Jeremiah 8 – No Cure for Senseless Rejection of God
A. Those fallen, those exiled.
1. (1-2) The disgraced remnants of those fallen in judgment.
“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.
a. At that time: This connects with the severe judgment announced in the closing verses of Jeremiah 7. The prophet saw the Valley of Hinnom filled with rotting corpses, food for scavenging birds.
b. They shall bring out the bones of the kings of Judah…the bones of the priests, and the bones of the prophets: Jeremiah prophetically saw a final indignity given in judgment to these great transgressors. Even the bones of the wicked who died before the Babylonians came would be disgraced; they would not be gathered nor buried; they shall be like refuse on the face of the earth.
i. “This custom of raising the bodies of the dead, and scattering their bones about, seems to have been general. It was the highest expression of hatred and contempt. [The Greek poet] Horace refers to it.” (Clarke)
ii. “There is a gruesome congruity about the bones of the devotees of the heavenly host being openly strewn before their impotent objects of worship.” (Cundall)
2. (3) Choosing death rather than life.
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.
a. Then death shall be chosen rather than life by all the residue of those who remain: The misery of the residue that survived the Babylonian invasion would be worse than life. Death would look to them like a welcome relief.
b. Who remain in all the places where I have driven them: The survivors of the Babylonian invasion would be forced refugees, exiled out of the Promised Land into foreign lands.
B. Judah’s stubborn folly.
1. (4-7) Judah’s stubborn refusal to return.
“Moreover you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD:
“Will they fall and not rise?
Will one turn away and not return?
Why has this people slidden back,
Jerusalem, in a perpetual backsliding?
They hold fast to deceit,
They refuse to return.
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.
“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.”
a. Why has this people slidden back, Jerusalem, in a perpetual backsliding: Through His prophet, Jeremiah, the LORD expressed amazement that Judah would not return to Him. After all, when one falls, they rise again. When one turns away, they then return. Yet Judah was caught in a perpetual backsliding.
i. Will they fall and not rise? Will one turn away and not return? “If men fall it is naturally expected that they will return. In the case of Jerusalem this had not been so, their backsliding had been perpetual. There was no sign of repentance.” (Morgan)
b. Everyone turned to his own course, as the horse rushes into the battle: Men were determined to go their own way, as determined and as energetic as the horse is as it rushes into the battle.
c. Even the stork in the heavens knows her appointed times: It is an amazement that birds (the stork, the turtledove, the swift, and the swallow) all understand the seasons of the year and how they must respond to them. Yet the people of God were ignorant; My people do not know the judgment of the LORD. They were worse off than birds with small brains.
i. Spurgeon preached a sermon titled, Migratory Birds. He began, “We shall mark these migratory birds, and set the wisdom of their instinct in contrast with the folly of mankind.” Spurgeon proceeded to make the following four points:
· The migratory birds know when to come and go.
· The migratory birds know where to go.
· The migratory birds, by some strange instinct, also know the way to go.
· The migratory birds show their wisdom by actually going to the sunny land.
2. (8-9) The folly of rejecting the word of the LORD.
“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.
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?
a. We are wise, and the law of the LORD is with us: This is what the people of Judah said of themselves. They were so self-deceived that they actually believed they were wise, and that they walked according to the law of the LORD.
b. Look, the false pen of the scribe certainly works falsehood: God reminded Judah that not all who study and teach the word of God do so honestly. There are some who use their pen to work falsehood, not truth.
c. They have rejected the word of the LORD; so what wisdom do they have? Though they claimed to have both wisdom and Biblical truth, they had neither. In rejecting God’s word, they rejected wisdom. They had none.
i. “When men reject the word of Jehovah, ‘What manner of wisdom is in them?’ The answer is that the manner of such wisdom is, to quote James, ‘earthly, sensual, devilish’ (James 3:13).” (Morgan)
3. (10-13) The judgment to come upon those who reject the word of the LORD.
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.
For they have healed the hurt of the daughter 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;
In the time of their punishment
They shall be cast down,” says the LORD.
“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.”’”
a. Therefore I will give their wives to others, and their fields to those who will inherit them: Because they did not hold the word of God dear, God would take what was dear to the people of Judah and give those things to others.
b. Everyone is given to covetousness; from the prophet even to the priest everyone deals falsely: Repeating words from Jeremiah 6:13-15, Jeremiah points out that selfish corruption had become so much a part of life in Judah that it could be said that everyone deals falsely and yet they were not at all ashamed.
i. The repetition in these verses as compared to Jeremiah 6:13-15 was not accidentally. It was done on purpose, because Judah needed to hear this message, and delivering it one time was simply not enough.
c. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall…they shall be cast down: Because the moral and cultural rot was so deep among the people of Judah, God promised to bring a thorough judgment. Like a grape vine or a fig tree picked clean, God promised, I will surely consume them.
