God and Sickness

27Nov09

A Brief Biblical Examination of God’s involvement with Human Illness

1.      Has God inflicted mankind with sickness?. 3

2.      Why did God inflict man with sickness?. 5

2.1        Sickness was a judgement on sin. 5

2.2        Sickness was used to demonstrate God’s power in the earth. 5

3.      Does God still inflict man with sickness?. 6

3.1        The Acts of the Apostles. 6

3.2        1 Corinthians 11. 6

3.3        Hebrews 12. 7

3.4        Revelation. 8

4.      Are there other explanations for sickness?. 8

4.1        That the works of God should be manifest 8

4.2        As a way of God proving the faith and commitment of His children. 8

4.3        As a result of purely natural phenomenon. 9

4.4        As a result of demonic influence. 9

5.      Objections. 9

5.1        Jesus work on the cross is not compatible with God placing sickness on people. 9

5.2        How can a loving God inflict sickness on anyone, especially His own children?. 10

5.3        God does not inflict sickness – His angels do. 10

5.4        God does not inflict sickness – demons do. 10

5.5        Sickness results from a person’s own sin, not as a result of God’s discipline. 11

5.6        The passages attributing sickness to God have not been translated correctly.  God did not inflict sickness upon people but rather allowed sickness to come upon them.  There is seen in the difference between the Hebrew verbs where one is passive and one is active. 11

5.7        It is wrong to pray “If it be thy will Lord, heal me” as God has already revealed His will 12

5.8        God simply removes his protection and allows the fallen natural world and demons to inflict sickness. 12

5.9        God didn’t afflict Job, Satan did. 13

5.10     How can anyone think that Jehovah Rapha (our Healer) would afflict people with sickness. 13

5.11     Jesus took our punishment so God does not afflict us with the punishment Jesus took on our behalf.  So if He ever used sickness to punish people – He doesn’t do it after calvary. 13

6.      Concluding Remarks. 13

6.1        What should we do if we are sick?. 13

6.2        How does this understanding of God and sickness fit with Jesus’ earthly ministry of healing?. 14

6.3        How should we respond to others that are sick?. 14

6.4        What does this reveal about the nature of God?. 15

6.5        What should be considered “sickness”?  Does “personal injury” also mean sickness?. 15

6.6        Today’s “Liberal” views on ‘God and sickness’ 16

6.7        How does God discipline His children?. 16

6.8        Should a person seek medical assistance from doctors if it is God’s will for that person to be sick?  17

6.9        Does God get glory when a person bears up nobly under the distress of sickness and disease. 17

6.10     Other Relevant Verses. 17

7.      Appendix. 18

7.1        Additional Verses. 18

7.2        Comments from others who oppose this view.. 18

7.3        Hebrew Verb Tenses. 18

There have been very conflicting views on this topic.  Broadly, they fit into three categories.  The first group maintains that God is never responsible for inflicting man with sickness and uses sickness to achieve His own ends. The second group maintains that, although God is never directly responsible for man’s illnesses, He does on occasions permit or allow sickness in order to purify or correct and rebuke us.  The last group maintains that God both inflicts sickness upon man and uses sickness to achieve His own end.

This article will endeavor to examine the Scriptural evidence for the views presented above.

1.    Has God inflicted mankind with sickness?

The easiest way to answer this question is by allowing the scriptures to speak for themselves.  It is important to note that we are not here addressing what the scriptures teach.  Rather, we are simply looking at what God has done or promised to do.  This following list is by no means complete.  All emphasis has been added.

Exod 9:13 (ASV) And Jehovah said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith Jehovah, the God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me. 14 For I will this time send all my plagues upon thy heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people; that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth. 15 For now I had put forth my hand, and smitten thee and thy people with pestilence

Exod 12:23 (ASV) For Jehovah will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side-posts, Jehovah will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.  … 29 And it came to pass at midnight, that Jehovah smote all the first-born in the land of Egypt, from the first-born of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the first-born of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the first-born of cattle.

Levi 14:33 (KJS) And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, 34 When ye be come into the land of Canaan, which I give to you for a possession, and I put the plague of leprosy in a house of the land of your possession;

Levi 26:13 (ASV) I am Jehovah your God… 16 I also will do this unto you: I will appoint terror over you, even consumption and fever, that shall consume the eyes, and make the soul to pine away; … 25 (TLB) … I will send a plague among you there; and you will be conquered by your enemies.

Deut 24:8 (KJS) Take heed in the plague of leprosy … 9 Remember what the LORD thy God did unto Miriam by the way, after that ye were come forth out of Egypt.

Deut 28:22 (KJS) The LORD shall smite thee with a consumption, and with a fever, and with an inflammation, and with an extreme burning, and with the sword, and with blasting, and with mildew; and they shall pursue thee until thou perish. … 27 The LORD will smite thee with the botch of Egypt, and with the emerods, and with the scab, and with the itch, whereof thou canst not be healed. 28 The LORD shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart: … 35 The LORD shall smite thee in the knees, and in the legs, with a sore botch that cannot be healed, from the sole of thy foot unto the top of thy head.

Deut 32:39 (ASV) See now that I, even I, am he, And there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal; And there is none that can deliver out of my hand.

2Chr 7:12 (KJS) And the LORD appeared to Solomon by night, and said unto him … 13 If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; 14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

2Chr 21:14 (KJS) Behold, with a great plague will the LORD smite thy people, and thy children, and thy wives, and all thy goods: 15 And thou [shalt have] great sickness by disease of thy bowels, until thy bowels fall out by reason of the sickness day by day. (God’s judgement against Jehoram) … 18 And after all this the LORD smote him in his bowels with an incurable disease. 19 And it came to pass, that in process of time, after the end of two years, his bowels fell out by reason of his sickness: so he died of sore diseases.

2Chr 26:20 (KJS) And Azariah the chief priest, and all the priests, looked upon him, and, behold, he [was] leprous in his forehead, and they thrust him out from thence; yea, himself hasted also to go out, because the LORD had smitten him.

1Sam 2:6 (KJS) The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up. 7 The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up.

2Sam 12:15 (KJS) And Nathan departed unto his house. And the LORD struck the child that Uriah’s wife bare unto David, and it was very sick.

2Sam 24:15 (KJS) So the LORD sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even to the time appointed: and there died of the people from Dan even to Beersheba seventy thousand men.

2Kin 6:18 (KJS) And when they came down to him, Elisha prayed unto the LORD, and said, Smite this people, I pray thee, with blindness. And he smote them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.

2Kin 19:35 (KJS) And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they [were] all dead corpses.

Isai 3:17 (KJS) Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the LORD will discover their secret parts.

Isai 38:15 (TLB) But what can I say? For he himself has sent this sickness. All my sleep has fled because of my soul’s bitterness. (Hezekiah’s poem about his sickness)

Jere 14:11 (TLB) The Lord told me again: “Don’t ask me any more to bless this people. Don’t pray for them any more. 12 When they fast, I will not pay any attention; when they present their offerings and sacrifices to me, I will not accept them. What I will give them in return is war and famine and disease.”

Jere 29:17  thus saith Jehovah of hosts; Behold, I will send upon them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will make them like vile figs, that cannot be eaten, they are so bad.   18  And I will pursue after them with the sword, with the famine, and with the pestilence, and will deliver them to be tossed to and fro among all the kingdoms of the earth, to be an execration, and an astonishment, and a hissing, and a reproach, among all the nations whither I have driven them;

Zech 14:12 (TLB) And the Lord will send a plague on all the people who fought Jerusalem. They will become like walking corpses, their flesh rotting away; their eyes will shrivel in their sockets, and their tongues will decay in their mouths. 13 They will be seized with terror, panic-stricken from the Lord … 15 (This same plague will strike the horses, mules, camels, donkeys, and all the other animals in the enemy camp.) … 18 But if Egypt refuses to come, God will punish her with some other plague.

