Lamenting the Unnecessary

Posted: November 24, 2014 in Lamentations

Lamentations 4-5, “Lamenting the Unnecessary”

What happens after the worst has happened?  When you’ve lost everything, is there any coming back from that point?  That would have been the question on the minds of the Jews of Jerusalem after the terrible siege and conquest by the armies of Babylon.  For over a year, the Jews endured unspeakable hardships, and a total breakdown of their society – only to end it with misery on top of misery.  The worst part of all of it is that it was their own fault.  Their sin against God had led them to this point, and God in His justice had to pour out His anger and wrath upon them.  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God, and that’s exactly where the Jews found themselves.

The book of Lamentations was written to give expression to this grief and anguish felt by the Jews during all of this time.  Comprised of a series of alphabetical funeral dirges, the prophet Jeremiah wrote the book (via the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) in such a way as to help the people mourn from A-Z.  Chapters 1-2 looked at the physical desolation of the city, and the righteous anger of the Lord upon them.  It had seemed as if the covenant God of Israel had become her enemy, and there was little comfort that could be offered to the people.  In Chapter 3, the prophet Jeremiah lifted up his own voice to the Lord, crying out in anguish, and almost forgetting entirely what hope in God felt like.  Yet as he did, his eyes were turned back to the Lord and he was filled with hope once again.  God had always proven Himself faithful to His covenant promises in the past, and He would do so again now.  Our God is a God of ever-new mercies, and He is the God in whom Jeremiah could trust.  Jeremiah truly grieved for his people, but he had a sure hope in God.

If Chapter 3 was the high point of the book, Chapters 4-5 start to come down off that mountain.  Jeremiah’s voice of hope gives way to the people’s voice of hopelessness once again, as they remember the Babylonian siege that they endured, and all of the horrors and humiliation that came with it.  As they cry out to God, they plead with Him to look upon them again, as they descend once more into hopelessness and despair.  Even the ending words of the book seem mournful and desperate.

Yet even in all of their pain, the Jewish people knew at least this much: they could appeal to the All-Powerful Holy God.  Even if their grief and raw emotions kept them from remembering all of the truths about God’s character, they knew that they were still His people, and He was still their God.  They had a place to turn in the midst of their pain, and so do we.

This is what is guaranteed to us through the cross and resurrection of Jesus.  Although the Jews will question if they might have been utterly rejected by God, that is a fear that no born-again Christian need ever carry.  WE will not be rejected by God, because Jesus already endured our rejection for us when He hung upon the cross.  He is the One who cried out “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  And because He did, we do not have to.  Even when we come to God in the middle of our raw emotions and awful pain, we can come with the assurance that we are still His children, and He is still our God.  Thus even in our most terrible grief over the consequences of our sin, we still have an abundance of hope.

Lamentations 4

  • The siege and humiliation of Jerusalem (vss. 1-10)

1 How the gold has become dim! How changed the fine gold! The stones of the sanctuary are scattered At the head of every street. 2 The precious sons of Zion, Valuable as fine gold, How they are regarded as clay pots, The work of the hands of the potter!

  • As the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, the gold was plundered, and what was once glorious has now become “dim” – a bare shadow of what used to be.  Anything that was left was marred and useless.
  • Ultimately, it was not just the stones; it was the sons who were beaten down and scattered.  They could figuratively be thought of as the “gold,” though no doubt the language could also refer to the temple.  But the sons were just as precious, and now they are no more.  The dead lay strewn in the streets.  They were treated as worthless, as if gold was somehow changed to “clay.
  • Sadly, the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem and the temple would not be the final time the Jews suffered like this.  The Romans would once again come in 70AD and lay Jerusalem to waste, and as with the Babylonians, the dead would lay everywhere and the temple would be utterly destroyed (this time, with not an ounce of gold left behind).
  • On a practical level, we see this take place in the lives of people every day when they are left ravaged by their own sin.  If you’ve ever seen the before/after photos of people horribly addicted to crystal meth, the difference between their pictures is shocking.  Their bodies are hollowed out, their skin is thinned and marred, and worse.  Sadly, this is what people do to themselves every day…and not just with illegal drugs.  Meth may be more apparent on the outside, but hatred and grudge-fueled anger ravages a person’s inside.  They also become scattered, and what was once beautiful is now marred by the results of sin.

