Sickness and Disease
Years ago, when I was severely sick with a neurological disease and fibromyalgia, I attended a small assembly with a kind pastor. I noticed the pastor often looked at me with a peculiar expression. His eyes would shift to my cane and my wobbly legs, then gaze back up as if he were analyzing why I needed an instrument for balance at such a tender age. On one occasion, he prayed for me with a loud, boisterous voice. “Father, get to the root of this sickness, the very root!” I felt as if the root he may have been referring to was possibly unconfessed sins. The pastor had suggested more than once that sickness can be a spiritual issue. I wondered if he thought the origin was something evil in my life like pride, lust, or anger. I remembered the scripture in Timothy about laying hands on the sick and seeing them recover. It also said, “And if they have sinned it shall be forgiven them” (James 5:13-15, KJV).
Many well-known evangelists and pastors had prayed over me, but I was still suffering horribly. I pondered this and went over a list of people I had forgiven and the prayers I had prayed for the Lord to search me and cleanse me. I cried out to the Father that I knew I had sinned and had things I needed to work on, like most of us do, but I still felt awkward in the presence of this pastor. It seemed every time he prayed for me; it was suggested I might be responsible for this disease. I felt like Job’s friends surrounded me at my assembly. Of course, I was no Job; my past had its colorful moments. But I had returned to the Father with all my heart.
The following Thursday night Bible study was quite a shock for me. I waddled in on my cane, and there was the pastor with one shoe off. His right foot looked swollen, and he was using a cane. Gout had set in his foot. Had Adonai allowed this to happen for a reason? I wasn’t sure, but I felt quite relieved that a minister I deemed righteous could also go through pain. It was confirmation that perhaps it happens to the best of us. He spoke about how his gout had caused him to get still before the Lord because he couldn’t go to work, how he had a wonderful time in prayer at home resting. Sickness can be an unusual friend at times.
Have you ever wondered who the first person to become sick was in the Bible? Job would be the first, and the next person written about was Jacob. After Jacob wrestled with an angel all night, his hip was out of the socket, and he walked with a limp afterward. Indeed, he walked with a limp until the day his sons buried him. Hosea says this about Jacob, “Yea, he had power over the angel and prevailed” (Hosea 12:4, KJV). The devil had nothing to do with maiming Jacob; it was an angel. We have been taught that angels only protect us; this one wrestled with Jacob and injured him.
Sickness and disease are mentioned in full detail in the Torah. In Deuteronomy 28, there is a shortlist of blessings due to obedience and a rather lengthy list of curses due to disobedience. These curses would fall upon the nation and the people who worship idols and do not keep Adonai’s commandments and statutes:
The Lord will send upon you curses, confusion, and rebuke, in all you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and until you perish quickly, on account of the evil of your deeds, because you have forsaken me. The Lord will make the pestilence cling to you until He has consumed you from the land where you are entering to possess it. The Lord will smite you with consumption and with fever and with inflammation and with fiery heat and with the sword and with blight and with mildew, and they will pursue you until you perish. The heaven which is over your head shall be bronze, and the earth which is under you, iron. The Lord will make the rain of your land powder and dust; from heaven it shall come down on you until you are destroyed. The Lord will smite thee with the botch of Egypt and with tumors, scabs and itch, sickness that cannot be healed.
–Deuteronomy 28:20-24, 27, ESV
Every sickness and plague, including all the diseases of Egypt, is promised to be sent by the Lord on His people who fall into idolatry.
Many times, the children of Israel were sick or even died due to complaining and bitterness in the wilderness. Snakes sent from Adonai bit them, and the quail they requested came up through their nostrils; the earth even swallowed some: “The LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died” (Numbers 21:6, KJV). Miriam spoke against Moses, and the Lord struck her with leprosy, and then Moses begged Adonai to restore her, and He did. Yes, repeatedly, sickness was caused by sin. However, we know this is not always the case. For instance, look at Job and all his troubles.
One doctrine taught suggests when Adam and Eve fell, sickness came into existence, and Adam and Eve (Chavvah) were cursed. The Word says something different: “Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns and thistles shall it bring forth” (Genesis 3:17-18, KJV). This curse on the soil is followed by Adam’s son Cain after he killed his brother:
And the LORD said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength.
