Context Matters: With His Wounds We are Healed

Jesus still bears the wounds that now heal us.

In this post, I’m not able to tackle the full ideology of faith healing, nor do I intend to discuss whether we ought to expect miraculous healings to continue taking place today. These are complex issues that warrant complex treatment. But in this post I will deal one small part: the common appeal to Isaiah 53:5 to support expectations of physical health and healing.

 

Perhaps you’ve heard that Jesus will heal all your sickness and disease, if you would only have faith that he will do so. Since Jesus healed every sick person who came to him while he was on earth, surely he will do the same for sick people who come to him while he is in heaven. Jesus still bears the wounds that now heal us.

In this post, I’m not able to tackle the full ideology of faith healing, nor do I intend to discuss whether we ought to expect miraculous healings to continue taking place today. These are complex issues that warrant complex treatment. But in this post I will deal one small part: the common appeal to Isaiah 53:5 to support expectations of physical health and healing.

Context matters. When we learn to read the Bible properly—and not as a collection of unqualified personal promises to which we turn in our moments of need—we’ll find that some of our most famous mantras take us in a different direction.

Isaiah’s Train of Thought

I’d like to address Isaiah 53:5 from three angles. The first is the larger train of thought of Isaiah 40-55.

Isaiah 40 presents such a sharp change of subject matter and implied audience that many scholars believe the second half of the book could not have been written by Isaiah son of Amoz in the 8th century B.C. While condemnation of Judah’s sin is not absent (e.g. chapter 48), the focus lands far more heavily on proclamation of comfort (Is 40:1-2). And the audience appears to be no longer in the land of Judah (Is 7:1), but in captivity in Babylon (Is 48:20-21). The chief enemy is no longer Assyria but Babylon (Is 46:1-47:15). And the chief hero is not Hezekiah (Is 36-39), but Cyrus, King of Persia (Is 44:24-45:7), along with the representative “servant” of Israel.

Isaiah 56-66 presents yet another perspective, that of those who have returned from exile, now rebuilding the nation and city. So let’s limit our attention for now to chapters 40-55.

Isaiah 40:2 sets up two main announcements for the languishing exiles. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her:

  • That her warfare is ended
  • That her iniquity is pardoned”

These two points are then expanded as: “that she has received from Yahweh’s hand double for all her sins.” The following chapters expand on these two announcements.

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