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Holding Out The Healing Balm

Read Jeremiah 8:4-12; Jeremiah 8:18-22; Jeremiah 9:1-2

This week, I burned my hand on the upper coil of our new oven. It isn't a terrible burn, but I have been treating it with burn cream, and I covered it at first, until it could begin to heal. This little incident reminded me of another time I was burned much more severely back when I was attending bible college. It happened so quickly. One minute I was lifting the hotpot which was full of boiling water, and before I knew it, I was heading for the dorm shower to get my thigh just above the knee, under cold water. I didn't even know how the pot slipped out of my hand! How thankful I was for Kitty, a good friend who had been raised with 8 or 9 brothers. She was a "take charge girl". She treated that bad burn with Mycitracin, vitamin E and kept the bandage changed and clean. It took time, but healing came. I would have never considered spurning the remedy she so graciously dispensed, because even though applying the antiseptic was not a comfortable process, the end result was so worth it.

In Jeremiah 8, part of Jeremiah's message to his people as they came to the temple, we read about a time when a spiritual healing balm was needed. In this chapter, Jeremiah rebuked his people because they refuse to turn back to God and His ways. The animals, such as the stork, knew how to act, but Jeremiah's people, including the priests and teachers weren't listening to the prophet or speaking truth. Instead of calling the people to repentance, the false teachers held out a balm that wouldn't bring healing and God's blessings into their lives. They offered words that simply tickled their ears. They "soothed" the people with lies, telling them that everything was just fine. The lives of those who should have modeled God's standards, instead displayed idolatry and corruption, and they weren't even ashamed of the terrible example they portrayed. They said that God wouldn't bring judgment.

Jeremiah's message was so different. His message wasn't a pleasant feel good speech. Yet, if they had received it, God's blessings would have been poured out on them. In Jeremiah 8:22, a penetrating question is asked:

"Is there no balm in Gilead, and is there no physician there"?

Gilead, East of Jerusalem was known for the healing balm that was produced there. This balm is also mentioned in Genesis 37:25 as being carried by the merchants who were on their way back to Egypt. These were the same ones who bought Joseph and took him with them, where he was sold to Potiphar.

The answer to the question in Jeremiah 8:22? Yes, there is a healing balm, but those who should have offered it were offering a useless medication instead. Therefore, both priests and false teachers would be judged by the Lord, along with the people who so readily heard them. Jeremiah was offering the healing balm, but it was rejected by teachers, priests and common people. In Jeremiah 8:18-Jeremiah 9:2, we see God's heart toward His unrepentant people as displayed through the tears of His faithful prophet. How God longed for His people to run to Him and turn away from their sinful ways. He never wanted to bring judgment upon His people, but their refusal to listen to Him time after time, necessitated it. No wonder, Jeremiah gave the message of judgment with a broken heart, Jeremiah 9:1-2. God desires that people repent, and He is sorrowful when judgment must come, both the judgment that is meted out here on earth and eternal judgment, Genesis 6:6; Ezekiel 33:11.

Our circumstances are similar to Jeremiah's. Many teachers hold out false hope, as they did in Jeremiah's time. These people offer soothing words, but they are not according to what God has said. Therefore, they bring no real healing or sustenance. The balm they offer cannot bring real change to broken lives.

What can we do?

Our hearts should be tender like Jeremiah's. When we see people trapped in the lies of false teaching, we should not look down at them. Instead, we should remember that they are truly in need of the healing balm of truth and grace, exactly what we have received and what the Savior offers them. We must never forget that we once were wounded, and we didn't know there was a remedy. If we had died, we would have been lost. Yet, God in His mercy held out His life changing truth, and He made us new, John 3:3.

Back to my friend, Kitty. God used her hands to help me, but He was the One Who healed my leg. The praise goes to Him for providing a wise friend through whom His healing was dispensed. We too, can be the ones through whom healing is dispensed.

As the old spiritual "There Is A Balm In Gilead" says:

Sometimes I feel discouraged

and think my work's in vain,

but then the Holy Spirit

revives my soul again.

There is a balm in Gilead

to make the wounded whole,

there is a balm in Gilead

to heal the sin-sick soul.

If you cannot preach like Peter,

if you cannot pray like Paul,

you can tell the love of Jesus

and say, "He died for all.

There is a balm in Gilead

to make the wounded whole,

there is a balm in Gilead

to heal the sin-sick soul.

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