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494. There Is a Balm in Gilead

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

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

Text Information
First Line: Sometimes I feel discouraged
Title: There Is a Balm in Gilead
Meter: irregular
Language: English
Publication Date: 1987
Topic: Preaching; Sickness & Health; Redemption (3 more...)
Source: Afro-American spiritual
Tune Information
Meter: irregular
Key: F Major
Source: Afro-American spiritual

Text Information:

Scripture References:
all st. = Gen. 37:25, Jer.46:11
ref. = Jer. 8:22

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 negative¬ly, "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 (267) and John Newton (462). 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. (PHH 476). 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.

Liturgical Use:
A hymn of comfort in times of discouragement or of encouragement for professing Christians; healing services; the refrain could be used as a chorus of invitation during evangelistic services.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune Information:

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.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

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