Archive for the ‘Lamentations’ Category

Lamentations 5

Lamentations 5 was apparently written in Judah some time after the fall of Jerusalem. Only the people of no use to Babylon were left in the land, and this poem reflects the hardships they faced.  It was a difficult life.  “Our pursuers are at our necks; We are worn out, there is no rest for us”.  There is continual fear and pressure from the oppressors.  There is no rest or peace, only more pain and suffering.  And while the judgment is based on choices each made, there is no question that leaders and fathers were contributors to their plight.

Our fathers sinned, and are no more; It is we who have borne their iniquities”.  In the prior chapters, we learned that leaders led the people astray. Here we find that fathers also sinned and led their kids to grow up with the wrong understanding of God and what He demands.  There was misguided efforts as their fathers followed leaders who tried to keep the nation alive by seeking help from Egypt and Assyria, but they actually brought the nation to ruin. When things get tough we need to run to God, not from him!

Conditions in Judah are terrible. The people have to search the barren country regions for food, and in doing so they risk death from desert bandits .  Life is tough.  “The joy of our hearts has ceased; Our dancing has been turned into mourning”.  They can hardly remember the good old days.  They do understand why things are as they are.  “ Woe to us, for we have sinned”!  Sin carries a price, always.  And the people of Judah were paying a severe price.  “Because of this our heart is faint, Because of these things our eyes are dim”.

In a final desperate plea, the people cry to the sovereign ruler of the world not to reject them but to bring them back to himself. “You, O Lord, rule forever;  Your throne is from generation to generation”. They ask that he restore their nation and give them the happiness they once enjoyed.  “Restore us to You, O Lord, that we may be restored; Renew our days as of old”.  God is eternal and unchangeable, and they are his people; surely he will not forget them .  He doesn’t, and we’ll see in future books of the Bible that God restores them and brings them back together again.

Lamentations 4

Lamentations 4 has the writer recalling Jerusalem’s former glory and contrasting things with her present ruin. The once glorious temple is now defiled and shattered.  “The Lord has accomplished His wrath, He has poured out His fierce anger; and He has kindled a fire in Zion which has consumed its foundations”.  God has destroyed much and done it in a way that when compared to Sodom, which was destroyed in a day, shows how much worse what happened in Jerusalem which was destroyed amid long and bitter agony.

Sin is always a personal thing, but there is also blame around Jerusalem’s downfall that is the result of its corrupt leaders, especially the prophets and priests. “The kings of the earth did not believe, Nor did any of the inhabitants of the world”.  They, more than anyone else, were responsible for the injustices that brought God’s judgment on the city.  Realizing this, the people now treat their former leaders like lepers and drive them out of the city.

Because of the sins of her prophets and the iniquities of her priests….they wandered, blind, in the streets; they were defiled with blood”.

The writer recalls the history of how Jerusalem expected to be rescued by Egypt, but no deliverance came. They put their hope in something that could not deliver rather than running in repentance to God.  Instead the Babylonians came, making God’s people prisoners in their own city.  Those who tried to flee to the mountains were caught, including the king Zedekiah, in whom the people had falsely placed their trust.  He endured great suffering and his sons were all killed.  But God completed the judgment that had to be delivered because of their sinful choices.

The punishment of your iniquity has been completed, O daughter of Zion; He will exile you no longer. But He will punish your iniquity, O daughter of Edom; He will expose your sins”!  Edom rejoiced to see its ancient enemy Judah overthrown; but Edom too will be overthrown and, unlike Judah, will not rise again. The destruction of Jerusalem is temporary, but Edom’s destruction will be permanent.  God’s people – Judah – will be restored and those who survived will be called back to help rebuild the city of Jerusalem in the future.

Lamentations 3

Lamentations 3 has our prophet taking a different tact in how he writes this chapter.  It is different in style from the previous two. The writer speaks as if he is the representative of all Judah, describing Judah’s sufferings as if they were his own. And those sufferings are God’s righteous judgment on himself as the front of God’s people.  “I am the man who has seen affliction because of the rod of His wrath”.  God has been in judgment mode with his people.  And the weight of that punishment has worn the people, including our writer, down to a point they were desperate for some respite.

