Balm in Gilead


Is there no balm in Gilead?
Is there no physician there?
Why then has the health of the daughter of my people
not been restored?
Oh that my head were waters,
and my eyes a fountain of tears,
that I might weep day and night
for the slain of the daughter of my people! Jeremiah 8:22-9:1

O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger,
nor discipline me in your wrath.
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing;
heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled.
My soul also is greatly troubled.
But you, O Lord—how long?

Turn, O Lord, deliver my life;
save me for the sake of your steadfast love.
For in death there is no remembrance of you;
in Sheol who will give you praise?

I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.
My eye wastes away because of grief;
it grows weak because of all my foes. Psalm 6:1-7 ESV


In England there is a city named Bath, and even though that might seem like a strange name for a city, it really is a city where people take baths. Over 300,000 gallons of water flow into Bath every day from underground hot springs, and the temperature of the water is over 100 degrees Fahrenheit! This water comes from rainwater that flows through some limestone in the hills south of the city, and flows about one and half miles deep below the earth’s surface, where it gets hot. When the water comes up in the city of Bath, it’s not only very hot, but loaded with over 40 minerals such as calcium, sulphate, sodium, and chloride. For a long time through history many have thought that the waters of Bath could heal people of their diseases and pains. When the Romans occupied England, they built bathhouses with pools of water from the springs, where people could come and bathe in these pools. Over time these bathhouses broke down, but later people built new ones. Even today people travel to Bath to sit in the pools of hot mineral water. They even drink the water, hoping it will make them healthier and heal them of sicknesses.

Back in Jeremiah’s time, Gilead was a city east of the Jordan River that was known for the spices and ointments it produced. People thought that these spices and ointments could heal their diseases and make them feel better when they were sick, and they might travel there, or have someone bring them the ointments of Gilead, if they needed healing. But as Jeremiah looked at the sins of his people, he knew that there was no balm in Gilead could heal them, and no doctor there that could cure them. Their sins were bringing them death and judgment from God, and all Jeremiah could do was weep for his people.

We also were sick with sin and under the judgment of God and the power of death. But God came to us in Jesus to heal us of our sin and to defeat the power death had over us. Jesus took all our sins onto himself and died on the cross for us, and he rose again on the third day to win the victory over death once and for all. We can always look to Jesus for forgiveness, help, and healing from all the ways that sin hurts us. We know that in the end he has saved us from the death and judgment of sin, and instead given us healing and life forever with him.


Dear Jesus, thank you for the healing and life you won for us on the cross. Amen.