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Balm in Gilead

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. Psalm 34:18.

Do you know how you get a song stuck in your head and can't shake it? I believe it's called an earworm. I woke up this morning with the old spiritual, "There is a Balm in Gilead," running on a continuous loop.


There is a balm in Gilead

to make the wounded whole,

there is a balm in Gilead

to heal the sin-sick soul.

Second Chorus:

Don't ever feel discouraged,

for Jesus is your friend,

and if you look for knowledge

he'll ne'er refuse to lend.

The phrase "balm of Gilead" appears twice in the Old Testament, in Genesis 37:25 and Jeremiah 8:22. In both instances, it is used as a metaphor for spiritual healing and restoration.

In Genesis 37:25, Judah, one of Jacob's sons, suggests selling his brother Joseph into slavery rather than killing him. He sees a caravan of Ishmaelites approaching and offers a solution, "Let us sell him to the Ishmaelites." The narrator notes that the Ishmaelites carried "spices, balm, and myrrh."

The mention of the balm of Gilead in this context is significant. Balm of Gilead was a precious resin known for its medicinal properties. It was used to treat wounds and soothe pain. In this passage, the balm of Gilead serves as a reminder that even amid great suffering and betrayal, there is hope for healing and restoration.

In Jeremiah 8:22, the prophet Jeremiah laments the spiritual condition of Judah. He asks, "Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why, then is there no recovery for the health of the daughter of my people?"

Jeremiah's question is a rhetorical one. He is not asking if there is a balm of Gilead available. Instead, He is lamenting that Judah has turned away from God and refuses to seek His healing.

The balm of Gilead, in this context, represents God's forgiveness and restoration. Jeremiah says that Judah's spiritual wounds cannot be healed by earthly means. The only way for them to be restored is to return to God and seek His forgiveness.

The balm of Gilead is a powerful symbol of hope and healing. It reminds us that even amid our darkest times, there is always hope for restoration. God's healing grace is available to us; we only need to ask.

God, thank you for being the balm of Gilead. You are our source of true healing and restoration whenever we are brokenhearted and discouraged. We can turn to you for comfort and hope when we are hurting and crushed in spirit. You will never abandon us and always provide a way to heal us. Amen.


Pastor Tim

The United Methodist Hymnal, "There is a Balm in Gilead," #375

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