John T. Willis

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Balm in Gilead

Modern medicine is quite advance for human beings. In the ancient world, medicine was relatively limited. One of these was a "balm." The Hebrew Bible refers to a "balm" sever times, and does not always mean the same thing.

1. "Balm" refers to various medicinal and aromatic mixtures made out of olive oil and other types of resins. Some were gathered from trees and scrubs in Transjordan, Arabia, and Egypt. Genesis 37:25 mentions gum, resins, and balm from Gilead to Egypt transported by the Ishmaelites. Genesis 43:11 and Ezekiel 27:17 refer to similar remedies throughout the ancient Near East.

2. Healings resins have been found at En-Gedi. Common practices for healing included herbal medicine, combined with consultation with Levitical priests (Leviticus
13:2-3), prophets (2 Kings 5:3-6); sacrifices, purges, and prayers (Psalm 41:3), and the encouragement to have a cheerful heart (Proverbs 17:22).

3. Gilead, the region located east of the Jordan River and North of the Arnon River, was famous for a special balm. This may have been the Pink Rock Rose, a small tree or large shrub, common around the Red Sea. The bark, fruit, roots, and gum of this small tree was used medicinally for various ailments. Jeremiah 8:22; 46:11; and 51:8 refer to this balm.

The most famous passage involving the "balm in Gilead" is Jeremiah 8:18-9:1:

"My joy is gone, grief is upon me,
my heart is sick.
Hark, the cry of my poor people
from far and wide in the land.
'Is the Lord not in Zion?
Is her King not in her?'
('Why have they provoked me to anger with their images,
with their foreign idols?')
'The harvest is past, the summer is ended,
and we are not saved.'
For the hurt of my people I am hurt,
I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me.
Is there no BALM IN GILEAD?
Is there no PHYSICIAN there?
Why then has the HEALTH of my poor people
not been restored?
O that my head were a spring of water,
and my eyes a fountain of tears,
so that I might weep day and night
for the slain of my poor people!"

This is metaphorical language based on medicinal practices in biblical times. God is the great physician. There is health available to God's people. God is ready and willing to apply his spiritual "balm in Gilead" if his people will but turn to God and come back to him. For our day and time, our situation is similar. God is our great physician. He has a balm for us. He can give us health. Who will respond?

A well-known song fits this concept: "There Is a Balm in Gilead." Here is this song:

"Sometimes I feel discouraged, And think my work's in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit Revives my soul again.

If you cannot preach like Peter, If you cannot pray like Paul,
You can tell the love of Jesus, and say, 'He died for all.'

There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul."

What is YOUR spiritual health today? There is medicinal supply for YOU. God is the great physician. How will YOU respond?

Let me hear from YOU. Share your thoughts with others. Abundant Blessings,

John Willis


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