To the writer God seems like a wild animal that tears its prey to pieces, or like a hunter who has shot his prey with an arrow.  Life has been difficult.  God may punish, but the writer still trusts in him. He knows that God’s steadfast love does not change. It is constant and reliable. God disciplines and trains, but those who are patient will enjoy the fullness of his salvation.  “Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me. This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,  For His compassions never fail”.

God never leaves us.  Our choices and sin gets in the way and causes a rift in our relationship with God.  But it never changes the fact that God loves us.  He never gives up and is waiting when we come back to Him in humility with a surrendered spirit.  Each day is a new opportunity to come back to Him.  “They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him”.  We have to make the effort to return – to take the first step to confess, repent and receive His forgiveness and salvation.

And that’s how it happens.  We recognize that sin creates a gap in our relationship with God.  “Let us examine and probe our ways, and let us return to the Lord….We have transgressed and rebelled, you have not pardoned”.  The writer knows sin is a problem.  He confesses that it has been a barrier between him and God, preventing God from hearing his prayers for mercy. As a result he has been ruined and disgraced.  “You have covered Yourself with anger and pursued us; You have slain and have not spared. You have covered Yourself with a cloud so that no prayer can pass through”.  But God is always waiting for us to return.  Jesus was sent to help us do that.  We have to take the steps to receive His grace and mercy!

Lamentations 2

Lamentations 2 has the prophet talking about the dire effects of God’s hand coming against His people.  “The Lord has swallowed up; He has not spared…. He has poured out His wrath like fire”.  The description given in this chapter is pretty clear.  God has allowed His people to be punished and judged for what they have done.  And it is all consuming.  Sin does not go unnoticed nor unpunished.  God doesn’t miss anyone.  He doesn’t spare the rod of correction on any.  And His people are reeling from the power of His hand.

In much of their history, they experienced God as their protector and provider.  Now they see Him through different eyes – He is judge and punisher.  “The Lord has become like an enemy”.    And taken to the extreme, He’s become like an enemy to them. That’s a pretty big shift.    God is angry with His people.  God has been thorough in destroying Jerusalem’s wall. He has allowed the enemy to invade the city, and now all Jerusalem’s leaders are gone.  This is intense and broad destruction.

And it impacts the prophet powerfully.  These are his people too, and they are suffering in an intense way.  “My eyes fail because of tears, My spirit is greatly troubled; My heart is poured out on the earth Because of the destruction “.  Can you imagine having to watch this knowing you have warned for many years that this would be the outcome.  God wants and demands repentance.  And the prophet shouts that from the top of his lungs.  “Let your tears run down like a river day and night; Give yourself no relief, Let your eyes have no rest”.  Nothing will change until repentance happens.

One thing that we really need to learn is how to respond to things when it seems God is our adversary.  It’s not the nature of God to be at odds with us – He loves us.  But because of that love and His very nature, He does expect us to live in obedience to His Word.  When we fall short, we need to get right with Him.  It looks something like this – rather than running from God we need to run to Him.  We need to confess our sin, repent and come back to Him.  “Arise, cry aloud in the night At the beginning of the night watches; Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord; Lift up your hands to Him”.  That’s the power of God’s love.  He’s there with open arms waiting to receive us!

Lamentations 1

Lamentations 1 and the book are credited by most to Jeremiah.  The prophet begins with lamenting the dismal reverse of fortune that happened to his country, confessing at the same time that the situation was the just consequence of her sins.  “How lonely sits the city that was full of people….Judah has gone into exile under affliction….for the Lord has caused her grief because of the multitude of her transgressions”.  There was clarity around what had happened and why – but the prophet is still lamenting.

