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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 8:20-22

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, September 11, 2014

20 The harvest is past,
      summer has ended,
      and we have not been saved.
21 Because my people are crushed, I have been crushed.
        I am in mourning, and horror seizes me.

Jeremiah uses another triplet to describe his grief. First, it is like a farmer and his family starving through a long summer, allowing the grain to grow and ripen, but now that harvest has come, they still have nothing.

Second, taking the pain of the people deeply to heart, he describes them as “crushed.” And if they are crushed, he is crushed, too. Perhaps there is a wordplay here that translators including myself have missed over the centuries. After saying that the harvest is past, Jeremiah says that the people are “crushed” (Heb. shever). The consonants of shever could be repointed with different vowels to form the word shavur which could mean “bought/sold like grain.” Then by saying that he is “crushed,” it would show his grief over the people sold into captivity:

     Harvest is past…
     Because my people are shavur (sold like grain),
        I am shever (crushed).

The third image Jeremiah presents is of being in mourning. He is kedar, which means “dark” (Kedar is also the name of a region of sun-baked Arabia, Psalm 120:5; Song 1:5). In this context it means “unwashed” due to grief. When king David ended his grief for the child who died, “he washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes” (2 Samuel 12:20). So washing and getting cleaned up were part of the process of ending a period of mourning.

Jeremiah’s horror is over what was going to happen to his people because of their sin. He understood the reality and terror of hell, and all he saw when he looked at the people of Judah was a long line of sinners waiting to be thrown into the pit of hell forever because they rejected their God.

22 Is there no balm in Gilead?ª
      Is there no physician there?
Why has the health of my people not been restored?

ª 22 Gilead: A region east of the Jordan, known for plants such as the storax tree useful for medicine.

Balm in America is made from a plant in the mint family. In the Middle East, it’s made from the resin of an evergreen tree. Gilead was famous for being the place to go for medicines like these. Today we might say, “Isn’t there any medicine at the Mayo Clinic?” The people of Judah needed healing, but they didn’t go to the healer. They needed medical help, but they had rejected their Doctor, the Lord God.

Later on we will hear the gospel promise: “I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security. I will bring Judah and Israel back from captivity and will rebuild them as they were before” (Jeremiah 33:6-7). All the Lord asks of us is that we don’t refuse him. He has reached out his hand, and he invites us to take hold. He won’t let go. The blood of Jesus covers over all of our sins. That’s the healing that cures everything. It’s the healing that makes us part of the harvest on the Last Day. Our God is the Lord of the harvest, and we belong to him.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.