Acts 5:5 (KJS) And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. … 10 Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying [her] forth, buried [her] by her husband.

Acts 12:23 (KJS) And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.

These Scriptures and others represent God actively involved in inflicting sickness and disease on individuals and nations. Phrases such as “the Lord will”, “the Lord smote”, “God will punish”, “I will”, “the Lord sent”, “He smote”, “the Lord stuck”, “the Lord shall smite” can only be understood to mean one thing – God was responsible for the sickness these individuals suffered.

Still some object to the obvious conclusions drawn from these passages.  Answers to some of these objections are addressed under the appropriate heading.

2.    Why did God inflict man with sickness?

2.1          Sickness was a judgement on sin

Firstly, the Lord is said to inflict sickness on man as a judgement for his sin.  This judgement is not an end in itself but is divine discipline intended to turn man away from sin and back to God.  Sickness was only one of God’s numerous judgements on those that disobeyed Him (others included war, famine, drought, “supernatural” death etc).  A consideration of the context of the Scriptures mentioned above will plainly bear this out.  The following Scriptures also illustrate how God judges sin with sickness and uses it to discipline man and turn him back to God.

Ezek 14:21  For thus saith the Lord GOD; How much more when I send my four sore judgments upon Jerusalem, the sword, and the famine, and the noisome beast, and the pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast?

Isai 9:13  For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the LORD of hosts.

Isai 19:22 (TLB) The Lord will smite Egypt and then restore her! For the Egyptians will turn to the Lord and he will listen to their plea and heal them.

Hose 5:15  I will go [and] return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early. 6:1  Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up.

Amos 4:6 (TLB) “I sent you hunger,” says the Lord, “but it did no good; you still would not return to me. 7 I ruined your crops by holding back the rain three months before the harvest. I sent rain on one city but not another. While rain fell on one field, another was dry and withered. 8 People from two or three cities would make their weary journey for a drink of water to a city that had rain, but there wasn’t ever enough. Yet you wouldn’t return to me,” says the Lord.
9 “I sent blight and mildew on your farms and your vineyards; the locusts ate your figs and olive trees. And still you wouldn’t return to me,” says the Lord. 10 “I sent you plagues like those of Egypt long ago. I killed your lads in war and drove away your horses. The stench of death was terrible to smell. And yet you refused to come. 11 I destroyed some of your cities, as I did Sodom and Gomorrah; those left are like half-burned firebrands snatched away from fire. And still you won’t return to me,” says the Lord.

2.2          Sickness was used to demonstrate God’s power in the earth

Secondly, God inflicted sickness upon mankind in order to declare His greatness and glory and to demonstrate His power.  This idea would come as a surprise to many Christians today.  The idea that God inflicts sickness on mankind is for some, difficult to accept.  But to accept that God uses sickness to “demonstrate [His] power to you and to all the earth” would seem almost unbelievable.  Yet the following verses suggest exactly this.

Exod 9:14 (ASV) For I will this time send all my plagues upon thy heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people; that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth. 15 For now I had put forth my hand, and smitten thee and thy people with pestilence, and thou hadst been cut off from the earth:  16  but in very deed for this cause have I made thee to stand, to show thee my power, and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.

Deut 32:39 (KJS) See now that I, [even] I, [am] he, and [there is] no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither [is there any] that can deliver out of my hand.

Ezek 6:9 (TLB) Then when they are exiled among the nations, they will remember me, … Then at last they will loathe themselves for all this wickedness. 10 They will realize that I alone am God and that I wasn’t fooling when I told them that all this would happen to them.’“  (10 KJS And they shall know that I [am] the LORD, [and that] I have not said in vain that I would do this evil unto them) … 12 Disease will strike down those in exile; … and any who remain will die by famine and siege.   So at last I will expend my fury on you. 13 When [you are] slain  … you will realize that I alone am God. 14 … Then you will know I am the Lord.’“

Amos 4: 10 (TLB) “I sent you plagues like those of Egypt long ago … 12 “Therefore, I will bring upon you all these further evils I have spoken of. Prepare to meet your God in judgment, Israel. 13 For you are dealing with the One who formed the mountains, made the winds, and knows your every thought; he turns the morning to darkness and crushes down the mountains underneath his feet: Jehovah, the Lord, the Lord Almighty, is his name.”

3.    Does God still inflict man with sickness?

It seems beyond doubt that God inflicted mankind (often His chosen people Israel) with sickness in the Old Testament.  However that was under the Old Covenant.  Does God use sickness under the New Covenant in the same way as He used sickness under the Old?

Before addressing this question three differences between the Old and New Testaments should be highlighted.  Firstly, the Old Testament books span approximately 3,500 years while the New Testament writings cover no more than 100 years. Secondly, the Old Testament is predominantly a collection of historical writings while the New Testament is predominately a collection of teachings.  Lastly, the Old Testament is roughly four times the size of the New Testament.

Given these facts we would expect the Old Testament to contain substantially more examples of God’s dealings with mankind.  This is due simply to the fact that the New Testament spans fewer years, contains a different type of content, and is significantly smaller in size than the Old Testament.

Still, there are several striking New Testament examples of God inflicting sickness on individuals, Christian and non-Christian alike.

3.1          The Acts of the Apostles

Acts 5:3 (ASV) But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thy heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back [part] of the price of the land? 4 While it remained, did it not remain thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thy power? How is it that thou hast conceived this thing in thy heart? thou has not lied unto men, but unto God. 5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down and gave up the ghost: and great fear came upon all that heard it.

Acts 12:23 (ASV) And immediately an angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.

Acts 13:8  But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn aside the proconsul from the faith. 9  But Saul, who is also [called] Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fastened his eyes on him, 10  and said, O full of all guile and all villany, thou son of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? 11  And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand.

3.2          1 Corinthians 11

1Cor 11:28 (KJS) But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of [that] bread, and drink of [that] cup. 29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this cause many [are] weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.

1Cor 11:28  (TLB) That is why a man should examine himself carefully before eating the bread and drinking from the cup. 29  For if he eats the bread and drinks from the cup unworthily, not thinking about the body of Christ and what it means, he is eating and drinking God’s judgment upon himself; for he is trifling with the death of Christ. 30  That is why many of you are weak and sick, and some have even died. 31  But if you carefully examine yourselves before eating you will not need to be judged and punished. 32  Yet, when we are judged and punished by the Lord, it is so that we will not be condemned with the rest of the world.

This New Testament example of Christian believers repeats the pattern we have seen in the Old Testament.

The Corinthian Christians were sinning.  They were “not discerning the Lord’s body” (v29).  We are told that they were eating and drinking “damnation” to themselves.  Or rephrased, they were eating and drinking “judgement” on themselves.

We are told in verse 30 that “for this cause”(that is, because of this judgement) many of them were becoming “weak and sickly”.  Verse 31 again reinforces the fact that these Christian were under judgement.

Verse 32 explains that this judgement was in fact the “chastening of the Lord”.  It was the Lord’s judgement that was making the Corinthians “weak and sickly”.  The Greek word “paideuo” (Strongs # 3811) translated here as “chasten” is also translated “learn” (2 times), “teach” (2), and “instruct” (1).  So, we see that the Corinthians were become sick (and some were dying) because God was chastening (or teaching) them.

The verse finishes by explaining that the sickness was being used to chasten or discipline them in order that the Corinthians would “not be condemned with the world”.  In other words, their sickness was to turn them away from their sin and back to God.

