706

There Is a Balm in Gilead

Full Text

Refrain:
There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole,
there is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.

1 Sometimes I feel discouraged
and think my work's in vain,
but then the Holy Spirit
revives my soul again. [Refrain]

2 If you cannot preach like Peter,
if you cannot pray like Paul,
you can tell the love of Jesus
and say, "He died for all." [Refrain]

see more

Scripture References

Further Reflections on Scripture References

This anonymous African American spiritual probably took shape during outdoor revival meetings in the early nineteenth century. The text draws on the image of Gilead, which in biblical times was a source of spices and medicinal ointments. The refrain states in positive terms what the prophet Jeremiah asks negative­ly, "Is there no balm in Gilead?" "Balm" becomes a metaphor for redemption in Christ.

 

One of its most memorable phrases, "the sin-sick soul," was taken from hymns by Charles Wesley and John Newton. The refrain alone was published in the Revivalist (upstate New York, 1868) and the complete spiritual in Folk Songs of the American Negro (1907), compiled by brothers Frederick J. Work and John W. Work, Jr. Of those stanzas, the two are included that concern the Spirit's encouragement of discouraged Christians and the task of every Christian to be a witness to Christ's love.

 

Bert Polman, Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

When we receive God’s pardon, we find ourselves at peace with him and at rest again. When the benefits of Christ are made ours, “They are more than enough to absolve us of our sins” and we need no longer look “for anything apart from him” (Belgic Confession, Article 22). We have “freedom from sin’s dominion” (Our World Belongs to God, paragraph 25) and we understand that we are “set free from all [our] sins and misery…” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 1, Question and Answer 2). We are “righteous before God and heir to everlasting life” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 23, Question and Answer 59).

706

There Is a Balm in Gilead

Additional Prayers

A Prayer for Healing
Merciful God, physician for the wounded and comforter of the desolate, your people across the world plea today for your healing touch. Some are discouraged; hearten them. Some are persecuted; liberate them. Some are impoverished; prosper them. Merciful God, so many need that balm in Gilead. Make the wounded whole, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
— Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.
706

There Is a Balm in Gilead

Tune Information

Name
BALM IN GILEAD
Key
F Major
Meter
8.6.8.6 stanzas irregular

Musical Suggestion

It may be helpful to draw attention to the contrast between the refrain, the subject of which is Jesus, and the verses, which focus on us as God's people. Have the verses sung by a soloist or small group (unaccompanied), and the refrain by choir and congregation, SATB, with or without organ. An advantage of the soloist approach (for the verses) is the rhythmic freedom it allows. For example, in verse 2, a more natural rhythm for "can-not" is short-long (eighth note and dotted quarter).
 
Probably the most powerful and "telling" way to use this song is to sing all of it in unison, unaccompanied. When instrumental accompaniment is used, improvising in a manner that preserves the integrity of the song and its musical style should be encouraged. A suitable descant would be the "instant" kind—for example, sopranos singing the tenor part of the refrain, an octave higher. It is a lovely tenor line, moving mainly in parallel thirds (and/or sixths) with the soprano. Such a descant, but slightly more free, might also be played by instruments.
(from Reformed Worship, Issue 28)
— Jan Overduin
706

There Is a Balm in Gilead

Hymn Story/Background

This anonymous African American spiritual probably took shape during outdoor revival meetings in the early nineteenth century. The text draws on the image of Gilead, which in biblical times was a source of spices and medical ointments. The refrain turns Jeremiah’s rhetorical question (Jeremiah 8:22) into a testimony that Christ is the balm for the “sin-sick soul.”
 
One of its most memorable phrases, "the sin-sick soul," was taken from hymns by Charles Wesley and John Newton. The refrain alone was published in the Revivalis (upstate New York, 1868) and the complete spiritual in Folk Songs of the American Negro (1907), compiled by brothers Frederick J. Work and John W. Work, Jr. Of those stanzas, the two are included that concern the Spirit's encouragement of discouraged Christians and the task of every Christian to be a witness to Christ's love.
 
The tune, BALM IN GILEAD consists of two melodic lines, each of which is repeated in varied form. Have the congregation sing either in parts or in unison. It is also possible to adapt the call-and-response technique, so common in spirituals, to this hymn: a soloist sings the stanzas, and the entire congregation sings the refrain.
— Bert Polman

Song Notes

In the Old Testament, Gilead was the name of the mountainous region east of the Jordan River. This region was known for having skillful physicians and an ointment made from the gum of a tree particular to that area. Many believed that this balm had miraculous powers to heal the body. In the book of Jeremiah, God tells the people of Israel that though many believe in the mysterious healing power of this balm, they can’t trust in those powers for spiritual healing or as a relief of their oppression. He reminds them that he is ultimately in control, and only he can relieve their suffering. In the New Testament, God answers the suffering of his people by sending his own son to take our place. Jesus becomes our “balm in Gilead.” It is him we are called to turn to in our times of trial for healing and comfort.  We sing this song with that assurance: no matter our hardships or supposed shortcomings, Jesus loves us enough to take our suffering upon himself. 
— Laura de Jong
You have access to this FlexScore.
Download:
Are parts of this score outside of your desired range? Try transposing this FlexScore.
General Settings
Stanza Selection
Voice Selection
Text size:
Music size:
Transpose (Half Steps):
Capo:
Contacting server...
Contacting server...

Questions? Check out the FAQ

A separate copy of this score must be purchased for each choir member. If this score will be projected or included in a bulletin, usage must be reported to a licensing agent (e.g. CCLI, OneLicense, etc).

This is a preview of your FlexScore.
Suggestions or corrections? Contact us



Advertisements