We looked for peace, but no good came
Today as I finished up my study of Jeremiah 8, I was struck by several things that made me feel the grief and agony Jeremiah felt when God warned him judgment was coming upon his people. He had been warning the people that God was going to deal with them harshly, and soon, if they didn't repent. However, the priests and false prophets were telling the people the exact opposite. They kept assuring them that everything was fine. God would not judge them or harm them in any way because He loved them too much. This is the refrain of many modern day preachers in the Emergent Church movement like Rob Bell and Brian McLaren, who say that God is a loving God and no one on earth is going to hell. They reject all verses in the Bible that say otherwise because they simply cannot accept that God is capable of divine wrath. By teaching this "no one goes to hell" or "there is no hell" theory, they are taking Jesus off the cross and making His death insignificant. Why? Because it was due to God's wrath over disobedience and sin that Jesus came in the first place. If there is no hell or no punishment to come in the hereafter for those who refuse to repent, then why did Jesus come? So now these modern preachers say, Jesus saved us from all that. We no longer have to fear God because everyone is saved and everyone wins. By doing that however, no one feels the need to repent and turn back to God. Life just got easier - eat, drink and be merry - because it really doesn't matter what we do - God is a loving God who would never harm anyone.
The dangers of this type of modern day preaching is what Jeremiah was dealing with from the priests and prophets of his day, who kept insisting the same things. They were probably even telling the people not to listen to Jeremiah as he stood at the gates of the temple every day, warning of impending destruction. To them, Jeremiah was just a crazy man preaching about the end of the world. And what does the world do with people like that? They tune them out and continue on their way - much to their detriment.
But what does the Bible say about people like that?
If we are "out of our mind," as some say,
So here we have Jeremiah warning the people of their destruction and no one is listening to him. Why? They are listening to the priests and prophets who have authority. To them Jeremiah had no authority, so they thought he's crazy. Don't we have the same thing going on in the world today? People think Christians are crazy because we warn others that they could go to hell for all eternity if they don't repent of their sins. They call us fools because we believe Jesus is returning soon. They call us intolerant because we believe, like God, that sin is sin. And they call us self-righteous because we believe anyone who doesn't come to faith in Christ will not be saved.
What they fail to realize (and this was the same for Jeremiah's people) is that we warn of these things not out of self-righteousness, but out of a deep concern for the lives of those who do not know God. Jeremiah expresses his concern for his fellow man this way:
For the hurt of the daughter of my people I am hurt.
And isn't that what every Christian feels when trying to get the message of salvation across to others? We feel the heart of God, who does not want anyone to suffer or perish in their sin. We hurt for those who are lost. But it is not self-righteousness. We feel this concern for the lost because we have the Holy Spirit within us. This is why we cannot be silent, for it is the Lord's Holy Spirit who urges us to speak!
Jeremiah would find out that the people would only listen to those in positions of authority. To them he was just a street-corner preacher holding up a sign of impending doom. A crazy person. And today we find the same attitude in our world. People will only listen to those in positions of authority and unfortunately, some of those people are like the false priests and prophets of Jeremiahs' day. Jeremiah lamented this by saying something that is so prophetic for today:
The harvest is past,
In the future, this will be the sad refrain of many. God will have reaped His harvest and those left behind will realize they are not saved - it will be too late by then. Jeremiah realized that for his people that time was upon them and he cried:
Is there no balm in Gilead,
Gilead was a region east of the Jordan River. It was known for its spices and medicinal herbs (Genesis 37:25). Jeremiah wished that someone would come and heal his people of their sin. Now, let's take this a little further and compare it to our great physician - Jesus Christ. He is the balm in Gilead! He is the solution for the spiritual health of all people today. And Satan knows that, which is why there is so much apostasy in the church today - he's been working overtime because he knows this world is winding down. The harvest is about to finish and the summer (this golden age of God staying His hand against the world) is about to end. Jesus is coming soon and He will be coming as a righteous judge. The time for repentance therefore, is now - not when you see Him coming in the clouds. By then it will be too late.