The Word of the Lord: Genesis 43.11: Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be, then do this: Put some of the best products of the land in your bags and take them down to the man as a gift—a little balm and a little honey, some spices and myrrh, some pistachio nuts and almonds.
Meditation: Jacob was an elderly man with a sick soul, conceivably a sin sick soul. Certainly, some of Jacob’s younger-day actions were sins and brought him grief. At the time of this story, Jacob lived in Canaan which was experiencing a famine. Jacob decided to send his sons to Egypt to buy desperately need grain to feed his family. This was the second time that Jacob ordered his sons to Egypt to buy grain.
To Jacob’s knowledge his favorite son (Joseph) was dead. Another son (Simeon) was kept as a hostage by the Egyptians when Jacob’s sons went to Egypt the first time to buy grain.
Jacob’s remaining sons were afraid to go a second time into Egypt. The Egyptian in charge of selling grain told them only to come back if they had their youngest brother (Benjamin) with them. Jacob can’t fathom losing a third son, especially the son who was now his favorite. Nonetheless, because he wanted food for his family, Jacob ordered his sons to go to Egypt and buy grain. Jacob sent Benjamin with them.
Most likely the balm that Jacob ordered sent to Egypt was the balm of Gilead. It grew in Canaan. Medically, balms are healing or soothing substance, i.e., ointment, salve, or cream They can be analgesic and give pain relief. Figuratively, balms have the effects of calming, soothing, comforting, and providing solace and consolation.
In today’s society, many individuals hurt spiritually. Much of the spiritual pain is the result of personal choices. Mine were. When I left home as a young woman, I was determined to live life my way. I resonated to a song popular at the time—Helen Reddy’s, “I Did it My Way.”
I made a conscious decision not to follow God. One of my thoughts was that I would consign God only to Sunday at church, in other words, departmentalize God. The remainder of the week, I would live the way I wanted to live. I said to myself, “When I’m older, I’ll get back to God.”
In retrospect, I am stunned at my arrogant thoughts and actions. My rebellion against God caused me great spiritual, mental, and physical pain. At the time, I felt like nothing would calm, comfort, and console me.
Amazingly God wasn’t surprised by our rebellions. God is never surprised by anything we do or anything that Jacob did. God is there waiting for us, as he waited for Jacob, to return to him.
Do you remember the African American spiritual “There is a Balm in Gilead?” The refrain goes something like this:
There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole.
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin sick soul.
Reflection: Have you ever experienced a sin-sick soul? The solution is God, not some soothing ointment or, perhaps, even emotional healing drugs.