After Israel had been carried away captive, and Jerusalem had become desolate, Jeremiah sat weeping: and he lamented with this lamentation over the city of Jerusalem.  At the core, he knew the problem.  “Jerusalem sinned greatly, therefore she has become an unclean thing”.  It appears that the leaders and people of Judah didn’t have much concept of the coming danger as a result of their sin.  Unfortunately, we’re too much like that today, thinking that God doesn’t care and will overlook what we do.  It just isn’t true.

Jeremiah points out why too.  “The Lord is righteous; For I have rebelled against His command ; Hear now, all peoples, And behold my pain”.  God’s nature won’t allow Him to ignore sin.  Sin always comes with a price.  In this case, it was the destruction of Jerusalem and captivity of the people – at least those not killed by the enemy.  God has to address sin.  It’s why Jesus came to earth and went to the Cross – to be a substitute for you and me in taking God’s wrath for our sin and setting us free.  His blood was shed that we may have eternal life through the grace and mercy of His death.

Jeremiah calls out the confession of Judah.  “See, O Lord, for I am in distress; My spirit is greatly troubled; My heart is overturned within me, For I have been very rebellious”.  They have sinned and faced judgment for that sin.  Confession is the first step to reconciliation with God.  Jeremiah and Judah finally understand the problem and the need to turn from their wicked ways and obey God.  Sin causes us to be in distress and separated from God.  We many not even know it, but it always is the result of sin.  We need to confess, repent and receive the salvation of Jesus Christ to change that!

Lamentations 5

Lamentations 5 gives us a summary as the writer cries out for God to “look and see our disgrace”.  Things are tough.  God’s punishment wears on and it is getting to be too much.  God’s people are under duress and experiencing much pain and agony.  Why?  The legacy of leaders and fathers who did not live well.  Certainly some will argue that this is not fair.  But life is not fair.  God never said it would be.  The reality is that there is always a penalty to be paid for sin.  Sometimes that comes quickly and impacts the guilty one.  Sometimes, it carries forward generations.

The writer is clear of the challenge they face.  “Our fathers sinned, and are no more; and we bear their iniquities”.  Not only did the originator of the sin pay a price (are no more) but they passed forward the penalty and now it is being delivered upon their followers and offspring.  The price was large, and the payment is taking generations.  Was the sin worth it?  It seldom is.  But we seldom count the cost when facing the choice of whether to sin and disobey.  In the moment, we make a very bad choice that can cost us much and for a very long time.

So what are they experiencing?  Scripture is pretty descriptive:

–       “Slaves rule over us

–       We get our bread at the peril of our lives

–       Our skin is hot as an oven

–       Women are raped

–       Princes are hung up by their hands

–       Young men are compelled to grind at the mill

–       boys stagger under loads of wood

–       old men have left the city gate

–       The joy of our hearts has ceased

–       our dancing has been turned to mourning

–       The crown has fallen from our head

–       our heart has become sick

–       our eyes have grown dim

–       Mount Zion which lies desolate

That is a steep price for some bad choices – the choice of evil rather than good – disobedience rather than obedience.

But there is hope.  The writer remembers God and His faithfulness.  “But you, O Lord, reign forever; your throne endures to all generations….us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old”.  There is good news here.  No matter how far we stray. No matter how much trouble we get into.  No matter how bad we are, God never leaves us.  He waits for us to return.  His promises endure for all generations and His faithfulness never wavers.  We just need to return to Him in humble obedience with a repentant heart.  He will restore us.  He will draw us near if we draw near to Him!

Lamentations 4

Lamentations 4 is a somewhat depressing chapter as it captures the reality of what happens when we choose evil versus good, sin versus obedience.  It is not a pretty outcome.  In fact, it is quite a battle.  The writer here captures the reality of what has happened.  “Those who once feasted on delicacies perish in the streets; those who were brought up in purple embrace ash heaps….their face is blacker than soot; they are not recognized in the streets”.  This isn’t a simple little slap on the hand.  It is a serious pounding.

