The Disease That Only God Can Cure
Robert Wurtz II
“Return, you backsliding children, And I will heal your backslidings.” “Indeed we do come to You, For You are the LORD our God” (Jeremiah 3:22).
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
“Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25-26).
The children of Israel had a bad problem that destroyed their ability to be the holy people of God. The Hebrew noun used to describe this problem is meshubah and it means “to turn away from the truth, from God to idols, turn to sin and rebellion.” It is translated in the NKJV as “backsliding” and the ESV as “faithlessness.” The word is used almost exclusively in Jeremiah (9 times) and Hosea (2 times) where God was confronting Israel for their spiritual adultery. This is what God said He would heal when we read, “Return, you backsliding children, And I will heal your backslidings (meshubah)” (Jeremiah 3:22). The Hebrew word for heal in this verse is the same as found in Exodus 15:26. Meshubah is a word that gives expression to what is commonly called a sinful nature. It is a real problem or else God would not need to heal it.
A Universal “Infection”
Since the fall of man in the garden of Eden, we have all been infected with “meshubah” — a sickness (if you will) known as unfaithfulness, sin, and rebellion. We, as human beings, are “sin-sick” people. We contracted “meshubah” or the propensity to live in rebellion directly from Satan who was the first to rebel. He posed as the Serpent and passed on his rebellious—murderous way into the human race (Romans 5:12). Unlike a modern virus that can be contained with proper measures, “meshubah” (if you will) spread to all of mankind. It manifested itself first in the rebelliousness of Cain who, after rebelling against God, slew his own brother in cold blood.
In time “meshubah” will infect the human race until God was left with no choice but to destroy the earth — all but eight people (Genesis 6). Think about that. The earth was filled with violence and all flesh had corrupted their way. They highhandedly rebelled against the preaching of Noah, one of the greatest prophets who ever lived (Ezekiel 14:14). Later, man would build a tower to heaven called Babel. Israel was no better. Though called of God and given His word, they adopted the paganism of the Canaanites and served the gods (demons) of the land (1 Kings 9:9). They even burned their own children in the fires to Molech (Jeremiah 32:35).
Man has tried to fix himself with law and philosophy since the fall, not appreciating the fact that not even God’s law could cure “meshubah.” It could only expose it and point to the cure (Galatians 3:24). Today, we are focused on Corona; in years past we have greatly feared Ebola, yet we have ignored Meshubah. Man has no cure. Not even the Pharisees application of the law could cure it. Paul explains that “(…) if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law” (Galatians 3:21). This does not imply that man is not accountable for his/her actions and that he/she is just “sick.” What it reveals is that we have a sin problem and are expected to turn to God for healing when He deals with us and not resist His Holy Spirit. Wilt thou be made whole?
Content with Treating Symptoms
It is unfortunate that so many people are content to seek “treatment” for merely one symptom of this beast of a sickness that God called meshubah. The alcoholic husband or drug addict abuses his wife and the cure for him is new birth and life in the Spirit. But she doesn’t want a life in the spirit for her and her husband, she just wants some symptoms relieved. She wants her husband to cut back on his drinking and drugs so they can still party—just not all the time.
The world is the same. They look for all kinds of ways to treat behaviors while ignoring the root cause of our problems. The time would fail to list all the ways that man is working to “manage” the raging rebellion and sin that reigns in his/her heart. The government tries policy and law changes. The educational system looks to psychology, psychiatry, and sociology. The religious crowd seeks to impose institutional laws on people who have a problem with their constitutional nature. None of these will work. They can’t even manage the symptoms most of the time.
The Cure in Christ
In John 3:3, Jesus said that we must be born again. This is a stunning statement that implies that we must come to a definite end and restart. In the language of Paul in Galatians, we must “begin in the Spirit.” Why? Because meshubah can’t be cured by the flesh. It is a spirit that must be driven out and replaced with God’s Holy Spirit.
We must end walking in the spirit of disobedience (Ephesians 2:1ff) and begin walking in the Holy Spirit and continue in the Spirit. Unless that happens we will never rightly relate to God or our fellow man. Why? Because the nature of Satan, “meshubah” (if you like) has infected humankind and his nature is to hate God and hate everyone made in His image. If you are a human being you are made in the image of God and Satan hates you. Because of Adam’s fall, the spirit of Satan has entered and people do the lusts of their spiritual father, the Devil (John 8:44, I John 3:8-10). The indwelling spirit of disobedience causes human beings to hate one another. Keep that clear.
When people hate each other on the sheer basis of their nationality, skin color, or ethnicity it is the clearest evidence of infection of the murderous nature of sin. Like all illnesses or even viruses, some people may appear asymptomatic, while others die from it. Everyone has been infected with sin and even though God created all human beings in His own image that image has been marred by sin. It manifests itself not in our natural appearance, but in our behavior towards others who were likewise made in God’s image.
Healed in Christ
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls (1 Peter 2:23-24).
It is unfortunate that this verse has been used primarily to promote physical healing. Contextually, it is about God’s cure for meshubah or man’s sin problem. God gave this cure to humankind when He sent Christ to die on the cross and break the power of sin. In another figure, He sent healing for sin. Again, Jesus gave the cure in John 3:3 when He stated, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God”(John 3:3). This is not something we do for ourselves it is something that God must do.
Is there any role for me to play in this matter of being born again? Yes! Our responsibility is to rightly respond to the Holy Spirit when He deals with us as we hear the Gospel. We are to repent and believe the Gospel. God once overlooked man’s ignorance, but now He commands all men everywhere to repent. This means that we change our minds to agree with God and turn from all the sins that we know we are committing and turn to God. Nothing held back. No contingencies. As God told Israel, “Return, you backsliding children, And I will heal your backslidings”… and may our response be “Indeed we do come to You, For You are the LORD our God” (Jeremiah 3:22).