by Tony JohnsonJeremiah 8:22: "Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?" (niv); "Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?" (kjv).
When I was a pastor, I often did the children's sermon. In one sermon, I used the word "balm."
To help demonstrate my point, I stopped on my way to church and bought enough chap sticks to make sure each child received one. I asked the kids if they knew what a balm was. None of them did. Then I asked the adults the same question. None of them knew, either. So I asked the children if they knew what an ointment was. None knew. I asked the adults the same question. Only a few of them knew.
I was not surprised that the children didn't know what a balm was, but I was surprised that the adults didn't know. Gilead was an Israelite city that was attacked by the Ammonites. The residents pleaded for mercy and offered to serve the Ammonites. The Ammonite leader accepted their offer, but the men would have to pay a high price: the right eye of each would be put out.
Not surprisingly, they wanted some time to think about it. They asked for and received seven days-enough time for God to use Saul to put an army together to destroy the Ammonites. Saul and his sons were later buried in Gilead. The Israelites would always remember Gilead as a place where God brought comfort and deliverance.
But time passed and things changed. Now the Israelites were on the verge of destruction. Their disobedience had brought them to this place and this time there would be no comfort or deliverance. Jeremiah was desperately seeking God's intervention. It would not come.
So many people today are searching for that proverbial balm in Gilead. They're looking for something to take the pain and hurts of life away. Some use drugs. Others alcohol. Many shop around for a relationship with someone that will bring comfort to their lives. Anything to numb the pain. But just like the country music singer that was looking for love in all the wrong places, we're often looking for comfort and healing in the wrong places as well. We'll find it in the same place the Israelites could have found it-in obedience to God. Disobedience was what led them to the verge of destruction.
Sometimes we make the mistake of believing that the balm we're seeking will come when we give our hearts to Jesus. But we'll find it only when we give our lives to Jesus as well as our hearts. And that means walking with him in constant obedience. When we do that, comfort and healing will flow over our lives.
Prayer: Our Father, help us to give our lives as well as our hearts to you. Remind us that your presence can do for our broken hearts what an ointment can do for our bodies. Help us to learn how to be obedient to your will. Amen.