Saturday, December 19, 2009



In the past week or so it’s become clear that the latest injections in my back have actually had some effect, lessening the pain in my lower back and completely eliminating it in my left hip and leg. As I understand it, the idea is that the effect of the injections wears off after a time (you hope it’s a long time!) and then you go back for more injections. But for the time being it is noticeably better. So my meditations this week turned from suffering toward healing.

My first thought was the line from the hymn “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” where Jesus is described as “ris’n with healing in his wings.” This is a reference to Malachi 4:2 (in an alternate numbering it is 3:20): “But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings.” Other translations have “with healing in its rays." What’s this business about God’s wings?

Well, it seems that one of the most familiar symbols of deity in Egyptian and Mesopotamian religion is the winged solar disk. Not that the sacred writer was describing the Lord as a winged disk, but he was saying that God will rise on the “day of the Lord” to bring justice and vindication for the righteous. (The information in this paragraph is from a footnote in Malachi in the very useful Harper Collins Study Bible.)

But meditating on a winged disk did not exactly float my boat (besides, the word "disk" brings up some unpleasant memories of my recent medical procedures). So I thought I might find something better in the Hebrew word for healing. But that proved to be a dead end. (Often when I look up an etymology for a word in scripture I find that the root means the same thing as the word itself, and thus offers no new insights.)

Things got a lot more interesting, however, when I looked up the Malachi passage in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the OT). In my Strong’s Greek Lexicon the verb for heal is “therapeuo ther-ap-yoo'-o ; to wait upon menially, i.e. (figuratively) to adore (God), or (specially) to relieve (of disease):--cure, heal, worship.” (Thus our words “therapy,” “therapeutic,” etc.) The first meaning of the verb given by Strong’s reflects the fact that the root here is the noun therapon, “an attendant, a servant.” This word is used of Moses in Heb. 3:5 -- “Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant (therapon), to testify to the things that would be spoken later.”

The moment I saw the root word “servant” I had this image of God the Healer as God serving me, taking care of me the way the nurses do in the hospital when I go in for my shots. That takes some getting used to, the idea that God wants to act as a servant or a nurse and take care of me. A second image came to me right on the heels of the first, an even more unsettling one: When I was recovering from those latest injections in the same day surgery place, the nurse assigned to take care of me came in to check one me as I was about ready to go home. I was dressed and just needed to tie my shoes. As she was chatting with me she knelt down in front of my chair and without missing a beat in the conversation began tying my shoes! At first I was embarrassed, and then resentful: What does she think I am, an old man? Then I simply became uncomfortable: I’m not used to having someone tie my shoes. Of course she was simply figuring that someone who had just received six nasty injections in the small of his back might appreciate not having to bend over to tie his shoes. My negative reaction to her gesture was very revealing -- I’m still thinking it over.

So, I'm getting ready, with the rest of the Christian world, for God to rise with healing in his wings. If Malachi is correct, I’d better be prepared to have the long-awaited Savior, when he at last arrives, kneel down in front of me like that nurse and tie my shoes! Yikes! Am I ready for God to be my therapon?


Sometimes we use the expression “to wait on someone” to mean to wait for them, while at other times we use "to wait on" to mean “to serve someone” the way a server does in a restaurant. Isaiah 40:31 quoted last week, reads in the King James Version and in some translations “But they that wait upon the Lord…,” obviously using the first meaning of "to wait on someone." But while we are “waiting on the Lord” in that sense, God will "rise with healing his is wings” and “wait on us” in the second sense, the way a careful nurse would help us, doing things that we can’t do for ourselves, doing things that will ease our pain.


This Christmas the Lord wants to rise "with healing in his wings" and touch every person in the world. But God will need to borrow your hands and your voice to do that healing. The Divine Healer is expecting you to act as a therapon for someone this Christmas. Who are the people that the Lord has placed in your life who need their shoes tied (and perhaps don't even know it)? Are you ready to get on your knees and help them?



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