3 Even the jackals present their breasts To nurse their young; But the daughter of my people is cruel, Like ostriches in the wilderness. 4 The tongue of the infant clings To the roof of its mouth for thirst; The young children ask for bread, But no one breaks it for them.

  • The sin of the nation affected the most vulnerable among them: the children.  Jewish mothers had no milk for their infants, nor bread for their other children.  Worse than the lack of supply is the lack of desire.  It seems that the Jewish mothers are compared unfavorably with wild jackals.  The wild dogs know enough to at least feed their young, whereas the Jewish nation is so debased by this point that the mothers are more like ostriches who actively neglect their offspring.
  • Keep in mind that this is a description of the people of God.  These were His chosen people.  They should have served as an example to all the Gentile nations of how a people could live in worship and relationship with the Creator God, and yet as a result of their sin, they serve as an example of what NOT to be.  They have become exactly the opposite of what God intended for them.
  • God has so much better for us in mind than what we live in when we choose to sin.  Especially as born-again believers & children of God!  When Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave, He offered us freedom from the slavery of sin and abundant life in unhindered relationship with our God.  We can be an example to the people around us of what the love of God looks like, so that they would yearn for it themselves.  But when we say “no” to God and choose to sin, we example the opposite.  Instead of abundance of life, we live with burdensome guilt.  Instead of freedom, we live as if we’re still slaves to sin.  May it never be!  As Paul wrote to the Galatians, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free, (Gal 5:1, NASB) – we ought not to enslave ourselves to anything again, be it sin or legalism.

5 Those who ate delicacies Are desolate in the streets; Those who were brought up in scarlet Embrace ash heaps. 6 The punishment of the iniquity of the daughter of my people Is greater than the punishment of the sin of Sodom, Which was overthrown in a moment, With no hand to help her!

  • The picture of total degradation continues.  This time, it’s not the mothers’ neglect of their children, but the fall of Jerusalem’s elite from luxury to mourning.  They once ate the finest of foods, and wore the finest of clothing; now they are starving and steeped in ashes.
  • This was their punishment from the Lord God.  This is what they had earned for themselves, as harsh as it was.  How bad was it?  It was better for Sodom than it was for Jerusalem!  Being cast away from God is worse than the fiery hail thrown down upon Sodom.  At least Sodom’s punishment was complete in a single night; Jerusalem suffered for over a year with the siege and then spent another 70 years in captivity.  Jerusalem’s punishment was far worse, because Jerusalem had far more for which to answer.  No doubt the sin of Sodom was terrible (unbridled fornication, homosexuality, violence, and various other injustices), but they were acting as unrighteous Gentiles act.  Jerusalem, on the other hand, had the Scripture and the prophets who were sent to them.  The Jews could not claim ignorance in their sin.  God had warned them time and time again what would happen, and they made the choice to rebel against Him anyway.
  • There is no excuse for sin, be it among Christian or non-Christian.  Everyone is responsible for his/her own sin, because at the very least people have seen the revelation of God in nature, and have the basic law of God written upon our hearts.  That said, pagans act like pagans – atheists act like atheists.  It’s a far bigger problem when Christians act like pagans or atheists.  We at least have been renewed by the Holy Spirit, and have Him indwelling our hearts.  We have the Scriptures, and thus we have no excuse NOT to submit ourselves to the will of God.  If it ever seems like Christians sometimes endure the harsher punishments when they fall into sin, this is why.  It may be the exact same sin committed by a pagan, but at least the pagan wasn’t a hypocrite as well.  We as Christians know better, so we ought to act better.
    • BTW – the fact that Christians DO experience more hardships and consequences for our sin is actually a good thing.  It’s a reminder that we are beloved of God, and that He expects more from us as His children.  Parents chasten their own children; and thus when we are chastened by God, it is a good reminder that we belong to Him as His sons and daughters.  Although it’s not something we look forward to, it’s not something to be despised.

7 Her Nazirites were brighter than snow And whiter than milk; They were more ruddy in body than rubies, Like sapphire in their appearance. 8 Now their appearance is blacker than soot; They go unrecognized in the streets; Their skin clings to their bones, It has become as dry as wood.

