THE BALM OF GILEAD
Jeremiah 8:22 Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?
Balm is a aromatic gum resin supposed to have soothing andhealing qualities. It was obtained from a tree similar to the balsam. It was sticky and would readily adhere to a surface to which it was applied. Gilead was a mountainous region east of the Jordan River located between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. These "balm" trees were not only plenteous in Gilead but the quality of the balm was considered to be the best available. Jeremiah 46:11 tells about going up to Gilead to obtain the healing balm.
Symbolism is used in the text quoted above. The person dying of a severe disease represents God's people, the nation of Israel. The text indicates that the disease is one that is curable if the balm of Gilead was properly applied by a physician. Not only was the best balm found in Gilead but there were physicians there that had specifically moved to this location in order to specialize in applying this balm. Why then was this person dying? Was it because of the lack of balm? Was there a lack of physicians? No! The reason the person was dying was because they refused to take advantage of the cure.
In applying this symbolism, Israel was dying spiritually. God, the Divine Physician, held the cure for Israel's disease and was willing to apply the healing qualities of His "spiritual balm." Israel was morally diseased. They had abandoned their God and Creator and committed grievous sins. Even the pleading of Jeremiah and other prophets failed to convince sinful Israel to return to God. To accept His mercy was not heeded, but rather fell on deaf ears. Was Israel dying? Yes! Was there a physician available that could apply the curing balm? Yes! They were dying, not because there was no cure, but because they refused to humble themselves to submit to the cure offered by God, the Great Physician.
Physicians today spend many years in college and internship learning the art of healing. I admire their dedication and revere their profession. Few men and women are able to attain the high degree of excellence required to become a physician. We place our physical well being in their hands to administer their knowledge, medicines, and therapies to cure our various illnesses - to administer the modern "Balm of Gilead".
However, there are times when our family doctor or medical specialists have done all they can to cure our physical diseases. There comes a time when the Great Physician is needed to administer the "Balm of Gilead". God alone has the power to intercede on our behalf when medical doctors have done all they can do. There are many examples in the Old and New Testaments where God has interceded to heal those that are sick. Many of these healings, especially in the New Testament, were performed in order to establish the fact that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, and was, indeed, the Son of God. From the fifth chapter of James, we know that we are to pray for the healing hand of God. Even today there are many examples that we hear about where people are cured of seemingly terminal illnesses. It is from these examples, having no medical explanation that we conclude that the hands of the Great Physician saw fit to intercede on the behalf of the individual with such maladies.
The Great Physician is only a prayer away. We are taught to pray for many reasons. The healing of body and mind is only one of these many reasons. Pray to God for your own good health. Especially, pray for others that need both physical and spiritual healing. Remember, The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (James 4:15). No one is immortal - all must die. However, we know that God, our Heavenly Father, does, at times, see fit to extend the lives of His children. Even when the cure of sickness is not granted that would extend the life of an individual, the ease of pain and suffering is a sufficient answer to our prayers.
The Great Physician that can administer the Balm of Gilead is only a prayer away!