Balm of Gilead
The Bible is full of men and women who served faithfully throughout their lives. These people lived during difficult times and endured tremendous trials, but they remained faithful to their God and Savior. Their lives were never made easier by their choice to live righteously, but the difficulties that confronted them were always far outweighed by the reward obtained in the end. One great example of this type of faithfulness in the Old Testament is the prophet Jeremiah.
The prophet Jeremiah is known as the “weeping prophet,” not only because he suffered greatly during his tenure among God’s people of Judah, but because he also cared so deeply for those who were receiving God’s message of judgement. Jeremiah was appointed by God as a prophet over the nations – “to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant” (1:10). He was a chosen messenger of God in the final days of Judah, and was sent to proclaim to Judah the coming of God’s judgement against their wickedness. Jeremiah’s message would be widely unpopular and caused him to suffer scorn and ridicule from the people, but this did not deter him from fulfilling God’s mission.
Jeremiah struggled with the message he was given, but he could not withhold it from the people. Jeremiah wrote, “But if I say, ‘I will not remember Him Or speak anymore in His name,’ Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; And I am weary of holding it in, And I cannot endure it” (20:9). He understood the coming judgement of the Lord would be fierce and harsh, and he tried many times to plead with God to relent of this coming calamity (cf. 11:14; 14:11-12, 19-22). While Jeremiah asked for more time, God’s justice and holiness could no longer dwell with the wickedness of His people (cf. 9:13-16; 10:19-22; 13:22-23; etc.). The nation of Judah had been given ample time to repent; however, they fell further into idolatry and other grave and wicked sins.
In the midst of Jeremiah’s message from God, there remained a hope for the future restoration of Judah (cf. 16:14-15). The nation of Judah would be critically injured and carried into captivity, but God would restore them to their land, and the “balm of Gilead” would be given to all nations (cf. 8:22). Where no “balm” could be found prior to the captivity because of their sinfulness, God would ultimately offer to all nations and peoples His “balm” after Israel’s restoration. The restoration of Israel came in two sequences - the first was the physical restoration of the nation and its land. The second was Israel’s spiritual restoration at the arrival of the promised Son of God.
Our Savior, Jesus Christ, came to this earth and lived a perfect life. Jesus stood before a people who rejected His message, just like those in Judah who had rejected Jeremiah, and being driven by pride and jealously this people ultimately had Jesus crucified. Jesus’ death was inhumane and unjust, but it was a part of the predetermined plan of God (cf. Acts 2:22-24). It is through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection that God has made salvation and the hope of heaven possible for all who believe and obey. The “balm of Gilead” that was not found in Judah can now be found through faithfulness in Jesus Christ.
We live in a vastly different time and situation, but the similarities of our culture and Jeremiah’s day are astounding. Jeremiah stood before a people who had forgotten their God and His rich blessings and the same could be said of our day. Jeremiah stood before a people who were unwilling to heed the warnings of God’s impending judgement and the same could be said of our day. Jeremiah stood before a people who trusted in anything besides God and the same could be said of our day. When God comes in judgement against our generation there will be no “balm in Gilead,” because it will then be too late! The time to be healed from our sinfulness is now. May God give us His “balm” that can heal us from the disease of our sin.