The Balm of Gilead

Jeremiah 8:1–22 (NKJV)

8:1 “At that time,” says the Lord, “they shall bring out the bones of the kings of Judah, and the bones of its princes, and the bones of the priests, and the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, out of their graves. They shall spread them before the sun and the moon and all the host of heaven, which they have loved and which they have served and after which they have walked, which they have sought and which they have worshiped. They shall not be gathered nor buried; they shall be like refuse on the face of the earth. Then death shall be chosen rather than life by all the residue of those who remain of this evil family, who remain in all the places where I have driven them,” says the Lord of hosts.

This drastic prophetic picture points to the fact that the stark reality of dead bodies and bones scaring the remnant of Judah straight.  Their future will seem bleak, and they would rather be dead that alive at that moment.

“Moreover you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Will they fall and not rise? Will one turn away and not return?

5 Why has this people slidden back, Jerusalem, in a perpetual backsliding? They hold fast to deceit, They refuse to return.

6 I listened and heard, But they do not speak aright. No man repented of his wickedness, Saying, ‘What have I done?’ Everyone turned to his own course, As the horse rushes into the battle.

7 “Even the stork in the heavens Knows her appointed times; And the turtledove, the swift, and the swallow Observe the time of their coming. But My people do not know the judgment of the Lord.

Jeremiah 8.7

8 “How can you say, ‘We are wise, And the law of the Lord is with us’? Look, the false pen of the scribe certainly works falsehood.

9 The wise men are ashamed, They are dismayed and taken. Behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord; So what wisdom do they have?

10 Therefore I will give their wives to others, And their fields to those who will inherit them; Because from the least even to the greatest Everyone is given to covetousness; From the prophet even to the priest Everyone deals falsely.

11 For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of My people slightly, Saying, ‘Peace, peace!’ When there is no peace.

12 Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? No! They were not at all ashamed, Nor did they know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; In the time of their punishment They shall be cast down,” says the Lord.

13 “I will surely consume them,” says the Lord. “No grapes shall be on the vine, Nor figs on the fig tree, And the leaf shall fade; And the things I have given them shall pass away from them.” ’ ”

God goes on to enumerate the various backslidings of the people of Israel.  The run like wild horses in the middle of an attack.  They are not even as certain as a stork and other birds about their time or path.  The priests and scribes minister and write falsely.  Therefore, God will make them ashamed, give their wives to others, and cast them down.  

14 “Why do we sit still? Assemble yourselves, And let us enter the fortified cities, And let us be silent there. For the Lord our God has put us to silence And given us water of gall to drink, Because we have sinned against the Lord.

15 “We looked for peace, but no good came; And for a time of health, and there was trouble!

16 The snorting of His horses was heard from Dan. The whole land trembled at the sound of the neighing of His strong ones; For they have come and devoured the land and all that is in it, The city and those who dwell in it.”

17 “For behold, I will send serpents among you, Vipers which cannot be charmed, And they shall bite you,” says the Lord.

The people respond with a powerful cry of desperation.  They cry out, describing their punishments in terms of gall, the sound of horses coming in battle, and vipers biting them.  This desperation is tangible!

18 I would comfort myself in sorrow; My heart is faint in me.

19 Listen! The voice, The cry of the daughter of My people— From a far country:

“Is not the Lord in Zion? Is not her King in her?” “Why have they provoked Me to anger With their carved images—With foreign idols?”

20 “The harvest is past, The summer is ended, And we are not saved!”

21 For the hurt of the daughter of my people I am hurt. I am mourning; Astonishment has taken hold of me.

22 Is there no balm in Gilead, Is there no physician there? Why then is there no recovery For the health of the daughter of my people?

God bemoans the fact that the people of God do not recognize His presence within their midst.  They move God to anger through their idolatry, and He is in mourning.  Verse 22 may be a representation of the mourning of God for his children.  It is a wonderful expression for the people of God to receive something they need so desperately: Healing!  Where is the balm, the physician, the recovery?  They are found in the Savior, but they have rejected Him!  Don’t reject the Lord….

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