:

7If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
8But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.
9Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?
10For they {earthly fathers} verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he {God} for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.
11Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
12Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;
13And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed (Heb 12:7-13, KJV).

We read this in the Book of Revelation:

As many as I {Jesus} love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent (Rev 3:19, KJV).

God loves you and I unto righteousness - 'ahab love
It is very clear from Scripture, if you are NOT disciplined {chastised, KJV} (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and NOT true sons (Heb 12:8, NIV). While God’s chastisement is there for sure, the purpose of which, is to reform us, to correct us, to teach us, to discipline us, and even to punish us, so that we might be partakers of His holiness (Heb 12:10), and bear fruit of righteousness (Heb 12:11), many people cannot accept this, saying this conflicts with the love character of God. I tell you the truth is that God loves Man unto righteousness ('ahab love; God’s love is `ahab love. In His highest form of love for you and I, He loves us unto righteousness). Because He does NOT JUST love you and I, but love you and I unto righteousness, there is always chastisement of God in our lives.

Sickness from God as chastisement
Of course, God’s means of chastisement do NOT necessarily have to be in the form of infliction with a sickness. The means can be many (frankly speaking, we cannot “box” God), and can include any of the followings: trial, hardship, injury or wound (even by sword), pain (physical, emotional), hunger (famine), beast attack (not just snake bites!), and sickness and plague; even accident and natural calamity are possible. But, please, do NOT say I say we have an evil God; no, I did NOT say anything of that sort. God is light, in Him is found NO darkness; God is good, NO evil whatsoever, in Him, but because He loves Man unto righteousness, He necessarily have to chastise the free-willed Man.

But whether it is to reform or punish, specific examples, in scriptures, of God’s afflictions in the form of sickness against individuals, were NOT that many:

Sickness as a punishment:

1. The plague of boil on Egyptians (Ex 9:10, KJV) –

So they took soot from a furnace and stood before Pharaoh. Moses tossed it into the air, and festering boils broke out on men and animals (Ex 9:10, KJV).

2. Lingering disease of the bowels of King Jehoram (of Judah), son of King Jehoshaphat for wicked ways (2 Ch 21:15, 18-19a) –

You yourself will be very ill with a lingering disease of the bowels, until the disease causes your bowels to come out.’” (2 Ch 21:15, {prophecy}). 18 After all this, the LORD afflicted Jehoram with an incurable disease of the bowels. 19 In the course of time, at the end of the second year, his bowels came out because of the disease, and he died in great pain (2 Ch 21:18-19a, {came to pass}).

Sickness as reformation (to discipline):

1. Prophetess Miriam (Moses’ sister) struck leprous by the LORD, when she and Aaron spoke against Moses (Num 12:8-15) –

8 With him {Moses} I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” 9 The anger of the LORD burned against them {Miriam and Aaron}, and he {the LORD} left them. 10 When the cloud lifted from above the Tent, there stood Miriam—leprous, like snow. Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had leprosy; 11 and he said to Moses, “Please, my lord, do not hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed. 12 Do not let her be like a stillborn infant coming from its mother’s womb with its flesh half eaten away.” 13 So Moses cried out to the LORD, “O God, please heal her!” 14 The LORD replied to Moses, “If her father had spit in her face, would she not have been in disgrace for seven days? Confine her outside the camp for seven days; after that she can be brought back.” 15 So Miriam was confined outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on till she was brought back (Num 12:8-15).

2. Zechariah (John the Baptist’s father) muted for unbelief (Luke 1:11-13, 19-20) –

11Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John (Luke 1:11-13). 19 The angel answered, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.” (Luke 1:19-20).

NB: I have omitted venomous snake bites inflicted by God on Israelites (Num 21:4-9), solely on the ground that deadly snake bites generally are NOT considered as sickness, but it was an example of corporate chastisement (to reform or discipline) {Corporate, because many were too late to be saved by the installation of the bronze snake pole. In corporate scenario, some will end up being punished while others reformed.}.

Even though actual examples of God’s afflictions of sicknesses on specific individuals were few, there were, however, repeated recordings in the Old Testament of God’s threat of inflicting sicknesses as a threat of punishment. Arguably, they might be intended as corporate threats, yet a corporate body is made up of individuals.

