God Cures the Incurable

Jeremiah 30:12-17

8 February 2009

Woodley Baptist Church

Evening service


We're going to spend some time this evening in the doctor's surgery. It's rarely a very pleasant experience, so let's cheer ourselves up with some jokes.

Doctor, Doctor, I swallowed a bone. Are you choking? No, I really did!

Doctor, Doctor, my son has swallowed my pen, what should I do? Use a pencil 'til I get there.

Doctor, Doctor, I think I need glasses. You certainly do, Sir, this is a fish and chip shop.

Why did the banana go to the doctor? Because it wasn't peeling well.

And finally, A woman poisoned herself last week by eating a daffodil bulb. Doctors said she will be all right, and will be out in spring.

OK, that's enough jokes. Let's get down to the serious business. We're in the doctor's surgery, and he is about to deliver his diagnosis.

"Your wound is incurable"

Look at verse 12, This is what the LORD says: 'Your wound is incurable, your injury beyond healing'ref.

This immediately raises some questions! Who is he talking to, and what is the fatal wound from which they are suffering? Well, it turns out that we are sitting in on somebody else's consultation.

The historical context is that God's people, Israel and Judah, are in exile. The Babylonian empire has come to Israel and has ripped them away from the promised land. They have been deported to Babylon: far away from their homes; far away from their land; far away from God's temple. All this happened about 600BC.

So God's people is fatally wounded. The covenant, the land, the temple: it's all in ruins — everything that has made them God' people is gone. They have been struck a massive blow. They are mortally wounded. Israel is about to die.

In the midst of all this, the people are crying out in pain. But God tells them not to bother. Verse 15, Why do you cry out over your wound, your pain that has no cure?ref It's pointless to cry out; there is no cure.

It's pointless to cry out because nobody is going to help them.

In former times, Israel could have rallied its prophets to plead with God for them, but, verse 13, There is no-one to plead your causeref. The nation has systematically ignored and degraded and run down their prophets, and there is no longer anyone to help.

In verse 14 God says, All your allies have forgotten you; they care nothing for youref. Other translations say All your lovers have forgotten you, which perhaps captures the sense better.

Over the years Israel had systematically prostituted itself to other nations and to other religions. They had always turned away from God for help, and made the ungodly their lovers. But where are all these lovers now when they need them most? All your lovers have forgotten you.

The chosen people have systematically made themselves an enemy of God. They have cut themselves off from the only source of hope they have. There is no-one to help them.

So their situation is hopeless.

Your wound is incurable, your injury beyond healing... There is... no remedy for your sore, no healing for you... Why do you cry out over your wound, your pain that has no cure?ref

Do you feel the force of this? The disease is fatal. It's not a matter of if the patient will die, it's simply a matter of when. God's thousand year relationship with his people is over!

And the surest sign of this is that it is God himself who has dealt them this blow. Verse 14, I have struck you as an enemy would and punished you as would the cruel, because your guilt is so great and your sins so many, verse 15, Because of your great guilt and many sins I have done these things to you.ref.

God's people have made him their enemy, and he's dealt them a fatal blow. This is what the Lord says: 'Your wound is incurable'.

"Your wound I will heal"

That was the heading for the first part of the sermon: "your wound is incurable". Which makes the second heading rather unlikely: from verse 17, "your wound I will heal" declares the Lord. Your wound I will heal.

Against the background of the first part of the text, this promise is simply breathtaking. Again and again and again God declares their wound incurable, their injury beyond healing. So here God promises the impossible: your wound I will heal.

God has dealt them an injury that by all conceivable measures ought to be fatal. But God himself undertakes to heal that wound.

He dealt his people the fatal blow because they fully deserved it. Because of your great guilt and many sins I have done these things to you he repeats. But his promise to heal is not because they deserve it in any way.

He gives his reason in the second half of verse 17. It is because you are called an outcast, Zion for whom no-one caresref. If the world starts saying that God is unable to protect his people then it reflects badly on God. It robs him of his honour. So he acts to preserve his people, to silence his critics who are slanderously saying that God cannot keep his promises. That's why reason he chooses to heal; not because of any merit or goodness in the people themselves.

So God promises the impossible. He will cure the incurable and heal the unhealable. His people will live. In verse 16 he turns the tables, all who devour you will be devoured; all your enemies will go into exile. Those who plunder you will be plundered; all who make spoil of you I will despoil.ref

So there we are. This is what the Lord says, "your wound is incurable" . And, "Your wounds I will heal declares the Lord" . God loves to do the impossible. He cures the incurable.


What are we to make of this consulting-room scene some twenty-five centuries later? How can we bridge the gap between the sixth century BC Judah in exile, and the 21st century AD Woodley Baptist Church, Reading, Berkshire?

It's tempting simply to lift the promise out of context and claim it for ourselves: I will restore you to health and heal your wounds. It is a fantastic, awesome promise! But, like all Old Testament promises, it wasn't made to us. We shouldn't go round the Old Testament simply claiming the bits we like and dropping the bits we don't.

