The Balm of Gilead


The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed

~Psalm 34:18


In prayer, we act like men. In praise, we act like angels.

~Thomas Watson

Gilead was famous for it’s healing oil or balm. The young buds of balsam poplar trees secrete a powerfully aromatic and healing resin high in salicylic acid, the active ingredient in aspirin. The scent of this oil is sweet and clean, like the freshest spring day. This oil is analgesic, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory. People traveled for miles to get this medication. I have good news for you. You don’t have to travel to get the real thing. If you are having a bad day or a bad week, Psalm 34 is your Gilead. It is laced with inspiration that will heal the soul.

  • Verse 7–For the Angel of the LORD [Jesus] is a guard; He surrounds and defends all who fear Him. [Jesus saves and keeps]
  • Verse 8–Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in Him! 
  • Verse 10– Those who trust the LORD will lack no good thing.
  • Verse 15–The eyes of the LORD watch over those who do right, His ears are open to their cry for help.
  • Verse 17–The LORD hears His people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles.
  • Verse 18–The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. 
  • Verse 19–Many are the afflictions of the righteous but the LORD delivers him from them all.
  • Verse 22–But the LORD will redeem those who serve Him. No one who takes refuge in Him will be condemned.

When we hear the word David, we think of a rich king but David was no rich king when he wrote this Psalm. He was poor and wretched. He had to home, no place of safety or shelter. It was a fight to survive. Life itself had become a struggle. Saul had chased him from his home, his family, his job and David is forced to live like a fugitive. Feeling the pressure of Saul and his army, David takes his small band of poor men and they try to take refuge in enemy territory. After arriving in Gath and meeting with Achish, David realizes that he has made a horrible mistake. He pretends to be crazy and the Philistines drive him out of their city. It was a narrow escape. Psalm 34 is a celebration of David’s deliverance from death at the hands of his enemies. David prayed like a man but he praised like an angel. Psalm 34 is a gushing fountain of praise, promises and thanksgiving.

Northwestern University is located on the banks of Lake Michigan in Evanston, Illinois just North of Chicago. It was founded on January 28, 1851 and it’s motto is Ho logos pleres charitos kai aletheias which is Latin for John 1:14–The word full of grace and truth. Edward Spencer enrolled there in 1859 as a ministerial student. Edward had a passion for helping other so he joined the school’s rescue team. It was a team of life guards who were called into action when there was a water mishap. On September 8, 1860, the Lady Elgin, a passenger steamer went down near Evanston and the school rescue unit was called into action. Edward was credited with saving 17 people that day but he did it at the risk of his own health. Spencer survived but never regained his health. The long hours in the cold water took its toll. He lived the rest of his life is quiet seclusion. Many years later, the famous preacher R.A. Torrey was speaking and he told Edward’s story as an illustration. One man stood and shouted, Edward Spencer is in the congregation tonight. Torrey was shocked but delighted. He called Edward to the podium. Torrey asked him, “Is there anything in particular that stands out in your memory of that day?” Edward Spencer said, “Of the seventeen people I rescued that day, not one ever came back to thank me.” You may think this is appalling but when was the last time you thanked God for your salvation. When did you last tell Jesus, “Thank YOU LORD for dying in my place.”

Mel Gibson is making a sequel to his 2004 mega blockbuster The Passion of the Christ, and Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus in that film, will reprise his role. “The film he’s going to do is going to be the biggest film in history. It’s that good,” Caviezel told USA Today. That may not be as hyperbolic as it sounds. Gibson has been talking about this project for the last couple of years, telling Stephen Colbert in 2016 that the film was still “about three years off, because it’s a big subject.” He didn’t share any more concrete details about its potential story line, only noting that he would focus slightly less on Christ and more on the people around him.

Upon its release, “The Passion of the Christ” was the highest-grossing R-rated film in North America, generating $611 million worldwide on a $30 million budget.  Caviezel, who hasn’t acted in a biblical film since then, will portray Luke in “Paul, Apostle of Christ,” slated for a March 28 release.

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