18 My joy is gone; grief is upon me;
my heart is sick.
19 Listen! The cry of the daughter of my people
from far and wide in the land:
"Is the Lord not in Zion?
Is her King not in her?"
("Why have they provoked me to anger with their images,
with their foreign idols?")
20 "The harvest is past, the summer is ended,
and we are not saved."
21 For the brokenness of the daughter of my people I am broken,
I mourn, and horror has seized me.
22 Is there no balm in Gilead?
Is there no physician there?
Why then has the health of the daughter of my people
not been restored?
9 1O that my head were a spring of water
and my eyes a fountain of tears,
so that I might weep day and night
for the slain of the daughter of my people!
The world wants me to be okay,
but my joy is gone
The world wants me to move on,
but grief is upon me
The world wants to avert its eyes from suffering,
but my heart is sick.
Joy will return when it returns
until that time, God, grant me
the courage to weep uncontrollably
a willingness to let my tears flow
an openness to feel deeply
and the freedom to grieve.
Prayer for Pentecost 15 by Bruce Reyes-Chow from his Weekly Word
Recently in Jeremiah
• From Pentecost 10, here's a little about Jeremiah.
• Jeremiah on Pentecost 12.
• Pentecost 13: Jeremiah at the Potter's House.
• Pentecost 15: – 911+21; un-creation; new creation.
This reading almost definitely originated before many citizens and leaders were exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon; we've mentioned kings and people chasing after other gods – idolatry – self-serving national leadership that led to overall neglect of God's covenant charge to especially care for immigrants (whether passing through, relocating for better opportunities, or seeking asylum from intolerable conditions), orphans, widows—Jesus' "least of these" who lack organic social and financial support. The prophets insist that to know God is to be acquainted with and then to do God's mercy, love, and justice.
As scripture makes clear, idolatry isn't always (usually isn't), making a physical object and then giving it tribute of time and money; the Golden Calf Event is one so transparently obvious we can't forget it! Idolatry is placing anything other than the God of the covenants, the God of Jesus Christ first in our lives. Contemporary idols of wealth, jobs, excessive sports, national supremacy sometimes begin as a relatively minor aspect or activity in our lives, and then expand to occupy too many resources, too much space and time.
Similar to people who imagine sitting in a church or synagogue pew for an hour or two every single week and doing whatever will benefit their own bottom line after they leave, God's people have been acting as if God were a magician. v. 19, "Is the Lord not in Zion? Is Zion's King not in her?" v. 20, "The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved." As if God's supposed residency in the temple on Mount Zion and the reign of the monarch (a king that was God's concession rather than God's preference) would be salvific. As if planting, growth and harvest always happen in spite of everything, because isn't there some kind of magic removed from human responsibility to steward the land with practices that care for creation rather than neglect it and wreck it? Well, actually, there is no such magic.
We trust prophets recorded God's words to a particular community in a specific season, and we affirm scripture as God's word to us, but always with interpretation that first acknowledges its original context.
You may have heard Jeremiah described as the "weeping prophet." The entire long book contains a whole lot of sorrow, much of it similar to psalms of lament. Every Jeremiah commentary I've looked at said it can be tough to discern whether God, Jeremiah, or the people are speaking at any given time throughout Jeremiah. Most commentators believe God almost definitely speaks in this passage of brokenness, sorrow and tears, as God becomes intimately involved in human activities, in the total, earthbound human condition. In a similar way, Luke 19:41-44 describes Jesus weeping over Jerusalem.
In the land distribution we read about in Joshua 13:8, 24-25, Reuben, Gad, and (half of) Manasseh inherit Gilead. Gilead is the scriptural name of the region east of the Jordan River—today's Transjordan. Gilead was renowned for a natural healing balm. I've read that balm was abundant and readily available; I've also read it was relatively rare and therefore precious. In the "Did You Know" category, biotech company Gilead Sciences aptly took its name from the biblical Gilead.
You've probably sung the African-American spiritual that assures us there is balm in Gilead. As Christians we interpret Jesus as our healing balm. I especially love the song's simplicity. When I accompany "Balm in Gilead" on the piano, I usually stretch out some of the chords with eight notes (four in each hand), but similar to "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," it needs only light, very minimal instrumental support without intricate rhythms, riffs, and chord changes. It easily sings itself!
Refrain: There is a balm in Gilead
to make the wounded whole,
there is a balm in Gilead
to heal the sin-sick soul.
1 Sometimes I feel discouraged
and think my work's in vain,
but then the Holy Spirit
revives my soul again. Refrain
2 If you cannot preach like Peter,
if you cannot pray like Paul,
you can tell the love of Jesus
and say, "He died for all." Refrain
3 Don't ever feel discouraged,
for Jesus is your friend,
and if you lack for knowledge
He'll not refuse to lend. Refrain