Balm In Gilead

Title: Balm In Gilead

Bible Book: Jeremiah 8 : 22

Author: Francis Dixon

Subject: Spiritual Healing; Salvation; Jesus; Cross, The



"There is a balm in Gilead, to heal the sin-sick soul..."

I want to speak to you about the healing balm that Christ, the Great Physician, offers to and applies to all who come to Him and put their trust in Him.

In Jeremiah 8:22 the prophet asks three questions - "Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of My people recovered?"

In the light of New Testament revelation, and within the context of the gospel, we can answer these three questions like this: First, is there healing to be found for sin-sick souls? Yes, there is! There is a balm provided, and it is available to all.

Second, is there a physician who can cure and heal the sin-sick soul? Yes, there is! That physician is the Great Physician, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Third, why is it, then, that people are not cured from their soul sickness? The answer is: because they do not come to the Physician and avail themselves of the balm which He alone can supply and apply.

Here was an amazing and an astonishing thing! Here were a people who were spiritually and morally ill. They were desperately sick, and the remedy for their healing was provided, yet they remained sick and diseased. Alas, how many are like that today! When we are physically ill we send for the doctor and seek every possible remedy, but we are far less concerned about our souls than our bodies. Yet, our bodies will last only for a short time, whereas our souls are made for eternity.

It may be that some of us need healing, the spiritual cure that only our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ can give. Let me tell you, then, about the balm which He gives to sin-sick souls. Think of the people to whom the prophet Jeremiah addressed these three questions, and notice:-

I. This Balm was Needed

This balm was needed because the people were desperately sick. We only have to read these solemn chapters in Jeremiah's prophecy to discover that the people in question were out of touch with God; they were living without Him and in disobedience to Him. In other words, they were spiritually ill. And, of course, this is true of all of us.

A great sickness covers the whole earth today, a sickness that is moral and spiritual. We only have to read our daily papers to be convinced of this, for all the terrible things which are happening in the world are the evidence of man's desperately sick condition.

The prophet Isaiah gives a terrible picture of human nature without God, when he says, "The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment" (Isaiah 1:5-6). Thus, we see that we need the Great Physician and the balm of His grace because, like the people of old, we are spiritually ill.

II. It was Derived from a Tree

This balm was derived from a special tree which grew in Gilead. Gilead became well-known because of the presence of these trees and because of the healing ointment which came from them. What do we learn from this?

Why, surely that healing for us comes from, and can only come from, a tree - not any tree, but a special tree, as Peter is careful to tell us, when, referring to our Savior and His death upon the cross, he says, "Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed" (1 Peter 2:24). Here, then, Peter refers to the Great Physician in the words "His own self"; to the sacrifice of Calvary, in the words "bare our sins in His own body on the tree"; and to the healing that is available for all who put their trust in Christ, in the words "by whose stripes ye were healed."

There is only one remedy for sin-sick souls - the cross of Jesus and the salvation which He has provided for us and offers to us.

III. It was Fragrant and Precious

This balm was known for its fragrance, and it was very precious. After much care, those who set out to extract the resin from the trees could at the most get only forty, fifty or sixty drops a day, so it was precious in the sense that it was rare. This is not to suggest that the salvation and healing that Jesus offers us is in short supply. Indeed, there is enough for everybody, everywhere - sufficient for all who will come to Him and put their trust in Him. The Lord Jesus says, "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37), and that includes all who will come. The invitation of the gospel is to "whosoever" (John 3:16).

In saying that the balm was precious we are referring to the very costly method by which salvation and healing were procured, for in order to provide spiritual health for us the Savior had to die upon the cross; and it is to Peter again that we turn to read these words: "Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold...but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Peter 1:18-19). Thus; we learn that at tremendous cost the Lord Jesus went to the cross and shed His blood to provide the balm we all need.

