Gracefully Truthful


Discover the original intent of Scripture. Make good application to our everyday lives.
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Read His Words Before Ours!

Jeremiah 8:18-22

My joy has flown away; grief has settled on me. My heart is sick. 19 Listen—the cry of my dear people from a faraway land, “Is the Lord no longer in Zion, her King not within her?” Why have they angered me with their carved images, with their worthless foreign idols? 20 Harvest has passed, summer has ended, but we have not been saved. 21 I am broken by the brokenness of my dear people. I mourn; horror has taken hold of me. 22 Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? So why has the healing of my dear people not come about?

The Original Intent

1) Why does Jeremiah ask if the Lord is no longer in Zion? (verse 19)

For centuries, God warned the people of Judah of the dire consequences of disobedience. (Deuteronomy 28:49) Judah disregarded the prophets God sent to correct them until finally God allowed Judah to be taken captive. (2 Kings 24:14)

When the prophet Jeremiah lamented the oppression of his people in Jeremiah 8:19 he cried, “Listen—the cry of my dear people from a faraway land, ‘Is the Lord no longer in Zion, her King not within her?’” Matthew Henry explains, The common cant was, ‘Is not the Lord in Zion? What danger then need we fear? […] Surely we shall do well enough, for have we not God among us?’ But, when it grew to an extremity, it was an aggravation of their misery that they had thus flattered themselves.”

Jeremiah grieved because his people wondered why God did not deliver them from oppression if He was still their Lord and King. God countered Jeremiah’s question with, “Why have they angered me with their carved images, with their worthless foreign idols?” (verse 19). Jeremiah lamented that his people had forsaken God to worship worthless idols. As David Guzik notes, “The problem was not that God had abandoned the land of Israel; the problem was Israel had abandoned God.”

The Lord mercifully gave Judah many opportunities to return to Him before allowing His people to face consequences for their disobedience. (2 Kings 17:13) But just as God demanded justice, He also promised hope. In Deuteronomy 30:2-4, God assured Judah that once they returned to the Lord with obedience and repentance, He would gather them and restore them. What a blessing that we can rely on the goodness and mercy of God to carry us through trials, even the ones we bring upon ourselves.

The Everyday Application

1) Why does Jeremiah ask if the Lord is no longer in Zion? (verse 19)

Sometimes I take the grace of God for granted, doing my own thing my own way, telling myself that God will forgive me (yet again) because that’s His nature.

I feel conviction to stop disobeying, and sometimes I make feeble attempts to change, but invariably I end up making the same mistakes, presuming upon God’s grace to put up with my disobedience.

Steven Lawson asserts, “Many who profess Christ today emphasize a wrong view of grace that makes it a free pass to do whatever they please. Tragically, they have convinced themselves that the Christian life can be lived without any binding obligation to the moral law of God.”

The people of Judah did much the same thing, ignoring God’s repeated warnings to stop sinning and start obeying. (Isaiah 1:17-19) When they faced God’s wrath for their disobedience, the prophet Jeremiah heard the people crying out, “Is the Lord no longer in Zion, her King not within her?”. (verse 19) The people knew God was on their side, so they took advantage of His love and favor, expecting Him to always take them back.

God did bring restoration (Ezra 9:9), but not until they faced the consequences of their actions.

In my life there was a time when I persisted in sin and disobedience, seeking forgiveness but making little effort to produce real change. Eventually, disappointed and distraught, I implored God’s mercy and forgiveness, realizing that God desired true repentance from me, not just remorse or shame. (Psalm 51:16-17) I asked Him for grace to forgive me and surrendered to the Holy Spirit to be empowered to obey Him. (Romans 1:5) I purposed to change my situation and habits out of love for my God and hatred toward my sin (Jude 23), allowing Him to guide me going forward.

How much better to rely on God‘s strength from the beginning than to presume on His goodness! (Ephesians 6:10)

The Original Intent

2) Why does Jeremiah say that he is broken, he mourns, and horror has taken hold of him? (verse 21)

This was unwelcome news. In verse 21, Jeremiah accepted that God’s impending judgment was coming and he cried out, “I am broken by the brokenness of my dear people. I mourn; horror has taken hold of me.”

W.A. Criswell explains, “This is a lament, a sad and sorrowful cry of the prophet Jeremiah as he saw the proffered grace of our Lord refused by the nation, and as he looked upon the armies of the bitter and hasty Chaldeans as they destroyed Judea, destroyed the city of Jerusalem, destroyed the holy temple. (2 Chronicles 36:19) Jeremiah faithfully served God from childhood by urging His people to return to the Lord, warning them of the dire consequences of rejecting God, and it broke his heart to watch his people choose their own destruction.

Alyssa Roat tells us Jeremiah was known as the “weeping prophet” and he “lived at a truly terrible time in history. Not only did he experience the horrors of war, starvation, siege, and captivity, he was called upon to tell the people of it, urging them to repent. Worst of all, they didn’t listen.” The Dutch artist, Rembrandt, made a famous painting titled Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem, depicting Jeremiah’s great sorrow over his people’s sin and destruction. The book of Lamentations is filled with Jeremiah’s poetry describing his sorrow over Judah’s desolation.