  • There’s a bit of parallelism with vss. 7-10 in relation to vss. 1-6.  As before, there has been a change.  Those who were expected to be exalted have been cast down and humiliated.  (There will also be laments regarding mothers with their children in another parallel).
  • Here, the change is in regards to the “Nazirites.”  Remember that a Nazarite was someone who had taken a vow dedicating themselves to the Lord, forbidding themselves from touching anything made of grapes and anything unclean (usually a temporary vow, though Samson and John the Baptist each seemed to live their whole lives as Nazirites).  That’s what they were supposed to be, but that’s not what they were during and after the Babylonian siege.  Those who worshipped and dedicated themselves to God were once strong and glorious; now they are weak and wretched.  They do not reflect the glory of living in a relationship of worship of the Living God; they appear as if they have been cursed by Him.  They are physically ravaged by the effects of their sin (just as we have seen earlier).
  • Have you ever come across someone you once knew & wondered, “What happened?”  Once they were so vibrant, and had such a promising future.  Once they seemed as if they had such a wonderful & exciting relationship with Jesus, and now they seem a shell of what they once were.  There’s hardly an indication that they walk with Jesus at all, much less had a strong relationship with Him.  What happened?  In a word: sin.  In every single case, you can be certain that some sin got in the way.  They started choosing the world over Jesus – they started choosing temporary satisfaction over righteousness.  And instead of responding to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, they repeatedly said “no” to God and hardened their hearts.  Eventually, they are left unrecognizable.
    • Question: is it too late for them?  As long as they draw breath, there is hope.  God can break the hardest of hearts, and God can get through to the most stubborn of His children.  I don’t envy what they may have to endure to get to that point of breaking, but God can do it.  It may take a miracle to reach them, but our God is in the business of miracles.  What is impossible with man is possible with God.
    • BTW – perhaps God is speaking something to your heart right now along these lines.  Perhaps there’s been something that you’ve been actively rejecting the Lord about.  Do yourself a favor, and stop right now.  Confess your sin to the Lord, believing upon Jesus’ work for you at His cross and resurrection, and receive the forgiveness and cleansing that He promises. (1 Jn 1:9)  God CAN break you, but it is far better for you to humble yourself unto God, rather than being humbled by Him.

9 Those slain by the sword are better off Than those who die of hunger; For these pine away, Stricken for lack of the fruits of the field. 10 The hands of the compassionate women Have cooked their own children; They became food for them In the destruction of the daughter of my people.

  • As Jeremiah (speaking on behalf of the people) remembers the siege, he remembers how truly awful it had been.  It was better to die in battle than starve to death.  A strike from a sword is at least quick, whereas starvation can be several painful weeks.  The famine had so affected peoples’ minds and emotions that they could no longer think straight.  They got to the point where the “compassionate women” had become cannibals.  How bad is it when mothers eat their own children?  It can’t get worse than that.  (Sadly, it wasn’t the first time this happened among the Jews, and it likely wasn’t the last.  God had warned them about this horror centuries earlier, but they failed to heed His warnings.)
  • All of this goes to demonstrate the extreme awfulness of sin.  Sin changes us.  We no longer act like children of the Most High God, but we act like base animals.  We go from dignity to disgrace – from honor to horror in a heartbeat.
    • Beloved, none of this needs to describe us.  Sin (for the believer) is always a choice, and it’s one we don’t have to make.  God the Holy Spirit empowers us to choose righteousness, and God the Son is available to forgive us when we choose otherwise.  We certainly don’t have to wallow in sin and guilt.  Choose life!  Choose confession, forgiveness, and grace!
  • God scatters an unclean people (vss. 11-16)

11 The LORD has fulfilled His fury, He has poured out His fierce anger. He kindled a fire in Zion, And it has devoured its foundations.

  • All of what Jerusalem experienced was the all-consuming fire of God.  God had promised these things to come to pass, and they did.  The day of His wrath had come, and no one was able to stand.

12 The kings of the earth, And all inhabitants of the world, Would not have believed That the adversary and the enemy Could enter the gates of Jerusalem— 13 Because of the sins of her prophets And the iniquities of her priests, Who shed in her midst The blood of the just.

