A balm for Gilead

Published 12:34 pm Sunday, September 24, 2023

“For the hurt of the daughter of my people I am hurt. I am mourning; astonishment has taken hold of me. 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 8:21-22 (NKJV)


The prophet Jeremiah is mourning for his countrymen and his mourning prompts him to ask the rhetorical question; “is there no balm in Gilead?” Jeremiah knows full well that the reason his people are in such a sad state is found in their lack of faith in God. His question is really, is God not present with His people? Is there not healing available for their misery?

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Of course God is present, of course there is healing available if the Israelites would turn to God in earnest and obey His commandments. They have forsaken obedience to God and turned to idolatry; worshiping Baal, Asherah, Dagon, Moloch, and other false deities of their pagan neighbors. Even while they worshiped Yahweh, many of the rituals of the false gods were incorporated into those services. They did not turn completely away from God. They made the false gods His equal by their sacrifices and ceremonies of worship. Their worship became a despicable (Amos 5:21) thing to the God Who has called them His very own people, and the following of false teachers as a way of life; only paying lip-service to God.

A terrible, and sad lot are these Israelites of Jeremiah‘s day. Were they much different than we are today? Some “Christians” trust in all manners of “other sources” for relief from trouble, denying God and depending on whatever new thing the world recommends. Those among us who choose to make God an also ran god, a just-in-case god, or simply another god, as did the Israelites, are charting a course for destruction if they continue down this same path. There is a terrible price to be paid by all who subscribe to the worship of false gods, and false teachers who lead us astray. The Israelites wound up in Babylon. Where will we find ourselves in the end?

Yes Jeremiah, there is a Balm in Gilead, there is a God in Heaven, and there is healing and salvation for those who will trust and obey the Great Physician. Like the old Hymn says, “for there’s no other way…”

The Rev. Bobby Thornhill is a retired pastor.