I am the LORD, who heals you.
I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them.
The Hebrew verb for heal ( rapha) begins with resh . In Exodus 15, God is known as Jehovah Rapha. “I am the LORD that healeth thee.” The word for spirit ( ruwach) also begins with this letter. It is the same word we find in Psalm 51 when David pleads, “Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit” (Ps. 51:11–12). The resh or rosh is also the head, ( ro’sh or roshe) as in Rosh Hashanah, which means the New Year or the head of the year.
Jesus was asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (Matt. 18:1). In response, he called a little child to stand among them.
Resh is an interesting little letter that seems to suspend between greatness and smallness. With a notable ambivalence, it means “head,” and yet it stands toward the back of the line. Like the presence of a hidden spiritual law.
Then Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3–4).
In the Gospel of Mark, there were those disputing over who was the greatest in the kingdom. Jesus sat down, called the twelve together, and said, “If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all” (Mark 9:35 KJV).
At Day 20, we have these powerful elements working together: healing, headship, order, right standing in the kingdom. With these things in mind, say the following:
153 Look upon my suffering and deliver me, for I have not forgotten your law.
154 Defend my cause and redeem me; preserve my life according to your promise.
155 Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek out your decrees.
156 Your compassion is great, O LORD; preserve my life according to your laws.
157Many are the foes who persecute me, but I have not turned from your statutes.
158 I look on the faithless with loathing, for they do not obey your word.
159 See how I love your precepts; preserve my life, O LORD, according to your love.
160 All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.
Are We There Yet?
I am comforted that the writer of Psalm 119 is so thoroughly human. It may not have been David, but the psalmist is instructed by David and is certainly of the Davidic school of rhapsody. All the colorful and effervescent human elements combine for a music that maintains its usual high step, as poetry must, and yet it is primal, as something shared in all of us, that we are all equally capable of.
But the child asks, “Are we there yet?” She doesn’t know how to read the signs, nor does she understand that until we arrive at the ultimate destination, the journey is all there is. This is certainly true in a spiritual context. The child doesn’t think much of the journey. It is tedious and boring; she is running out of things to occupy her attention; the music is dull, and her brother is asleep.
Until we see Christ face to face, the journey is what we have.
Being holy is not like earning a badge. It develops. It grows within and around you. Holiness is cultivated as a way of life. It flowers. It comes to bloom. It matures with an inward nobility and at its own pace.
In our hunger for more, whatever sweetness we encounter along the way is like the first intimation of eternity. As Columbus said of his own paradise, “Los aires muy dulces, como en abril en Sevilla, qu’es plazer estar a ellos, tan olorosos son.” [The air was as sweet as April in Seville, so fragrant it was delicious to breathe.]
Eternity is quite generous. If you look close you will see it is already present with us. Eternity doesn’t wait. Waiting implies time, and eternity has nothing to do with time.
From time to time you lead me into an inward experience quite unlike any other, a sweetness beyond understanding.
—Augustine, The Confessions
This sweetness is what we are after. It is the prize. The martyrs knew this. The psalmists wrote with it warm on their lips.
Prayer for Day 20:
I am an excess of wind and whine, Lord. I have been self-serving my entire life. I am the head, and I am the tail. The greater part tail. Even some of my better intentions were fueled by my selfishness. Let the complaint in me die—the whine, the howl, the whimpering and needy little man. Breathe life into the neglected parts, the unfed and the unredeemed parts. Save me according to your great love. You are Holy. Holy. Holy.
In Christ, as sweet as April in Savile, amen.