“Since my people are crushed, I am crushed; I mourn, and horror grips me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?” (Jeremiah 8:21-22 NIV).
“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten…” (Joel 2:25 NIV)
The year was 2020. If there was ever a year in our lifetime when it was most appropriate to say the Akan adage, “Afe bi ye asiane,” translated, “A certain year is fraught with misfortunes,” it was the year 2020.
It would be an understatement for anyone to say that the year 2020 was a challenging and painful one for most people in this world. It was a year fraught with hardships and misfortunes unlike any others in our living memory due primarily to the worldwide coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. Millions of people will agree with one or more of the following observations:
- It was a year of millions of deaths.
- It was a year when hospitals beds were almost filled to capacities in many countries, and some hospitals were closed.
- It was a year when our freedoms, liberties, and rights were challenged due to public health concerns.
- It was a year of lockdowns and various restrictions such as travels.
- It was a year when we could not breathe freely because we had to wear face masks.
- It was a year when we had to socially distance ourselves because we were afraid of catching the virus from our families, neighbors, friends, and acquaintances, and strangers.
- It was a year when even mighty countries almost reached the limits of their capabilities; it exposed the vulnerabilities of many countries.
- It was a year of virtual Church services and other gatherings.
- It was a year of business and financial failures.
- It was a year of high unemployment and general economic hardships.
- It was a year when schools and businesses were closed.
- It was a year of soul searching – people asking why, how, what, when etc.
- It was a year of fear that challenged our faith, trust, confidence, and hope. Even though we know that we walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), what we saw in 2020 overwhelmed many people’s faith.
We do not know exactly how or why the coronavirus/COVID-19 came about. Efforts are being made through discoveries of vaccines and therapeutic drugs, social distances, wearing of face masks, frequent handwashing, enhanced hygiene, and other measures to control it. What we know is that the invisible army of coronavirus attacks people worldwide without showing any respect. It attacks presidents and prime ministers; kings and queens; pastors and doctors; the rich and poor; the famous and the less known; the careful and the careless; male and female; and the old and the young.
We live in an era when we would have appreciated the prophetic voices of Prophet Jeremiah and Prophet Joel. Those prophets lived and made the statements above at a time when things were very difficult for the people of Judah because they had sinned against God and God was punishing them for their sins. Things were so bad that Jeremiah had to ask whether there was no balm or physician in Gilead; and why there was no healing for the wound of his people (see Jeremiah 8:21-22). Jeremiah lamented over the people’s inability to recognize that God was able to heal them of the disease of sin and help them to overcome all their problems.
Perhaps, the mystique about healing balms in Gilead was fueled by the fact that the great Prophet Elijah was from that region (see 1 Kings 17:1). We first encounter Gilead in Genesis 37:25 when Jacob’s sons were plotting to kill their brother Joseph, but they changed their minds when they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead on their way to Egypt with their camels loaded with spices, balm and myrrh; and they sold Joseph to them. Later on, in Jeremiah 46:11, God’s message to the people of Judah concerning Egypt, where they had sought refuge, was that Egypt should go to Gilead and get balm, but the balm and other remedies would be in vain because there was no healing for them. In other words, Egypt could only provide a temporary protection, and not a permanent refuge for Judah, because another nation would attack them; only reliance on God could save Judah.
On the part of Prophet Joel, he was urging Judah to come to the Lord and avoid the punishment of locusts destroying the land and livelihoods. Judah was an agrarian society. The primary things the locusts could destroy that would hurt the people the most were crops and vegetation, such as figs, olives, grapes, citrus, and grains. However, what affected the crops affected the whole economy and the people’s livelihoods. Through Joel, the Lord declared to the people, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning” (Joel 2:12 NIV); and with a promise that God would repay them for the years the locusts had eaten (Joel 2:25 NIV). Let’s claim the promise.
The Year 2020 was not all that gloom and doom. We have to thank God for everything, good or bad. And there were some good. Vaccines and other medications were developed to fight the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. We are still alive, and that is good news. We pray that the year 2021 will be a year of new beginnings; a year of restoration when God will restore to us all that coronavirus has eaten, including restoration of our good health; the joy of our salvation and fellowship with God; our faith, trust, confidence, and hope in God; and successes in all areas of our lives.
This article does not claim that coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic is a result of sin. However, whenever something bad happened to the people of ancient Judah and Israel and they turned to God in prayer and repented of their sins, God answered their prayers and changed things for the better. We can and should do the same. We are still experiencing the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, but the prophetic voice of Joel gives us hope that God will repay us for the years the locusts have eaten.
Today, we can say yes, there is a balm in Gilead. It is the blood of Jesus. By his stripes and blood, we are healed. Yes, there is a physician in Gilead by the name of Jesus who provides permanent healing for our bodies, souls, minds, and hearts. If we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior and faithfully follow his teachings and repent of our sins, God will not only heal us completely, but will repay us for the years the locusts have eaten. Already, things are looking better. By the grace of God, things are actually getting better. To God be the Glory. Let’s thank God and continue to pray that things get even better very soon.
Prayer is the key. May God grant us the grace to seek Him daily through our prayers.
Dr. Daniel Gyebi, Attorney-at-Law, Texas, U.S.A., and Founder, PrayerHouse Ministry, Kumasi, Ghana.
PrayerHouse Ministry is dedicated to providing a quiet facility for Christians to pray individually by themselves without any intermediary priest, pastor or any other person. This is a free service. No money is demanded or accepted. One facility is located at Kyerekrom / Fumesua, near Building and Road Research Institute Offices, one mile off the Kumasi-Accra Road and next to a house called Grace Castle. If you are interested, please contact Agnes at 054-7498653. Another is located at Kantinkyiren, at the junction of Kantinkyiren and Konkori, off the Kumasi-Obuasi Road, branching left at Trede junction. Contact Kwadwo at 020-8768461 / 0246-989413.