  • When God protected them, none could enter Jerusalem.  It’s not that none had tried; it’s that none could do it.  The Assyrians camped 185,000 soldiers right beyond the gates of Jerusalem, but when the time came, they were unable even to shoot a single arrow over the wall.  God had protected His people entirely.  And it wasn’t just one incident.  When the Hebrews first came into the Promised Land, the people of Jericho feared their very approach because they had heard how God decimated the Egyptian armies, and the kings of Sihon and Bashan.  Over and over again, God showed Himself strong on behalf of His people, and sadly the people eventually took it for granted.  Because God had protected them in the past, they believed God would always protect them, despite anything that they had done.
  • But now, everything has changed because of sin.  God removed His hand of protection from Jerusalem “because of the sins of her prophets and…priests.”  Instead of preaching righteousness, they sided with rebellion.  Instead of heeding the message of Jeremiah to repent, they doubled down on false prophecy.  The false prophets and priests had personally led the people in their rebellion, and now the whole city suffered the consequences of it.
    • Beware false teaching!  Doctrine matters.  In the case of Jerusalem, they could have been walking with the Lord, but instead they found themselves working against God.  We might find ourselves doing the same thing if we’re not grounded in the teaching of the Bible.  We might hold up our own material prosperity over Jesus – or we might hold up our political preferences over Jesus – or we might choose any number of things.  Doctrine makes a difference.

14 They wandered blind in the streets; They have defiled themselves with blood, So that no one would touch their garments. 15 They cried out to them, “Go away, unclean! Go away, go away, Do not touch us!” When they fled and wandered, Those among the nations said, “They shall no longer dwell here.”

  • Who was it that “wandered blind?”  It was the prophets and priests.  Their sins had left them defiled.  They were rejected by their own countrymen, and treated as lepers.  They couldn’t even find refuge among the Gentiles, and were unwelcome there as well.
  • This ended up being true not just of the religious leaders of Judah, but of the whole nation.  The Jews have been historically treated as unclean lepers throughout history.  Anti-Semitism among so-called “Christian” kingdoms ran rampant during the Middle Ages, and memories of the Nazi Holocaust are still fresh in the minds of many.  Few nations desired the Jews among them, and they were most definitely treated as unclean and defiled.

16 The face of the LORD scattered them; He no longer regards them. The people do not respect the priests Nor show favor to the elders.

  • The use of God’s covenant name “LORD/Yahweh,” is significant.  Yahweh (the ever-existent covenant-keeping God of Israel) scattered His own people.  God showed no more favor to them…He didn’t even seem to look at them.  Have you ever made someone so mad at you that you were told to leave, that they couldn’t even look at you any longer?  From the viewpoint of the Jews, they felt that was what happened between them and their God.  For generations, they had not treated God as their God, and now they were reaping the results of that.  If they didn’t want Yahweh as their God, then they would not be His people.
    • Of course ultimately God still DID look upon Israel, though it didn’t seem like it at the time.  God had to withdraw His hand of fellowship for them to experience the consequences of their actions, and it certainly felt as if God had forsaken them – a thought to which Jeremiah will return later on.
  • Not only did God seem to turn away from the people, but contextually it seemed that He turned away from the false teachers.  He did not regard the supplications of the false priests and prophets.  For that matter, neither did the “people.”  The people lost all respect for their leaders because they had failed in their responsibilities.
  • The Jews saw the end approaching (vss. 17-20)

17 Still our eyes failed us, Watching vainly for our help; In our watching we watched For a nation that could not save us.

  • The Jews looked for help and a deliverer, but it was in vain.  They had reached out to other nations as their allies, but none could help.  Once God determined their judgment, there would be no escape from it.
  • Sadly, they never looked to God.  They saw the results of their sin, but they never used that to turn in repentance.  It seems so foolish, doesn’t it?  The old joke tells of a patient who went to the doctor and said, “Doctor, it hurts when I do this,” so the doctor said, “So stop doing it!”  Sometimes the best solutions are the simplest ones, but those might be the ones we least like doing.  If we see certain consequences coming from our sin, what ought to be our response?  Stop sinning!  If we’re about to lose a job because of drinking, then stop drinking.  If we’re about to lose a marriage because of looking at pornography, then stop looking at it.  Stop engaging in that which you know is destructive.  For the Jews, they saw the Babylonians on the horizon, and they knew the Babylonians were coming because of their sin.  What should they have done?  Stop sinning, repent, confess, and seek the Lord in spirit and truth.  Yet they could never bring themselves to do it, so they suffered the terrible consequences.
    • So many consequences are avoidable if we just stop the sin.  Stop doing it, and seek the Lord & His help!

