Monday, January 16, 2017

BALM: Bible Plant Series

I was fascinated to find balm on the list of plants. I had always assumed that it simply meant salve or lotion, but, no, there is a plant that it is referring to. And to be perfectly honest, several plants have fallen under this name, but I am trying to get to the one that is actually mentioned in the story of Joseph. We are all familiar with Jacob’s favorite son and how the other brothers had had enough! They threw Joseph in a pit and were deciding how to kill him, but in the meantime:

“…they sat down to eat a meal. Then they lifted their eyes and looked, and there was a company of Ishmaelites, coming from Gilead with their camels, bearing spices, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry them down to Egypt. 26 So Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is there if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27 Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother and our flesh.” And his brothers listened. 28 Then Midianite traders passed by; so the brothers pulled Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.”

So the traders were bringing balm… from where? Gilead. (…sound familiar?) As far as I can tell, Gilead is always describing the same region. It is describing the area on both sides of the Jordan River extending above the Sea of Galilee then to the Southern most point of the Dead Sea.   Looking at the current map, this includes parts of Israel, the West Bank and Jordan. How true are the words of Jeremiah:

“Is there no balm in Gilead,
Is there no physician there?
Why then is there no recovery
For the health of the daughter of my people?” Jeremiah 8:22

 I grew up hearing my mother sing “There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole. There is a balm in Gilead that can heal the sin-sick soul. ” Of course, little ears hear and interpret… Wait? There is a bomb?! In Gilead!? No! We have to warn Gilead! Who and what is Gilead!  And how does a bomb heal?

Just to be clear we are talking about the word balm not bomb. But it is a little eerie.

The song “There is a Balm in Gilead” is a traditional United States African American Spiritual. There are parts of the song that have ‘wandering verses’ that you can sometimes find in other songs. Basically mashups or medleys used in revival services.

No matter what version of the song, the truth of them all is that we have found a balm in Gilead and His name is Jesus! Traditional balm was used for cuts, burns and arthritis but we have a balm that not only heals us on the outside, He has made a way to cleanse and forgive us on the inside. That is what makes us whole!

Joseph’s story is often referred to as a messianic one. The comparison of Joseph’s story to the story of Jesus is startling. Here are men favored of the Father. Sold for 20 (or 30) pieces of silver. One was thought to be dead, one actually was. But they both came back from the dead and delivered their people from destruction. Joseph’s legacy lasted for only a couple of hundred years. Jesus’s will last forever.

When Joseph was sold to the Ishmaelites, he became another product on their shelves. Imagine their little store front shelf: a container of myrrh, a jar of the balm from Gilead… oh, and this scrawny guy with no clothes sitting there hugging his knees on the shelf. That coat of many colors was torn to shreds. It represented the favor of the Father. It is a tale as old as time that people want to shred the favor of God resting on you. But you know what? Joseph became a balm to the people of Gilead when they had to leave to Gilead and live under Joseph’s protection in Egypt. And then Jesus, he laid down his life, and became the balm from Gilead to the whole world.

Are you willing to lay down your life and allow God to use you as a balm?

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