Thursday, October 15, 2015

Conditions In Jerusalem

Lamentations 2:1-22

“How hath the Lord covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in his anger, and cast down from heaven unto the earth the beauty of Israel, and remembered not his footstool in the day of his anger!  The Lord hath swallowed up all the habitations of Jacob, and hath not pitied: he hath thrown down in his wrath the strong holds of the daughter of Judah; he hath brought them down to the ground: he hath polluted the kingdom and the princes thereof.  He hath cut off in his fierce anger all the horn of Israel: he hath drawn back his right hand from before the enemy, and he burned against Jacob like a flaming fire, which devoureth round about.  He hath bent his bow like an enemy: he stood with his right hand as an adversary, and slew all that were pleasant to the eye in the tabernacle of the daughter of Zion: he poured out his fury like fire.” (Lamentation 2:1-4)

From the very beginning, God had warned Israel about the consequences of rebelling against him.  Despite the repeated warnings and the terms of their contract or covenant with God, they had ignored their responsibilities.  Finally He had been forced to take ultimate action against them.   They lost even their homeland, and their military power, leaving them with nothing.  He had actively participated in their destruction, not just passively allowing them to be defeated. 

“The Lord was as an enemy: he hath swallowed up Israel, he hath swallowed up all her palaces: he hath destroyed his strong holds, and hath increased in the daughter of Judah mourning and lamentation.  And he hath violently taken away his tabernacle, as if it were of a garden: he hath destroyed his places of the assembly: the LORD hath caused the solemn feasts and sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion, and hath despised in the indignation of his anger the king and the priest.   The Lord hath cast off his altar, he hath abhorred his sanctuary, he hath given up into the hand of the enemy the walls of her palaces; they have made a noise in the house of the LORD, as in the day of a solemn feast.” (Lamentations 2:5-7)

He became in effect Israel’s enemy, destroying their fortresses and moving out from among them.  He had caused the places of worship to be destroyed, and the old rituals and customs had been forgotten.   Even the priests and rulers were executed for their failure to serve God.  The very Temple itself had been destroyed and burned after having everything of value taken away by the Babylonians. 

“The LORD hath purposed to destroy the wall of the daughter of Zion: he hath stretched out a line, he hath not withdrawn his hand from destroying: therefore he made the rampart and the wall to lament; they languished together.  Her gates are sunk into the ground; he hath destroyed and broken her bars: her king and her princes are among the Gentiles: the law is no more; her prophets also find no vision from the LORD.  The elders of the daughter of Zion sit upon the ground, and keep silence: they have cast up dust upon their heads; they have girded themselves with sackcloth: the virgins of Jerusalem hang down their heads to the ground.” (Jeremiah 2:8-10)

God had marked out what he wanted destroyed, and the very walls surrounding Jerusalem were torn down.  The gates of the city had been destroyed so completely they were buried in the rubble and the places where the troops fought from at the top of the wall were empty.  There was no one to enforce or even teach the Law God had given.   The king and political leaders had been captured and executed or imprisoned in Babylon.  Those who had claimed to see visions from God were no longer making such claims, and the remaining Jewish leaders sat quietly on the ground, unnoticed and unheard.  They were saddened by and humiliated by what had happened.  Even the young girls were ashamed. 

“Mine eyes do fail with tears, my bowels are troubled, my liver is poured upon the earth, for the destruction of the daughter of my people; because the children and the sucklings swoon in the streets of the city.  They say to their mothers, Where is corn and wine? when they swooned as the wounded in the streets of the city, when their soul was poured out into their mothers' bosom.” (Lamentations 2:11-12)

Jeremiah was deeply hurt over the plight of the people of Judah.  Infants and children were fainting in the streets from lack of food.  They were crying and begging for something to eat, and were fainting and dying alongside the wounded soldiers, dying in their mother’s arms. 

“What thing shall I take to witness for thee? what thing shall I liken to thee, O daughter of Jerusalem? what shall I equal to thee, that I may comfort thee, O virgin daughter of Zion? for thy breach is great like the sea: who can heal thee?  All that pass by clap their hands at thee; they hiss and wag their head at the daughter of Jerusalem, saying, Is this the city that men call The perfection of beauty, The joy of the whole earth?  All thine enemies have opened their mouth against thee: they hiss and gnash the teeth: they say, We have swallowed her up: certainly this is the day that we looked for; we have found, we have seen it.” (Lamentations 2:13-16)

The city that God had made his own and been admired by the entire world had become just a ruin,  It had been wiped out more completely than most of the ancient cities, and there was no other group or city to compare.   Other people would look and believe they had destroyed the nation, celebrating the city’s destruction. 
“ The LORD hath done that which he had devised; he hath fulfilled his word that he had commanded in the days of old: he hath thrown down, and hath not pitied: and he hath caused thine enemy to rejoice over thee, he hath set up the horn of thine adversaries.” (Lamentations 2:17)

They had no reason to complain because God has just done what he warned them would happen if they rejected his word.  He had thrown them down for their sin, giving their enemies victory over themand making them strong against Israel. 

“Their heart cried unto the Lord, O wall of the daughter of Zion, let tears run down like a river day and night: give thyself no rest; let not the apple of thine eye cease.  Arise, cry out in the night: in the beginning of the watches pour out thine heart like water before the face of the Lord: lift up thy hands toward him for the life of thy young children, that faint for hunger in the top of every street.” (Lamentations 2:18-19)

The people had cried out to the Lord for help, but before help would be given they would need to make changes in their own lives.  They needed to turn to God full time, pouring out their heart to Him and seeking his help for the lives of their own starving children. 

“Behold, O LORD, and consider to whom thou hast done this. Shall the women eat their fruit, and children of a span long? shall the priest and the prophet be slain in the sanctuary of the Lord?  The young and the old lie on the ground in the streets: my virgins and my young men are fallen by the sword; thou hast slain them in the day of thine anger; thou hast killed, and not pitied.  Thou hast called as in a solemn day my terrors round about, so that in the day of the LORD'S anger none escaped nor remained: those that I have swaddled and brought up hath mine enemy consumed.” (Lamentations 2:20-22)

He called on the Lord to consider who was suffering.  Women  were eating  their own babies and stillborn children and for the priests and prophets to be killed in the Temple itself.  Men and women of every age died of starvation, disease and violence and their bodies were just left lying in the streets.  Young men and women were killed in street fighting, and even those who they tried to protect were taken and killed without reason.  It was a terrible time for Jerusalem and Judah.  

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