18 They tracked our steps So that we could not walk in our streets. Our end was near; Our days were over, For our end had come. 19 Our pursuers were swifter Than the eagles of the heavens. They pursued us on the mountains And lay in wait for us in the wilderness.

  • Remember that the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem lasted well over a year.  There was rampant famine and suffering.  Things had gotten so bad that there came a point during the siege that it was no longer safe to be in the city streets.  At that point, the people knew the “end was near,” and everything came to an end with the conquest.  The Jewish king (Zedekiah) broke through the wall himself, and fled the city.  The Babylonians were swift, and followed after the Zedekiah in hot pursuit.  They went past the “mountains” that surrounded Jerusalem and the Kidron Valley, and the Babylonians caught up to Zedekiah “in the wilderness” – the plains of Jericho. (2 Kings 25:4-7)

20 The breath of our nostrils, the anointed of the LORD, Was caught in their pits, Of whom we said, “Under his shadow We shall live among the nations.”

  • Who was caught? “The anointed of the LORD.”  This could possibly be a reference to the Jewish people themselves, as they were caught by the Babylonians and sent among the nations.  However, it seems more likely to be a technical reference to King Zedekiah.  The king in Jerusalem WAS the “anointed of the LORD,” being that he was the Jewish king descended from David.  The Hebrew word used here is where we get the title “Messiah.”  Obviously Jeremiah is not writing of THE Messiah, the Lord Jesus, but he is writing of A messiah – the one that had most recently been on the throne.  He was supposed be the deliverer of the Jews because he was the king.  Yet the anointed deliverer needed himself to be delivered.  He was “caught in their pits,” made helpless by the Babylonians.  Eventually he was even blinded and sent to live in the Babylonian prison (“among the nations.”)
  • The Ultimate Anointed One of God also seemed to be “caught” in the pits of the enemy when Jesus was betrayed by Judas, arrested, put on trial, sentenced to death, tortured by the Romans, and nailed to the cross.  Yet whereas Zedekiah was an unwilling captive of the Babylonians, Jesus willingly submitted Himself into the hands of His enemies.  He was never once defeated by the Jewish Sanhedrin nor the Romans; He showed Himself to be ever-victorious when He rose on the third day!
  • God’s vengeance upon Edom (vss. 21-22)

21 Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom, You who dwell in the land of Uz! The cup shall also pass over to you And you shall become drunk and make yourself naked. 22 The punishment of your iniquity is accomplished, O daughter of Zion; He will no longer send you into captivity. He will punish your iniquity, O daughter of Edom; He will uncover your sins!

  • For 20 verses to this point, Jeremiah has been looking only upon the suffering of Jerusalem.  What happened here?  Why look at Edom?  Edom was a traditional enemy of Judah, and they laughed at Jerusalem’s trouble.  Jeremiah basically tells Edom to go ahead and rejoice at Jerusalem’s fall.  Their own turn is coming, and it was coming soon.
  • By this point, God was done punishing Judah.  Once Babylon came in, they had done all they were going to do.  Now God would turn His attention to the Edomites.  He would hold them accountable for their own sins, and they would regret laughing at the trouble of God’s chosen people.
    • One of the most ancient promises of God to His people is His promise to Abraham that He will bless those who bless him, and curse those who curse him. (Gen 12:3)  Nations today would do well to heed that same warning.  God’s people may be in rebellion against Him, but they are still His people, and God WILL act in accordance with His word and promise.

The funeral dirges have basically ended at this point.  Every chapter to this point has been composed as an acrostic (alphabetical order), and lyrically as laments.  At Chapter 5, there is a change as raw emotion just comes pouring out of Jeremiah on behalf of all of the Jews.  Some scholars have noticed that each of the previous chapters ends with a prayer unto God, with the exception of Chapter 4, and they suggest that Chapter 5 is the prayer that not only ends Chapter 4, but the entire book as a whole.

Lamentations 5

  • Suffering and reproach of the Jews (vss. 1-18)

1 Remember, O LORD, what has come upon us; Look, and behold our reproach! 2 Our inheritance has been turned over to aliens, And our houses to foreigners. 3 We have become orphans and waifs, Our mothers are like widows.

