Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Jerusalem’s Sorrow

Lamentations 1:1-22

“How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! how is she become as a widow! she that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary!  She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks: among all her lovers she hath none to comfort her: all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies.” (Lamentations 1:1-2)

To lament is to express one’s grief.  In this book, Jeremiah is expressing his and the people’s  grief at the judgment that is coming on the nation of Judah and the city of Jerusalem.  For almost four hundred years, Jerusalem had been the center of the Jewish religion and the capital of Judah.  Jeremiah’s prophecy describes the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of the Jews as a result of their turning to various other gods. 

“Judah is gone into captivity because of affliction, and because of great servitude: she dwelleth among the heathen, she findeth no rest: all her persecutors overtook her between the straits.  The ways of Zion do mourn, because none come to the solemn feasts: all her gates are desolate: her priests sigh, her virgins are afflicted, and she is in bitterness.  Her adversaries are the chief, her enemies prosper; for the LORD hath afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions: her children are gone into captivity before the enemy.  And from the daughter of Zion all her beauty is departed: her princes are become like harts that find no pasture, and they are gone without strength before the pursuer.  Jerusalem remembered in the days of her affliction and of her miseries all her pleasant things that she had in the days of old, when her people fell into the hand of the enemy, and none did help her: the adversaries saw her, and did mock at her sabbaths.” (Lamentations 1:3-7)

The nation of Judah had been dispossessed of their land and forced to from their homeland, living among people who do not worship God.  People no longer go to the Temple to worship God, or to consult the priests, and their lifestyle has been lost.  They are controlled by their enemies, who are gaining power.  Israel no longer has anything to be proud of because they have gone against God.   Their suffering is aggravated by the knowledge of what they had experienced in the past, and people throw it up in their faces. 

“Jerusalem hath grievously sinned; therefore she is removed: all that honoured her despise her, because they have seen her nakedness: yea, she sigheth, and turneth backward.  Her filthiness is in her skirts; she remembereth not her last end; therefore she came down wonderfully: she had no comforter. O LORD, behold my affliction: for the enemy hath magnified himself.  The adversary hath spread out his hand upon all her pleasant things: for she hath seen that the heathen entered into her sanctuary, whom thou didst command that they should not enter into thy congregation.  All her people sigh, they seek bread; they have given their pleasant things for meat to relieve the soul: see, O LORD, and consider; for I am become vile.” (Lamentations 1:8-11)

Like a drunk or other addict, Jerusalem has time after time suffered the consequences of their sin but have gone right on, refusing to make any meaningful changes.  It has been their own choice, and they have ignored the harm they have done to themselves.  As a result they have lost everything they had, and have seen God’s judgment, even trading their most valuable possessions for a bit of food.  Finally they have realized how bad off they have become. 

“Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the LORD hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger.  From above hath he sent fire into my bones, and it prevaileth against them: he hath spread a net for my feet, he hath turned me back: he hath made me desolate and faint all the day.  The yoke of my transgressions is bound by his hand: they are wreathed, and come up upon my neck: he hath made my strength to fall, the Lord hath delivered me into their hands, from whom I am not able to rise up.” (Lamentations 1:12-14)

When they finally come to this point, they feel like no one else has ever had such trouble, because God has caused these things to happen to them.  They are only starting to understand that the problems are the result of their own actions, and they now realize they cannot escape his power. 

“The Lord hath trodden under foot all my mighty men in the midst of me: he hath called an assembly against me to crush my young men: the Lord hath trodden the virgin, the daughter of Judah, as in a winepress.  For these things I weep; mine eye, mine eye runneth down with water, because the comforter that should relieve my soul is far from me: my children are desolate, because the enemy prevailed.  Zion spreadeth forth her hands, and there is none to comfort her: the LORD hath commanded concerning Jacob, that his adversaries should be round about him: Jerusalem is as a menstruous woman among them.” (Lamentations 1:15-17)

Judah had lost their entire army, and many of the population killed.  The survivors were carried away as slaves.  They no longer find any hope in asking god for deliverance because God has commanded that they be destroyed.  They are embarrassed by everything around them. 

“The LORD is righteous; for I have rebelled against his commandment: hear, I pray you, all people, and behold my sorrow: my virgins and my young men are gone into captivity.  I called for my lovers, but they deceived me: my priests and mine elders gave up the ghost in the city, while they sought their meat to relieve their souls.  Behold, O LORD; for I am in distress: my bowels are troubled; mine heart is turned within me; for I have grievously rebelled: abroad the sword bereaveth, at home there is as death.” (Lamentations 1:18-20)

When they are honest they realize God has every reason to turn against them.  They have followed other gods and ignored God like an adulterous wife chasing her lovers, only to learn that their love was just words and they had no commitment to her.  The priests and teachers of those other gods were only interested in their own gratification, and when she needs help, they turn their backs on her.  Suddenly they have no place to go for peace. 

“They have heard that I sigh: there is none to comfort me: all mine enemies have heard of my trouble; they are glad that thou hast done it: thou wilt bring the day that thou hast called, and they shall be like unto me.  Let all their wickedness come before thee; and do unto them, as thou hast done unto me for all my transgressions: for my sighs are many, and my heart is faint.” (Lamentations 1:21-22)

Everyone is aware of Judah and Jerusalem’s suffering and  her enemies rejoice to see how she is hurt.  The only consolation is that they will one day experience the same things because they have also rejected God.  

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