Today: [Jeremiah 8] The Aftermath of Judgment. In this chapter Jeremiah, almost against his will continues seeing by the Spirit the aftermath of the Babylonian invasion. The Babylonians not only destroy the temple and sack Jerusalem, but dig up the bones of the kings of the line of David and desecrate them before the pagan altars of the gods that these kings worshipped in idolatry. In the midst of this dark picture the question continually put by the Spirit of God speaking through Jeremiah, emphasizes how utterly unnecessary all this is – if the people had only returned to God in their appointed season of repentance and contrition.
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[Jer 8:1-22 KJV] 1 At that time, saith the LORD, they shall bring out the bones of the kings of Judah, and the bones of his 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: 2 And they shall spread them before the sun, and the moon, and all the host of heaven, whom they have loved, and whom they have served, and after whom they have walked, and whom they have sought, and whom they have worshipped: they shall not be gathered, nor be buried; they shall be for dung upon the face of the earth. 3 And death shall be chosen rather than life by all the residue of them that remain of this evil family, which remain in all the places whither I have driven them, saith the LORD of hosts. 4 Moreover thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the LORD; Shall they fall, and not arise? shall he turn away, and not return? 5 Why [then] is this people of Jerusalem slidden back by a perpetual backsliding? they hold fast deceit, they refuse to return. 6 I hearkened and heard, [but] they spake not aright: no man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? every one turned to his course, as the horse rusheth into the battle. 7 Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the LORD. 8 How do ye say, We [are] wise, and the law of the LORD [is] with us? Lo, certainly in vain made he [it]; the pen of the scribes [is] in vain. 9 The wise [men] are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken: lo, they have rejected the word of the LORD; and what wisdom [is] in them? 10 Therefore will I give their wives unto others, [and] their fields to them that shall inherit [them]: for every one from the least even unto the greatest is given to covetousness, from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely.
Chapter 7 concludes with Jeremiah seeing by the Spirit that the people of Judah will be taken into captivity and over run by the Babylonians. Opening in verse 1 of today’s chapter Jeremiah predicts that the Babylonians will be so vicious in their hatred of Israel that they will dig up the bones of the kings of Judah and spread them out on the ground to defile them like dung. As alarming as this is to Jeremiah’s hearers, he goes on to say this will happen as a reproof, even after death of the generational sins of the line of David, whereas the kings should have exemplified righteousness but instead led the people into idolatry. Because of the atrocities of the Babylonians those that are remaining shall seek death rather than life and be driven out of the land in a false bid to find safety and comfort among the nations. This comes to pass at the end of Jeremiah’s life when many Jews, fleeing Babylonians captivity take refuge in vain in Egypt and Ethiopia, only to be persecuted there as well.
In view of these repercussions for the idolatries of the people and consequences experienced because of choices they have made God asks the question: “Will the people fall and not come to their senses and return to the Lord?” Unfortunately, no, because v. 5 describes the godlessness of the people as a perpetual backsliding. Remember that the term backsliding is a comparison of the people’s insatiable appetite for pagan ritual to a she-ass in estrus seeking relief by having as many mating partners as possible. Even in the time of great suffering the people hold fast to their deciets and idolatries and will not return to the Lord. In our own country we can see this is true. In the aftermath of 9/11 it would have been thought that a resurgence of faith would be seen in our land when in fact the persecution of Christianity through government edict, popular opinion and court decisions has risen against the faith in epic proportions. Though our country has been stricken we have as a nation not returned to God. This was not so in decades passed when after the Great Depression there was a marked return to faith evidenced by the Healing Revivals of the 1950’s and the Charismatic Renewal of the 1960’s. Something has taken place in our culture that has rendered the people of America deeply gospel resistant and greatly prone to marginalizing the Christian faith more and more in spite of national calamity that abounds year by year.
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? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore shall they fall among them that fall: in the time of their visitation they shall be cast down, saith the LORD. 13 I will surely consume them, saith the LORD: [there shall be] no grapes on the vine, nor figs on the fig tree, and the leaf shall fade; and [the things that] I have given them shall pass away from them. 14 Why do we sit still? assemble yourselves, and let us enter into the defenced cities, and let us be silent there: for the LORD our God hath 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 behold 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 are come, and have devoured the land, and all that is in it; the city, and those that dwell therein. 17 For, behold, I will send serpents, cockatrices, among you, which [will] not [be] charmed, and they shall bite you, saith the LORD. 18 [When] I would comfort myself against sorrow, my heart [is] faint in me. 19 Behold the voice of the cry of the daughter of my people because of them that dwell in a far country: [Is] not the LORD in Zion? [is] not her king in her? Why have they provoked me to anger with their graven images, [and] with strange vanities? 20 The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved. 21 For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt; I am black; astonishment hath taken hold on me. 22 [Is there] no balm in Gilead; [is there] no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?
In verse 11 Jeremiah again repeats the accusation against leadership, laying the responsibility for ungodliness in Judah squarely at the feet of the priesthood and the prophets. You would think that the priests and prophets would be seen as a fire break against rampant idolatry among the people but the exact opposite is so. When God judges this generation of American do you realize that before the Supreme Court or the liberal front organizations, or Hollywood, or popular culture is brought to judgment that God will first call forth the pastors and the prophets and hold THEM accountable for what many of them see themselves VICTIMS OF? Why? Because “they have healed the hurt of My people slightly, saying peace, peace with there is not peace…” In other words when leadership minimalizes the urgency of the spiritual needs of the people simply to pacify their constituencies, then they make themselves blood guilty for the sins not only of the people under their care but of the nation itself. Because of this verse 13 tells us that in the time of visitation those who thought they would be made to stand and be vindicated will fall and be cast down and consumed. As though the people are reeling from the impact of Jeremiah’s words, he follows up in verse 14 saying “why do you stand still”. It isn’t enough to articulate the problem, we must DO something. The instructions are clearn: Assemble yourselves, gather in the cities of the nation and be silent there. In other words take moment to withdraw from the distractions of the activities around us and realize that much of what alarms us in the sinfulness of the world around us, the people of God are participating in and being held responsible for.
The reference to being given gall to drink may seem an expression of judgment but in fact is a redemptive portent speaking of the time in the midst of the judgments poured out that Jesus would come in interpose Himself between a corrupt and disobedient humanity and bear the full brunt of sin upon Himself, even as the soldiers having fastened Him upon the cross with cruel nails and then gave Him the gall to drink that is a libation with our name on it as He pays the penalty for the transgressions of the world.
In looking upon the awful fate of his people Jeremiah lays his hand to his mouth and stands completely astonished. As though answering the unasked question the closing word of the Lord emphasizing the total unnecessary nature of all this difficulty by saying is there no balm in Gilead? Has not our God made for us as the New Testament affirms a way of escape and a path of exodus out of suffering and devastation – through the efficacy of the Lord Jesus Christ as we renew our faith to Him and come to His in humility and contrition asking for cleansing and healing from the self-inflicted wounds brought on by lives not focused truly upon Him nor submitted fully to His Lordship.
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