I want to speak today from the thought ‘Christ our Healer’. These words have been with me throughout the week. I’m not going to give any kind of theological discourse about healing. The subject is not so much physical healing (although that is included very much), but the healing of the whole being. In the words of the prophet, is there not a balm in Gilead?
For they have healed the daughter of my people slightly … For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt … Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered? (Jeremiah 8:11, 21, 22)
The line in question has been turned into a spiritual:
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul;
There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole.
As people face life wounds are incurred, and in some lives more than in others. What may have given rise to my present thoughts was an exchange with someone who has been going through a very difficult time, to whom I quoted the lines of a hymn that keep coming to me especially during these days: ‘the Man of Sorrows, on whom were laid our many griefs and woes’.
I don’t know how you react when you hear these words, based on Isaiah 53, but they bring to me such a sense of Christ, with the awareness of Him and His love – the great Burden Bearer who has carried all our griefs and woes, our sin, our sickness, our human need. He stands with us as the mighty Healer. His Name is called Wonderful Counsellor (Isaiah 9:6). It’s very much a feature of modern life that counselling is offered to people who have gone through trauma or are in particular need, with mental health issues and so on. And counsellors, I am quite sure, can be very helpful and do a great deal. But Christ is the Wonderful Counsellor, and He’s the perfect Counsellor. I find again and again, and I think this is true for many, that it’s not always a long-drawn-out process: just in a moment of time the presence of the great Counsellor changes everything.
Is there not a balm in Gilead? They got from Gilead salve made of resin from trees and sold for its healing properties: the balm can soothe wounds and bruises and has many uses. In the history of the church it has been thought of as the balm that Christ can give. The word Gilead means ‘the hill of testimony’, or ‘the mound of witness’. Isn’t the Bible a wonderful book? Even in the names of the Old Testament, there’s such significance. You immediately recognize that description: the hill of testimony, the mound of witness. For us it speaks of Calvary, which is just a mound; it is not a mountain. But it is the place where healing comes from – healing of body, yes, but healing of soul, healing of the inner being, which is so much needed. There is a balm to heal the body, the mind, the soul, the heart, that nobody and nothing can reach except Jesus Christ. And today’s word is really one of hope and encouragement to believe in Him, our wonderful Counsellor. The Bible is full of illustrations of this, and so is Christian literature. In our own lives we can think of lots of examples too of times He has come to us as the mighty Healer, to do in a moment of time what no one else could do.
My daily reading has been on the wonderful life of Joseph. He starts off with some faults, I do think, certainly a lack of wisdom in relating his dreams – although perhaps it’s not really a lack of wisdom, because these dreams were one day to be fulfilled, and his brothers ultimately recognized it. But he goes through a terrible time, all before he is 30 years of age: being sold as a slave by his family, being wrongly accused in Potiphar’s house just as it seems his fortunes have turned for good, and ending up in prison. He rises there to a place of prominence because he is so blessed of God, but he is forgotten about by those whose dreams he has interpreted. But ultimately he is brought out in order to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. To me a very remarkable thing is that he is only 30 years of age. He has suffered desperately and totally unjustly, and he has come out with strength. We read that the iron had entered into his soul. He has come out with strength. But there is an incredible lack of bitterness. Most of us feel a bit imprisoned just now, don’t we? It’s nothing to the prison that Joseph was actually in. And he has emerged in close touch with God, able to hear from God phenomenally in the interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams, having about him such an air of calm authority after all these years in the prison that Pharaoh promotes him to the highest in the land after himself. What an indication of the power of the God in whom he trusted!
‘Joseph, do you not need long, long sessions to debrief you after all that wickedness that you have suffered at the hands of your brothers and then Potiphar’s wife, and so on?’
Somehow there he had found the Counsellor who brought him out without bitterness, able to save an ancient world with his wisdom as to how to store the food that would feed the people in the hungry years, able when his brothers came to have the wisdom to know how to handle them. He was wise; he knew he couldn’t just trust them to go and get his brother and his father; he had to take steps to ensure that they would do that. But they come, and he makes them welcome. He gives them a home. He takes care of them. And Joseph there in that land of Egypt is given a wife and sons. He calls one of them Manasseh, saying: ‘God has made me forget all my troubles and everyone in my father’s family.’ (His son’s birth obviously precedes the reconciliation.) He is able to put behind him the pain and grief. And he calls the other son Ephraim, ‘for God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction’. And that is what Christ does.
And to you who are in affliction just now, which is made even harder – much harder – by the constricting circumstances, there is One who heals. You might be in an unhappy home situation which you just can’t escape while we’re in lockdown. You might be the kind of person for whom everything feels worse when you can’t go out and be with somebody else. You might be finding that although God is richly feeding in other ways, yet the absence of the possibility of being able to meet together and worship together is dragging your spirits down. But there is One who transcends all bars and constrictions. He wasn’t held out of Joseph’s prison. He transformed Joseph into someone bearing the very likeness of Christ. Can He do that for you and for me? Why not?
He stands as the mighty Healer now,
And He says: ‘Look unto Me.’
We’ve got a wonderful Counsellor. He is a wonderful Saviour. He can always outwit our enemy; He is stronger than he is. And He’ll not forget you, He’ll not forget me, and He’ll not forget His church. Reach out, just look towards Him, and find coming pouring in the balm of Gilead that flows from the hill of testimony where Christ bore witness to His faithful love to His creation, to us. Taste the sweetness of the healing streams; they flow freely, and they are enough. Blessed be His Name.
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