But they earned it.  God does not look kindly when we make choices to be disobedient.  “The Lord gave full vent to his wrath; he poured out his hot anger, and he kindled a fire in Zion that consumed its foundations…. The kings of the earth did not believe….This was for the sins of her prophets and the iniquities of her priests”.  Boiling it down – a big chunk of this relates to bad leadership.  The people were led astray.  They chose to follow blindly, but the reality is that God doesn’t give passes when we make the choice to sin.

The writer ends the chapter with this truth: “he will punish; he will uncover your sins”.  God isn’t going to ignore how we live.  We can try and convince ourselves all day long that His love will just allow us to do whatever we want and He’ll look the other way but it just isn’t true.  His nature and holiness don’t allow it.  Justice will happen.  We will either pay the price for our sin, or we will be covered by the blood of the Lamb when Jesus shed His precious blood for our sin on the Cross.

It isn’t a question of whether someone will pay for our sin.  That is a fact and scripture is very clear about it.  The only question is how that price gets paid.  We can face that penalty on our own, which leads to eternal separation from the God who created and loves us.  Or we can accept the free gift of grace through the shed blood of the Savior Jesus Christ.  We can have our debt paid by God’s only Son and receive His covering and the forgiveness and mercy that comes through His sacrifice.  Which will it be for you?

Lamentations 3

Lamentations 3 is a chapter of contrast.  It begins with a very long list of things that God does or allows for those who get on the wrong side of good vs. evil.  God deals with sin.  There is a price and the writer has “seen affliction under the rod of his wrath”:

–       “he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light

–       he turns his hand again and again the whole day long

–       He has made my flesh and my skin waste away

–       he has broken my bones

–       he has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation

–       he has made me dwell in darkness like the dead of long ago

–       He has walled me about so that I cannot escape

–       he has made my chains heavy

–       he shuts out my prayer

–       he has blocked my ways with blocks of stones

–       he has made my paths crooked

–       He is a bear lying in wait for me, a lion in hiding

–       he turned aside my steps and tore me to pieces

–       he has made me desolate

–       he bent his bow and set me as a target for his arrow

–       He drove into my kidneys the arrows of his quiver

–       I have become the laughingstock of all peoples, the object of their taunts all day long

–       He has filled me with bitterness

–       he has sated me with wormwood

–       He has made my teeth grind on gravel

–       made me cower in ashes

The result is not pretty when we get on the wrong side of God.  The status of our writer is “my soul is bereft of peace….I have forgotten what happiness is”.  Things are dim and dismal.  It is not going well.

But all of a sudden things change.  The author remembers what he knows about God.  He recalls God’s blessing and goodness.  “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope”:

–       “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases

–       his mercies never come to an end

–       they are new every morning

–       great is your faithfulness

–       The Lord is my portion, says my soul

–       therefore I will hope in him

–       The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him

–       It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord

–       is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.”

All the bad things that happen as a result of disobedience and sin are covered by the hope of a loving God who is waiting to restore us to Himself.

Our plight is the result of our own choices.  We create the bed we have to sleep in.  But God waits for us.  He wants us to return – to repent and go the other way and run back to Him.  “For the Lord will not cast off forever….though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love….for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men”.  Even in the midst of our rebellion and sin and bad choices, God loves us and waits to restore the relationship with Himself.

So where are you in your relationship with God?  Are you experiencing the pain of disobedience and His correction and attention getting to drive you to examine how you live?  Or are you enjoying the blessing of a relationship with the loving God who never gives up on us, and pursues us to help us come back to Himself?  God will punish sin.  And that can be pretty intense and severe.  But it is never done for any reason than to bring us back to Himself.  His steadfast love never ceases.  He never gives up.  Are you moving back to Him?

Lamentations 2

Lamentations 2 begins with a long list of God’s actions against the sin of His people.  These are strong words – very powerful actions – and the list is very long.  Check out what it says God does:

–       “cast down

–       not remembered

–       swallowed up

–       broken down

–       brought down

–       cut down

–       withdrawn

–       burned

–       bent his bow

–       killed

–       poured out

–       become like an enemy

–       swallowed up

–       laid in ruins

–       multiplied mourning and lamentation

–       laid waste

–       laid in ruins

–       fierce indignation

–       spurned

–       scorned

–       disowned

–       delivered into the hand of the enemy

–       raised a clamor

–       stretched out the measuring line

–       did not restrain

–       caused rampart

–       broken her

These are the actions God took.  It wasn’t a simple response.  God’s fury was let loose.

And when one goes through the fury of God, one can “find no vision from the Lord”.  You just feel helpless.  You feel all alone.  It is a difficult time.  The people have experienced destruction.  “Your ruin is vast as the sea”.  God did a number on His people.  And it is complete – to the core – to the place where they have nowhere else to go but back to Him.  There is no recovery from this except God.  There is nowhere else to go.

It wasn’t accidental – God’s response that is.  “The Lord has done what he purposed; he has carried out his word, which he commanded long ago; he has thrown down without pity; he has made the enemy rejoice over you and exalted the might of your foes”.  God has been faithful to His word and His ways.  He told His people for generations that they had to obey.  He gave them a roadmap for success and life that would be blessed.  But they chose otherwise.  They chose to live a life of evil rather than righteousness.  And God did what He said He would.  God punished them.

So what do we do when we finally get to the end of ourselves and have nowhere else to go?  We have to go back to God.  He alone can help us recover and restore our lives. “Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord! Lift your hands to him”.  We need to get on our face and seek Him.  We need to run toward Him.  Our immediate response is to run from Him, but that is the wrong response.  When we finally get to the end of self, we have only one option and that is God.  Been there?  I’ve been there and fortunately done that.  And He is there, ready to receive us and bring us back to Himself!

Lamentations 1

Lamentations 1 reveals the state of Jerusalem after God turns Babylon loose on it.  “How lonely sits the city that was full of people….who was great among the nations….who was a princess among the provinces has become a slave”.  God has allowed the enemy to have free reign and destroy the city and His people.  “She herself suffers bitterly….the Lord has afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions”.  Sin has a price.  When we walk in disobedience, we will face punishment.

And the reality is, we often don’t think about the outcome as we sin.  “She took no thought of her future; therefore her fall is terrible”.  Here is the terrible truth about sin.  It seems so harmless at the time.  It seems so innocent on the surface.  It seems like it won’t be that big a deal.  But the truth is this:

Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay and cost you more than you want to pay.

Sin carries a huge price tag.  We don’t stop and consider the cost to our choices.  We just dive into sin and choose to do things that will carry a severe cost, up to an eternal separation from God if we don’t address it through repentance.  But Sin is expensive and we never consider the cost before we make the choice.  If we did, we would never sin.  If we considered what the cost would be, we would choose obedience.  Blessing comes from that.  It doesn’t cost us anything, it brings blessing and goodness from God.

We don’t know for sure who wrote the book of Lamentations.  Many believe it was the prophet Jeremiah, which is a likely prospect, but whoever the author they knew what happened well.  “For these things I weep; my eyes flow with tears; for a comforter is far from me….the enemy has prevailed”.  Have you ever felt this way?  That things have fallen apart in your life and God is far away.  The devil has had his way with your life and is destroying all that is happening.  The writer is in pain: “I am in distress; my stomach churns; my heart is wrung within me, because I have been very rebellious”.  But he understands the issue – rebellion.  It is never a good choice!

How do people survive when they have no hope? Where do they turn when there’s nothing but misery all around them? In whom do you put your trust and hope? The only true hope we truly have is in the Lord. As we study Lamentations, we’ll get a glimpse of the God whose compassions never fail. He is our only source of hope.  The writer will lead us to that conclusion as we study.  But God doesn’t ignore sin.  There is a price to pay.  And we need to consider that cost before we make a choice to disobey God and choose sin!

%d bloggers like this: