John T. Willis

Friday, December 17, 2010

There is a Balm in Gilead--Jeremiah 8:18-9:1

Several voices appear in the next paragraph in Jeremiah 8:18-9:1. It is difficult to follow the twists and turns in this paragraph. This blog is an attempt to work out the thoughts here.

I. Jeremiah or Yahweh begin in Jeremiah 8:18-19.
a. Jeremiah or Yahweh declares his own feelings about his chosen people. Jeremiah or Yahweh has no joy, is full of grief, his heart is sick. This shows great concern for sinful people who are in the process of destroying themselves. 8:18.
b. Jeremiah or Yahweh reveal to the audience the thoughts of God's people:
Is the Lord not in Zion?
Is her King not in her?
These questions assume that the people of God are convinced that God is in Zion, that is Jerusalem, and thus in their midst--so they have no fear. 8:19a.
c. Yahweh cries out:
Why have they provoked me to anger with their images,
with their foreign idols?
God's people SAY one thing, but DO another. This troubles God greatly. 8:19b.

II. God's People complain because they are suffering. Jeremiah 8:20.
a. The word "we" in line b indicates a group of people is speaking, in this context, the people of God.
b. God's people use a metaphor--spiritually, "the harvest is past, the summer is ended, but we are not saved." They expected deliverance from the Babylonians, but the Babylonians are breathing down their necks, about to destroy them.

III. Jeremiah or Yahweh repeats his deep feelings of hurt, mourning, and dismay because of the sins of God's people. Jeremiah 8:21.

IV. God is able and willing to deliver his people, but they refuse to return to him. Jeremiah 8:22-9:1.
a. The questions:
"Is there no balm in Gilead?
Is there no physician there?"
clearly assume a YES answer. There IS a balm in Gilead. There IS a physician there. God is the great physician, and his healing is available. Jeremiah 46:11 and 51:8 also use the metaphor of a healing balm. Apparently this was a healing medicine in Gilead in North Israel east of the Jordan. 8:22a.
b. What is the problem? The failing health of God's people is NOT because of the physician or the medicine. The problem is the people themselves. They are determined to turn away from Yahweh. 8:22b.
c. And thus, for a third time, Jeremiah or Yahweh cry out in mourning and hurt and weeping and dismay because God's people will not repent and turn back to God. 9:1

This is a wrenching text. Consider this often and carefully. Share YOUR thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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