One of the saddest verses, next to Jeremiah 8:20, is the three questions asked in Jeremiah 8:22. The Lord asks, “Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?” I struggled with what was being asked until I came to understand that these were rhetorical questions. Interestingly, Jeremiah 8:22 is written entirely differently in the NET. There, we read, “There is still medicinal ointment available in Gilead! There is still a physician there! Why then have my dear people not been restored to health?” These translators chose to forego the ambiguity of the rhetorical questions and simply state the facts. Whether or not we agree with such actions is a discussion for another time. The point is that God was emphasizing to the people (yet again) that their transgressions could be healed if they would be willing to change. This was done by pointing out a physical truth to make a spiritual point.
Using physical examples to make a spiritual point was how Jesus taught the majority of His time on earth (Matt. 13:34-35). His teachings are called “parables,” but in Jeremiah, this was not a parable but instead a rhetorical question to open the eyes of the people. Is there no balm in Gilead? “Balm” was used for medicinal purposes, and Gilead, and this region, was known for having an abundant supply. “Is there no physician there?” Again, in Gilead, there would be doctors in abundance ready to apply the balm to the hurting. Since a lack of balm and a lack of doctors is not the problem, then why are His people not recovered?
The reason they had not been recovered is the same reason someone might not recover physically even if there is “balm in Gilead.” What is this reason? In order to be healed physically, those people needed to apply the balm to the affected area! If one refuses the medicine, do not be surprised if this person does not recover from the illness! In like manner, if Israel (and us by application) refuses to listen and apply God’s teaching, then they will never recover from the harm of sin and will die in that condition! Remember, they have already told Jeremiah “no” in 6:16, and it does not look like they will change anytime soon. Therefore, when Babylon comes to conquer, when multitudes die, when people are enslaved, and when the land is ravaged, it is not because the people did not have “balm.” It is not that they had no one to heal (physician), it is because they refused to accept God’s “medicine”!
I hope that the application to Jeremiah 8:22 is apparent to us (Rom. 15:4). Though Babylon is not coming to destroy, we still face something greater than a physical threat, for we are facing a judgment day (Heb. 9:27; Acts 17:30-31; II Cor. 5:10; Ecc. 12:13-14). Sadly, there is a real possibility of people dying in their sins (Jn. 8:24; Jas. 1:14-15; II Thess. 1:6-9). If we die in our sins, who can we blame for this besides ourselves (Ezek. 18:20; Col. 3:25)? Is there no “balm,” the gospel, that tells us what to do to be saved from our sins (Rom. 1:16; II Tim. 3:6-17)? Is there not a physician, a “great Physician” who is ready to heal our spiritual ills (Matt. 9:12, 11:28-30)? Then why is there a world of people not yet saved? I think I know at least part of the reason is that those who are aware of the Physician’s prescription (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38) do not want to accept it! I say again, if we are sick and refuse to accept the medicine the doctor prescribes, then do not be surprised if you do not recover from the illness! While I know people can cite dozens of cases where people “wore out” their physical sickness with time and determination, there is no one who will “wear out” the spiritual sickness called “sin”! There is only one cure for it, and if you refuse the cure, nothing else will cure you!
In the long ago, God, through Jeremiah, called out to his people to tell them that there is a way to be healed if they would accept, and they said “no”! These people are dead and gone and have died with their decisions. You and I are still alive, though! What will you do? What will be your response to the Lord and His plan for healing (saving) you from your spiritual ills? Choose wisely (Heb. 3:7-8; II Cor. 6:2)!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
“The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved” (Jer. 8:20, KJV). In context, these words were spoken by people desperate for someone to deliver them from the consequences of their decisions. Some Bible versions even use phrases like “we have not been delivered,” “rescued,” and “we have not been helped” in place of the word “saved” used in the KJV. It seems people had recognized God’s power to help them (v. 14) but understood it was too late now (v. 15). Now, these people, God’s people, realize they had run out of chances. “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” What a tragedy!
I suppose there are no sadder words in the English language than “no hope.” They are used by Paul in Ephesians 2:12 when he describes the spiritual state of people who are outside of Christ. This is the way these people in Jeremiah’s day were! Though they were God’s children, they continued to reject God through idolatry (Jer. 8:2). They “hold fast deceit, they refuse to return” was another charge against the people (Jer. 8:5). In addition to these, we read of their stubbornness when we read of their rejection of “the old paths” in Jeremiah 6:16!
I understand that God extends a time of patience to allow people to see the error of their ways and repent (II Pet. 3:9; Rom. 2:4). God extended such patience to the Canaanites (Gen. 15:16). He did this with the Egyptians, allowing them not only 430 years to correct their error and adding ten more plagues as a means of giving the Pharaoh every last chance to free the Israelites. We have seen God’s longsuffering in other areas of life, and it was evident when He dealt with the Israelites during these years of the divided kingdom!