Like on the math's exam papers where it says "show your working" — at least it did in my day — I'm not going to present you with a potted application. I want to show you how we can legitimately understand whether and how this promise applies to us.

First, it's clear that everyone of us suffers from an incurable wound, and that we suffer from it for exactly the same reasons as Israel did. Because of our sin, God inflicts death on us. Romans 6:23, the wages of sin is deathref. Romans 5:12, death came to all men, because all sinnedref. This goes right back to the curse on Adam when God threw him and Eve out of the Garden of Eden.

Everyone on the planet, all the people out there, all our colleagues, all our neighbours, all our friends, everyone has made an enemy of God by their sin. And he's dealt us a fatal blow. We will all die.

Sometimes people seem surprised by this. One of my colleagues is forty-eight. Every now and then he hears news of someone who has died at a similar age, and he is shocked. He'll say to me, "Ben, he was the same age as me, and he died!" I'll reply something like, "Why are you surprised? Death and taxes are the only two certain things in life. It's coming to us all. The only question is, are you ready for it?"

So, we all suffer from this fatal wound. God has dealt us the blow of death because our sinful hearts have made him our enemy. We are in the same position as the people of Israel in Jeremiah's time.

We obviously need this promise, but on what grounds can we claim it?

Well, the key is in something that was written down a hundred years earlier, which Jeremiah would surely have been aware of. The prophet Isaiah wrote these familiar words:

He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.ref

By his wounds we are healed. Isaiah prophesied of a man to come who would be wounded to heal others. That's interesting, isn't it?

In 1 Peter 2:24, Peter writes to the New Testament church, of which we are members, and as an apostle of God applies the verse from Isaiah to us: He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.ref

There is an old paradox about what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object. Here the immovable object is God's judgement on our sinful hearts: the fatal wound that every one of us has. "Your wound is incurable" he says. The irresistible force is God's determination to heal for his own glory. "Your wound I will heal". When an irresistible force meets an immovable object, what's going to happen? Only a truly extraordinary event can resolve the paradox.

And that's what happened on the cross of Christ: a collision between our incurable wounds and God's irresistible power to heal. God himself, in the form of Jesus Christ, stepped in to suffer our incurable pain so that we might be well. He bore our sins in his body on the tree... by his wounds you have been healed.

So, this promise is for us! We desperately need this promise of healing, and through the cross of Jesus Christ, we can claim this promise of healing. By his wounds we are healed.


So we've been to the doctor, and the diagnosis is that our wound is fatal. We are going to die. The wound is incurable. The injury is unhealable.

But, astonishingly, impossibly, paradoxically, the doctor offers us a cure. There is one, impossible, radical, treatment that can save us. There is someone else who will willingly bear that injury for us. He dies, bearing the wounds of the world. So we can be cured: reunited with God; no longer under sentence of death; no longer his enemies but his friends.

Here are four applications of this truth to our lives.

Number 1, if you have not yet done so, then accept the diagnosis. One day you will die. You are suffering from a fatal injury: it is not just life-threatening, it is terminal.

There is no cure for your condition. There is nothing you can do to heal your life. And there is no-one else for you to trust in. Your bank balance will not help you face death. Your family will not help you face death. Your important job will not help you face death.

And so, after death you will come face to face with a God whom you've made your enemy.

This doctor knows what he is talking about. You don't need a second opinion. Accept the diagnosis.

Number 2, take the cure. Have you come to realise that your life needs to be healed? Then take the cure.

Only God can cure the incurable. The death of Jesus on the cross is the only way our wounds can be healed. He actually bears our incurable wounds himself, taking them away, leaving us whole.

When we put our faith in Jesus the cure is immediate and effective. We have nothing more to fear.

Number 3, visit the doctor frequently. Probably most of us here have at some time in the past taken the first two steps: we've accepted the diagnosis; we've taken the cure.

But we need to make sure to keep the disease in remission. We need to open our lives before God daily, not hiding anything from him, so that he can apply his healing thoroughly and completely.

And we should examine ourselves. It should be part of our communion preparation. Paul says A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cupref.

We need to identify any sin and disobedience against God in our lives and apply his healing remedy to them. We need to come to the cross and confess that what we deserve is only death, and receive with gratitude and humility his gift of healing.

Finally, number 4, recommend your healer. If you found a cure for cancer you'd trumpet it from the rooftops, wouldn't you. You'd head down to the oncology ward at the Royal Berks and beg everyone to take it. When we find a medicine that works, we are not shy in spreading the news.

One of my customers in South Africa swears by a drink called Jaegermeister to cure any number of ailments, especially among children. "How can it not be good" , he says, "it contains 56 herbs and spices?" It's also 35% alcohol, so I'm not recommending it myself, you understand.

The point is that when we find a medicine that works we tell people about it! So let's get out there and tell people how God has healed us. That we aren't afraid of death. That, in us, through Jesus, God has cured the incurable.