–Genesis 4:10-12, ESV
After the flood came and Noah came out of the ark and built an altar to the Father, and the curse on the ground and upon the earth was broken:
Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”
–Genesis 8:20-22, ESV
Adam lived to be nine hundred and thirty years old. That is a ripe old age. The Bible says Moses lived to be a hundred and twenty years old. We are told Moses’s eyes were not dim, and his natural force was undiminished. Moses still had the strength of a young man. There was no sickness in his death. Sickness wasn’t something we hear Adam or Eve dying from. Nor was it something Abraham or Isaac had, but Elisha, one of the mightiest prophets, died of a disease. “Now Elisha was fallen sick of his sickness whereof he died” (II Kings 13:14, KJV). Elisha raised the dead, made an ax head float, caused Naaman to dip seven times, which cured him of leprosy, yet he died in his sickness. Years later, a dead man was thrown into Elisha’s tomb, landed on his bones, and was revived. The dead man came back to life and stood upon his feet. Elisha may have died of sickness and disease, but Adonai’s Word was still shut up in his bones, and his bones brought life.
So Elisha died, and they buried him. Now bands of Moabites used to invade the land in the spring of the year. And as a man was being buried, behold, a marauding band was seen and the man was thrown into the grave of Elisha, and as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet.
II Kings 13:20-21, ESV
Sickness and death are not something that happens only during the days preceding Messiah Yeshua. It happened after Yeshua’s ascension. Several missionaries who were with Paul became sick, and Paul could not heal them. He told the people that these men had risked their lives for the sake of the gospel, Epaphroditus, and a man named Trophimus: “Erastus abode at Corinth; but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick” (II Timothy 4:20 KJV). Both men were doing work for the Father, and both men were with Paul. Paul was the apostle who could heal the sick with his apron (tallit katan/ prayer shawl). Why would Paul leave a man sick if he could heal him? Why then were they not healed?
Sickness can be challenging to grasp. Paul told Timothy, “Be no longer a drinker of water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities” (I Timothy 5:23, KJV). The water in ancient times wasn’t always fit to drink, and the wine helped kill the parasites and bacteria. Paul doesn’t say, “Timothy, don’t speak your stomach troubles, don’t even claim them. Life and death are in the power of the tongue. Tell the devil where to go!” No, that doesn’t happen. When meditating on sickness and disease, we must consider the earth is getting old. We have polluted it badly with factories, chemicals, landfills, oil spills, and water no longer fit to drink in many areas.
In II Kings 20, a king named Hezekiah is given a strict warning. The prophet Isaiah is told to visit this king and tell him to get his house in order because the Lord is going to take his life:
In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amos came to him, and said unto him, thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live.
–II Kings 20:1, KJV
Can you imagine being greeted with this type of Word from the Father? Hezekiah was around forty years old. Hezekiah began to weep before Adonai. He reminded the Lord how he served Him with a perfect heart. Before Isaiah left the court Hezekiah, God told him to go back and speak to Hezekiah:
“Turn back, and say to Hezekiah the leader of my people, Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD, and I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and I will defend this city for my own sake and for my servant David’s sake.” And Isaiah said, “Bring a cake of figs. And let them take and lay it on the boil, that he may recover.”
–II Kings 20:5-7, ESV
Yes, weeping and crying out to the Lord can bring restoration, but notice good ole figs are brought to lay on the boil. Hezekiah gained 15 years.
When studying sickness and healing in the Bible, the process in which countless miracles occur is quite fascinating. In II Kings 4, Elijah laid his body upon the Shunammite’s son who had died, and then the boy sneezed seven times and came back to life. In II Kings 5, Naaman had to dip seven times in water far from clean to receive his healing. Blind Barnabas cried out to Yeshua for his healing. The people tried to quiet him, but he would not give in. One blind man was healed after Yeshua took some clay or mud, spat on it, and placed it on his eyeball. Then the man was instructed to wash his eyes in a pool of water.
In Matthew 15, a woman’s daughter is vexed with a demon. Yeshua never met her daughter in person, but the demon left her. Several times Yeshua told the person healed their sins were forgiven. Yeshua felt virtue go out of Him when He healed the woman with the issue of blood (Luke 8:43-48). Other times, Yeshua did not heal them; he waited until they were dead like Martha’s brother, Lazarus. (John 11:43).
