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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Smith :: Portraits of Christ

Don Smith :: Exo 15; The Healer

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Portraits of Christ
“The Healer” (Exodus 15)

Who is the God who heals?

  • He is revealed in the O. T. as “Jehovah Rapha”—“the Lord your healer.”
  • In the Gospels, Jesus is referred to as “the great Physician.”
  • His capacity to heal diseased bodies demonstrates His power to forgive sin and heal broken and shattered hearts.
  • Hurt and wounded people are prone to bitterness.
  • When their world falls down all around them, they lose hope.
  • Anger, disappointment and discouragement can fester in their wounds.
  • They may start harboring resentment against God and others.
  • Their argument against God can be that (1) He either wasn’t compassionate enough to get them out of their crisis or (2) that He wasn’t powerful enough to prevent it from happening.
  • Either way, the providential care of God is questioned.
  • Therefore, cynical and bitter people are in as great or even greater need of healing, as are those who suffer with physical disabilities and diseases.
  1. For example, there was a young boy in our church confined to a wheel chair due to advanced stages of Dystonia, which is similar to Parkinson’s disease.
    • He never had a frown or any bitterness on his face.
    • Neither did his parents.
    • He loved to have the Bible read to him at night.
    • It was not uncommon for him to lie in the dark trying to go to sleep, while listening to a tape of the Bible.
    • Walking all around us today are perfectly healthy people, yet they have become bitter because they suffer from a broken heart.
  2. If anyone is suffering from a broken heart or relationship, please consider the God who heals.
    • “Jehovah Rapha,” our Great Physician wants to speak to you.
    • As He healed the waters of Marah, He can heal your bitterness.
    • When the Hebrews cried out for deliverance from the mud pits of Egypt, God heard their cry.
    • With miraculous signs and wonders, God set them free.
    • After journeying only three days, they were faced with their first crisis.
    • Behind them could be seen the dust from Pharoah’s mighty chariots.
    • Before them was the impassible Red Sea.
    • God parted the waters and His people walked safely through them.
    • The parting of the Red Sea was a prophetic picture of Christ’s resurrection power on the third day.

After the Lord delivered His people through the waters, Moses began to worship. (Exodus 15:1-22)

  1. His song of deliverance is recorded in Exodus 15:1-19.
    • It is a song of God’s strength in battle.
    • God had proven glorious in His holiness by destroying Pharaoh’s army.
    • In Moses’ estimation there was no equal to the God of his fathers.
    • This stunning act of God had given His people confidence and hope to face the uncertain dangers of the wilderness.
    • Aaron’s sister Miriam was not to be outdone.
  2. Miriam began to lead the women of Israel in a dance of praise. (Exodus 15:20-21)
    • For those who had grown up knowing only the toil and turmoil of Egypt, this was truly a momentous occasion.
    • God has an appropriate time for everything.
    • There is a time to weep and a time to rejoice.
    • There is a time to grieve and a time to dance.
    • They had witnessed first-hand the power of God to deliver.
    • That day there were no skeptics and no atheists.
    • But all this confidence and celebration in God’s power was soon to cease.
  3. The same God who delivered them through the waters next led them into the wilderness, where there was no water. (Exodus 15:22-26)
    • He led them into the Wilderness of Shur.
    • Commentators tells us that Shur probably means “wall.”
    • In essence they were going to hit the proverbial wall-of-faith.
    • They faced a crisis of immense proportions, with more than one million thirsty people.
    • With parched mouths they mused, “What kind of a God would do this to His people?”
    • God’s power and integrity was being questioned again.
    • They were learning the critical yet painful lesson of trusting God.
    • God’s chosen means of developing our faith all too often seems to be testing us through adversity.
    • The Bible teaches that God works through everything to accomplish His purposes.
    • God works all things according to the counsel of His will. (Ephesians 1:11)
    • God works all things together for good. (Romans 8:28)
    • We should learn from Job’s trials that God’s intended purpose was to reveal His compassion and mercy to Job. (James 5:11)
    • So Israel’s desperate need of water would also demonstrate God’s compassion and mercy in His providential care.

There are some important observations to make.

