S (Scripture): Jeremiah 8
19 Listen to the weeping of my people
all across the land:
“Isn’t the Lord in Zion?
Is her king no longer there?”
Why then did they anger me with their images,
with pointless foreign gods?
20 “The harvest is past,
the summer has ended,
yet we aren’t saved.”
21 Because my people are crushed,
I am crushed;
darkness and despair overwhelm me.
22 Is there no balm in Gilead?
Is there no physician there?
Why then have my people
not been restored to health?
O (Observation): Jeremiah sees the devastation of God’s people who have taken up their own idols as their gods. And they weep. And Jeremiah cries out: “Is there no balm in Gilead?!”
A balm is a salve, an ointment used for healing, for bringing relief. Jeremiah didn’t see any relief coming anytime soon. Not from a salve. Not from a king. Not even from God…at least, not yet.
So at first, Jeremiah laments.
A (Application): Most of us probably don’t think of Scripture when we hear the word “balm.” We think “lip balm.” But that’s not what Jeremiah is talking about, now is it?
In light of the hatred shown by the white supremacists in Charlottesville this past weekend, the ugly underbelly of bigotry and prejudice in our society has been exposed once again. The prejudice and bigotry by whites against blacks has always been there. Sometimes we play nice enough to get by…but give a group of white supremacists a chance to wave Nazi flags and carry torches…and the truth comes out.
We still have a segment of our society that truly sees itself as above the other…as whites being better than blacks, as “whatever they are” being above “Jews.” Where in the world do they get this? Well…for too long, we have let it slide. We let racist comments go, because we don’t want to get our hands dirty, or we want folks to like us, so we laugh at their racist and bigoted jokes.
We (as white folks) have no one to blame but ourselves when it comes to the existence of white supremacists.
We lament, first, as Jeremiah did. And just as Jeremiah cried out, “Is there no balm in Gilead?”, we cry out, “Is there no balm, in Charlottesville?”
I think there is a balm in Charlottesville. The young UVA students who assisted a group of folks gathered for an interfaith prayer service on the UVA campus…they are a balm. The clergy and leaders of various faith communities marching – arm in arm – through the streets of Charlottesville are a balm. The folks I gathered with in Murfreesboro, TN, last Sunday night for a peaceful vigil are a balm.
God would eventually send a balm in the person of Jesus Christ, but before that, God told Jeremiah that God would put The Law in their hearts. That when the people of Judah and Israel were scattered…God would be with them.
Sometimes we can’t sense the balm. Sometimes we can. Perhaps, God can work through folks like you and I to be that balm in our own home towns.
P (Prayer): Lord, help me to serve you and my hurting neighbors. Amen.