In the Old Testament God’s people were in exile, “battered from head to foot – covered with bruises, welts, and infected wounds – without any soothing ointments or bandages” (Isaiah 1:6). The prophet Jeremiah catalogued the sin that had done the damage as lying, adultery, greed, religious hypocrisy, twisting and rejecting God’s Word. The people knew they were guilty, and they had lost all hope of recovery. “For the Lord our God has decreed our destruction and has given us a cup of poison to drink because we’ve sinned against the Lord,” they lamented. “We hoped for a time of healing, but found only terror” (Jeremiah 8: 14-15).
Jeremiah did not want to accept that there was no available cure for the sin-sickness of God’s people. The hopeless state of his people broke the prophet’s heart:
I hurt with the hurt of my people. I mourn and am overcome with grief. Is there no medicine in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why is there no healing for the wounds of my people? (Jeremiah 8: 21-22)
Gilead was a country beyond the Jordan River where a tree grew that produced a resin known for its healing properties. The resin was made into a Balm that cleansed, soothed, and cured. Because the tree grew only in Gilead, the balm produced from it was costly and precious.
When Jeremiah asked, “Is there no balm in Gilead?” he meant it as a rhetorical question because he was confident of this balm’s availability and effectiveness and therefore God’s provision for healing. Of course there is more than enough supply for healing! There is more power in the balm to heal than there is power in guilt to wound. There is more power in grace to save then there is in sin to destroy.
Jeremiah saw the provision of healing that God would provide in Christ. Indeed the Balm of Gilead that brings healing to those wounded and infected with sin is nothing less than the costly and precious blood of Christ. “He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed” (1 Peter 2:24)
Prayer – Balm of Gilead; moisten my heart, melt away my pride, and cure me of my desire for sin that sickens my soul. Heal me with your precious blood.
Song: There Is A Balm In Gilead - Deborah Liv Johnson
Incumbent at St Aidan's Anglican Church,