As stated before, this passage follows the pattern we have seen in the Old Testament perfectly.  God’s judgement of sin results in sickness.  The sickness is intended to “chasten” or instruct the sinner to turn back to God.  This passage shows that God still punishes His people for their sins in the same way and for the same reasons as He did under the Old Covenant.

3.3          Hebrews 12

Another New Testament passage that appears to link sickness with God’s judgement is found in Hebrews 12. Firstly, it should be made clear that many learned and spiritual men and women have understood this passage (esp verses 12 to 13) to refer to spiritual restoration rather than physical healing.  However a number of facts suggest that this passage may well be referring to God’s punishment which leads to physical sickness and that “making straight paths for our feet” will result in healing.

Hebr 12:5 (KJS) And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. … 10 … he [God chastens us] for [our] profit, that [we] might be partakers of his holiness. 11 Now 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. 12 Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; 13 And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.

The first thing to note in this passage is the word used to describe God’s “chastening” (v5).  The Greek word “paideuo” (Strongs # 3811) is the same word used in 1 Corinthians 11.  In 1 Corinthians 11 the word “chasten” was used in a similar context to here.  As we have seen it was used there to describe God’s judgement which resulted in sickness and sometimes death.

Secondly, the word “scourge” (v6) (Greek “mastigoo”, Strongs # 3146), here used to describe God’s chastening is used seven times in the New Testament.  The other six places where this word is always used to describe a physical punishment metered out by man rather than God. Interestingly, this word “mastigoo” is derived directly from the Greek word “mastix” (Strongs # 3148).  “Mastix” is used 6 times in the New Testament, being translated twice as “scourge” and 4 times as “plague” (see Mk 3.10).  Given this, it would seem fair to rephrase verse 6 in this way: “the Lord physically punishes every son He receives”.

Thirdly, the Greek word “paraluo” (Strongs # 3886) here translated as “feeble” in verse 12, is used in only 4 other places in the New Testament. In each instance it refers to a person who was physically “sick of the palsy” (Lu 5.18, 24, Ac 8.7, 9.33).

Fourthly, the Greek word “cholos” (Strongs # 5560) here translated as “lame” in verse 13, is used in 14 other places in the New Testament.  All are found in the Gospels and Acts.  In each instance it describes a person who was physically crippled.

With these thoughts in mind, note how God’s chastening is said to be like a scourge – a physical punishment.  Note also that God’s chastening is linked by the word “wherefore” (meaning “for this cause”) to two verses relating to what appears to be physical sickness and its ultimate healing.  The healing is directly linked to “straight paths for your feet”, a phrase that figuratively describes righteousness (Is 40.3-4, Mt 3.3).  The Hebrews are told that, to see the lame healed, they are to “make straight paths” for their feet.  This suggests that the path they are currently walking is not straight and thus the reason for their “feebleness”.

In summary, this passage could be rephrased like this:

“God physically punishes His children when they sin.  This is ‘grievous’ but will result in the ‘fruit of righteousness’.  However, there is no need for any of you to remain feeble or lame due to this punishment.  Make a ‘straight path for your feet’ by turning to righteousness and the Lord will heal you.”

Again, this passage follows the Old Testament pattern.  God chastises us through sickness in order to teach us that we must live righteously.  If we respond and turn to Him, we, “the lame”, will not “be turned out of the way; but … rather … healed”.

3.4          Revelation

Much of Revelation focuses on God’s judgment of the world in the last days.  The following verses are a very small sample.

Rev 2:21-23 ESV  I [Jesus] gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality.  (22)  Behold, I [Jesus] will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works,  (23)  and I [Jesus] will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.

Rev 6:8 ESV  And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth.

4.    Are there other explanations for sickness?

The Bible gives several instances where sickness is not caused by sin.  They include:

4.1          That the works of God should be manifest

John 9:2 (KJS) And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? 3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

This passage states plainly that this sickness did not result from the punishment of sin.  The principle that can be drawn from this is that some illnesses and disabilities come about so that God can be glorified through their supernatural healing.

4.2          As a way of God proving the faith and commitment of His children.

The examples of Job (see the book of Job) and Paul show us that sickness comes on people who are not being punished by God and whom God refuses to heal.  There are differing views on these two examples.  There are however a number of facts that all views must accommodate.

Firstly, both Job and Paul (Gal 4.13) were “sick”.

Secondly, both were living extremely righteous lives.  God tells us that Job was the most upright person in the entire world (Job 1.1,8, 2.3, Ez 14.14).  Paul was said to be “holy” and “blameless” (1 Thes 2.10).

Thirdly, God refused to take the sickness away from them for a period of time.

Fourthly, God never indicated that their sickness was a result of their own sin or unbelief.  In Job’s case God tells us that he is blameless and the sickness was without cause (Job 2.3).  The latter part of Job records the longest discourse delivered by God anywhere in the Bible.  There is nothing in what God said in these chapters to suggest that Job’s sickness was a result of His own sin or unbelief.  One would expect that, if Job’s sickness were due to his own sin or unbelief, God would have mentioned that in this lengthy discourse.

This is true also for Paul.  He pleads for God to take away the “thorn in his flesh” to which God replies “My grace is sufficient for you”.  If Paul were experiencing sickness due to some sin in His life then one would expect God to say so.  God gives no rebuke or correction.  Rather the Lord encourages Paul to rest in God’s grace.

4.3          As a result of purely natural phenomenon.

Sickness can also be traced to purely natural causes.  Take for example someone who receives a blood transfusion where the blood is contaminated.  It is a medical certainty that the contaminated blood will carry the disease into the body of the person receiving it.  Or consider the person who is effected by nuclear radiation.  The likelihood of that person getting cancer becomes very high.

4.4          As a result of demonic influence

Luke (ASV) 13:16  And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan had bound, lo, [these] eighteen years, to have been loosed from this bond on the day of the sabbath?

Luke 9:39  (ASV) and behold, a spirit taketh him, and he suddenly crieth out; and it teareth him that he foameth, and it hardly departeth from him, bruising him sorely.

5.    Objections

5.1          Jesus work on the cross is not compatible with God placing sickness on people.

Some maintain that God inflicting man with sickness is not compatible with Jesus’ saving work on the cross.  It is said that Jesus died in order to take away our sicknesses – why then would God inflict sickness upon us?

This line of argument could have also been used in the Old Testament.  God had promised health and healing to His chosen Jewish nation and confirmed it by establishing a covenant with them.

Deut 7:15 (KJS) And the LORD will take away from thee all sickness, and will put none of the evil diseases of Egypt, which thou knowest, upon thee; but will lay them upon all [them] that hate thee.

Psal 103:3 (KJS) Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;

But He also “promised” sickness to them if they disobeyed Him.

Deut 28:15 (KJS) But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee: … 22 (KJS) The LORD shall smite thee with a consumption, and with a fever, and with an inflammation, and with an extreme burning, and with the sword, and with blasting, and with mildew; and they shall pursue thee until thou perish.

What we see in the Old Testament is both promises working together for man’s good.  While the Israelites were faithful God maintained their health.  When they sinned He punished them, sometimes using sickness.  However when they repented He fulfilled His first promise by healing them.  Hosea describes it plainly:

Hose 6:1  Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up.

It is true that “with his [Jesus] stripes we are healed”.  But God’s promise of “divine health” does not negate the threat of sickness as a punishment due to our own sins.  However, it does guarantee that God will heal us if we turn from our sin back to Him.

Kenneth Copeland presents this objection succinctly but in so doing appears to overlook the many scriptures already presented at length in the first part of this document:

Isaiah 53:10 says, “It was the will of the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief and made Him sick” (The Amplified Bible). If it was the will of God to bruise Him and make Him carry our sicknesses, how can it be the will of God to bruise us and make us carry those same sicknesses again?  It can’t be!  That would be a travesty of divine justice![1]

It isn’t and never has been God’s desire for a man to be sick as it will never be the desire of a good parent to physically punish his child.  Jesus’ vicarious death provides God with a “legal right” to heal those children He has had to discipline with sickness.  The work of the cross does not mean that God can no longer use means, natural or spiritual, to discipline His children.  This parental parallel will be dealt with more fully under the following heading.

