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A Balm in Gilead—Your Solution is Nearer than You Imagine

Why suffer when the remedy is just over the river?

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Have you ever missed seeing something only to discover it lay in front of you the whole time? Misplaced car keys are one thing. But ignoring help from God is something else.

A Balm in Gilead—Your Solution is Nearer than You Imagine

(Photo: The hills of Gilead. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Few things seem more tragic than for someone to suffer when the remedy stood near all along. Why suffer when the remedy lies just over the river?

The Prophet Jeremiah asked similar rhetorical questions in his day:

Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has not the health of the daughter of my people been restored? —Jeremiah 8:22

The words “balm in Gilead” give us more than the makings of a great spiritual song. They offer a principle we can apply today.

There is a Balm in Gilead

The land of Gilead—located in the modern country of Jordan—lay east of the Jordan River in the tribes of Gad and Manasseh.

This hilly region was famous for a resin or gum that oozed from storax trees (or perhaps the Balanites or Terebinth trees). The resin served as a fragrant medicinal balm and enjoyed popularity for centuries as a valuable trade commodity (cf. Gen 37:25; Jer. 46:11, 51:8; Ezek. 27:17).

Gilead map

(East-oriented map of Israel, with Gilead at top. Courtesy of Satellite Bible Atlas)

In Jeremiah’s day, the weeping prophet mourned the needless loss his nation would endure because of its sin. Jeremiah’s famous question expects an obvious answer: “Is there no balm in Gilead?” (8:22).

The geography laden in Jeremiah’s rhetorical question suggests a timeless principle.

A Nearby Solution for a Stubborn People

Yes, there was a balm in Gilead. The remedy for the sin-sick souls of Judah lay nearby—as close as Gilead, a mere stone’s throw over the Jordan River.

But God’s people refused His provision:

The balm was there. The physician stood ready. But stubbornness kept the solution separate from the problem.

Gilead mountains

(Photo: Gilead mountains. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

A Balm in Gilead—Your Solution is Near

The solution to our problems never lies within our own wits or wisdom—but in God.

Of course, the remedies God offers often run counter to our desires. We want a physician to act in ways that solve the problems we see—with solutions that make sense to us. But our Great Physician goes beyond the symptoms to their cause, and His methods of cure begin with our hearts rather than slapping a Band Aid on our emotions.

The balm in Gilead offers a nearby remedy. But the application of that remedy—as with all of God’s solutions—requires daily faith.

 

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