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Author: Ron Graham

Is There No Balm in Gilead?

Is There No Balm in Gilead?
—Healing the sick heart

The balm of Gilead will heal those who buy and use it. The heavenly physician grants spiritual healing to those who ask. But people don't ask, and here's why.

About the Balm of Gilead

Across the River Jordan, not far from Jerusalem, was a land called Gilead. It was famous for its spices, ointments, and herbal remedies. The merchants to whom Joseph was sold "had come from Gilead with camels bearing spices, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry them down to Egypt" (Genesis 37:25).

Now that is one of the lovely ironies of the Bible story, that Joseph was thrown in with the spices and the balm, as just another piece of merchandise. Yet his children would one day come to possess the land of Gilead, and its balm would be theirs to make their fortunes from (Joshua 17:1).

But we come back to Jerusalem in Jeremiah's time, as the Lord contemplates the spiritual sickness there...

Why has this people slidden back?
Why is Jerusalem in continual apostasy?
No man repented of his wickedness
Saying, "What have I done!"
(Jeremiah 8:5-6)

Is there no Balm in Gilead?
Is no physician there?
Why then is there no recovery
For the health of the daughter of my people?
(Jeremiah 8:21-22)

The Lord cries, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is no physician there?” Through Jeremiah the prophet, the Lord laments for Jerusalem, the city which has a special place in his heart. God affectionately called Jerusalem, "the daughter of my people". But Jerusalem became a wicked city.

The city of Jerusalem was characterised by falsehood, covetousness, immorality, and idolatry. The city was sick, and about to die. Soon the rival city of Babylon would fall upon Jerusalem and destroy it.

Of course, the literal balm of Gilead could not heal the spiritual sores of Jerusalem. But just as they could go to Gilead for balm to heal sores upon their bodies, so they could go to the physician in the spiritual Gilead (heaven) to find healing for their spiritual ills.

Why is God’s Balm Not Used?

By his question, "Is there no balm in Gilead?" God is asking, "Why haven't you come to me for healing for your souls?" This problem is not unique to ancient Jerusalem. People today, perhaps even you and I, neglect to come to the heavenly physician for spiritual healing? There are three possible reasons for this neglect:

1 The Sickness is Not Recognized

In Corinth spiritual sickness persisted among the Christians. They should have been examining themselves spiritually. In the physical realm, women are encouraged to examine their breasts to detect tumours early. Likewise spiritually, lack of self examination is dangerous. The sooner one recognizes an illness, the easier it is to cure.

Examine yourself: ¶“28Each person should make self-examination, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29For if any of you eat and drink without discerning the Lord’s body, you eat and drink judgment on yourself. 30That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some sleep. 31But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged” (1Corinthians 11:28-31).

In a similar way, David, after he went in to Bathsheba, did not recognize his sin, until Nathan pointed it out with skill (2Samuel 12:1-15). After this David wrote Psalm 51, in which he pleads, "Restore me to the joy of your salvation and sustain me with your generous Spirit".

2 The Cure is Not Known

You can recognize an illness, but not know the cure. There's a great physician and a balm in the heavenly Gilead, where grows the trees whose leaves are for the healing of the nations. Alas, so many know they are sick in spirit, but do not know that the balm of Gilead is there to heal them.

The Great Physician ¶“30And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, 'Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?' 31And Jesus answered them, 'Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick do. 32I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.'” (Luke 5:30-32).

The balm in the heavenly Gilead: ¶“1Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life. The river was bright as crystal. It flowed from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2through the middle of the city’s street. On either side of the river, grew the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit. The tree yielded its fruit each month. And the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:1-2).


3 The Cure is Not Applied

You can recognize an illness and know the cure, but fail to apply the cure. Yet it's such a simple matter if we have faith in Jesus. Peter tells how...

  • For the non-Christian: ¶“Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38)
  • For the Christian: ¶“Repent of your wickedness, and pray to the Lord that he might forgive you” (Acts 8:22)

This cure comes through faith in Jesus Christ who died, and suffered that we might be healed of sin. Alas, many do not apply the cure. Mrs Kidder wrote, “When your heart was bowed in sorrow, Balm of Gilead did you borrow, at the gates of day?”

Recognize your spiritual sickness, know the cure, and apply it today. The "Balm of Gilead" is there for everyone to use and be healed —especially you.


Webservant Ron Graham

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