5.2          How can a loving God inflict sickness on anyone, especially His own children?

Others question how a loving God could purposely inflict His own children with sickness.  It is maintained that no earthly parent would place sickness on his or her own child, so how could God?

Those that maintain this view often have a “double standard”.  While objecting to the idea of God physically punishing His children (through sickness), they may condone and practice the physical punishment of their own children (via the “rod of correction”-Pr 22.15).  In essence both actions are identical. Both involve physical discomfort and pain.

Of course, these two forms of physical suffering differ markedly in both nature and duration.  Sickness can afflict a person’s entire body for a lifetime.  The rod affects a small area of a child’s body for a short period of time only.

This difference in nature and duration can be understood when God’s eternal perspective is considered.  God uses sickness to get our attention and turn us from sin in the same way a parent uses the “rod”.  Many parents believe that the pain they inflict using the “rod” is fully warranted if it stops a child from, say, running onto a busy road to his death.  Likewise, enduring sickness for a number of years is a small price to pay if it will save us from an unimaginable eternity in Hell (1 Cor 11.32).

Hebr 12:10 (TLB) Our earthly fathers trained us for a few brief years, doing the best for us that they knew how, but God’s correction is always right and for our best good, that we may share his holiness.

Finally, it should not be thought that God enjoys punishing His children.  If human parents find it difficult to physically punish their children, how much harder must it be for God.  But like our human parents, our Heavenly Father takes the course of action necessary to ensure us a joyous future.

Lame 3:31 (TLB) for the Lord will not abandon him forever. 32 Although God gives him grief, yet he will show compassion too, according to the greatness of his loving-kindness. 33 For he does not enjoy afflicting men and causing sorrow.

5.3          God does not inflict sickness – His angels do.

Some have suggested that it is not God inflicting sickness but His angels.  This is certainly true in a number of instances.  “The angel of the Lord” is said to be directly responsible for some sicknesses and deaths.  However, this does not alter the fact the Scriptures also attribute responsibility for the sickness to God even when the sickness is inflicted by an angel.   It appears that angels are to God as a needle is to a doctor.  That is, God delivers the sickness through the use of an angel.  It is generally accepted that angels do only what God commands.  Thus any action taken by an angel must have first been a directive delivered by God.

To suggest that God has no responsibility for sickness in these circumstances would be similar to suggesting that a person who shoots another is not responsible but rather the gun is responsible.  This is of course nonsense.

5.4          God does not inflict sickness – demons do.

It is true that demons inflict man with sickness.  There are numerous Gospel examples that attribute sickness to demon oppression and possession.  In these instances it is plain that God bears no responsibility for the sickness.  However, this does not alter the fact that in other Scriptures we are told in the plainest manner that God is responsible for inflicting man with sickness.

5.5          Sickness results from a person’s own sin, not as a result of God’s discipline.

The first part of this objection is certainly true.  The Scriptures give numerous examples showing that personal sin leads to personal sickness.  This principle is put succinctly in Proverbs:

Prov 1:31  Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, And be filled with their own devices.

But to maintain that God never inflicts sickness would require one to ignore dozens of Scriptures that state the opposite.  In fact whole passages of the Bible would become meaningless if we remove God’s responsibility for the sickness He is said to inflict.  These passages are intended to show God’s hatred of sin and God’s mercy in forgiving sin, which can result in physical healing.  If God has no direct responsibility for the sickness then these passages neither show God’s hatred for sin nor his mercy toward sinners.

Certainly man “reaps what he has sown”.  But God also judges those that sin.

5.6          The passages attributing sickness to God have not been translated correctly.  God did not inflict sickness upon people but rather allowed sickness to come upon them.  There is seen in the difference between the Hebrew verbs where one is passive and one is active.

Some have suggested that the passages attributing sickness to God have had their true meaning confused in the translation from the original tongue to English.  They argue that experts in the Hebrew language have determined that these passages don’t describe God inflicting sickness on people but rather God permitting sickness and therefore God cannot be said to be responsible.

If this were true then it is difficult for any person who is not an “expert” in the Hebrew language to trust what he or she reads in the English Old Testament.  If the passages listed above can be easily understood in plain English but cannot be read literally then what passages in the Old Testament can be read literally?

Secondly, those that suggest that “another language expert” is needed to re-translate certain passages appear to be overlooking the fact that our English Bibles have already been translated by hundreds (probably thousands) of the best language scholars the world has known.  Forty-seven scholars worked on the King James Version, 32 scholars on the Revised Standard Version, 20 scholars on the Berkeley version, 30 scholars on the New Revised Standard Version to list just a few.  It doesn’t make sense to suggest that these experts who span hundreds of years and dozens of countries and denominations have all somehow misunderstood the passages referring to God inflicting sickness upon people and thus translated them wrongly (but have got it right everywhere else).

Thirdly, this objection could almost be seen as splitting straws.  That is, if God removes his protection to allow Satan (say) to inflict sickness then God is at least partially and directly responsible.  It would be similar to a parent deliberately leaving the front door unlocked in order to allow their child to be injured.  The parent is as responsible as the offender.

Finally, the details of the objection itself are flawed.  It is true that there are a number of Hebrew verb types where one is permissive and another is causative (see Appendix 7.1).  But both types of verbs are used when attributing the cause of sickness to God.

For example,  Ex 28.27 uses the verb tense Hiphil which one could interpret as being a permissive verb – God allowed sickness to come upon them.  However, in Ex 9.14 the verb tense is Qal which is the active tense (eg he killed).  Lev 14.24 uses both verb tenses in the one sentence with the context supporting their usage.

In fact, the context of Ex 9.14 makes very plain that it was the Lord causing the sickness.  Note the highlighted words below:

Ex 9:14 For I will this time send all my plagues upon thy heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people; that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth. 15 For now I had put forth my hand, and smitten thee and thy people with pestilence …

5.7          It is wrong to pray “If it be thy will Lord, heal me” as God has already revealed His will

Kenneth Copeland presents this objection,

In the light of such a sacrifice, it is as grievous to the heart of God for us to pray, “If it be Thy will, heal me,” as it is for us to say, “If it be Thy will, save me.”  God revealed His will once and for all when He laid our sickness on Jesus. ….

How dare we, then, ignore what happened there and tell some sick brother that it is God’s will for him to be sick a little longer so he can learn something? (Copeland, 1999, pg 19)

Firstly, Mr Copeland is correct in stating that we should not pray “If it be thy will”.  The Scriptures neither provide us with examples of such prayer nor teach us to pray this way.  Nor is it suggested in this document that such prayers be made.  Rather, we are to seek God for the reason we have become sick and, once the reason is clear, take the appropriate action.

The Scriptures give a number of examples relevant to this objection: 1. Miriam with leprosy (Num 12), 2. David and Bathsheba’s first child (2 Sam 12), 3. Hezekiah when he failed to trust in God’s salvation (2 Ki 19-20), 4. Job when he was tested by the Devil (Job), 5. Paul when God assured Him that His grace was sufficient (2 Cor 12) and 6. the Corinthians when partaking of communion.  These individuals (or people on their behalf) determined God’s will and, once it was known, sought either to change it or themselves or resigned themselves to it.  To believe that God wanted to heal them immediately (if they would only believe His word) would have been to believe the wrong thing.

