Jeremiah 8:12 asks two rhetorical (self-answering) questions. First, “Is there no balm in Gilead?” Second, “Is there no physician there?” The obvious answer to both questions is a resounding, YES! There is balm in Gilead, and there is a physician. There was healing available to those to whom the two questions were asked.
The balm of Gilead was a well-known commodity to many of the day, perhaps all. The Ishmeelites of Joseph’s day “came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh going to carry it down to Egypt.” (Genesis 37:25). The Ishmeelites obviously knew about the healing propensities it contained. By taking the balm of Gilead into Egypt, it may be implied that they felt the Egyptians knew about it, and would purchase it from them. Of course, the possibility exists that they were going to introduce the healing product to the Egyptians. At any rate, the Ishmeelites had it in their possession, and they were confident that they could profit from it in Egypt.
Israel (Jacob) sent his sons back to Egypt to buy more corn to sustain them during the famine of the day. Among the things he sent to “the man” (Joseph) was “a little balm.” Israel knew about the balm of Gilead, and it is believed that he felt “the man” in Egypt did also.
What was this “balm in Gilead?” It is generally believed that it was a rosin, gum, or juice from certain trees in Mt. Gilead, used as a medicine (Jeremiah 46:11), for healing. (Jeremiah 51:8). It is certain that God knew of the healing properties in the balm of Gilead when applied to the physical body. (Jeremiah 8:22). The people to whom Jeremiah wrote were not healed physically because they did not seek a physician who was there, ready and willing to administer the healing balm. Healing was there and available, but unused was of no value. Thus, God seeks to point out that they did not have to suffer and die, when healing was staring them in the face.
This story is used to teach a far greater lesson than that of physical healing. The greater lesson is that of a spiritual nature. The kingdom of Judah rejected God, as did others before them. For example, God told Samuel that the “people have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.” (1 Samuel 8:7). The book of Judges is filled with rebellious people who rejected God to their hurt. This great book shows God’s displeasure over their negative actions. When they sinned, God punished them. When they repented, and cried out to God, He was always there to forgive and deliver them. Thus, we get the name for the book. God sent deliverers or judges to bring them back to the place or position they had prior to their sin.
Jeremiah 8:22 says, “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” The problem was not that there was no spiritual Physician there. Neither was there a lack of spiritual healing, the word of the Almighty God. The issue lay with the sinful, sin-sick people who would not seek the Healer and His cure, His word. God had sent messenger after messenger to these people to bring them to repentance, but they rejected them. Stephen gives us a picture of them, saying, “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? And they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One: of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers.” (Acts 7:51, 52). Thus, the people of Jeremiah’s day were sin-sick and dying because they rejected the Physician of their souls and His healing power.
The same is true under New Testament law. Many today reject the Great Physician. Speaking of Himself, Jesus said, “They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31, 32). 1 Peter 2:24 says of Jesus, “who healed.” 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Titus 2:11-14 reads, “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world. Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” Chapter three, verse five adds, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” Ephesians 2:8, 9, inform us, “For by grace are ye saved thru faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
Question: Since the Lord is the Healer of the sin-sick soul, does he heal totally separate and apart from any action on the part of the lost? The answer is, NO! Ephesians 2:10 is almost totally ignored when verses 8 and 9 are read. Yet, Paul added, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” What then is the medicine the Great Physician prescribes for those dead in sin to take? What has He ordained for us to do, “to “walk in them”?
The Healer extends His grace, love, mercy, and such like to all. Jesus told His apostles, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature”, and “teach all nations.” (Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:19). The long awaited Jewish Messiah pled, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest….” (Matthew 11:28-30). As His Father did in the Old Testament, Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20). The invitation is open to “whosoever will.” (Revelation 22:17). Healing is of God when we walk in His way. He saves us by His great grace, love and mercy when we hear His word (Romans 10:17), believe (John 8:24; Hebrews 11:6), repent of sins ( Acts 17:30, 31), confess the Deity of Jesus (Acts 8:37; Romans 10:9, 10), and are buried (Colossians 2:12) in the waters of baptism (Acts 8:38, 39) for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Peter 3:20, 21) to enter Christ (Galatians 3:26, 27) and His Church. (1 Corinthians 12:13). Healing medicine is good only to those who accept the physician’s prescription and take the medicine without change. Are you ready to do so?
“All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). You are included in that number. “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23). Are you ready and willing to accept His free gift by saving yourself (Acts 2:40), by taking the medicine He prescribed? Again, read Ephesians 2:8-10. Doctors save lives daily, when patients follow their directions. Likewise, God saves today when we obey Him. “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.” (Luke 17:10). One cannot stand before God in judgment, and demand entrance based upon merit. Neither can one expect to gain entrance into eternal life short of doing what the Great Physician commanded. In the words of Isaiah 55:6, “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near.” He will save you today. (Mark 16:16). He will judge you when He comes again. (2 Timothy 4:1; Acts 17:30, 31). Call the one who gave you this brief message to help you receive the healing in Jesus.