58 If you do not carefully follow all the words of this law, which are written in this book, and do not revere this glorious and awesome name—the LORD your God— 59 the LORD will send fearful plagues on you and your descendants, harsh and prolonged disasters, and severe and lingering illnesses. 60 He will bring upon you all the diseases of Egypt that you dreaded, and they will cling to you. 61 The LORD will also bring on you every kind of sickness and disaster not recorded in this Book of the Law, until you are destroyed (Deu 28:58-61, also Deu 7:15, Ex 15:26).

Also, Scripture clearly recorded for us that God’s 4 dreadful judgments are sword, famine, wild {bad} beasts and plague (Eze 14:21, Rev 6:8, Deu 32:23-25). Although a plague does not necessarily need to be a sickness or infirmity, it can be, just like out of the set of several plagues inflicted by the LORD on the Egyptians, one of them was the plague of boil. As plague (NOT necessarily a sickness), there were many examples of God’s inflictions, in the past (plagues against the Egyptians, for example), and in coming future, from the Book of Revelation; but I am NOT listing them because they are NOT generally considered as sickness. But we do need to note that God did and could punish in that way, using plague which can come in many forms. Also, we should know that God does NOT threaten in vain (Eze 6:10).

Confining our discussion to sicknesses, and NOT plagues generally, still, is the stand taken at the beginning of this article correct? What other pieces of knowledge do we have to have, in order to form a healthy perspective of God, in relation to us being sick? I believe there are 3 more pieces of knowledge we need to have, before we can come to that stand or conclusion.

Additional knowledge needed
One, as can be seen above, God chastises only when we are straying or being disobedient or getting from bad to worse, so to speak. To minimize the constant incurring of the wrath of God, God decided in the past to give out laws, and there were consequences for disobedience to the laws, but the punishments were NOT (necessarily) sicknesses. So, God was already using the laws to chastise His people; He therefore, did NOT necessarily need to resort to sicknesses directly to chastise His people. Today, even as the WHOLE of Law is NOT applicable to the NT believers, the spirit of the Law is still applicable, and we, believers, do well to note all (still) relevant laws (commands, precepts, decrees, and exhortations) need to be heeded.

Two, I strongly believe there is of course, a difference between the OT era and the NT era; it is NOT that, the God in NT and the God in OT are different. God is NEVER different; He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever more. What I am saying is consistent with understanding from Scripture, that there is such thing as seasons. Eccl 3:1 stated for us that there is a season for everything, and so, it is also NOT unreasonable to expect, in God’s dealings with Man, there can be different seasons.

The year of the Lord’s favor in Luke 4:19, as part of Jesus’ manifesto, did NOT refer to a time period of a year; it was alluding {only an allusion} to the Year of Jubilee, the year of “universal release”, but in giganticness of the version (of favor) that Jesus’ coming was signifying, it clearly was referring to an era of the Lord’s favor. Of course, the big ticket item in that favor is the redemption of Man, but it definitely included increased longsuffering or patience on the part of God, holding back His wrath against those who sin. These words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Tim 1:16 said it all:

But for that very reason I {Paul} was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life (1 Tim 1:16).

Therefore, if in the era of the Lord’s favor, which is currently, we can expect even greater {relative to OT time} restraint by God to mete out chastisements in the form of sicknesses. Now, of course, THIS {there can be other(s), later on} era of the Lord’s favor is NOT going to be forever, but for now and for many more years to come, the Lord’s favor is granted. Now, do NOT get carried away and think that God is now more accommodative of sins; no, nothing of this sort, it is just that God is holding back his wrath, wanting and giving people time and opportunities to repent and return (by grace). So, please do NOT quote me saying that we can sin more and can get away with it, I said NO such thing!

Three, when a reasonable earthly father chastises, will we know? Yes, when we are chastised by our earthly fathers, we often know; likewise, what is done to us or taken away from us, we can know if they are of our father’s actions, in chastisement. When one is NOT sure, and when he asks his earthly father, he will be told, whether or not, an affliction is from him. It is another thing, if the son does NOT want to accept he has done wrong or believe that his father can do that to him. The point is that we can expect God NOT to deny it, if He has indeed, inflicted one of us, with a sickness to chastise us. In the specific individual examples of the OT time cited above, the specific individuals knew or were told.

