The Great Physician and the Balm of Gilead
Updated: Jan 13
Balm of Gilead was a rare perfume used medicinally, mentioned in the Bible and named for the region of Gilead, where it was produced. The expression stems from Tyndale's language that was incorporated by the King James translators in the Authorized Version, and has come to signify a universal cure in figurative speech.
You read this in Jer 8:22:
“Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?”
When Jeremiah hears about how Babylon will lay siege to Israel, Jeremiah weeps and asks if there is a balm in Gilead and a physician there to administer it.
Then there is Jer 46:11:
“Go up into Gilead, and take balm, O virgin, the daughter of Egypt: in vain shalt thou use many medicines; for thou shalt not be cured.”
God tells the Israelites to get a balm in Gilead, because they’ve wounded themselves beyond repair. He doesn’t literally mean get a physical balm to fix their problems. The Israelites had turned to a temporal solution, and God makes that clear in the Jeremiah 46 passage. They had consulted other nations, other gods, and other methods to heal their sin problem, but hadn’t obeyed the true and living God Who was always working in their midst. What they rejected was what 2 Ch 7:14 speaks of, a passage referring to Israel’s need of salvation through seeking after Him and repenting.
John Newton, who wrote Amazing Grace, also wrote these words:
🎶 There is balm in Gilead, To make the wounded whole; There's power enough in heaven, To cure a sin-sick soul ... How lost was my condition, Till Jesus made me whole! There is but one Physician, Can cure a sin–sick soul.🎼
Its obvious Newton was seeing that true healing was found in Jesus Christ for what God said was the problem in the book of Jeremiah, their sinfulness. Jesus Christ, the Great Physician, alone is able to administer the healing medicine,
“Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” (1 Pet 1:24).
Peter was speaking here to saved people, who were now “dead to sins” and “liv[ing]unto righteousness” because they “were healed” by Christ — “were” an aorist active indicative, a Greek perfect tense verb used to indicate a completed, or perfected action or condition. The perfect tense is a primary tense because it emphasizes the present and ongoing result of a completed action in the past. What Peter is saying is that Jesus perfectly healed the repentant sinner at one point in time, punctiliar action, at salvation, and it continues on to the present, and onward into the future without end. It just keeps on going. When Jesus heals, He heals permanently (see also Is 53:5; Lk 4:18; Jn 12:40; Ac 28:27).
Those truly regenerated by the Spirit of God, having been washed and cleansed of all their sin forever, justified and sanctified by the Lord Jesus and the Spirit of God (1 Cor 6:11; Ti 3:3-7), have been permanently healed. For these, mental darkness and oppression is washed away, instantly and permanently. They don’t need to continue pursing after the shrink for temporal and humanistic measures through vain words and medications. Drug and alcohol addictions likewise. Love for sin and the world is gone (Rom 12:9; 1 Jn 2:15-17; 3:1-10), a necessity for conversion, for no man can serve two masters (Matt 6:24). Conversion results in a new creature in Christ. Not new added to the old, but entirely new. Old things are passed away and all things are become new and are of God (2 Cor 5:17-18).
They are in the world but not of the world (Jn 17:14-16). Sin has no more power or control or dominion over the saint any more (Rom 6:14-22). They were translated from being “dead in sin,” to being “dead to sin” (Rom 6:1-2, 7, 11; Eph 2:1-5; Col 2:13; 1 Pet 2:24) and dead to the law which has no more power over them (Rom 3:21-31; 6:14-15; 7:2-6; 8:1-9; Gal 2:19). The saint is crucified with Christ (Rom 6:6; Gal 2:20; 5:24), “And they that are Christ's have [aorist perfect tense again] crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” (Gal 5:24). They don’t need to ever be again crucified with Christ, though they do need to take up their cross daily. The regenerate are “partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (2 Pet 1:4). At that very moment of conversion the repentant sinner translates from death to life, from Satan’s kingdom of darkness to Christ’s kingdom of light, from being an enemy of God to being a beloved child, etc. The new birth is very dramatic, much more so than the natural birth. No man that has been regenerated remains unchanged. The following scriptures, among many, speak to this: Matt 7:15-20; 1 Cor 1:30; 6:9-11; Gal 5:19-25; Eph 1:7-14; 2:1-10; Col 1:4-6, 10-14; Ti 2:11-14; 3:3-7; 2 Pet 1:3-10. And God never stops working in His redeemed in whom He indwells (Phil 1:6; 2:12-13), nor does He leave them to themselves.
All these things and more come to pass at conversion. When they are not there even though there is a feigned faith, not congruous with Scripture and not consistent in a professing believers life, what isn’t required is increased effort, or “rededication,” or “reforming the life” or “revivalism” (lest it be true revival) but true Biblical conversion. What is then missing is everything. And when he gets saved he receives everything. He lacks nothing anything more. He has all the power he‘ll ever get at the moment he is justified. He has every spiritual blessing. He falls behind in no gift. He has the victory (Rom 6:1-23; 7:4-6; 1 Cor 15:57) which exposes why so many professing Christians today live defeated, worldly and sinful lives. They’ve simply never been truly born again. And there is tons of proof for that.
The same “grace of God that bringeth salvation” leads and teaches the saint to “deny ungodliness and worldly lusts,“ and to “live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;” for Christ, “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” (Ti 2:11-14). True conversion is very powerful, very dramatic and very permanent. It is the greatest translation and miracle ever known to man. And those that have it (Isa 12:2) will “therefore with joy . . . draw water out of the wells of salvation” (Is 12:3).
There is Balm in Gilead indeed, there is a most Wonderful Great Physician there (Jer 8:22), One that heals to perfection (Matt 11:28-30; 1 Pet 3:18), the Surgeon that performs the perfect operation of the hearts circumcision (Rom 2:29; Col 2:10-15; De 30:6) but His medicinal instruction must be heeded to be healed (2 Th. 1:8; 1 Pet. 2:6-10; 4:17). In other words, the gospel must be obeyed, as we note in these passages: Rom 10:16; 2 Th 1:8; 1 Pet 4:17. Something alluded to in Newton’s song, Jesus Christ the Great Physician declared: “They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Lk 5:31-32). In Matthews account we also read the words, “but go ye and learn what that meaneth” (Matt 9:12-13).
By going and learning what that means, they would be learning of Christ, for the Scriptures describe and detail the Great Physician and His healing balm of Gilead (Jer 8:22) — they tell us how to receive eternal life, as Christ appealed His listeners: “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” (Jn 5:39). God the Son, Wisdom, cries for sinners to search His Word (Jn 5:39; Pr 2:1-5) to seek after Him (Is 55:6), all well described in Proverbs 2: to receive His Word (v. 1) and incline their ears unto wisdom and apply their hearts to understanding (v. 2), to cry after knowledge and understanding (v. 3), to seek for Him as for silver, as for the Pearl of great price (Matt 13:46), to search for Him as hidden treasures (v. 4; Is 55:6; Matt 13:44-46), and when they do and they find Him, He never being afar off (Ac 17:27) they’ll come to “understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.” (v. 5).
“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” (Is 1:18-20).
It’s a dangerous thing to put off the counsel, reproof and conviction of the Holy Spirits working in your heart (Pr 1:20-30). He wants to regenerate you and give you a new heart and life, one that is freed from the penalty and power of sin, graciously and lovingly unwilling that any should perish but all should come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9), but He cannot if you will not search for Him and come to Him in true and genuine repentance and faith.
Are you unsure of your standing before God? Have you any peace or rest with Him? Has His perfect and powerful antidote for your great sickness ever healed your sin-sick soul? Will you obey God’s prescription for your terrible and eternal sinful sickness that keeps you on the broad path of destruction and death, and inevitable eternal hell fire that will never be quenched?
Only He can save and heal you, not some man, not yourself or your good works, not your church, not your baptism, not your daily repentance and reformation, not a false worldly “Jesus” of your imagination or the neo-evangelical “feel-good-Jesus.” If you are trusting on any of these things, or something else, you have sadly deceived yourself. You presently are under His wrath and condemnation (Jn 3:18-21, 36).
Will you reject Gods reproof and counsel? God warns, “I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh” (Pr 1:26 read verses 20-31) if you do not respond to His reproof and light. I urge you to “Repent and believe the gospel” (Mk 1:15). “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out” (Ac 3:19a). “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” (Is 55:6-7).
If you‘ve been eternally healed by the Great Physicians powerful balm of Gilead at one precise moment in time (2 Cor 6:2) through repentance (Lk 13:1-5; 14:25-15:32) and faith in Christ Jesus (Jn 3:3-21), then faithfulness is imperative on your part to the Faithful and Beloved Physician in giving your bodies a living sacrifice (Rom 12:1-2) and taking His life-giving medicine to other sick, poor and broken souls who are in critical blinded straits. “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Cor 5:11).
“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mk 16:15).
“Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.” (Jn 4:35).
“If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” (Jn 13:17).