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
Mark 3:1-6 records a time when Jesus was in the synagogue and healed a man with a withered hand. This event happened on the sabbath day when God had said no work was to be done (Ex. 20:10-11, 31:15, 3l; Lev. 23:3; Deut. 5:14). Thus, the Pharisees and scribes (Lk. 6:7) watched Jesus on this day, scrutinizing His every move. Other versions besides the KJV say “they watched him closely” in this text (NKJ, NET, etc.).
Why were the scribes and Pharisees watching Jesus (closely)? Did they want to make sure and witness a miracle? No! Were they enamored with the Lord and His power? No! The reason they watched Him so closely was to determine whether or not He would “heal” the man (i.e., work) on the Sabbath (Mk. 3:2). If they could catch Him in such an error, they could accuse Him of a capital offense (Ex. 35:2; Num. 15:32-36; Jer. 17:21-26)!
As I read this text (and parallel accounts in Matthew and Luke), what stands out to me is that these people weren’t watching Jesus so they could show how He was a fake! They didn’t watch to show folks where the “wires” were or how He did tricks with “smoke and mirrors.” Jesus wasn’t a fraud as Simon was (Acts 8:9-11)! These people knew Jesus was the real thing when it came to miracles. They just didn’t accept what that meant for them, and so they looked for ways to accuse Him of sin!
When Jesus merely said, “Stretch out thine hand,” and the man was healed (Mk. 3:5), what “work” did He do? Is speaking now to be classified as a “work” to those people? Jesus had outwitted them, and they were “filled with madness” at what He’d done (Lk. 6:11).
As my old friend used to say, these people accepted the evidence (Christ’s miracles are real), but they rejected the conclusion (Jesus is the Christ)! Their dishonesty would lead them down a road of sorrow, unbelief, and ultimately an eternity in Hell if they didn’t repent (Jn. 8:32)!
There are people like this today, sadly. For example, think about those who say Jesus is a “good guy” or a “good prophet.” Some might say He was a good philosopher, but they deny He’s the Son of God. Here are people today who accept the evidence but reject the conclusion. They won’t accept Jesus as the Son of God! For this choice, they jeopardize their souls!
Another lesson we learn from this text is that the Pharisees and scribes, though supposed to be living in a close relationship with God, didn’t express that which God embodies -- love (I Jn. 4:8)! Love doesn’t think ill of another. Love doesn’t envy, and love thinks the best of others (I Cor. 13:4-8). We see none of those attributes in the Pharisees in this text. They were looking for a way to accuse Jesus. They were watching in the hope of finding fault. That’s not love!
Mark 3:5 declares Jesus looked upon the Pharisees and scribes “with anger.” He was angry at the people and that their hardened hearts would stand by in condemnation as He healed a man who needed it. It was lawful “to do well” on the sabbath (Matt. 12:11-12; Lk/ 6:9). Yes, menial work was prohibited and jobs wherein people might’ve been engaged all week long were to be stopped on this day, but showing compassion and mercy to another wasn’t prohibited any day of the week! Their lousy attitude had so clouded the truth that they thought being compassionate was somehow sinful. Read Galatians 5:22-23 and learn there’s no law that is somehow against one practicing the “fruit of the Spirit.”
Jesus had a lot of work to do, but He was up to the challenge! Read the book of Mark and see what facts come to life for you! There is much to learn, and perhaps it is I that’ll get an “attitude adjustment” by reading about the works and listening to the words of Christ!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
The book of Mark is the shortest book of those comprising the “gospel records.” It shouldn’t surprise us, then, that Mark doesn’t wait long before showing us the opposition Jesus faced in His preaching. In Mark 2, we see scribes and Pharisees opposing Him and His work. Among their common complaints was that Jesus associated with sinners. Mark 2:15-17 says, “And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his (Matthew’s, JMJ) house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
Seeing as Jesus just invited a publican (Matthew) to follow Him (Mk. 2:14), it shouldn’t be a surprise that when Jesus went to Matthew’s house, publican friends would be invited to listen to Jesus! Jesus treated this man just as He had earlier treated four fishermen (Mk. 1:16-20). He simply requested that they “follow Him.” This would change their lives far beyond anything we could describe on this page.