Although I have said 3 more pieces of knowledge, there is another that may bear on the issue, but which I do NOT want to say much on it, for I have NOT, much revelation of God’s ways in how He views and juggles the tension in the “corporate” versus “individual” well-being; what I am hinting is that there is still the corporate dimension of matter that sometimes would move God to act, including corporate chastisements, something quite more prevalent, at least, in OT time. In other words, if an infliction is on a massive scale, we have to sit up and ask if there is a spiritual dimension to the infliction, maybe, maybe NOT, from God, if NOT, maybe, it is the works of the Devil, if it is NOT physical or natural. Of course, the world we are in, is a fallen world.

The rare exceptions
Before I come to the conclusion part, it is only appropriate for me to address the “rare exceptions” I mentioned, at the start of the article concerning sicknesses coming only through chastisements. I only know of one case of sickness coming directly from God, NOT for chastisement, and it is that of Hannah, mother of the prophet and judge, Samuel, recorded in 1 Sam 1:5-7, 16 & 20 –

5 But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the LORD had closed her womb. 6 And because the LORD had closed her womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. 7 This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the LORD, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat (1 Sam 1:5-7). Do not take your servant for a wicked woman {in reply to Eli, the priest}; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.” (v16). So in the course of time Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, “Because I asked the LORD for him.” (v20).

The inability to conceive or barrenness, to me, can be considered as a sickness, and in Hannah’s case, it was clearly stated that the LORD shut up her womb (v5 & 6). Nowhere was it written the reason the LORD did that, but I would NOT fight anybody who want to insist the reason was still in the category of chastisement, for Hannah, of course, grew, with the affliction and the removal of the barrenness, but NOT without having suffered great anguish and grief.

Conclusion – our stand
Now, we must conclude on what is the healthy perspective that a believer should have concerning sickness and God, of whether sickness we experienced are coming from God. There are definitely examples, although NOT many, of God inflicting individuals with sicknesses in OT (Zechariah’s case, strictly speaking was in OT time (before Jesus), although recorded for us in NT).

I do NOT talk about the Apostle’s Paul’s affliction of thorn in the flesh here, for 2 reasons, one, “thorn in the flesh” could very well be referring to a person rather than a sickness or disease; and two, it is NOT clearly stated that it came directly from God. God allowed it to remain there, but Scripture did NOT say God put it there; there is a difference between the two, I hope everyone is clear about that.

In NT, there is NO recording of an individual being afflicted by God with a sickness, whether it is for chastisement or for other reason (the man blind from birth, healed by Jesus {John 9:1-3}, his blindness happened, but NOT necessarily inflicted by God). This is a strong case to say God does NOT currently inflict sickness, but I would NOT box God up and say He cannot inflict an individual with sickness, for He did before, in the OT. If God could engineer Jonah to be thrown overboard but also sent a “fish” to swallow him up and then vomited him or whatever that the fish did, on shore, surely God could make someone sick, and choose or choose NOT to heal him, personally or through a doctor.

We have also seen that any sickness affliction by God, it came because of chastisement, meaning sickness is NOT inflicted (by God) for no reason. The threat of sickness by God in OT era, also clearly had to do with disobedience or refusal to obey God’s laws or commandments, or lack of fear of God.

Therefore, isn’t there a simple answer, like, just have the fear of God, and obey ALL His commands? Yes, there is an answer there, but it is NOT simple, because none can achieve it, none can do it. It is like, sin NOT, is the answer, but who is without sin? But the perspective we must bear in mind is that sickness is NOT the only way open to God to chastise people, even in the OT. On top of that, with the arrival of the era of the Lord’s favor, as explained above, abundance of grace is promised in Christ Jesus, for this is what was written in Rom 5: 20b-21 –

But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

As we have read, in the body of this article, 1 Tim 1:16 gave us the assurance of God’s increased longsuffering towards us in this era of the Lord’s favor. In this era of the Lord’s favor, we can take the stand that sickness GENERALLY does NOT come from God. If you are sick, and if God does NOT answer you, saying the sickness you are suffering is from Him, you can take it that it is NOT from Him.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end (Jer 29:11, KJV).

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