4. (14) Fleeing to the fortified cities under the judgment of God.
“Why do we sit still?
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.
a. Let us enter the fortified cities, and let us be silent there: The prophet imagined the people of God fleeing to the fortified cities as the Babylonian invaders entered the land. They could only do so in silence, because they knew they had ignored God’s warnings and invitations to repent.
b. 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: When the invading army came, they would understand the greatness of their sin – but by then it would be too late.
5. (15-17) Looking for peace, finding trouble.
“We looked for peace, but no good came;
And for a time of health, and there was trouble!
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.”
“For behold, I will send serpents among you,
Vipers which cannot be charmed,
And they shall bite you,” says the LORD.
a. We looked for peace, but no good came: Those in Judah who heard and believed the message of the false prophets – the message, Peace, peace! (Jeremiah 8:11) – these deceived ones looked for peace, but no good came.
b. They have come and devoured the land and all that is in it: Instead of peace, the Babylonian invaders came with snorting horses and an army so big that the whole land trembled.
c. I will send serpents among you, vipers which cannot be charmed: The false prophets and priests had convinced the people of Judah and Jerusalem that they could find a way to maneuver around the coming judgment. They would find, to their great sorrow, that God had sent them serpents which cannot be charmed.
C. Judah in exile.
1. (18-19) A vision of Judah in exile.
I would comfort myself in sorrow;
My heart is faint in me.
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?”
a. I would comfort myself in sorrow; my heart is faint in me: With desperation, Jeremiah prophetically saw the tragedy that followed upon the devastating Babylonian invasion.
b. The cry of the daughter of my people from a far country: This was the cause of Jeremiah’s desperation. The daughter of his people no longer lived in the land God promised them. Instead, their cry was heard from a far country.
c. Is not the LORD in Zion? Is not her King in her? In amazement, Jeremiah wondered how his people ended up in exile. He wondered if God had left His own land; if He no longer reigned as a King in Zion.
d. Why have they provoked Me to anger with their carved images – with foreign idols? God answered Jeremiah’s question with questions of His own. The problem was not that God had abandoned the land of Israel; the problem was Israel had abandoned God.
2. (20) The despair of conquered Judah.
“The harvest is past,
The summer is ended,
And we are not saved!”
a. The harvest is past, the summer is ended: In a mostly agricultural society, everyone understood that summer was the season of growing, ending with harvest. It should be a time of abundance and fulfillment.
i. “‘Harvest’ refers to the main cereal harvest, whilst ‘summer’ refers to the vintage harvest (grapes, etc.) in early autumn. If one failed, it was possible that the other would see the people through the winter, but if both failed, starvation confronted them.” (Cundall)
b. And we are not saved! This was the sad lament of conquered Judah, even into the exile. Season had come that there should be abundance in the land, yet there was not. They had to face the sad fact: we are not saved!
i. “It was a proverbial saying meaning that people had lost every opportunity given them by God, and now were entirely without hope.” (Feinberg)
ii. “Jeremiah 8:20’s analogy is that of a double failure, first of the field-crops, then of the summer fruit, heralding a winter that hardly bears thinking about.” (Kidner)
iii. “We thought that God would help us in the days of harvest; but the harvest is past. We dreamed that he would chase away our enemies when the summer months had come; but the summer is ended, and still Chaldea has her foot upon Judea’s neck, still we drink the wormwood and the gall, and our enemies open their mouths at us. The harvest is past, and the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” (Spurgeon)
3. (21-22) Jeremiah’s pain-filled question.
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?
a. For the hurt of the daughter of my people I am hurt: Prophetically looking into the future, Jeremiah ached with the hurt of his people. He was in mourning and full of astonishment.
i. “Jeremiah could mourn over the sufferings of his people because of his sympathy and love for them; yet his very message spoke doom to them.” (Thompson)
ii. “A preacher whom God sends will often feel more care for the souls of men than men feel for themselves or their own salvation.” (Spurgeon)
b. Is there no balm in Gilead, is there no physician there? Jeremiah not only saw the hurt of his people in exile, but he also could see no help for them. There was no medicine, there was no physician; all was sadness and mourning.
i. “Gilead was the land just east of the Jordan River. It was known for its healing balsams… Scholars have been unable to determine how the balm of Gilead was made, but it seems to have been a soothing, aromatic resin made from a tree or a plant. It might be compared to aloe vera. ” (Ryken)