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Jeremiah 8:18-9:1

18 You who are my Comforter in sorrow,
    my heart is faint within me.
19 Listen to the cry of my people
    from a land far away:
“Is the Lord not in Zion?
    Is her King no longer there?”

“Why have they aroused my anger with their images,
    with their worthless foreign idols?”

20 “The harvest is past,
    the summer has ended,
    and we are not saved.”

21 Since my people are crushed, I am crushed;
    I mourn, and horror grips me.
22 Is there no balm in Gilead?
    Is there no physician there?
Why then is there no healing
    for the wound of my people?
 Oh, that my head were a spring of water
  and my eyes a fountain of tears!
I would weep day and night
    for the slain of my people.
(Jeremiah 8:18 – 9:1 NIV)

Yesterday, we heard from the Lord and the people of Judah.  The Lord says that judgment is upon Judah.  The people react when they realize that the Lord’s discipline is about to begin.  Their response is not to believe, repent, and obey.  They choose to rely on their resources instead of the Lord.

Today’s passage is a continuation of yesterday’s section.  Today we hear from the Lord, the people of Judah, and from Jeremiah.  While yesterday’s section dealt with the facts of the matter, today’s passage deals with the heart and passion of the day.

Jeremiah was never a cold, clinical observer and deliverer of the Lord’s words.  He never removed himself from the community – he suffered along with his fellow citizens.  One commentator sums it up well:

“Jeremiah’s preaching is being vindicated, but he takes no pleasure in what is happening.  He is filled with an unbearable sadness (verse 18).  His people’s agony is his agony; their wound is his wound, their grief his grief.”
(“Jeremiah, Volume 1”.  Robert Davidson, The Westminster Press, 1983, pp. 84-85)

The dialogue intermingles between the three speakers, so it’s hard to keep track of whom is saying what.  I will attempt to sort out what most scholars believe to be the speakers, along with any pertinent comments as to the meaning.  The speaker identification will be in square brackets “[]”; my comments will be italicized and in parentheses “()”.

[Jeremiah]:
You who are my Comforter in sorrow,
    my heart is faint within me. (verse 18)

[Jeremiah, quoting the people of Judah]:
Listen to the cry of my people
from a land far away:
“Is the Lord not in Zion?
Is her King no longer there?” (verse 19a,b)
(The people of Judah come to their senses and remember that God is their God.  Before this time, they had dismissed Him and followed the Canaanite idols.  They now complain that God is not with them.)

[The Lord]:
“Why have they aroused my anger with their images,
with their worthless foreign idols?” (verse 19c)
(The Lord answers the people’s question with an assumed affirmative answer:
“Of course, I have been here all along, but you have ignored and dismissed Me.
You have replaced Me with worthless foreign idols and desecrated My house.
And now you expect Me to come and rescue you from the mess you have created?”)

[The people of Judah]:
“The harvest is past,
the summer has ended,
and we are not saved.” (verse 20)
(The people felt the Lord had abandoned them twice – once for the spring wheat harvest, the second for the summer fruit harvest.  All they had to look forward to was famine.
Ironically, the Lord had given His people multiple opportunities to repent and turn back to Him, even sent His prophets to warn the people, but they refused.  The people of Judah have no one to blame but themselves.)

[Jeremiah]:
Since my people are crushed, I am crushed;
I mourn, and horror grips me.
Is there no balm in Gilead?
Is there no physician there?
Why then is there no healing
for the wound of my people? (verses 21-22)
(Jeremiah feels the full emotional impact of the situation.  Whatever the people are feeling, he feels it multiple times over.  Jeremiah is not sitting back saying, “I told you so”, but grieving over the sin of the nation.  The people’s calloused soul breaks Jeremiah’s heart.  Until their heart breaks and they return to the Lord, there will be no resolution.  No ointment or salve can cure this wound; no physician can provide healing.)

[Jeremiah]:
Oh, that my head were a spring of water
and my eyes a fountain of tears!
I would weep day and night
for the slain of my people. (chapter 9, verse 1)
(Jeremiah feels the immense pain of his people.  He cannot adequately express the grief of his soul as he mourns their inevitable consequences of their sins.)

Like Jeremiah, may we relate to the plight of those in the broken and hurting world around us, empathizing with their situation and pain.

And like Jeremiah, may we not sit back in self-righteous judgment, saying “I told you so”, or take up their cause and blame God for their situation.

Instead, may we, like Jeremiah, point them to the Lord and to His divine offer to love them unconditionally and perfectly, and guide them to eternal life.

Jesus’ offer still stands today:

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
(John 14:6 NIV)

Blessings,
~kevin

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