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
I imagine there are few words of advice more needed today than the words of Christ in Mark 4:24. In a world that’s filled with “fake news,” it’s hard to know the truth. Pilate once asked sarcastically, “What is truth?” (Jn. 18:38), but I believe there are folks asking this question sincerely. Do you have an answer for them?
We’re a generation bombarded with information, yet we have so little knowledge! It’s tragic. In a sense, though, people in every generation have endured this problem. Had that not been so, Jesus wouldn’t have said what He did in Mark 4:24.
We face the problem of being bombarded with information but little knowledge because the father of lies (Jn. 8:44) roams this earth looking for victims (I Pet. 5:8). He wants us to listen to lies, idle tales, or any other thing so long as we don’t listen to the word of the Lord! He tries hard to steal the word when he can (Mk. 4:4, 15). If it takes root, though, then he tries to get us to give up as we face persecutions and hardships from those who do not wish for us to serve God (Mk. 4:5-6, 16-17). If this tactic fails, he uses the “cares of this world,” “the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things” to stop our spiritual growth (Mk. 4:7, 18-19).
God’s word, the “seed” (Mk. 4:3, 14), does its best work in the “good ground” (Mk. 4:8, 20). Here in this fertile soil, the “seed” can take root, grow, and produce more fruit. How do we get to this point? We get here by taking “heed” (taking care, NAS, NET) to what we hear!
To what are you listening? What fills your ears? What fills your eyes (remember, our reading affects us, too)? Do you demand that sound words be preached and taught to you (II Tim. 4:2), or do you not care (II Tim. 4:3-4)? As you read, or as someone teaches you, are you listening carefully? Do you compare what you learn to the Scriptures (Acts 17:11)? “Take heed what ye hear” when it comes to the word of God!
Do we read God’s word through a filter? This is my way of asking do we read God’s word to prove our belief? Do we read God’s with the idea already in mind, and we simply go to God’s word to prove it? Are you upset if the preacher doesn’t say or teach something in the manner you want to hear it? Friend, “take heed what ye hear”!
Furthermore, take heed because “many false prophets are gone out into the world” (I Jn. 4:1; II Pet. 2:1-3)! They bring “damnable heresies” and “bring upon themselves swift destruction.” This is nothing we want to fellowship (II Jn. 9-11)! Therefore, we need to “take heed.” Just because a person is nice or has a friendly face doesn’t mean that he is telling the truth when he speaks. Often, false teachers appear as “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (Matt. 7:15; Acts 20:29-31). Thus all the more reason to “take heed” or pay attention!
Following the Lord isn’t for the lazy (II Tim. 2:15). It’s not for the unobservant person, either! Not being observant will get you in trouble. Let’s listen to the words of the Lord more, and men less! I saw a meme recently that said words to the effect that the longer we spend time in God’s word, the more we’ll see how Satan has lied to us. Amen to that! Let’s listen! Let’s take heed to the truth and see the blessings that flow from God’s throne!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
Please read Esther 2:11, 19, and 10:1-3. In these passages, we read of Mordecai’s love and oversight for those who were in his charge, first for his cousin, Esther, and later when he had oversight of his nation.
While Esther prepared to meet the king, Mordecai stayed as close as possible so he could see to her welfare and do what he could to help her. Years later, when awarded a place of power, we see him still looking out for the best interests, not of one person, but an entire nation. The Jews were not going to suffer at the hands of a tyrant again if he could help it!
Observing Mordecai’s growth in Esther two and ten reminds me of what Jesus taught in the parable of the talents. To the five and two talent men, the master told them, “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things” (Matt. 25:21, 23). It was because these men proved themselves wise with less that they were eventually given more responsibility. We can see a similar truth with Mordecai. He started with caring for one person, but he ultimately rose to a position of seeking the well-being of his nation.
It is the same in the church. For example, men desiring to be elders must first show they can rule their own houses well, and raise faithful children before they can have the responsibility of overseeing a congregation (I Tim. 3:4-5; Titus 1:6). Though not identical, deacons have similar expectations (I Tim. 3:12).
We must start “small” and grow in the Lord. Are you growing (I Pet. 2:2; Heb. 5:12-14)? What goals do you have for spiritual growth in 2020?