“For the hurt of the daughter of my people I am hurt. I am mourning; astonishment has taken hold of me. 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?” (Jeremiah 8:21-22).
Have you ever been grieved in seeing those you love doing things which hurt themselves? Have you questioned why God doesn’t answer your prayers to help them turn from their harmful ways? If so, you are not alone. As the opening verses above show, the prophet Jeremiah was torn by this as well (Jeremiah 8:21-22). He did not coldly deliver God’s message to Judah without any feeling. Instead, he agonizes over delivering God’s Word because he loves his people Judah, but he also loves God.
God had also agonized over Judah. He loved her. That is why He sent Jeremiah to prophecy to her. He wanted to heal them from their hurt caused by their own sins. However, things were so bad in the land that God could not find anyone who sought righteousness. He tells Jeremiah, “"Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem; see now and know; and seek in her open places If you can find a man, if there is anyone who executes judgment, who seeks the truth, and I will pardon her” (Jeremiah 5:1). God’s people had given themselves over to wickedness to such an extent they no longer felt any shame for their sin: “Because from the least of them even to the greatest of them, everyone is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even to the priest, everyone deals falsely. They have also healed the hurt of My people slightly, saying, 'Peace, peace!' when there is no peace. 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; at the time I punish them, they shall be cast down,’ says the Lord” (Jeremiah 6:13-15).
As God reached out to them through prophets such as Jeremiah, they rejected God’s pleadings to them to return to his paths so they could find the rest he desired to give them. “Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls’. But they said, 'We will not walk in it'” (Jeremiah 6:16). God’s people were determined as a war horse rushing into battle to continue in their evil ways. Jeremiah wrote, “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 (Jeremiah 8:6).
As powerful as God is, He is not powerful enough to heal someone who rejects His efforts to heal them! God gave man the freedom of choice. Man can use that freedom to accept God’s embrace as God reaches out to the man struggling with the guilt and weight of sin or man can use his power of choice to push God away as he stubbornly rushes headlong to the destructive consequences of his own sin. Jeremiah’s heartbreak over seeing his people use their freedom of choice to reject God is a powerful reminder to us today of how stubbornly rebellious we can be towards God.
Today, I recognize that I too must be careful not to stubbornly resist God. I will strive to embrace God’s effort to heal me of my sin. As I reach out to others who are struggling with sin, I recognize the reason there is no recovery for the spiritual health of some people is because each of us retains the power of choice. There is still God’s healing balm in Gilead! The Great Physician is still at work!
“When Jesus heard that, He said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” ‘For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance’” (Matthew 9:12-13).