Martha lacked faith, but it did not stop her brother from coming forth from the tomb. Stubborn sickness that stays is often blamed on lack of faith, wrong confessions, and hidden sin or Satan. How can a miracle or healing occur without sickness and suffering?
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.
–John 9:1-3, ESV
Moses told Adonai that he was not eloquent or good at making speeches, but Adonai answered him curiously: “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the dumb or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? Have not I the Father?” (Exodus 4:11, KJV). Some in leadership would call blindness, deafness, and paralysis a curse from Satan. Multiple formulas for how to be cured have come about over time. Some of these instructions are harmful to sheep. Numerous Bible stories show that after significant sickness and years of suffering, the person healing caused many to turn to the Father, like Aeneas:
Now, as Peter went here and there among them all, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas, bedridden for eight years, who was paralyzed. And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” And immediately he rose. And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.
–Acts 9:32-35, ESV
Peter, did not ask the Father to get to the root of his sickness. He did not plead the blood over Aeneas or break generational curses. Peter did not bind anything. Peter did not say, “Aeneas, I’m sorry, but you just don’t have enough faith right now. Study Hebrews 11 for a few more years, and I will be back to lay hands on you.” The Body of Messiah must stop inflicting this sort of shame and guilt on those who are suffering. I have seen countless people go off their medication and become severely sick, especially the mentally ill. One person instructed to go off her medications ended up killing her pets and placed in a facility. Of course, one-touch from the Lord can heal anyone, but this does not always come, not even to those servants as humble as Job.
King David gives wisdom to how suffering changes us on the inside: “Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word. Thou art good and doest good; teach me thy statutes” (Psalm 119: 67, KJV). David continues in verse 71: “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes. I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.” A Psalm of Asaph showcases the wealthy and healthy to a frightening degree:
For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek. They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of humankind. Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment. Their eyes swell out through fatness; their hearts overflow with follies. They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression. They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth.
–Psalm 73:3-9, ESV
Job makes a comment to his wife after she tells him to curse the Lord and die due to his sickness and great loss. He tells her she speaks as a foolish woman would speak. “What? Shall we receive good at the hand of God and not receive evil?” (Job 2:10, KJV). In Luke 14, a parable told by Messiah Yeshua highlights healthy people and sick, blind, lame people. Surprisingly it was the healthy and wealthy who had no time for the King of Kings:
A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room. ’And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’
–Luke 14:16-24, ESV
The wealthy, busy people of the world rejected his invitation, but not the sick and the poor. Why were they so willing to come? Sickness and poverty can humble a person significantly and cause them to realize that they need a Savior in more ways than one.
Paul was one of the greatest apostles of all time, but he was one of the primary persecutors of the followers of Yeshua. One day Paul was on his way to Damascus, he saw a bright light shining down from heaven and he heard a voice, and he fell down on the ground:
But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
–Acts 9:6-9, ESV
The Lord got Paul’s attention by striking him with blindness. He humble Paul. Paul fasted and prayed during those three days. The Father proclaims that He will show Paul how greatly he must suffer for His name’s sake. And boy did he. Paul was stoned to death and saw the third heaven; imprisoned, beaten, and shipwrecked at sea. Paul wrote at least seven books in the Newer Testament. Through his suffering, he became a humble apostle. He also said he was given a thorn in his flesh, a messenger from Satan to buffet him. He asked the Lord three times to take it away:
To keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
–II Corinthians 12:7-10, ESV
Our bodies are supposed to get old. Paul said we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. I hear people say, “Yeshua healed all.” However, Yeshua clearly did not heal every infirmity. Yeshua had trouble in His hometown:
A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.” He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief.
–Mark 6:4-6, KJV
There was unbelief in Mark 6 for lack of healing. In John 5, one man at the pool of Bethesda was healed, but we don’t read anywhere in that story that the many others lying there were healed too. There is the story, long after Yeshua’s resurrection and ascension, about a man who was laid at the Temple gate for years:
And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the Temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the Temple courts.
–Acts 3:2, ESV
Now we know Yeshua walked into the Temple often and on every Sabbath and the hour of prayer. The man is made whole as Peter and John pray for him. Yeshua must have passed this man who was laid there daily. The Bible is a story with many layers concerning sickness and disease. One day when the Son of God returns, the answers to the many questions concerning this topic will be answered.