The point being that Jesus looked at five sinners (Rom. 3:23) and saw not what they were, but what they could become! He saw people who’d do much good for the Lord’s cause and kingdom, but they had to be taught! Jesus was willing to teach. In fact, Jesus was willing to teach all that would listen to Him. This is why we see multitudes coming to Him and listening (Mk. 1:28, 33, 37, 45, 2:1-2, 13, etc.).
In contrast, the scribes and Pharisees had no time, no compassion, and gave no thought to the lives and concerns of the sinners around them. I’m reminded of Christ’s parable in Luke 18:11-12. Therefore, when they saw Jesus spending time with publicans, sinners, and the like, this was scandalous to them! If He claims to be God’s prophet, and people claim He is the Messiah, surely even He would know the kind of people He is around! (For more study, please read Luke 7:36-50 and see the attitude of Simon toward Christ.)
In Mark’s short book, we see Christ’s attitude toward sinners as one of respect, one of compassion, and one of love. He never berated them for their bad decisions or sins. He never acted as if they were beneath Him (though they were -- all of us are!). He did, however, tell the truth and told it unapologetically. He told the truth in a manner that they (and all) could understand. Please read Mark 2:15-17 and see that when Jesus was criticized for even associating with publicans, sinners, and others, His answer was not a defense of their sin. He didn’t say, “At least they’re not hypocrites!” as some might’ve been tempted to say. His answer was straight-forward: “they need Me!”.
Notice Jesus called them sick. He called them sinners and said they needed to repent (Mk. 2:17)! Can you imagine such language coming from the lips of the Lord? Yet, there it is. What impresses me is that these people seemed to follow Him in greater numbers the longer He was on earth. What had Jesus done? As we observe Jesus in Mark 2 and the rest of the book, we see Someone who showed compassion (Mk. 1:41, 5:19, 6:34, 8:2). He saw people who needed direction (Mk. 6:34) and saw sinners who needed salvation. The people responded to this genuine action and listened intently. What Jesus said in Mark 2:17 was not “new news” to them. They knew they were in sin, and now they knew that they had come to the right Person who could bring them salvation!
What can I learn from this short reading? I can learn first to not be like the scribes and Pharisees. No one is “beneath” you. All of us have sinned (Rom. 3:23). If you’ve been saved from your sins, then thank God for the salvation (Lk. 19:10; Mk. 16:16)! When you see people who aren’t saved, realize that you were in their shoes not that long ago. Someone loved you enough to tell you the truth. Now, love them enough to do the same (II Tim. 2:2; Eph. 4:15)!
The second lesson I learn in Mark 2:15-17 is to be like Jesus in my speech! Folks who are in sin need to know it! Friend, “no greater injustice can be done to a person than to leave them with the impression they are saved, when in fact, they aren’t!” Jesus called the people sick, sinners, and in need of salvation. This is precisely what they needed to hear. If they hadn’t been told this, they might’ve left the presence of Jesus thinking that they were just fine. Dear one, when you talk to someone about their soul, remember that this part needs to be said. You can talk about the weather, crops, children, the government, and 1000 other things, but if you miss the chance to talk to someone about his soul, you’ve missed it! There’s nothing more important than the condition of one’s soul (Matt. 16:26)! Pleasant smiles, hugs, and being neighborly will mean little when on Judgment, they look at you and say in so many words, “You met me day by day and knew I was astray, yet you never mentioned Him to me!” I would much rather thousands of people on Judgment Day cry that I told them about Jesus and warned them about sin but hurt their feelings than to have one person say, “You never mentioned Him to me!” What about you?
