Text: Lamentations 1-2
Jerusalem is compared to woman who has been humiliated from her position of a queen in splendor, to that of a shamed and lonely widow. The lamenting poems describe the resulting anguish and lack of rest (1:3) of grief and loss. The author of Lamentations repeats their understanding that this destruction is all a result of Judah’s sin and rebellion (1:5, 8, 14, 18, 20, 22). Chapter 2 describes the Lord as the enemy of Judah and describes how he exercised his wrath on Israel. Listen to the phrases describing destruction by God’s actions; He:
“hurled down” (2:1),
“swallowed up” and “tore down” (2:2, 5, 8),
“cut off”, “withdrew his right hand”, “burned” (2:3),
“strung his bow”, “slain”, “poured out his wrath” (2:4),
“destroyed”, “multiplied mourning and lamentation” (2:5,8),
“laid waste” (2:6)
“rejected”, “abandoned”, “handed over” (2:7)
“he has broken and destroyed”(2:9)
In response to all this desolation:
The elders are silent in dust and sackcloth (2:10).
The young women bow their heads to the ground (2:11).
The author is in torment and weeping (2:11).
The children and infants faint in the streets (2:11).
Then come the questions:
“Where is bread and wine?” (2:12)
“What can I say?” (2:13)
“How can I comfort you?” (2:13)
“Who can heal you?” (2:13)
“Whom has God ever treated like this?” (2:20)
“Should women eat their offspring, the children they have cared for?” (2:20)
“Should priest and prophet be killed in the sanctuary of the Lord?” (2:20)
The absolute desperation of the people of fallen Judah is clear in these chapters that portray utter grief and despair. While the people are bent low in the posture of lament and sorrow, the children are fainting and dying of hunger and the mothers are so desperately hungry they turn to cannibalism. The men who should have facilitated covenant relationship between God and His people are dead in the place where once God’s glory dwelled with His people. All this--the level of humiliation and disgrace that it took for Judah to finally acknowledge her sins and rebellion against the Lord. Is this too harsh a measure? Let’s not forget the words we just read in Isaiah and Jeremiah and the minor prophets: God warned the people about this over and over and over again. Here in their suffering, finally, they know their God is holy and demands justice. In Proverbs too, we read: “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” Proverbs 3:11
Have you ever experienced God’s destruction in your life? We see through Scripture that God sometimes resorts to tearing things down in order to bring us back into right relationship of complete reliance on Him. If we prosper and grow comfortable, we can be prone to pride, thinking that we don’t need God because we have life handled. Or if we don’t align ourselves with God’s will and make important decisions without Him, we may find ourselves in our own created mess. Sometimes restoration can only come after complete destruction—the removal of a job or a relationship—or a chaotic situation where you find yourself again desperately in need of Him. A hard principle of life is that it is often in our humbling, our sorrow, in our questions and confusion that we recognize our true status as sinners in need of a Saviour.
And let’s not forget, on this side of the New Covenant, the ultimate example of Jesus and his beautiful gift to us. He took God’s destruction upon himself in order that we may be restored to God:
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:5-6
Jesus longs for us to re-evaluate our lives and priorities when we are not living in His will and Way. He wants us to find Him and turn to Him for restoration. We are wise not to resent the discipline of God for sometimes it is the last resort for Him to restore us back into right relationship with Him.
Though it is not easy, Lord, thank you for tearing down the things in my life that get in the way of a right relationship with you. Help me to be humble so that I can quickly re-align my life to your way and purpose when I recognize your divine hand removing so as to restore. Amen.
Song: Canvas and Clay by Pat Barrett
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.