Yet, God’s long-suffering is not eternal. For example, there was a day when God shut the door to the ark, and none were allowed in (Gen. 7:16). Even in the parable of the ten virgins, the door was shut after a period of time, and five virgins remained outside of the wedding feast (Matt. 25:10). In Jeremiah 8, we see the people lament because summer is over and the harvest is past. In other words, it is too late now!
When we look in the New Testament, the urgency to become a Christian is apparent. After urging people to “save yourselves from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:40), Acts 2:41 says about 3000 were baptized when they gladly received the word. The language here leaves us with the understanding that they were baptized right then. They did not put it off. Again, when the Philippian jailor wanted to be saved, he was taken “straightway … the same hour of the night” to do it (Acts 16:25, 33-34). The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians and told them, “now is the accepted time, behold now is the day of salvation” (II Cor. 6:2). The Hebrew writer also emphasized taking immediate action when he wrote, “today if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (Heb. 3:7-8, 15).
Procrastination has no place in the Lord’s plan of salvation. We have no lease on life and know not what might happen in our future (Prov. 27:1). Thus we need to take advantage of the “here and now” before it is gone. The Israelites learned the hard way what it means when the “harvest is past.” Don’t you make that mistake! Be saved today while you still can (Acts 22:16). If you need to repent and return to your Lord, your first love, then do it while the breath is in your body. You don’t know when your life’s “summer” will be ended!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
“Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, are these” (Jer. 7:4, KJV). The NET records this passage as, “Stop putting your confidence in the false belief that says, “We are safe! The temple of the LORD is here! The temple of the LORD is here! The temple of the LORD is here!” What was going on with these people in Jeremiah’s day?
In context, notice that God has sent Jeremiah to warn this sinful nation of their sin. He went to the gate of the Temple and cried out, “amend your ways and your doings” (Jer. 7:2-3). They responded, “The Temple of the Lord,” as if God would spare them from destruction because the Temple was in Jerusalem. They were reminded twice in this chapter not to trust in those lying words. The mere fact the Temple was in Jerusalem would not save them when the Babylonian army swept over them.
What would save them? God said salvation would come when they “amend” or change their ways (Jer. 7:5). In other words, repent, and they would be allowed to dwell in the land (v. 7). Notice that the key to their salvation was not in having the Temple in Jerusalem but living as God told them to live (v. 5-7). Even though many years had passed, the words of Joshua 24:14 were still true, and they needed to worship God “in sincerity and in truth”! They could not “ride the fence” by practicing their abominations and then turn around, beaming about having the Temple there (Jer.7:9-15). That Temple was made of physical material and could be destroyed (and was, II Kings 25)!
Friend, beware that you don’t have the same attitude as the Israelites of old did. It is easy to slip into the mindset that I am bound for Heaven so long as I am a member or have my name on the “roll” of a sound church. This is not always the case! Don’t misunderstand; we know that salvation comes through Christ (Lk. 19:10), and all those who are saved are added to His church (Acts 2:38-47). My point is that we must examine ourselves (II Cor. 13:5) and make sure our actions match our words (Rev. 22:14; Lk. 6:46)! The people in Jeremiah’s day had to “amend” or change their ways because their actions did not match their words (Jer. 7:9-11). It takes more than merely having our names written on a piece of paper to be saved. We must be active in the Lord’s work (I Cor. 15:58; Rev. 2:10; Jas. 1:22-25; Heb. 5:9)!
It pains me to say this, but there will be people condemned to an eternity in Hell because their actions, speech, and thoughts were not in line with the Scriptures (II Cor. 5:10; Matt. 25:31-46). Yes, some of these will be people who claim to be members of the Lord’s church. Why will this happen? It will happen because they weren’t slaves to God (Rom. 12:1-2) but obeyed only when they felt like it. When they were confronted with their sin, they said, “I’m a member of the Lord’s body!” Just like those folks said, “The Temple of the Lord!” As if that were all that was required! Sadly, Christ will say, “I never knew you” (Matt. 7:23). Let’s learn a lesson from this text and not act like those in Jeremiah 7!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
Yesterday’s study focused on Jeremiah 6:14. This article continues the thought and theme by looking into verse 15. After condemning those who cried, “Peace, peace; when there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14), God’s words continue. “Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? Nay, they were not at all ashamed; neither could they blush. Therefore, they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the Lord” (Jer. 6:15).
God’s words were quite powerful in this verse. Those who preached falsely about peace were so arrogant they were not ashamed when confronted with their error. God said they could not even “blush”! The word “blush” in this verse means the same as we use it today. It has to do with one being hurt or ashamed of what one has done. Godly sorrow will produce “blushing” when we are genuinely hurt and ashamed of the sins we have committed before God. One who “blushes” over his sin will make a genuine effort to repent and leave that action in the past (II Cor. 7:10). In the context of Jeremiah 6, the people had preached falsely, and they didn’t care about that. They were confronted with the truth, and they did not allow it to affect them. They weren’t embarrassed at all! The apostle Paul said he knew some whose “end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. ” (Phil. 3:19, ESV). That kind of sounds like the people Jeremiah faced. Can you blush?