  • In Ch. 4:16, God did not look at the people (or at least the priests and prophets).  Now they call upon Him to look again.  They no longer want to be cast out of the sight of God.  They want God to show His countenance to them again, per the ancient priestly blessing.  Numbers 6:24–26, "(24) The LORD bless you and keep you; (25) The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; (26) The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace." []  This was the blessing that was supposed to affirm to the nation that God had put His name and blessing upon them as His people.  As the Jews were facing 70 years of Babylonian captivity, it would have seemed as if God had completely turned away from them.  Their prayer that God would once again see them as His blessed and beloved people.
  • They had lost everything – but if this is what it took to turn them back to the Lord in true worship, then so be it.  Sometimes it takes truly hard punishment to shock us into repentance.  Sometimes we have to hit rock bottom before we ever look up.  Not that anyone ever desires such a thing, but far better to hit bottom and eventually repent, than to enjoy comfort and alienation from God.  For the Jews, they were truly humiliated, having had everything stripped from their hands.

4 We pay for the water we drink, And our wood comes at a price. 5 They pursue at our heels; We labor and have no rest. 6 We have given our hand to the Egyptians And the Assyrians, to be satisfied with bread.

  • They did not have even basic supplies.  Neither water to drink, nor wood to cook upon.  They no longer had a land of their own, and thus they found themselves laboring for other nations just to survive.
  • They had lost so much!  Originally, God had given them everything they needed.  When He first brought them into the land, God told them that He was giving them houses they did not build, and vineyards they did not plant.  He needed them to know that everything they received was a gift out of the gracious provision of God, and they were reliant upon them.  Along the way, they forgot all of this, and treated God as if He were optional (or worse).  Of course, what God gave to them could also be taken away – and that is exactly what happened.

7 Our fathers sinned and are no more, But we bear their iniquities. 8 Servants rule over us; There is none to deliver us from their hand. 9 We get our bread at the risk of our lives, Because of the sword in the wilderness.

  • Their fathers had sinned, but they were paying the price.  Future generations suffer the consequences of past generations’ sins.  There is always a victim of our sin, even if we don’t know who it may be at the time.
  • Of course, it’s not as if the current generation was completely innocent of sin, either.  They themselves were the ones that heard the warnings of Jeremiah, and they were the ones that chose to ignore him and listen to the false teachers.  It’s true that their fathers had sinned, but so had they.  (We are responsible for our own actions!)

10 Our skin is hot as an oven, Because of the fever of famine. 11 They ravished the women in Zion, The maidens in the cities of Judah. 12 Princes were hung up by their hands, And elders were not respected. 13 Young men ground at the millstones; Boys staggered under loads of wood.

  • Terrible consequences!  Starvation – rape – torture – slavery.
  • Sin promises us so much more, but all it delivers is suffering.
  • BTW – was God blind to any of this?  No.  He knew the horrors that the Babylonians brought upon Jerusalem, and He had already determined to judge them.  Jeremiah 51:1–5, "(1) Thus says the LORD: “Behold, I will raise up against Babylon, Against those who dwell in Leb Kamai, A destroying wind. (2) And I will send winnowers to Babylon, Who shall winnow her and empty her land. For in the day of doom They shall be against her all around. (3) Against her let the archer bend his bow, And lift himself up against her in his armor. Do not spare her young men; Utterly destroy all her army. (4) Thus the slain shall fall in the land of the Chaldeans, And those thrust through in her streets. (5) For Israel is not forsaken, nor Judah, By his God, the LORD of hosts, Though their land was filled with sin against the Holy One of Israel.”" []  God had a definite plan to judge Babylon, and rightfully so.  They may have been used by God, but they were evil and committed terrible atrocities.  The Ever-Righteous God would hold them accountable to their sins.  The Judge of all the earth will always do what is right.

14 The elders have ceased gathering at the gate, And the young men from their music. 15 The joy of our heart has ceased; Our dance has turned into mourning.

  • Not only were there physical consequences; there were emotional ones as well.  The people were joyless.  There was no more music, no more dancing.  There was no more gathering at the gate for fellowship, because there was no gate at which to gather.  Everything was taken, and the people grieved.
  • Sin takes away our joy.  In the moment, it seems as if sin would give us all the pleasures we desire, but the moment it’s done, the pleasure is gone.  Like a mirage, it was found to be an illusion. 
    • Has sin stolen your joy?  Return to the Lord in repentance!