A third thing I learn from Jesus was even when He spoke of people being sick and sinners, He didn’t seem happy about it! May we never take a condescending view of others in sin (Matt. 7:12, 22:39; Gal. 6:1; Jas. 5:19-20; etc.). As we noted earlier, it wasn’t that long ago that we were in their position as well.
Lastly, I have to note that the message of Christ was a message for all. While it would’ve been easy for the Pharisees, scribes, and others to listen to Mark 2:17 and then think, “OK, this is why Jesus is with them.” If we listen closely to the response, it was actually a rebuke to those people as well. Think about it! Jesus said He came to call the sinners to repentance. Amen. Was He not also preaching to the Pharisees, scribes, and others when He was preaching those three years? Was there ever a time from Matthew-John where Jesus stopped His preaching to say, “Scribes and Pharisees, what I’m about to say doesn’t apply to you”? Jesus’ attitude was that those self-righteous people were as guilty of sin as the rest (Mk. 7:6-9)! They needed the same message because they needed the same Savior! Jesus suffered as a sacrifice for all men, not just for the ones on the “wrong side of the tracks”! They would’ve understood Jesus’ message here if they’d cared to listen, instead of wasting time pointing their fingers at others!
Much more could be said, but take what we’ve learned here and think seriously about our attitude. What kind of attitude are we displaying? Who’ve we told about Jesus this week? What efforts do we make to bring others to the Lord, beginning with those under our own roof (Eph. 6:4; Titus 2:3-5)? Think seriously about this, my friend, because the souls of those we love as well as our own souls hang in the balance (Ezek. 33:7-9)!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
In Ecclesiastes two, Solomon names all of the things he had done as he searched for meaning to his life. He named the things he had built, the things he had done, etc., and concluded that all of this is a waste because “one event” happens to everyone, whether fool or wise (Ecc. 2:14). He would talk about this again in Ecclesiastes 9:2-3.
This “one event” is the great equalizer. It visits man and woman, rich and poor. In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon observed how it visited the wise and fool equally. This “one event” is no respecter of persons! What is the event all will experience? It is death (Ecc. 2:16).
Death is something that all men know will come (Ecc. 9:5a). It is also something men want to avoid or ignore until they can’t. Death is the antithesis of life. God contrasted it in this manner in Deuteronomy 30:15 and 19.
Why this “one event” then? Why do men walk the road of life into death? Simply put, it is because of sin. Sin brings death, physically and spiritually (Gen. 2:17. 3:19; Rom. 5:12, 6:2; Jas. 1:15). Physical death is something that is “appointed” to us (Heb. 9:27). Strong’s says that “appointed” in this verse means that death is “reserved” or “laid up” for us. Yes, “one event” happens to us all - unless the Lord returns first (I Cor. 15:51-52; I Thess. 4:15-17)!
We know everything in this life is temporary. “Moth and rust doth corrupt and … thieves break through and steal.” Thus our life is the same. We are born and are here for a limited time. “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away” (Ps. 90:10).
Viewing life through this lens seems like things are hopeless. Not so. It is not simply “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.” Let us enjoy life and let us spend our life being faithful to God (Ecc. 12:13). This is because this life is but a step into the next. The “one event” ushers us into an eternity of bliss or an eternity of horror.
What will your death mean for you? What will it mean to those you leave behind? The way this “one event” becomes meaningful is if you prepare now. Believe that Jesus is the Son of God (Jn. 8:24), repent of your sin (Lk. 13:3), confess Christ before men (Rom. 10:10), and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). If you prepare for your eternity now, then your death can be one such as is described in Revelation 14:13. If not, then you will die in your sins and leave you family in sorrow.