Have you ever been told that you ought to be ashamed of yourself because of something you have done or said? If not, then this is part of the problem we face today - just like Jeremiah’s generation faced! Friend, there are actions we do and words we speak that should cause shame in our lives. The apostle Paul said that after folks had become Christians, they then looked back on their former lives with shame (Rom. 6:20-23). This is normal and right to be embarrassed over sins we have committed. Now, is this us? Can you blush?
Just like in Jeremiah’s time, we have raised a generation of people who do not blush over sin and wrongdoing. There is an older generation telling the younger ones to “accept your truth,” whatever that means. There is an older generation telling our young ones not to worry about sin because “no one has the right to judge you” and “do what you feel is right.” Since people listen to this, then they have no concept of what is right or wrong. When the truth is preached, they do not blush. They are not ashamed. They simply parrot their mentors and ask, “Who are you to judge me?” Or they tell the one who loves them and exposes the truth (Eph. 4:15, 5:11) that he needs to “clean up your own yard and stay out of mine.” Can you blush?
If we can’t blush, if we do not feel shame and hurt over our sins, how will we ever repent of our sins before Christ (Lk. 13:3; Acts 2:38)? Truly, those folks in Jeremiah’s time stood in rebellion against God (Jer. 6:14-15), as do we if we will not stop and consider the seriousness of our sins before a sinless God (Rom. 3:23)! Can you blush?
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
“They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14). God had to deal with false teachers in this time, trying to assure the people of “peace and safety” when no such thing was coming. Not in the immediate future, anyway! Jeremiah would face the false teacher, Hananiah, in Jeremiah 28, who claimed God would return the people from Babylon in “two full years” rather than the actual 70 years God had said (Jer. 25:11-12, 29:10; Dan. 9:2)! Again, here is a man trying to proclaim “Peace” and “Everything will be all right” (NET) when that wasn’t the case at all.
Why might men like Hananiah and others want to tell people such falsehoods as “peace peace”? Could it be they thought men might pay them more to hear the pleasant message? Maybe they thought they would be more popular with the people? We know a message of victory and winning is much more popular than a message saying that we will lose! Jeremiah had the unenviable task of telling Judah that the best thing for them to do is give up and accept the punishment and be patient for 70 years (Jer. 27:1-11)! Who wants to have that job?
Jeremiah had an unpopular job, but it was for the best. His message was from God (Jer. 28:9, 15-17); the others’ messages were not. In like manner, we face an uphill battle because “Peace, peace” is the more popular message! Just as in Jeremiah’s day, Paul warned of people who would “not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and shall turn away their ears from the truth and shall be turned unto fables” (II Tim. 4:3-4). Does this sound like the attitude we see among people today? Yes, it is alive well today, just as it was in days gone by!
We must make a choice. Will we listen to those who call and cry for “peace” when there is no peace? Yes, we ought to strive for peace with God and peace among others (Matt. 5:9). Yet, remember that Christ said His kingdom would bring a “sword” among the closest of family (Matt. 10:21-22, 34-39). There is no “peace” to be had between God and Satan. They are diametrically opposed, as are their teachings (II Cor. 6:14-17). Let us stop trying to be a friend of God and a friend of the world when this is impossible (Jas. 4:4). It is high time we spoke the message of the Lord, that will hurt some, but bring healing to all in the end, as Paul did on the ship (Acts 27:10). At Ephesus, Paul said he spent three years preaching “all the counsel of God” and warning people, “night and day with tears” (Acts 20:27, 31). I wonder why Paul was crying? I wonder if he made those listening cry sometimes? What if it was a little of both? Why would Paul preach a message that caused people to “cry,” that made people “tremble” (Acts 24:25), and that caused some to run him out of town (Acts 17:10-15)? Wouldn’t it have been easier just to tell people, “peace, peace”? We could ask Jeremiah the same question. Isn’t it easier to just say, “peace, peace”?
We know what is easier to say, but it does not mean it is a better message. The best message is the message that comes from the Lord (Jn. 17:17). The best message is the one that has not been diluted by men’s thoughts and feelings (Gal. 1:6-10). The best message is the message that tells us what to do to be saved and then encourages us to continue to be faithful to God (Acts 2:37-38; I Cor. 15:58; Matt. 7:13-14)!
“Peace, peace” is, in our vernacular, sugar-coating the truth! As a friend of mine says, if you want sugar-coating, eat a doughnut! If you want the truth, listen to the Lord’s words (I Pet. 4:11; Jn. 17:17), and be ready to repent and to obey (Jas. 1:22-25)! Jeremiah preached the truth, but people didn’t want to hear this and were destroyed. You and I have a chance to listen to God’s word and obey (Ecc. 12:13). What will you do? Now is the time to decide!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs