The scent of healing

Scents can bring on a rush of memories, feelings, and nostalgia  That’s why candles try to capture every emotion you can feel from different scents.  Baby lotion, clean laundry, apple pie, snowflakes, sandy beaches, sugar cookies.  A certain scent can bring back sweet memories from your childhood. You can tell when spring has arrived because the air carries the fragrance of new life and flowers blooming. Smoke in the air can bring to mind bonfires and fall evenings. Even a newborn baby can tell when their mama is holding them, because of her smell.

I came across a verse in Jeremiah 8:22 that caught my attention.  “Is there no balm in Gilead?”

I’ve always heard Jesus referenced as the Balm of Gilead, but I’ve never really researched it myself.  I know it refers to Him as a healer but as I looked up the first mention of it in God’s word, I was blessed again while reading it.

This is from Genesis 37:25-28:

And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt. And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood? Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmeelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content.  Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt.

Joseph had been thrown into a pit because his brothers were jealous of him.  And they hated him so much that they had thought about killing him.  Instead they sold him to some Ishmeelites, who the Bible says, passed by that way bearing spices, balm and myrrh.

Balm – an aromatic, medicinal substance derived from plants.  Gilead was an area east of the Jordan River, well known for its spices and ointments.  The balm of Gilead was therefore a high quality ointment with healing properties.

How fitting it was for the first mention of the balm of Gilead to be in Joseph’s story.  Because his story parallels the story of Jesus.  Joseph was taken away from his father and his home.  Rejected by the ones he loved.  Forsaken by them.  Joseph suffered many, many painful things.  But He was able to say in the end that what his brothers had meant for evil, God had meant for good.

Now back to the story… I googled how far it was from Canaan to Egypt back in Bible days and it said 100 kilometers.  Which is a little over 62 miles. (I think; math is not my strong point. But travel anywhere back then was definitely a big ordeal.) It would take us roughly 40 minutes to an hour depending on speed and traffic to travel this far in a car.  How much longer would it take a caravan traveling with camels?  A long, long time.  And the whole time, Joseph is riding with spices, balm and myrrh.  By the time he arrived in Egypt, he smelled like those spices, no doubt. They were very fragrant after all.  Joseph was sold to Potiphar, who was an officer to Pharaoh (basically a king), captain of the guard. I’m sure with all of the wealth Pharoah and Potiphar had, everyone in their households were acquainted with the scents of myrrh and the healing balm from Gilead.  So Joseph brought with him the scent of healing.  And even though it would be many years later, Joseph would eventually be promoted and go on to become the only hope for Egypt.  These people probably never associated Joseph’s smell with their salvation, but it didn’t change the fact that God put Joseph right where he needed to be to be able to save everyone during the 7 year drought that was coming. Joseph, through his position in Egypt, was able to bring healing and restoration back to his family.

Jesus left His home, His Father, everything to come to Earth.  Only to be despised and rejected.  Eventually crucified. But as He hung on the cross, dying for the sin of the entire world, the fragrance of healing wafted down and unknowingly touched the hearts of all that stood there. Many in the crowd at the foot of the cross may not have associated Jesus with their healing, but that was His only mission.  To heal the sickness of sin.  For every one that’s ever lived.  It was so powerful, that the same fragrance still touches us today.  And it has remained powerful, pungent, far-reaching. Many suffer today, but don’t know what they suffer from.  They only know that the burden and guilt they carry cannot be permanently lifted.  And though they try many things to drown their sorrows, nothing works because they have not received true healing from the only Physician who knows the cure for their disease.

Isn’t that wonderful, that Jesus is our Balm of Gilead?!  He is our only hope of healing; from sin, sickness, heartache, trouble, whatever may ail our dying flesh.  He is the Great Physician.  The Balm for the sin-sick soul.  The Soothing Ointment for a burdened heart.  The Healer of a broken life. The Encourager of the discouraged.  The Comforter of the weary.  The Peace of the fearful.  All things for all men.

And the best thing?  It doesn’t cost you anything to come to this Physician to receive your healing.  It cost Him everything so he could give it to us freely.  What physician would have the cure-all for every disease and not ask for payment?  Only One who loved us so much that He was willing to sacrifice everything to save us.  I’m thankful that whenever I kneel at the cross and lay my burdens and cares down, the scent of healing still permeates the air, forever reminding me that my Great Physician is able to cure everything I bring Him!

Reminded me of this old song:

He is the fountain for a thirsty soul
He is the healer and so much more
When my heart is broken by this world’s demands
The pieces are mended through one scarred hand 

And when I can’t stand, I have to lean
And when I can’t see, I must believe
The Great Physician’s touch is a balm that can
Mend broken hearts with one scarred hand

It’s a hand that holds this whole world in place
It’s a hand that was scarred just to give me grace
And to think a hand that holds the stars
Is small enough to mend one broken heart 

And when I can’t stand, I have to lean
And when I can’t see, I must believe
The Great Physician’s touch is a balm that can
Mend broken hearts with one scarred hand.

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