  • This was Israel’s first need, as well as the first miracle in the wilderness.
  • God was using this crisis to manifest His power and to test their faith.
  • Moses made this clear in Exodus 15:25 when he said, “There He tested them.”
  1. God tested Israel. (Exodus 15:23-24)
    • God led them to Marah which means “bitterness,” for this would be a bitter moment for Israel.
    • Not having seen water for three days, it must have been exciting to see water at Marah, but devastating to learn it was undrinkable.
    • It was like ship-wrecked survivors on the sea, who see water all around them but can’t drink it because it only makes them more thirsty.
    • So it was at “Bitterness” that Israel saw bitter waters and they became bitter towards God.
    • The people complained and grumbled against Moses.
    • They asked, “What shall we drink? We have no water!”
  2. What did Moses do? (Exodus 15:25)
    • In desperation, he cried out to God.
    • There is no more urgent cry for help in all the Bible than this prayer.
    • Imagine being surrounded by more than one million bitter, thirsty men, women and children—all complaining about your leadership.
  3. Moses’ prayer was like that of the prophet Jeremiah.
    • He cried out, “Is there no balm in Gilead, is there no physician there? Why then is there no recovery for the health of my people?” (Jeremiah 8:22)
    • As a child in church, I remember singing the hymn “There Is a Balm in Gilead.”
    • I used to think if there was a bomb, someone must get it out of there!
    • A balm, I have later learned, means a healing agent or medicine.
    • Jeremiah prayed to the Lord, “Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for You are my praise.” (Jeremiah 7:14)
    • Bitterness then can result from physical suffering or from spiritual wounds inflicted by sin.
    • In either case, they need to be healed.
    • God answered Jeremiah with this promise: “For I will restore health to you and heal you of your wounds, says the LORD.”

Moses also needed a Healer

  1. God “Torahed”—showed or literally taught Moses a tree.
    • In Genesis 2, the “Tree of Life” was in the midst of the garden.
    • It was a type of what gives life and healing. (Genesis 2:9)
    • The prophet Ezekiel also foresaw trees on a river bank that were good for food, as well as medicine. (Ezekiel 47:6-12)
    • Perhaps this is more clearly described in Revelation 22:2.
    • Crystal clear water will flow from the throne and on either side of this stream will be the Tree of Life, which will bear twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month.
    • The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
    • In other words, I believe the tree that God shows Moses appears to be a foreshadowing of Christ.
    • He is the true Tree of Life that heals the bitterness of sin.
  2. Next God instructed Moses to cast the tree into the waters.
    • The tree thrown into the bitter waters made the water sweet.
    • The tree then is the “Healer.” But actually, the Lord is the One who heals you.
    • Actually the prophets take up this “type” and speak about an Anointed One, Who would come and heal His people.
    • Isaiah 35:4-8 foresaw His coming, “Say to those who are fearful-hearted, “Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; he will come and save you.” Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert.”
    • In Isaiah 53:5, he sees this coming Healer as One Who would Himself be wounded. “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”
    • And again in Isaiah 61:1-2 these same words were later quoted by Jesus in the synagogue of Nazareth to identify Himself as “The Healer.”
    • “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; he has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn.”
    • Matthew 8:16-17 says, “They brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: ‘He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses.’”
  3. The Lord then made a covenant with Israel. (Exodus 15:24-25)
    • It was a conditional covenant.
    • Israel was commanded to obey the voice of God and do what was right in His sight.
    • He then would not put any of the diseases on them that He put on Egypt.
  4. The Covenant name God gave Israel at Marah was “Jehovah Rapha” or “I am the Lord who heals you.” (Exodus 15:26)
    • He heals more than physical bodies, more importantly He heals broken, sin-bitter hearts.

After Israel had filled itself with the sweet waters of Marah, the Lord then led them to the refreshing waters of Elim. (Exodus 15:27)

  • In light of our study on types, one cannot help but ask why Moses recorded these incidentals—“twelve wells and seventy palm trees”?
  • The twelve wells of water most likely refer to God’s provision for the twelve tribes.
  • The seventy palm trees may also indicate how completely God provided for the people by giving one palm tree for each of the seventy Elders.
  • It was here that they camped by the waters.
  • The story reminds us that God sovereignly led His people.
  • He delivered His people through the waters.
  • He led them through the wilderness, where there was no water.
  • He led them to where there was bitter water.
  • He healed the bitter waters, so that they became sweet.
  • And He also led them to an oasis, where there were palm trees and water wells.
  1. In God’s timing He makes all things beautiful, even the desert, but our lesson is not over.
    • Remember that the first sign of God’s power in the wilderness came on the third day, when He turned the bitter waters of Marah into sweet water.
    • Remember also that when the tree (which represents life) was put into the “Marah,” all Israel drank sweet water again.
  2. With this in mind, now let us turn to John 2:1-12.
    • John points out that what took place that day followed three days after Jesus was baptized in the wilderness.
    • Notice that Jesus’ mother said, “They have no wine.”—nothing more to drink.
    • Jesus then instructed them to fill the stone pots with water.
    • When they poured them, the water had turned to the best wine.
    • Do you know what Mary’s name means? It is “Marah” or “Bitterness.”
    • I believe what God did at Marah was a prophetic foreshadow of Christ.
    • Christ was the life in Mary who heals the wounds of sin.
    • He is the Lord our Healer and Life-giver.
    • Jesus can heal broken hearts and shattered lives.
    • He is “Jehovah Rapha,” our “Great Physician.”
Exo 16; Jhn 6; The Manna from Heaven ← Prior Section
Num 21; The Bronze Serpent Next Section →

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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