Theme: The LORD gives spiritual healing
I. A painful cleansing of sin
II. A comforting bandage of forgiveness.
Oh the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable are His judgments and how untraceable are His ways. The portion of His Word that we consider today is taken from Jeremiah 33:6-9:
'Behold, I will bring it health and healing; I will heal them and reveal to them the abundance of peace and truth. 7 'And I will cause the captives of Judah and the captives of Israel to return, and will rebuild those places as at the first. 8 'I will cleanse them from all their iniquity by which they have sinned against Me, and I will pardon all their iniquities by which they have sinned and by which they have transgressed against Me. 9 'Then it shall be to Me a name of joy, a praise, and an honor before all nations of the earth, who shall hear all the good that I do to them; they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and all the prosperity that I provide for it.'
In the name of Jesus Christ, the Great Physician of our souls, dear fellow redeemed:
The ‘pain of solarcaine.’ I can still feel it today and it still makes me cringe. As a child, whenever I would have a scrape or cut, my mother would pull out the solarcaine, an anti-bacterial spray, and douse the exposed area. Simply put, I hated it because it stung more than the actual injury, but my mother knew that I needed it to reduce the chance of infection. The solarcaine may have stung when first applied, but it always made the cut feel better after a Band-Aid was applied. After all, no cut is properly taken care of if left exposed. It needs to be covered to protect from harmful elements until it is fully healed. Regardless of what type of injury one has, these two steps are the norm, they are vital to a healthy recovery. First, the injured area must be cleansed, and then it must be protected until healed.
The Holy Spirit brings a similar picture to us today in our text. Through the prophet Jeremiah He describes the miraculous and wonderful healing that Judah would receive. But He also prophecies a greater deliverance from spiritual captivity, from bondage under sin. May the Spirit bless us as we meditate upon how the LORD has healed us: cleansing us from sin and protecting us with His forgiveness.
Jeremiah had a difficult task while working in Judah: he had to speak the truth. Now He didn’t have a problem getting content, the LORD provided the words to speak. Rather, the difficulty was with the people’s reception of his words. That’s the thing about speaking the truth, most people only want to listen to if it contains a good message for them. But if the truth tells of something undesirable, denial and deflection are often the reaction.
Now we must admit that our text for today doesn’t sound so bad. In fact, the language used to describe the LORD’s deliverance Judah is absolutely beautiful. Without a doubt, no one had a problem with Jeremiah’s prophecy of these events. But if we back up a couple of verses, we see the side of God’s truth which they didn’t want to hear.
vv. 4-5: For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the houses of this city and the houses of the kings of Judah that were torn down to make a defense against the siege mounds and against the sword: They are coming in to fight against the Chaldeans and to fill them with the dead bodies of men whom I shall strike down in my anger and my wrath, for I have hidden my face from this city because of all their evil.
What a dire picture Jeremiah gives preceding our text! He speaks of a Babylonian invasion in which the very houses of Jerusalem would be torn down to make fortifications. And in the place where the houses once stood would be filled with dead Israelite bodies. How could two such contrasting scenes be connected so closely in Jeremiah’s thoughts? Well the simple answer, as we stated earlier, is that it was the truth. And it was a recurring theme in the history of Old Testament Israel.
Jeremiah, like many of the Old Testament books, is riddled with examples of Israel’s falling from the LORD into idolatry and unbelief. Time and time again they ignored what the LORD commanded in His Word, they resisted His messengers even to the point of murder. The OT lists Israel’s long list of self-inflicted wounds, wounds which were sure to be infected with the false lies of the heathen gods. But with every account of Israel’s failings, a stronger example of the LORD’s faithfulness and protection shines forth as we see today.
But what good would the LORD’s faithfulness be if He allowed them to continue in their evil ways? How would Judah stay healthy if the LORD wouldn’t cleanse their spiritual injuries? With every proper healing comes the necessary task of cleaning out the bad, purging the contaminants so that the infection does not spread. Judah would soon realize that the correction of LORD is not an enjoyable process; just as cleaning a cut for us brings momentary pain. In less than a year, this cleansing process would begin as the Babylonians would carry off King Jehoiachin and much of the population to captivity as well as destroy the city of Jerusalem. This captivity would last a long time, about 70 years, but it would not stand forever. The LORD’s promise of healing in our text would indeed come true as Judah would not be completely wiped off the face of the earth. Jerusalem again would become a thriving and prosperous city.
But Jeremiah is focusing on more than just a physical healing and a spiritual lesson for the nation of Judah. He is looking ahead to a time when Someone greater would come and would deliver all people from a much deadlier enemy than the Babylonians. Jeremiah called Him the Branch of Righteousness; we know Him as Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.
A couple chapters before the events of our text, Jeremiah recorded the LORD’s promise about this coming Savior, a message for all people not just for the physical inhabitants of Israel. The LORD said: "Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,”
This covenant or promise would be different than the one He previously made with Israel. He goes on to say how it will cover all people and will be built upon the forgiveness of sins. This promise of God, recorded by the prophet Jeremiah, finds its fulfillment in Christ, as the writer of the book of Hebrews expressed: how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant (Hebrews 9:14-15).
Jesus Christ is the Mediator of the New Covenant, He is the only One who was able to perfectly suffer and die for the sins of mankind. He is the only One who was able to grant us the righteousness which God demands. But just like Judah of Jeremiah’s day, we too need to be cleansed from our sin. God desires all men to not only come to saving faith in Him but to stay in that saving faith. A helpful illustration of this in our lives is the job of an auto-body specialist. When fixing a dent, scrape or patch of rust on a car, a professional doesn’t just paint over the defect and call it good. No one would be content with that kind of work, it may look good for a little while but eventually the problem is going to show itself again. Instead the specialist must pound out the dent, grind away the rust, or buff out the scratch. Only after the problem is fixed can he properly apply the paint and finish the job.
The same is true of our spiritual lives. The LORD doesn’t simply “paint” over our sins to make them look temporarily ok. Instead He works hard to clear that sin out of our soul and heal our void with the promise of the gospel. The Apostle Paul uses the illustration of leaven in his first letter to the Corinthians to make the same point. He writes: Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Instead of allowing sin to spread forth in our lives, like leaven raises a loaf of bread, we need to cleanse it out and intake the spiritual bread of truth in God’s Word. And notice what Paul says about this cleansing process, it is built upon the sacrifice of Christ.
Now just like any cleansing process, the solution often isn’t easy or quick. In fact, our sinful flesh would much rather have God “paint” over our ailments. How quick we are to complain in our lives when things get difficult. Instead of appreciating all the blessings we have from the LORD we seem to get the attitude of always wanted more and more. Sometimes a series of bad days can lead us to feel like the world is up against us and we give up instead of trusting. So often, we take the attitude that Judah did with the message Jeremiah brought. We have no problem accepting blessings from the LORD but as soon as He gives us trial or test to strengthen us, we want nothing to do with it. But who are we to question what God provides in our lives, whether it appears to be good or bad to us?
We see an example which we can apply to our lives by looking at the life of Job. Just after Satan struck him with painful boils, Job’s wife breaks down and tells him to curse God and die. But notice how Job responds to her: "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" (Job 2:10) Job understood the foolishness of his wife’s attitude. There’s no doubt that she readily accepted blessings from the LORD. Before his affliction Job and his family had tremendous wealth. Do you think she ever complained about that wealth? Hardly. But now that God had allowed Satan to test Job, she became bitter, turned her back on the LORD and tried to get Job to do the same.
And likewise we ourselves, in stubbornness and ignorance rejoice in the blessings of the Lord, yet are so quick to complain at the very hint of adversity. More often than not we desire to stay connected to our pet sins instead of having the LORD painfully strip them away from our sinful flesh. So often Jesus is enacting His cleansing process in our lives without us even knowing it and usually with us fighting against it every step of the way. Think about it in your own lives for a moment. Have you even fallen into a sin so often that you actually convinced yourself that it was okay? Usually it starts of as something that seems harmless, maybe a little white lie or gossiping about someone for a few seconds. What we often fail to realize is that any sin, no matter how innocent-looking, is a spiritual wound in our souls. And when we grow comfortable with those scrapes and cuts and we let them grow, it may feel good to our sinful flesh, but we’re actually increasing our risk of spiritual infection.
But who better to have in your corner than the only One who knows exactly what you go through? The One who experienced the threat of temptation, sorrow, and loss. The One who knows how life can beat you down again and again. The One who experienced the pain of your sin, more than you will ever have to, and had no bandage for it. Jesus is the One who can lead you safely through the cuts and scrapes you experience in life. As painful as the LORD’s cleansing may be at times, rest assured that it is only painful to your sinful flesh, to that part of you which clings to sin and resists the truth. And know with certainty that your Savior loves you and has paid for that sin of which you repent of.
God has blessed us with His Word so that we can see for ourselves what Jesus went through on our behalf. How He willingly left His throne in heaven to come to us as a human. How He faithfully lived His life in accord with the Law and Prophets, always keeping others in the forefront, rather than Himself. We see the bitter pain and suffering which He went through to appease the righteous wrath of God. Each time we confess our sins and come to the LORD for forgiveness, He is cleansing our souls of infection and healing us with the comforting bandage of the gospel.
When you are discouraged over the pain of your sins, don’t ignore the problem just to feel better in that moment. Meditate instead, upon the pain Christ endured for you. Because through His pain you are healed.
Ponder the spiritual agony He sustained as God the Father forsook Him on the cross. Jesus did all of this, He did it for you, because His is that One and only mediator spoken of in Hebrews. He is the link between the OT and NT, between God’s first promise and His last, between Jeremiah’s prophecy and you.
Hold fast to the important lessons in our text for today. Always be on the guard against sin and be aware of how easily it can grow. May the LORD grant you patience and wisdom so that you won’t react foolishly and become bitter when sin creates problems. There is nothing in this world, nothing Satan can hurl at you, and nothing your flesh can tempt you with which outweighs God’s cleansing forgiveness of your sins.
If you think about it, a bandage is a good picture of a ‘go between’ or ‘substitute.’ It’s there in place of the skin, to protect the inside of the body. Oftentimes, a bandage is designed to look and feel like skin. It performs this duty until the skin fully heals again and is able to once again function as protection. In the same way, we can see Jesus as the bandage for our spiritual ailments. He came and did what our spiritual skin could not; cover our sinful scrapes and cuts. He came like one of us, as true Man yet also true God. And He protects us from all evil, from the infections of Satan, the world, and our sinful flesh. And He grants us continual forgiveness before the throne of God. The comfort of knowing that no matter how bruised or battered we may become from our sins, continual healing abounds in Jesus. A healing that stands the test of any injury and a healing that stays with us until we safely reach our home in heaven.
The Peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.