Because Jeremiah loved the Lord intensely, the brokenness of God’s people grieved him. It was for broken people like these that Jesus suffered and died. (Isaiah 61:1) May we be like Jeremiah and carry God’s love to others, inviting them to find healing in Him.

The Everyday Application

2) Why does Jeremiah say that he is broken, he mourns, and horror has taken hold of him? (verse 21)

It is difficult to watch our kids make mistakes and suffer the consequences. It might be why there are so many helicopter parents who hover over their kids trying to keep them safe from everything, or maybe worse, lawnmower parents, who clear their kids’ paths of any difficulties. Although it is beneficial for children to learn from failures and navigate difficulties, it hurts our hearts to watch them suffer.

The prophet Jeremiah was not a parent, but he grieved over his people like a parent because he had God’s father heart for the people of Judah. (Jeremiah 20:9) He was no helicopter or lawnmower prophet, though. He warned God’s people of the disaster awaiting them if they continued sinning. When Jeremiah saw the desolation God’s people brought on themselves because of their sin, he mourned, ““I am broken by the brokenness of my dear people. I mourn; horror has taken hold of me.” (verse 21)

Jeremiah hated to see his people suffering the consequences they could have avoided by heeding God’s words, but he understood that Judah’s exile was essential for repentance from sin and returning to God. God’s chastisement was necessary, but it would also be useful in turning the people’s hearts back to Father God. (Jeremiah 29:10) Jennifer Rothschild notes, “We often don’t understand why God allows exile. But this you can be sure of […] even in exile, God is giving you a hope and a future. He has plans for your welfare, even when it doesn’t feel well or fair. His plan isn’t for your calamity. God’s plans are to bless and prosper you, not to harm you.”

It is a comfort to know that even God’s correction is a blessing that makes us stronger.

The Original Intent

3) What does Jeremiah mean when he asks, “Is there no balm in Gilead?” (verse 22)

When Jeremiah lamented the oppression of his people by the Chaldeans (also called Babylonians) he queried, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? So why has the healing of my dear people not come about?”. (Jeremiah 8:22) Philip Ryken writes, “Gilead was the land just east of the Jordan River. It was known for its healing balsams. […] Scholars have been unable to determine how the balm of Gilead was made, but it seems to have been a soothing, aromatic resin made from a tree or a plant. It might be compared to aloe vera.”

Since Gilead was well-known for its healing balm, obviously this was not an actual inquiry. Jeremiah’s rhetorical question emphasized that God had forewarned His people and allowed Judah’s oppression because of their sin and disobedience.

Charles Ellicott suggests “The question of the prophet is therefore a parable. ‘Are there no means of healing, no healer to apply them, for the spiritual wounds of Israel?’ The prophets were her physicians, repentance and righteousness were her balm of Gilead.”

Because God’s people chose not to avail themselves of the remedy God provided through the warnings of the prophets, despite the many opportunities God offered, they experienced oppression, subjugation and exile. The people had multiple invitations to avoid catastrophe, just as Gilead was replete with healing salve.

Judah had the promises of God to protect and guide them if they obeyed Him (Joel 2:18-21), yet they turned towards worshipping other gods and idols instead.

My prayer is to recognize how the Lord provides the “balm of Gilead” in my times of trouble and readily accept His grace and forgiveness whenever I falter.

The Everyday Application

3) What does Jeremiah mean when he asks, “Is there no balm in Gilead?” (verse 22)

When Jeremiah queried Judah in verse 22, he was stating the obvious to the blinded people of Judah, who were sick in their rebellion. Right in their midst, Judah had access to the remedy for their spiritual sickness at their fingertips yet refused healing. They had God’s leadership and protection, and they abandoned Him for wicked pursuits and sinful living. (Jeremiah 2:13)

Chidi Okoroafor notes,Jeremiah’s question is, “How can a people who traded in balm be so sick?” “How can the people of God, with the Law in their midst, be so sinful?!” What was the solution for the nation of Israel? It was simply using the balm that they already had.”

Had they obeyed God’s laws and remembered His goodness to them, Judah would have avoided decades of oppression.

It is easy to read about their choices and condemn their actions, but we make the same poor decisions today. We may not worship physical idols, but we easily prioritize other things and selfish desires before God. It isn’t hard to neglect abiding in Him, and eventually we find ourselves disobeying His Word.

Our solution is the same one Jeremiah preached. We need to use the balm we have been given by the Lord to heal us, which is trusting in God and knowing Him by studying His Word.

Ann Voskamp asserts, “Jesus is your Soul Salve, your Balm of Gilead, your Wounded Healer who touches your hidden wounds [and…] absorbs all your hurt into His healing heart.”

Jesus calls aloud to heal our wounds (1 Peter 2:24) and break our chains (Romans 8:2). Jesus is our Deliverer (John 8:32) and our Refuge (Psalm 46:1), the Balm of Gilead for every hurt we suffer.

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