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"Is There No Balm In Gilead?"

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

            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

"Neither Could They Blush"

Saturday, November 06, 2021

            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

"Peace. Peace"

Friday, November 05, 2021

            “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

“What Will You Give In Exchange?”

Friday, December 18, 2020

            Our Lord Jesus asked His apostles, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mk. 8:36-37). These questions of Christ get my attention. In an age when we are told that possessing material goods is the purpose of life, we need to go back and listen to the Lord’s words here.

            Please understand that one’s soul is his greatest possession. The eternal soul of man is of such value that Jesus died so that men’s souls might be saved (Matt. 26:28; Heb. 5:8-9). The eternal soul of man is just that -- eternal. It will last after this world is on fire (II Pet. 3:10)! It is the immortal soul that continues. “Then shall the dust (our bodies) return to the earth as it was,” but the spirit of man will return to God’s care  (Ecc. 12:7). Do we appreciate the true value of the soul?

            I am not sure we always appreciate the value of the soul. As I observe men, I see them exchange their eternal souls for doctrinal error (Gal. 1:6-9, 3:1; Rom. 16:17; II Pet. 2:1-3). I see others exchanging their souls for drinking and drugs (I Pet. 4:3-4; Prov. 20:1; Gal. 5:19-21). Still, others will exchange their souls for ungodly acts like stealing, fornication, homosexuality, and lying (I Cor. 6:9-10; Rev. 21:8; Eph. 4:25-32). In other words, folks are saying that practicing these things are more important and are of a higher value than their souls’ salvation. Please reread Mark 8:36. What is actually gained when folks spend their lives in such sins?

            We are very short-sighted, aren’t we? We think satisfying the flesh will result in a satisfied soul. Nothing could be farther from the truth! The fact is that if someone were able to acquire all of the gold in the world, the silver, the diamonds, the precious gems, the money, etc., none of this would equal the value of his soul.

Some, though, don’t even need this much to exchange their souls! Some will jeopardize their souls and even deny plain Scriptures to avoid contradicting family members or some respected person (Jn. 1:11; Mk. 7:6, 8-9, 13). Some do it by yielding to others’ ungodly pressure rather than listening to God (Lk. 8:13; Jn. 12:42-43). Yet, others exchange their souls by going back into the world after learning the truth (Lk. 8:14; II Tim. 4:10)! (Notice that I added Scripture references to show that the problems that plague us are the same problems that plagued people in the first century!)

            Is it any wonder the words of Christ, not only in Mark 8 but throughout Scripture, are applicable today? Our needs and concerns are the same now as they were then. Our need to stand firm and hold tightly to our soul’s salvation is just as needed now as it ever was (I Thess. 5:21; II Tim. 1:13; Heb. 10:23)!

            Friend, what will you give in exchange for your soul? Could it be you have already done this? Some folks are exchanging their souls for personal pursuits, personal sins, and pleasing self, and they are being short-changed! Don’t allow this to happen to you!

            We can avoid this happening to us when we deny ourselves and follow the Lord (Mk. 8:34)! We can prevent this by determining to live by faith (Jn. 8:24; Heb. 11:6) and being baptized for the remission of sins (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38). Then, we need to live a faithful life to the Lord (I Cor. 15:58). Let us present our bodies as “a living sacrifice” to God (Rom. 12:1-2). We can make sure that our souls are not exchanged for the wrong things, but these kinds of actions and decisions must be made today! Now (II Cor. 6:2)! Some wait until it is too late. Don’t be like them!

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

“The Traditions Of Men Vs. The Word Of God.”

Thursday, December 17, 2020

            The Pharisees were constantly at odds with Jesus and His disciples. No occasion makes it more defined than Mark 7:1-16. There, the Pharisees confronted Jesus and His disciples for not keeping “the tradition of the elders” (v. 3, 5). Mark explains that these people held their traditions in high regard. One such tradition had to do with the washing of their hands. They had been taught that unless one washes his hands to his elbows before eating, then the food he eats is considered unclean by God. By extension, eating this unclean food made the person unclean as well. Similarly, there was a demand for washing the pots, cups, and other vessels holding the food. Jesus would later say that He was more concerned about what came out of the mouth rather than what was put into the mouth (Mk. 7:15; Matt. 15:17-20).

            Jesus then pointed out that they had another tradition that if someone gave a gift to the Temple, this exempted him from providing needed money and care to his parents (“Corban” - Mk. 7:11-13). This person could say essentially, “I gave at the Temple” rather than giving needed funds to his parents. Jesus said this and several other traditions had “made God’s word of none effect” (Mk. 7:13). God never intended for His commands to be placed at odds against each other. The Law of Moses granted people the ability to give a gift to the Temple and care for their parents. The Pharisees, in contrast, encouraged them to do one thing and exclude the other.

            What does “tradition” mean? A tradition is simply something we’ve done for a long time. We can certainly think of many things we do as individuals, as a community, as a church, and as a nation that fit in the category of “traditional.” Traditions are not equal with inspired Scripture, though (II Tim. 3:16-17)! After reading Mark 7, we might all agree that it is a good idea to wash one’s hands and eat off of clean plates. Yet, Jesus showed how the people’s traditions had become sinful because they “set aside” God’s commands and made God’s word “of none effect” (Mk. 7:8, 13). Traditions in and of themselves aren’t necessarily sinful. It is when we place our traditions above God’s revealed will that we have a problem!

This is why I titled this essay “The Traditions Of Men Vs. The Word Of God.” If we are not careful, we will end up treating a tradition as truth or as an unbreakable command when, in reality, it is not in that category at all! Let me hasten to add this is not an article condemning everything “traditional.” Paul even wrote to the Thessalonians and reminded them that some traditions come from God (II Thess. 2:15). Indeed, there are many things Christians (and non-Christians) do that, while traditional, aren’t sinful. Mark 7 (and Matthew 15) reveal, though, that men placing traditions above God’s commands is a real possibility. After years of practicing these, the Pharisees preferred their traditions to God’s word. In so doing, Jesus said they were sinning.

            How can I know whether or not a tradition I am practicing will place me at odds with God’s word? A simple test is: Ask whether or not my tradition came from God (II Thess. 2:15, 3:6; I Pet. 4:11)? Am I doing something simply because “Dad and Mom” liked it, or a preacher said to do it, or because we as a nation have “always done it”? Am I doing something because I have found it authorized in the Bible (II Tim. 3:16-17; Col. 3:17)? Traditions can lead me into sin if I give them as much respect as I do the word of God.

When we look at traditions from this perspective, I hope we see that there are many things we do that can be called “traditional.” Are any of these traditions obstacles to our spiritual growth? If so, then those need to end! Practicing man’s traditions is not worth losing our souls (Matt. 16:26)!

God’s word must come first in my life (Matt. 6:33)! After that, everything else must fall into place. When we get this in the wrong order, we will have problems, but when we do it right, we will be blessed! The Pharisees’ problem was they placed their traditions above God’s will and were condemned for it. It got so bad they refused to recognize Jesus as Christ because He didn’t fit what they wanted. Let us learn the lesson and put Christ and the gospel first and lay our traditions aside when they conflict with what Christ has said! Let us get this right because our traditions will die one day, but the word of God will never pass away (Matt. 24:35; I Pet. 1:25; Ps. 119:89; etc.)!

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

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