IV. It Possessed Marvelous Curative Properties

This balm possessed marvelous curative properties. In verse 17 of the chapter, the prophet is careful to tell us what the sickness was from which the people in Jeremiah's day were suffering - "For, behold, I will send serpents, cockatrices, among you, which will not be charmed, and they shall bite you, saith the Lord" (Jeremiah 8:17).

Here we learn that the people were sick because a deadly venom had entered their system; this would bring them into a state of fever, and unless some cure could be found it would prove fatal. It is, of course, the deadly poison that has infected and affected the whole human race. It is from sin and the effects of sin that we need to be delivered. We discover, therefore, that this balm when it was put on a wound did three things: it cleansed, it soothed and it healed. It cleansed in that it removed foreign matter from the wound - it extracted dirt! This is exactly what the Lord does for us when we put our trust in Him, as we learn from 1 John 1:7 - "The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin." The balm which Christ offers also soothes us. In other words, when it is placed upon the infected and inflamed wound it reduces and removes the inflammation. Through the death of Christ upon the cross we have peace, "peace through the blood of his cross" (Colossians 1:20); there is no soothing for the soul of man anywhere to be compared with this.

This balm heals in that it brings about a complete cure. Through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, we, by faith in Him, are healed by His stripes (1 Peter 2:24). Thus, our Lord Jesus Christ comes to us in our sick, suffering and sad condition and offers to apply to us the curative balm of His healing grace, of His precious blood, and when this application is made in the power of the Holy Spirit we receive cleansing, soothing and healing.

V. It was Near at Hand

This balm was available. It was near at hand. If you will study the geography of this situation you will see that the people to whom Jeremiah spoke were nearby to Gilead. It is not as though they had to send hundreds of miles to secure this balm. It was nearby. And so is the Lord Jesus and His salvation! You do not have to go to Gilead to be saved, to London or New York to be healed, to Jerusalem or even to church to receive the salvation that is in Christ Jesus. You can come to Jesus anywhere. He is near at hand. You can come to Him now and receive forgiveness, cleansing, healing and assurance, for, as the old hymn puts it, "The Great Physician now is here" - He is here, now!

VI. It was Easily Applied

The balm of Gilead was easily applied. A child could apply it.

Imagine someone with a very sore place on her arm. The doctor prescribes the balm of Gilead, and says, "Go and get some immediately and apply it to the wound!" Well, as we have said, a child could do that; and truly it is very easy to come to Jesus and to receive His love and grace, His forgiveness and healing. It is very easy indeed. All you need to do is to look up into His face and surrender your will to Him, and say from your heart, "O Lamb of God, O Great Physician, I come!"

VII. It Had to be Applied

But, although the balm was easy to apply it did actually have to be applied. To receive the benefits offered, this balm had to be applied to the wound. It was no good leaving the balm in the jar. All this tells us that Jesus must be personally trusted.

Perhaps the best illustration of this in the New Testament is that of the woman who came to Jesus in her sick, sad and sorrowful condition, and touched Jesus. She had been ill for twelve years and had sought help from one doctor after another, but all to no avail. She came to Jesus, pressing through the crowd, and saying to herself, "If I can only touch Him, I shall be healed". She did touch Him, and at that moment she was made perfectly whole. Jesus was there with all His healing power, but she had to come and touch Him, place her faith in Him and make contact with Him in order to be healed. It is the same with us.


When I was on holiday recently, after our evening meal in the hotel where we were staying, we left the dining room, and I noticed just outside the door a large tray on which were displayed some beautiful chocolates. I wondered why they were there, so I went to the waiter and said, "What does one have to do to get one of those lovely chocolates?" He looked at me with a smile and said, "Go and take one, sir. Help yourself!" So I did! And I received the enjoyment and benefit of it. You see, the provision was made, but I had to avail myself of it. It was not enough to look at those chocolates or to see other people eating them. I had to take one for myself.

Have you placed your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as your Great Physician and have you received His healing balm for your salvation - your pardon, your cleansing, and your assurance?

(Reproduced by permission from Lansdowne Magazine, June to September 1971)

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