16 The crown has fallen from our head. Woe to us, for we have sinned! 17 Because of this our heart is faint; Because of these things our eyes grow dim; 18 Because of Mount Zion which is desolate, With foxes walking about on it.

  • They were utterly humiliated because of their sin.  The kingly line of David appeared to be broken (though God had a plan for it), and the glory of the city of Jerusalem had been stripped from them.  They were hopeless as they looked upon the consequences wrought by their rebellion.
  • The good news here?  They admitted it.  “Woe to us, for we have sinned!”  This is the very essence of confession!  They knew that everything they experienced was due to their sin against God, and now they are taking that sin to God in prayer.  They agree with Him that what they did was sinful, and they’re pleading with God for mercy.  There’s no longer any excuses – there is no more shifting of the blame (even in blaming their parents).  This was their sin – they were responsible – and they need the help of God, because without Him they would only have woe.
  • Confession unto God is the first step of repentance.  Do not be so hesitant to take it!
  • Prayer for restoration (vss. 19-22)

19 You, O LORD, remain forever; Your throne from generation to generation. 20 Why do You forget us forever, And forsake us for so long a time?

  • God IS steadfast!  They prayed that God would “remain forever,” meaning that He would never change, that He would always be their God – and He would be.  God is faithful to His promises, and that is something they could trust.  Beyond that, they could know that God would rule forever.  Babylon may have taken temporary control of their nation, but God was the One who controlled Babylon.  God was on His throne, and that was something that offered much hope.
  • God will not forget them “forever,” and God had promised as much.  But this was easy to forget because they were focused on their hopelessness.  They ask “why,” but they know why…they had just gotten done confessing it!  Were they weeping now?  Yes, but weeping lasts for a night – joy comes in the morning!

21 Turn us back to You, O LORD, and we will be restored; Renew our days as of old, 22 Unless You have utterly rejected us, And are very angry with us!

  • True repentance brings real restoration.  Repentance involves a change of mind and a change of direction.  The mind of Judah had already begun to change as they confessed their sin unto God.  Now they ask for His help in turning – in changing their direction.  If God turned them back, they could be certain of true restoration.  When God works, there is no doubt of the outcome.
    • Think of it from your own personal perspective.  When God changes hearts, lives are forever changed.  When someone is born-again through faith in Christ, they become an entirely new creation.  The old is completely gone.  God turned them around, and that person is restored/renewed.  Sincerely repentant hearts witness the work and grace of God!
  • The final verse can be somewhat troubling.  We would expect a book of the Bible to end on a happier, or at least more hopeful note, and it does not seem as if Lamentations does so.  Some scholars interpret this in a way to see Jeremiah/the Jews asking this as a question, as if they are asking: “Had God “utterly rejected” them?” all the while trusting that He had not.  However, that seems to be a difficult interpretation to reach from the context.  Of course God had NOT utterly rejected the Jews, but they had a difficult time seeing this.  They were so caught up in their troubles that they forgot God’s covenant promise.
    • When we forget the word of God, we get lost in hopelessness.  Remember that it was when Peter took his eyes off of the Lord Jesus that he started to sink in the waters of Galilee.  When our focus becomes our circumstances, hopelessness in inevitable.  When our focus is the Lord of Glory, it is virtually impossible NOT to have hope!
    • There is good news for the Christian: Jesus will NEVER forsake us!

The book of Lamentations lives up to its name.  It is mournful and grieving as the people of Jerusalem lament over their fall to the Babylonians.  They lost everything because of their sin, and they personally experience the full onslaught of the wrath of God.  They went from being an example of what a nation ought to be, to an example that no nation would ever want to be.  They went from a place of honor to one of humiliation.  Every blessing that they ought to have experienced in the Lord was stripped away from them.  And it was all due to sin.

Sin is never worth the cost!  It seems so attractive in the moment, but it awful in the end.  Because of sin, we miss out on the abundance of Christ.  Because of sin, we miss out on fellowship with the Father.  Because of sin, we experiences consequences that are completely unnecessary, and hardships that could have been avoided.  All we need to do is stop, confess, repent, and remember the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.


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