Friend, don’t let your children follow your casket to your grave with them knowing you were not prepared for death! Now is the time to prepare. “One event” happens to us all, and it is not a surprise (Ecc. 9:5)! Are you ready? If not, why not? Get ready now while you still have time (II Cor. 6:2; Heb. 3:7-8; Prov. 27:1)!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
In the context of II John 11, we learn that whoever teaches false doctrine does not have fellowship with God (II Jn. 9). At the same time, it is not right for those who hear the false doctrine to accept the person and act as if nothing is wrong (II John 10). If someone bids “Godspeed” (KJV) or “Greets” (ASV, Darby, ESV, NET, RV, etc.) the false teacher, this person is just as guilty in the eyes of God. Other Bible versions use the terms, “participates,” or “sharing” for “partaker” in II John 11. I think this helps us understand what John was teaching. Not only is it wrong to teach false doctrine, but it is also wrong for those hearing false doctrine to stand by and allow it to be taught without opposition (II Jn. 10-11)!
The apostle Paul showed us the right response when he said that when Judaizers came in to “spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus,” they gave place “no, not for an hour” (Gal. 2:4-5)! Later, Paul would withstand Peter “to the face, because he was to be blamed” for the hypocrisy he perpetuated (Gal. 2:11). Paul would also write (by inspiration) a warning similar to John’s to the Romans. After listing the sins the Gentiles had committed through the years, he ends chapter one by saying, “Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them” (Rom. 1:32). In other words, not only did the people committing the sins deserve death (Jas. 1:15), but those who approve of what is done (applaud, ISV; consent, ASV; delight, Darby) deserve the same punishment! This sounds like John’s warning in II John 11.
The stand taken by Paul and John while they lived, and encouraged in their epistles (Rom. 1:32; II Jn. 9-11), serves at least two purposes. One purpose is obvious, and that is to save those who are affected by false doctrine, including myself! Remember, to bid “Godspeed” means I am also partaking (II Jn. 11)! If I do not take a stand, or if I bid “Godspeed” to a deceiver, then many more will be deceived. The second purpose is closely linked to the first. This is that by standing, we are also trying to win the soul of the false teacher. When we stand opposed to someone because of his false teaching, we need to make sure and check our attitude. Is our response motivated by hatred of the person or the doctrine? There is a difference! If I am trying to win an argument, I very well may lose the soul. If I am trying to win someone’s soul, I will win the argument by default. What John shows me is that I not allow what some call “love” to silence my tongue! I must speak! I must warn!
Sadly, we live in a time when men are afraid of confrontation. We have a society that recoils at the thought of standing for the truth, but ironically is quick to criticize and belittle anyone who does! We are told that retreat is courageous. This is wrong. Christians in our time who claim to wear the armor of Christ (Eph. 6:11-19), tend to forget about the sword. Yet, the sword is a part of our armor! The sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:18) is not a defensive but an offensive weapon. With it, we take the fight to the enemy (II Cor. 10:3-5; I Tim. 6:12)! The sword is not for cleaning your fingernails, or picking your teeth! With the sword of the Spirit, we stand against “the wiles of the devil” and do not give submission, “no, not for an hour”!
When we read II John, we learn that we do not give “Godspeed” (greet, participate, or share) with false teachers as if to “go along and get along.” Remember, souls are at stake, and they are too precious to leave to the “wolves” (Matt. 7:15; Acts 20:29-31)! At the same time, standing against the wolves who teach false doctrines may open their eyes to the truth. This is our goal -- to bring lost souls to the Father (Jas. 5:19-20). When we do not partake or share with false teachers, we will cause them to stop and consider what they are doing. No, not everyone repents at this, but folks need to know where we stand. Let them be warned in love and truth (Eph. 4:15, 5:11). Let us stand with a pure conscious, knowing that false teachers will face God in judgment, having at least been warned. Who knows, but you are in the kingdom “for such a time as this,” and your warning might save a soul from death? One thing is certain: silence in the face of false teaching and pretending nothing is wrong will do nothing to remedy the situation, nor will it save a soul. It only makes things worse!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs