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.

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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?

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