If Mr Copeland’s teaching was adhered to in the above examples Miriam would not have been healed, David’s child would have still died but David would not have responded as he did, Hezekiah may not have recognised his sin and subsequently died, Job would have had an extra unhelpful friend, Paul would not have penned 2 Corinthians 12, and the Corinthians would have continued to get sick and die after partaking of communion wrongly.

We are not to pray, “If it be thy will”.  We are obligated to determine whether our sickness is due to our sin, our faith, or our world and respond appropriately.

Secondly, Mr Copeland suggests that we belittle Jesus sacrifice if we advise a sick brother that God is testing and teaching him.  In some circumstances this is certainly true.  If a person’s sickness is the natural result of some physical cause or if the sickness is demonic in origin than such advice is useless and, to a degree at least, wastes Christ’s sacrifice.

But if such advice is given to person in a position similar to Miriam or King David or Job then the advice is well placed and helpful.

5.8          God simply removes his protection and allows the fallen natural world and demons to inflict sickness.

This argument is evident in God’s dealing with Job where God had a hedge of protection around Job which presumably was removed to allow Satan to injure Job.  However those that make this argument suggest that this is a more loving thing for God to do than to inflict sickness upon a person directly.

In response to this objection consider this analogy.  A parent has a child who is rebellious.  The parent is too ‘loving’ to discipline the child physically so instead he allows his neighbour to beat the child.  The neighbour however vehemently hates the child and would kill the child at the first opportunity.

So which is more loving?  For the parent to discipline the child himself or to allow a wicked fiend to ‘discipline’ the child.  The answer is obvious.

And so it is with God.  It is better to fall into the hand of  a loving God than for God to remove his protection and allow us to fall into our enemy’s hand.

1Ch 21:13 NKJV  And David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Please let me fall into the hand of the LORD, for His mercies are very great; but do not let me fall into the hand of man.”

5.9          God didn’t afflict Job, Satan did

There is no disagreement on this point.  God had his own purposes which remain mostly concealed from our view.  Indeed, God’s response did not seek to address Job’s many questions.  The Lord just said ‘Who are you to question Me?’

There is no indication that Job’s affliction was to teach or punish him.  It was simply an affliction brought about by spiritual oppression.

5.10       How can anyone think that Jehovah Rapha (our Healer) would afflict people with sickness

This is an appeal (and a good one) to our emotions but it has no basis in Scripture.  A consideration of the passage mentioned shows that the Lord was promising ‘health’ if he was obeyed and terrible diseases if He was disobeyed.  The very verse contradicts the argument put forwarded!

Exo 15:26 NKJV  and said, “If you diligently heed the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the LORD who heals you.”

And this view is in plain contradiction to other passages also written at the same time by the same person:

Deu 7:15 NKJV  And the LORD will take away from you all sickness, and will afflict you with none of the terrible diseases of Egypt which you have known, but will lay them on all those who hate you.

Deu 28:58-61 NKJV  “If you do not carefully observe all the words of this law that are written in this book, that you may fear this glorious and awesome name, THE LORD YOUR GOD,  (59)  then the LORD will bring upon you and your descendants extraordinary plagues—great and prolonged plagues—and serious and prolonged sicknesses.  (60)  Moreover He will bring back on you all the diseases of Egypt, of which you were afraid, and they shall cling to you.  (61)  Also every sickness and every plague, which is not written in this Book of the Law, will the LORD bring upon you until you are destroyed.

5.11       Jesus took our punishment so God does not afflict us with the punishment Jesus took on our behalf.  So if He ever used sickness to punish people – He doesn’t do it after calvary.

Ananias and Saphira would disagree.  So would the Corinthians:

1Co 11:29-32 NKJV  For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.  (30)  For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.  (31)  For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.  (32)  But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.

It cannot be clearer than this.  Christians are chastised with sickness by God.  It is important that we don’t lose sight of the purpose: “that we may not be condemned with the world”.

6.    Concluding Remarks.

6.1          What should we do if we are sick?

How should we respond if we are sick or if we are becoming sick?  Firstly, we must examine ourselves to determine whether we are walking a “straight path”.  We should prayerfully and carefully check whether we have sinned or whether our general conduct has become sinful. God uses sickness to draw attention to sin in the same way as He uses miracles to draw attention to the Gospel.  At the first sign of sickness we must examine ourselves for wrongdoing.

If we believe that God is drawing our attention to an area of sin in our life we must respond by turning from it immediately.  James then advises us to “confess our sins to one another and pray for one another that we may be healed”.  After we have repented we can stand confidently on the promise that God will heal us.

Secondly, if after examining ourselves we determine that the sickness is not a result of God’s chastening, we must determine whether the sickness is intended to prove our faith and commitment to Him.  Again, this can only be done by talking to God directly about the sickness.  Paul said “three different times I begged God to make me well again” (2 Cor 12.8).  We must find out from God whether He is willing to heal us.  If we determine that He is not then we should respond in the same way that Paul responded.  He did not complain about the infirmity but rather was “happy” and “boasted” about it.

1Cor 12.9 (TLB) … Now I am glad to boast about how weak I am; I am glad to be a living demonstration of Christ’s power, instead of showing off my own power and abilities.  10  Since I know it is all for Christ’s good, I am quite happy about “the thorn,” and about insults and hardships, persecutions and difficulties; for when I am weak, then I am strong–the less I have, the more I depend on him.

It should be noted that there are very few examples in the Bible of individuals who were required to endure sickness for this reason.  This suggests that enduring sickness as a test of our faith is more an exception than a rule.

Thirdly, if our sickness is not a result of sin nor is it intended to prove our faith, we can confidently seek God for healing.  God promises in both Testaments that He will heal us (indeed has healed us).  These promises are utterly reliable and need only be trusted to see them realised in our lives.

Matt 8:16 (TLB) That evening several demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus; and when he spoke a single word, all the demons fled; and all the sick were healed. 17 This fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, “He took our sicknesses and bore our diseases.”

6.2          How does this understanding of God and sickness fit with Jesus’ earthly ministry of healing?

Jesus spent much of His earthly ministry demonstrating God’s power to heal people, and never made them sick.  This ministry of Jesus, on the surface, appears to directly contradict what has been presented thus far.

It is important to keep in mind that God has both promised to “heal” people of their sicknesses (if they turn to Him) and to “smite” them with sickness (if they turn away from Him).  What we see in Jesus’ ministry is the first promise being fulfilled.  The purpose of the incarnation was to save people from sin and sickness.  However Jesus will not always be the “approachable Saviour” ready to heal.

We are told that, when Jesus returns the second time, he will not be coming to save but to judge people.  When He returns people will hide in caves terrified of Him.  They will certainly not be seeking Him out for healing.  He will separate the bad from the good and condemn the bad to an eternity in Hell.   The picture of Jesus’ first coming is in stark contrast with His second coming.

That God is “unchanging”, does not mean that He does the same thing all the time.  Sometimes He shows mercy (eg. the woman caught in adultery), other times He executes judgement (eg. Ananias and Saphira).  Sometimes He heals (eg. Jesus ministry) other times He kills with sickness (eg. King Herod, David and Bathsheba’s first child).  These actions are not in conflict with each other but rather compliment one another.  They reveal a different facet of God’s unchanging character.

6.3          How should we respond to others that are sick?

The examples given in the New Testament help us understand how we should respond to those who are sick.  Firstly, whatever our response is it must come from a compassionate attitude towards that person.

Secondly, we should recognise that neither Jesus nor the Apostles healed everyone.  The Biblical record tells us that every person that came to Jesus for healing received it.  But Jesus did not appear to pursue the sick in order to heal them.

Thirdly, we see that Jesus and the Apostles often perceived faith in a person who was sick and then responded to that faith by healing them.  We also read that Jesus could not heal people when there was a lack of faith.

Mark 6:4 (ASV) And Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house. 5 And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them. 6 And he marvelled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages teaching.

This suggests that we should consider whether someone believes they can be healed before we pray for healing for them.

Fourthly, we must be aware that some people are sick because of their own sin.  Thus, prayer is not what is required but repentance.  If we believe that God has revealed this to us then it behoves us to speak honestly to the sick person about possible sin.

6.4          What does this reveal about the nature of God?

There is always a danger that we forget we are made in God’s image and attempt to mould God into our own image, or at least into an image that we can accept easily.  This is what some seem to be doing today.  They find it difficult (some find it impossible) to believe that the God who died in their place could also inflict them with sickness and disease.  As a result they create an image of God which is plainly at odds with whole chapters of the Bible.  Of course this has an adverse effect on our Christian walk.

Firstly, a misunderstanding of God’s nature necessarily leads to disappointment.  If we believe God never inflicts sickness on people and that His will is to always heal (regardless of personal sin) then we will be disappointed when God refuses to heal.  This disappointment can lead to distrust.  We believe God should act one way but He acts another thus we cannot trust what God says.  No good ever comes from distrusting the infinitely trustworthy God.

Secondly, the closeness of our relationship with another is determined by how well we know that person.  My relationship with God will always be hindered if I think God is something that He isn’t.

Thirdly, we pay for our doctrinal errors in practical failure.  All errors we have regarding God and the spiritual life will result in lifestyle failures.  The Scriptures put it another way: “The truth shall make you free” (Jn 8.32).  If the truth makes us free then one might expect that “untruths” would leave us bound.  When we must deny the plain reading of Scripture in order to accommodate our image of God we can be certain that this “untruth” is hindering our spiritual growth.

6.5          What should be considered “sickness”?  Does “personal injury” also mean sickness?

We use the term sickness to describe any ailment from a headache to terminal cancer.  We have seen that God inflicts the unrepentant man with serious illness and disease even unto death.  But does He also use minor ailments to discipline us?

The Scripture does not seem to shed much light on this topic.  Minor ailments are all but ignored in the Scriptures.  So any definite answer to this question is purely conjecture and should be treated us such.

With this in mind, we could extend the analogy used in Hebrews of God disciplining His spiritual children in the same way as a father disciplines his earthly children to the question before us.  Most earthly parents have various degrees of punishment that may range from a verbal rebuke to the “rod” of correction.  The punishment metered out is determined by the gravity of the sin.

Given this, it would seem logical that God would also have numerous “punishments” of differing degrees of severity.  Thus, perhaps a headache or aching joints could be attributed to God’s Fatherly chastising.

It must be kept in mind that there are a number of other reasons why people become sick all of which have nothing to do with God’s punishment.  Therefore the onus is on us to determine before God why such sickness has befallen us and then deal with it appropriately.

Secondly, we should view personal injury in the same way as we view sickness.  It is possible that an injury could be the result of either God’s judgement, our foolishness, God’s testing or our living in a natural world.  It is our responsibility to talk to God to determine how we should respond to such an event.

6.6          Today’s “Liberal” views on ‘God and sickness’

It seems that the view held by some Christians today on this subject of God and sickness is similar to the liberal (and unscriptural views) held by many in our communities regarding corporal punishment.  There has been a substantial movement to abolish corporal punishment from our schools and homes.  The basic argument against administering physical punishment is that it is fundamentally “child abuse”.

Of course, Christian’s disagree with this view based on clear Scriptural direction to lovingly administer physical discipline.  And those that have experienced such discipline know its value.

Prov 13:24  He that spareth his rod hateth his son; But he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.

Prov 22:15  Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; [But] the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.

Prov 23:13  Withhold not correction from the child; [For] if thou beat him with the rod, he will not die. 14  Thou shalt beat him with the rod, And shalt deliver his soul from Sheol.

Prov 29:15  The rod and reproof give wisdom; But a child left to himself causeth shame to his mother.

Interestingly some Christians use a similar “liberal” argument in attempt to prove that God does not inflict sickness.  They would argue that it is a form of “child abuse” for God to inflict His own children with sickness.  And since God could not be guilty of “child abuse” He certainly does not inflict people with sickness.

But as we have already seen, this view is not Scripturally sound.

6.7          How does God discipline His children?

Those that maintain that Jesus death provides us with healing or health in every circumstance must ask themselves how God then disciplines His children.  How does God apply “the rod of correction” to the Christian who is not walking righteously?

It may be argued that God punishes us by removing His protective “hedge” around us which will make us vulnerable to the attacks of the devil.  But this is not punishment at all.  Only an irresponsible parent will remove their protection from a child who needs a firm guiding hand.  Imagine the human tragedy if all parents everywhere withdrew their protective hand and allowed their children to negotiate by themselves our busy roads.  This would at best be deemed irresponsible and at worst child abuse.

Punishment in most cases requires the ‘punisher’ to be active in the punishment.  A parent who punishes his child by allow her to touch a stove hot plate is not punishing but abusing the child.

Others might suggest that God causes painful things to happen to us in other areas of our lives, perhaps in our finances.  Usually those who believe that God never punishes using sickness also believe that God has promised us material prosperity.  But the same arguments used against sickness as a means of discipline can be used against this method also.  That is, there are numerous promises in the scriptures referring to the prosperity of God’s people.  How can God, who has promised prosperity, break that promise and give us less than prosperity?  Or, if it is argued that He only allows it to happen, then it cannot be deemed punishment at all.

Finally, if the punishment is not physical but spiritual then how is that punishment to be felt.  If a person is sinning and has a heart hardened towards God, how will that person ‘feel’ a spiritual punishment delivered by God.

Whole chapters of the Old Testament describe God’s punishment of His disobedient children.  In most cases that punishment was felt physically through oppression by enemies, through pestilence, plagues, wars, famines and through sickness.

6.8          Should a person seek medical assistance from doctors if it is God’s will for that person to be sick?

This question highlights a difficulty with the choice of language.  To say “it is God’s will that a person is sick” conveys the idea that God ‘desires’ that person to be sick.  But this is certainly not the case.  It may be a parent’s ‘will’ that their child be physically punished for bad behaviour but one would not say that the parent desired it to happen.  To will something does not necessarily imply that it is desirable.

A person who is sick is still responsible to care for his or her physical body.  Suppose Miriam, who was inflicted with leprosy by God, chose to mutilate herself while outside the Israelite camp.  Of course this will displease God even further.  Suppose, then, she does not care for her body but allows it to be eaten away by the leprosy.  Of course, this is also displeasing to God for she is not caring for the body God has given her. God was punishing her for one sin.  Further sinning through neglecting her body is in no way going to redeem herself in the eyes of God.

Thus, even though God’s punishment may involve physical sickness, our duty before God to care for own bodies requires that we are to do our best to relieve our suffering.  The same principle applies to doctors and medical institutions.

6.9          Does God get glory when a person bears up nobly under the distress of sickness and disease.

This idea has been maintained by some but it seems to have little or no Biblical basis.  It is true that the Scriptures record a number of instances where God required people to bear sickness for a period of time.  But it is not suggested that God gained glory from these events.

Of course God can be glorified through many and varied circumstances.  A person who exhibits the fruit of the spirit at any time, but especially when it is most difficult to do so, will undoubtedly bring glory God.

The

But this does not exclude God being glorified if that person were healed.

6.10       Other Relevant Verses

Exod 4:11 (KJS) And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD?

Ezra 9:13  And now, even after our punishment in exile because of our wickedness (and we have been punished far less than we deserved), and even though you have let some of us return,

James 5:13 (KJS) Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. 14 Is any sick among you? 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 shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. 16 Confess [your] faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

James 5 links sickness in Christians with sin. It describes how the forgiveness of sin can go hand in hand with healing. Those who are “sick” will in the process of being healed have their “sins … forgiven”.  Or said a different way, “confess your faults one to another”, implying repentance, “that ye may be healed”.

Psal 89:30  (ASV) If his children forsake my law, And walk not in mine ordinances; 31  If they break my statutes, And keep not my commandments;  32  Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, And their iniquity with stripes. 33  But my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, Nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. 34  My covenant will I not break, Nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.

7.    Appendix

7.1          Additional Verses

Exo 13:15 NKJV  And it came to pass, when Pharaoh was stubborn about letting us go, that the LORD killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of beast. Therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all males that open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.’

Exo 15:25-26 NKJV  So he cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet. There He made a statute and an ordinance for them, and there He tested them,  (26)  and said, “If you diligently heed the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the LORD who heals you.”

Num 3:13 NKJV  because all the firstborn are Mine. On the day that I struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I sanctified to Myself all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast. They shall be Mine: I am the LORD.”

Num 8:17 NKJV  For all the firstborn among the children of Israel are Mine, both man and beast; on the day that I struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I sanctified them to Myself.

Num 33:4 NKJV  For the Egyptians were burying all their firstborn, whom the LORD had killed among them. Also on their gods the LORD had executed judgments.

7.2          Comments from others who oppose this view

WOULD GOD AFFLICT A CHILD WITH SICKNESS?  This is ANATHEMA to me & MOST Christians. HOW can anyone think that Jehovah Rapha would afflict a CHILD of all people – who sounds as if they are BELOW the age of responsibility. God has to RIP UP the NEW COVENANT & tell Jesus “your sacrifice to bring healing (as well as forgiveness) has to NOT APPLY to some people because I want to teach them a lesson!” God has to GO AGAINST His Own NATURE as a Healer, in order to do this. Did Jesus even once say to someone YOU HAVEN’T LEARNED YOUR LESSON YET – so stay sick for a while longer? Was JOB afflicted by God or Satan – clearly by SATAN ! Did He ever say – I am now removing this sickness because you have learned your lesson? In virtually every case where Jesus did say something slightly corrective to a person (e.g. go & sin no more) HE HEALED THEM FIRST… not after dealing with the issue God supposedly had afflicted them about.  Jesus TOOK OUR PUNISHMENT – so God does not AFFLICT us with the punishment Jesus took on our behalf – so, if He ever used sickness to punish people – He doesn’t do it AFTER CALVARY.

RESPONSE:

Rev 2:23 NKJV  I [Jesus] will kill her [Jezebel's] children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.

2Sa 12:15 NKJV  Then Nathan departed to his house. And the *LORD struck the child* that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and it became ill.

7.3          Hebrew Verb Tenses

Some have suggested that the Hebrew verb tense used when referring to instances where God is said to be responsible for sickness is permissive rather than causative.  They argue that this means God is not directly responsible for the sickness inflicted but is allowing other events and beings to cause the sickness.

Dr Robert Young, author of Young’s Analytical Concordance and Hints To Bible Interpretation, points out that in the original Hebrew (the Old Testament was written in Hebrew), the verb is in the permissive rather than causative sense.

So, Deuteronomy 28:27 should have been translated something like, “The Lord will allow/permit these plagues to be brought upon you…”

The original Hebrew of these scriptures was in the permissive tense, but because the English language has no corresponding permissive tense, the verbs were translated in the causative tense.[2]

The logical problem with this argument has been treated on page 12 already.  However the reference made to various Hebrew tenses is also incorrect.  This can be determined fairly easily through the use of the online Bible tool http://www.blueletterbible.org/help/verbtense.html

It is true that there is an Active and Passive tense to the Hebrew verbs.  But in all instances I have checked the active form of the verb is used.  This is the reason the translators have translated the verses as ‘he struck’ rather than ‘he allowed to be struck’.

The ‘Causative’ form of the verb has both active and passive tenses.  The active form can be rendered “he caused to kill”.  The passive form can be rendered “he was caused to kill”.  All the references in De 28.22-35 use the active/causative form of the verb.  Thus, the translation “God caused to strike you with boils” is essentially the same as the NKJV rendering of “the Lord will strike you”.

But even if we were to eliminate the causative (Hiphil) verses from the list given, there are still many verses in both the Simple and the Intensive form that can be used to demonstrate that God directly inflicts sickness upon people.

The following verses use an active verb (he killed / he caused to kill) and so attribute the sickness directly to the action of God.

Exo 9:14 NKJV  for at this time I will send all My plagues to your very heart, and on your servants and on your people, that you may know that there is none like Me in all the earth.

Deu 24:9 NKJV  Remember what the LORD your God did to Miriam on the way when you came out of Egypt!

2Ch 21:14 NKJV  behold, the LORD will strike your people with a serious affliction–your children, your wives, and all your possessions;

2Ch 21:18 NKJV  After all this the LORD struck him in his intestines with an incurable disease.

Lev 26:16 NKJV  I also will do this to you: I will even appoint terror over you, wasting disease and fever which shall consume the eyes and cause sorrow of heart. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it.

Deu 28:27 NKJV  The LORD will strike you with the boils of Egypt, with tumors, with the scab, and with the itch, from which you cannot be healed.

Verb Tense Usage:

Passive (Niphal, Pual, Hophal)

 

Niphal: He was killed

Pual: He was killed indeed!

Hophal: he was caused to kill

Active (Qal, Piel, Hiphil, Reflexive)

 

Qal: he killed

Piel: he killed indeed!

Hiphil: he caused to kill

Ex 9.14: “send” – Qal

Ex 12.23: “to smite” – Qal

Lev 14.34: “and I put” – Qal

2 Ch 21.14: “smite” – Qal

2 Sam 12.15: “struck” – Qal

2 Sam 24.15: “sent” – Qal

Zec 14.12: “will smite” – Qal

Lev 26.16: “I will appoint over you” – Hiphil

Lev 26.25: “I will send” – Piel

De 24.9: “did” unto Miriam – Qal

De 28.1: “will set” – Qal

De 28.7: “shall cause” – Qal

De 28.8 “shall command” – Piel

De 28.9: “shall establish” – Hiphil

De 28.11: “shall make thee plenteous” – Hiphil

De 28.12: “shall open” – Qal

De 28.13: “shall make” – Qal

De 28.20: “shall send on you” curses – Piel

De 28.21: “cleave” – Hiphil

De 28.22: “shall smite” – Hiphil

De 28.27: “will smite” – Hiphil

De 28.28: “shall smite” – Hiphil

De 28.35: “shall smite” – Hiphil

Jer 29.17: “”I will send” – Piel

Simple

  • Qal (active) – he killed
  • Niphal (passive) – he was killed

Intensive – giving force or emphasis; emphasizing
[very in the very same man is an intensive adverb]

  • Piel (active) – he killed indeed! / he slaughtered
  • Pual (passive) – he was killed indeed! / he was slaughtered
  • Hithpael (reflexive) – he killed himself

Causative – expressing causation, as certain verbs
[fell is a causative verb meaning to cause to fall]

  • Hiphil (active) – he caused to kill
  • Hophal (passive) – he was caused to kill

List of Verses where God is responsible for sickness

Exo 9:13-15 NKJV  Then the LORD said to Moses, “Rise early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh, and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD God of the Hebrews: “Let My people go, that they may serve Me,  14  for at this time I will send all My plagues to your very heart, and on your servants and on your people, that you may know that there is none like Me in all the earth.  15  Now if I had stretched out My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, then you would have been cut off from the earth.

Exo 12:23 NKJV  For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you.

Exo 12:29 NKJV  And it came to pass at midnight that the LORD struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of livestock.

Lev 26:16 NKJV  I also will do this to you: I will even appoint terror over you, wasting disease and fever which shall consume the eyes and cause sorrow of heart. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it.

Lev 26:21 NKJV  ‘Then, if you walk contrary to Me, and are not willing to obey Me, I will bring on you seven times more plagues, according to your sins.

Lev 26:25 NKJV  And I will bring a sword against you that will execute the vengeance of the covenant; when you are gathered together within your cities I will send pestilence among you; and you shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy.

Num 3:13 NKJV  because all the firstborn are Mine. On the day that I struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I sanctified to Myself all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast. They shall be Mine: I am the LORD.”

Num 12:10 NKJV  And when the cloud departed from above the tabernacle, suddenly Miriam became leprous, as white as snow. Then Aaron turned toward Miriam, and there she was, a leper.

Deu 24:8-9 NKJV  “Take heed in an outbreak of leprosy, …  9 Remember what the LORD your God did to Miriam on the way when you came out of Egypt!

Deu 28:20 NKJV  “The LORD will send on you cursing, confusion, and rebuke in all that you set your hand to do, until you are destroyed and until you perish quickly, because of the wickedness of your doings in which you have forsaken Me.

Deu 28:21-22 NKJV  The LORD will make the plague cling to you until He has consumed you from the land which you are going to possess.  22  The LORD will strike you with consumption, with fever, with inflammation, with severe burning fever, with the sword, with scorching, and with mildew; they shall pursue you until you perish.

Deu 28:27 NKJV  The LORD will strike you with the boils of Egypt, with tumors, with the scab, and with the itch, from which you cannot be healed.

Deu 28:28 NKJV  The LORD will strike you with madness and blindness and confusion of heart.

Deu 28:35 NKJV  The LORD will strike you in the knees and on the legs with severe boils which cannot be healed, and from the sole of your foot to the top of your head.

Deu 28:59-60 NKJV  then the LORD will bring upon you and your descendants extraordinary plagues—great and prolonged plagues—and serious and prolonged sicknesses.  60  Moreover He will bring back on you all the diseases of Egypt, of which you were afraid, and they shall cling to you.

Deu 28:63 NKJV  And it shall be, that just as the LORD rejoiced over you to do you good and multiply you, so the LORD will rejoice over you to destroy you and bring you to nothing; and you shall be plucked from off the land which you go to possess.

Deu 29:22 NKJV  so that the coming generation of your children who rise up after you, and the foreigner who comes from a far land, would say, when they see the plagues of that land and the sicknesses which the LORD has laid on it:

Deu 32:39 NKJV  ‘Now see that I, even I, am He, And there is no God besides Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; Nor is there any who can deliver from My hand.

1Sa 5:6 NKJV  But the hand of the LORD was heavy on the people of Ashdod, and He ravaged them and struck them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territory.

1Sa 5:9 NKJV  So it was, after they had carried it away, that the hand of the LORD was against the city with a very great destruction; and He struck the men of the city, both small and great, and tumors broke out on them.

1Sa 25:38 NKJV  Then it happened, after about ten days, that the LORD struck Nabal, and he died.

2Sa 6:7 NKJV  Then the anger of the LORD was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him there for his error; and he died there by the ark of God.

2Sa 12:15 NKJV  Then Nathan departed to his house. And the LORD struck the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and it became ill.

2Ki 15:5 NKJV  Then the LORD struck the king, so that he was a leper until the day of his death; so he dwelt in an isolated house. And Jotham the king’s son was over the royal house, judging the people of the land.

2Ki 6:18 NKJV  So when the Syrians came down to him, Elisha prayed to the LORD, and said, “Strike this people, I pray, with blindness.” And He struck them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.

1Ch 13:10 NKJV  Then the anger of the LORD was aroused against Uzza, and He struck him because he put his hand to the ark; and he died there before God.

2Ch 7:13 NKJV  When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people,

2Ch 13:20 NKJV  So Jeroboam did not recover strength again in the days of Abijah; and the LORD struck him, and he died.

2Ch 21:14-15 NKJV  behold, the LORD will strike your people with a serious affliction—your children, your wives, and all your possessions;  15  and you will become very sick with a disease of your intestines, until your intestines come out by reason of the sickness, day by day.

2Ch 21:18 NKJV  After all this the LORD struck him in his intestines with an incurable disease.

2Ch 26:20 NKJV  And Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and there, on his forehead, he was leprous; so they thrust him out of that place. Indeed he also hurried to get out, because the LORD had struck him.

1Sa 2:6-7 NKJV  “The LORD kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up.  7  The LORD makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and lifts up.

2Sa 12:15 NKJV  Then Nathan departed to his house. And the LORD struck the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and it became ill.

2Ki 6:18 NKJV  So when the Syrians came down to him, Elisha prayed to the LORD, and said, “Strike this people, I pray, with blindness.” And He struck them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.

2Ki 19:35 NKJV  And it came to pass on a certain night that the angel of the LORD went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses—all dead.

Isa 3:17 NKJV  Therefore the Lord will strike with a scab The crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, And the LORD will uncover their secret parts.”

Isa 9:13 NKJV  For the people do not turn to Him who strikes them, Nor do they seek the LORD of hosts.

Isa 19:22 NKJV  And the LORD will strike Egypt, He will strike and heal it; they will return to the LORD, and He will be entreated by them and heal them.

Jer 14:11-12 NKJV  Then the LORD said to me, “Do not pray for this people, for their good.  12  When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them. But I will consume them by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence.”

Jer 29:17-18 NKJV  thus says the LORD of hosts: Behold, I will send on them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will make them like rotten figs that cannot be eaten, they are so bad.  18  And I will pursue them with the sword, with famine, and with pestilence; and I will deliver them to trouble among all the kingdoms of the earth—to be a curse, an astonishment, a hissing, and a reproach among all the nations where I have driven them,

Eze 14:21 NKJV  For thus says the Lord GOD: “How much more it shall be when I send My four severe judgments on Jerusalem—the sword and famine and wild beasts and pestilence—to cut off man and beast from it?

Amo 4:10 NKJV  “I sent among you a plague after the manner of Egypt; Your young men I killed with a sword, Along with your captive horses; I made the stench of your camps come up into your nostrils; Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the LORD.

Zec 14:12-18 NKJV  And this shall be the plague with which the LORD will strike all the people who fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh shall dissolve while they stand on their feet, Their eyes shall dissolve in their sockets, And their tongues shall dissolve in their mouths.  13  It shall come to pass in that day That a great panic from the LORD will be among them. Everyone will seize the hand of his neighbor, And raise his hand against his neighbor’s hand;  14  Judah also will fight at Jerusalem. And the wealth of all the surrounding nations Shall be gathered together: Gold, silver, and apparel in great abundance.  15  Such also shall be the plague On the horse and the mule, On the camel and the donkey, And on all the cattle that will be in those camps. So shall this plague be.  16  And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.  17  And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, on them there will be no rain.  18  If the family of Egypt will not come up and enter in, they shall have no rain; they shall receive the plague with which the LORD strikes the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.

Act 5:5 NKJV  Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things.

Act 5:10 NKJV  Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband.

Act 12:23 NKJV  Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died.

1Co 11:28-32 NKJV  But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  29  For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.  30  For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.  31  For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.  32  But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.

Rev 2:22-23 NKJV  Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds.  23  I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.

Rev 16:1-2 NKJV  Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God on the earth.”  2  So the first went and poured out his bowl upon the earth, and a foul and loathsome sore came upon the men who had the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image.


[1] Copeland, K & G. (1999), pg 19, One word from God can change your health.  Harrison House, Oklahoma.

 

[2] http://www.blueletterbible.org/help/verbtense.html

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