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
“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
Jeremiah 6:16 is a verse that holds a special place in my heart. Besides being the verse that serves as inspiration for the name of the bulletin I have been writing since 1994, it also stands as a final plea from God to His people and a pattern for all preaching that God wants done. This passage states succinctly: “Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk therein.’”
When we read Jeremiah 6:16, we read about four appeals that Jeremiah made. First, he appealed to the authority of God when he said, “Thus saith the Lord.” What Jeremiah said did not come from the mind of man. This is not what Jeremiah thought would be a good idea. This is what the Lord said to do! Remember, God had told Jeremiah in chapter one that He would put His words in Jeremiah’s mouth, and this is but one example of God doing it. Jeremiah’s appeal was to God’s authority.
Second, we see an appeal to investigation. Calling on these people to “stand … and see” means God wanted them to investigate and understand. The term “see” in this text is used in the way we use it when we ask people, “Do you see what I am saying?” The word “see” here does not mean what is accepted by the light reflected into your eyeballs! “See” in this verse means to perceive or understand. God’s word is written in such a way that it can be understood (Eph. 3:4, 5:17). Therefore, let us “Stand … and see” what God wants.
Next is an appeal to obedience. God, through Jeremiah, told the people to ask for the old paths, so they could “walk therein.” This means they were going to be obedient to the things they had heard and understood. It makes no sense to appeal to people to investigate and ask for the truth if they would not, in turn, obey the truth that they discovered! God has always wanted His people to obey. Thus, they needed to “walk” in the old paths that they had found!
Finally, there is an appeal to what is to come in Jeremiah 6:16. He said, “Ye shall find rest for your souls.” Isn’t this the ultimate goal of man? We want to find that rest and comfort. Specifically, we find true rest with God (Heb. 4:9-11). God’s intention is not to have men waste time with “busy work” while on earth! Instead, the things men do are to lead him to that blessed rest. At the same time, there will be no rest for him if he refuses, but an eternity being separated from the God of Heaven (Matt. 25:31-46)!
The people responded by saying they would not do it! How tragic! Sadly, it had been a steady digression for these people for years. The generation who entered Canaan declaring that they would serve and worship God was no more (Josh. 24:18, 20, 22, 24). In their place was a group of people who, after years of sin, wicked rulers, wicked prophets, and the like, had declared openly and clearly that they would not do what God wanted! Indeed, they did this and didn’t “blush” (Jer. 6:15)!
The application to us should be clear (Rom. 15:4). When we hear the preaching of the gospel today, it needs to make these same appeals! Let everyone claiming to preach the gospel of Christ (Rom. 1:16) preach according to the authority of Christ (Col. 3:17; I Pet. 4:11). Let those preaching appeal to men to investigate (“stand … and see”) and appeal to obedience to the Lord (Heb. 5:9). In such preaching, let preachers also appeal to what is to come! As a result of our choices, we will either spend eternity with God in Heaven or eternity away from God in Hell! The choice is ours to make right now, but we better choose wisely! God’s word has been given to us, and it reveals that truth quite clearly.
Finally, it will be up to us. Friend, are you going to tell God, or tell God “no” as those rebellious people did in Jeremiah’s day? Or, will you make the wise decision and follow the Lord? Ultimately, you must weigh the evidence and make your own decision, but remember, you will live (and die) with the consequences of your choices! Choose wisely! “Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.”
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
In Jeremiah chapter two, God declares that His people had committed “two evils” (v. 13). These evils were: “they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and have hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” In short, this verse tells us why the people were in the shape they were in, spiritually. This explains why they were facing an enemy like Babylon and why Jeremiah, and other prophets, had warned the people of their unrepentant sin and impending doom for years. At the same time, this verse gives us insight into why our country and society are in the shape it is in today! What can we learn from this short passage (Rom. 15:4)?
Judah’s problem was that they had forsaken the “fountain of living waters.” The phrase “living water” would be stated again in Jeremiah 17:13. This was repeated in the New Testament when Christ referred to the living water He could give to the Samaritan woman and whoever else wished to have it (Jn. 4:14). Revelation 22:17 tells us that “whosoever will, may take of the water of life freely.”
Notice that forsaking God meant forsaking the “living water.” The Jews had forsaken God through their words and deeds. Have we not done the same? Look around and note the immorality, the utter abandon for anything that reminds us of God. In America, Christians have not “resisted unto blood” yet; but at times, the majority will make Christians feel ashamed for mentioning God, the Bible, truth, morality, godly standards, etc., in public. Our children learn early that it is hard to stand alone in school. I can remember numerous times where I stood alone in the face of friends, teachers, and others and had to say I would do what the Lord said even if others did not like it. Friends, have you had to make such stands? I am sure many of our dear readers have. When we stand like Jeremiah, Amos, and numerous others did in history, people might tell you to keep your religion to yourself or tell you to keep your beliefs “private.” This is because the majority has rejected the “fountain of living waters”! We have laws in our land that allow murder, fornication, drinking, gambling, and many other things. Our country has legalized many things God calls sin. Then, the majority of the people engage in these things because they are legal! Is there any wonder why I am finding a small number of people who are now ready to listen to God and do His will? They have tried what Satan and the world have to offer, and they are dehydrated! They need the true water and will find it nowhere else but with Christ (Jn. 4).
The last part of Jeremiah 2:13 notes what happens when people reject God. You see, if man rejects God (Jehovah) in his life, then he does not simply forget God. He must then put another “god” in Jehovah’s place! Please notice in this passage that it wasn’t enough that men rejected God, the “fountain of living water.” What happened next? They still needed water, so they went and dug their own cisterns (v. 13)! The problem was that the cisterns they dug could not hold water! Physically, we would think a person foolish who has access to a clear stream, where he might use free water, who then digs a cistern to carry water to his house. Yet, we do this spiritually when we reject God but then invent our own “gods!”
This is what Paul (by inspiration) said that the Gentiles did at one point. He showed that these people were so wicked that they “did not like to retain God in their knowledge” (Rom. 1:28). What they had done was “changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image make like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts and creeping things” (Rom. 1:23). Notice that these people didn’t reject God and then stop worshipping anything. Instead, they rejected God and found another god (in the case of the Gentiles, they created many)!
We have committed these same two evils today! We have rejected God and then made our own gods to worship! While some may think I overstate a case, I don’t believe I have. When God is taken off of His throne, men will put something or someone in that place. It might be a job, some physical pursuit, or hobby. It may be self, family, etc., but something will go in that spot! Sadly, we have elected officials who have been only too willing through the years to legalize sins so that they could be reelected! Rest assured, whatever we select in place of God will be a poor substitute -- just as poor as rejecting cool, clean water for drinking water we get from a leaky cistern! Rest assured, we will also suffer as those people suffered for rejecting God! “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Num. 32:23). That was true in Old Testament days, and it is true today! If we wish to avoid the consequences of our sinful behavior, then let us repent of our sins now (II Pet. 3:9; Acts 17:30)! Let us turn back to God while we still can! We didn’t get this way in a day, and it will take more than a day to make all the corrections necessary. However, if we don’t start today, when will we start (Heb. 3:7-8; II Cor. 6:2)? If we do not act now, when will we act? What is it going to take for us to listen to God? Let’s begin today to aright the ship of this nation and not continue in the same error as Judah!
- 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