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By Dr. Harold Sala

The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we are not saved.  Jeremiah 8:20

When death stares you in the face, you don’t mince words. You say exactly what is on your mind, letting the chips fall where they may. Sometimes the dying words of people are cruel and devastating. At other times they are like ointment that brings healing to fractured families and relationships.

Long ago a lone prophet stood between God and man and lifted his voice as a spokesman for the Almighty. His name was Jeremiah, and, in literature, his name became synonymous with a bitter, acerbic pronouncement—“a Jeremiad” is the term literary critics use.

Jeremiah gave us a haunting text which says, “The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we are not saved” (Jeremiah 8:20).  Old Jeremiah had lived to see Jerusalem destroyed by Babylon, its families carried away in chains, and its homes destroyed. “The harvest is past,” he says.  “The summer is ended.”  But the worst follows: “We are not saved!”

He then asked, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?” (Jeremiah 8:22).

Gilead was a day’s journey away, and the area was famous for a resin that was used medicinally.  It was called the healing balm of Gilead.  We are not saved, says Jeremiah, in spite of the fact there is a remedy, there is healing, there is a physician. Jeremiah knew that the people’s relationship with God, whom they had rejected, was intertwined with the destruction that lay at their door. When they rejected God, He had rejected them.

So here we are 2700 years downstream from the tears that Jeremiah shed, yet the text haunts us as well today. “The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we are not saved!”

Do you ever wonder about the point at which God writes off civilization as we know it now?  How longsuffering is God, anyway?  Can we ignore Him and spurn Him forever and not suffer the consequences of our actions?

In the northern hemisphere, late August and September mean it’s time to harvest the crops.  It’s time to store the wheat, the corn, and potatoes because the winter is coming.  You know, friend, life has its seasons just as does nature, but the unknown, uncertain factor in life is, when does the summer end, when you are confronted with an unending eternity?

Individuals who are unprepared to meet God–using the terminology of the New Testament–who are not saved, fall into two categories: Those who know they are not saved, and those who think they are but really are not.  In the first category are those who know precisely where they stand in relationship to God. Their back is to Him, and their tracks lead away from Him. They have ignored the balm of Gilead and the physician who can bring healing to our souls.

But the most tragic are those who think they are ready to meet God but who have ignored the clear teaching on Scripture on how to make peace with God. They are the ones who know the songs, who have religion but not Jesus Christ, who said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

A closing thought: All of Jeremiah’s writings are not dark and cloudy. He also records God’s faithful promise which gives us hope. “‘You will see me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and will bring you back from captivity'” (Jeremiah 29:13-14).

Resource reading: Acts 16