Guest post by Robby Eversole.
A “pejorative” is defined as “a word or phrase that has a negative connotation or that is intended to disparage or belittle” (Merriam- Webster).
Some people really enjoy employing words or phrases that might be demeaning to others. This author has heard the phrase “bird brain” for as long as he can remember. This phrase is an affront to the intelligence of those to whom it is ascribed.
What if it is the case that sometimes birds employ instincts and good sense to a higher degree than humans? This writer suspects that is exactly what is found when considering Jeremiah chapter eight.
This section of scripture comes upon the heels of God’s announcement that the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem would be desolate (Jeremiah 7:34). God, through Jeremiah, uses words to “paint a picture” of the devastation that would befall the people of God.
The Moral Condition of Judah.
Jeremiah speaks of the graves of the kings and princes being robbed of their treasures and their bones being strowed here and there. This act is an act of utter disrespect. Those that survived the brutal invasion would look upon the bones of the dead as a welcome reprieve to the suffering that was coming upon them (8:1–3).
God charges them with perpetual backsliding (8:5). They believed the false prophets and held fast to deceit (8:5). The expectation of the nation was “Peace, Peace”, but there was no peace (8:10–11).
God likened them to battle horses that burst forth with everything they had, headlong in the direction of their choosing. They went headlong and fool-heartedly into error and they were sinning on every hand (8:6). They were so diversified in their sins and steeped in them that they lost the ability to blush (8:12).
The picture that Jeremiah paints regarding the moral and ethical state of Judah is equally as pitiful as the just punishment that will overcome them.
The Destruction Coming upon Judah.
In the next section (8:13–17) Jeremiah paints a picture of the breathtaking devastation the Chaldeans would bring upon Jerusalem and Judea through the incredible might of Nebuchadnezzar. The grizzly scene of what happens when God removes His protective hand and the commission to preach that message broke the prophet’s heart (8:18).
Thirteen of the saddest words ever penned are recorded in Jeremiah 8:20, where the prophet states, “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.”
That harrowing fact hurt the prophet of God (8:21). It was hard for him to understand how God’s people would refuse to return to Him and enjoy the bounty of God’s divine blessings.
The Grief of the Prophet.
It is in this type of narrative that the curtain is pulled back on the nature and character of the man, Jeremiah. Dr. J. Vernon McGee said of him, “He had a mother’s heart, a trembling voice, and tear-filled eyes, to deliver a harsh message of judgement. The message he gave broke his heart.”
Another commentator noted that “He was not a man mighty as Elijah, eloquent as Isaiah, or seraphic as Ezekiel, but one who was timid and shrinking, conscious of his helplessness, yearning for a sympathy and love he was never to know- such was the chosen organ through which the Word of the Lord came to that corrupt and degenerate age.”
Jeremiah, this prophet that forces his readers to come to feel his pain, states (9:1) “Oh, that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I may weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people.”
Just before continuing in his bereavement, he asks a series of very poignant questions. “Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?”
Look to the Birds.
The answer to the question, “why then has not the health of the daughter of my people recovered” is found in the “bird brain”.
In (8:7) the narrative, Jeremiah states that the birds (Stork, turtledove, swallow, and crane) know what is happening around them. The birds have enough wits about them to know when to leave and return. They understand the seasons and to survive they must act accordingly.
The birds know all of this, yet the people of God don’t know any better than to return to God. They don’t have sense enough to leave the harsh winter of sin and return to the sunshine of God’s favor and grace.
So, maybe men shouldn’t insult the birds. The birds know when to come and go. They know where to go. They know the way to go. They actually go, and, they know when to return. The birds know what is good for them, but the people of God were blindly running into destruction like a horse runs into battle.
Oh, for Judah to have a little “bird brain”. This very problem would plague them until the biblical narrative pictures Jesus, like Jeremiah, weeping over the beloved city who refused to gather to their God (Matthew 23:37).
There was a balm ready to heal the wounds of sin for Judah, and it was right at home. The balm is ready to be administered by God today to any who will call upon Him because He is not far from anyone (Acts 17:27).
In a sermon delivered in 1852, by J.C. Philpot, the “succeeder” said regarding God’s grace, “There is more in the balm to heal than there is guilt to wound, for there is more in grace to save than there is in sin to destroy.” Hence the Christian anthem rings, “Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt. Yonder on Calvalry’s mount outpoured, there where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.”
Yes, friends, there is a balm in Gilead, and anyone with a “bird brain” can find it.
Reach out to a local Church of Christ in your area to help you find this beautiful balm.
God bless you.
Robby Eversole preaches for the Eastside Church of Christ in Morganton, Georgia. Robby graduated in 2021 from the Tri-Cities School of Preaching and Christian Development. He does an excellent job writing a weekly blog post on the church’s website, which you can read here.
Some of his sermons are posted on the Eastside Church of Christ’s YouTube channel — I invite you to hear some of his preaching of God’s Word.