Read: Lamentations 1
Focus: Jerusalem has sinned greatly,
so she has been tossed away like a filthy rag.
All who once honored her now despise her,
for they have seen her stripped naked and humiliated.
All she can do is groan
and hide her face. Lamentations 1:8
In today’s reading, we see that the Jewish people living in Jerusalem have suffered one of the greatest tragedies they had ever suffered. As we learned in the book of Jeremiah, King Zedekiah decided he was going to stop paying tribute taxes to Babylon. In response, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon sent his army to destroy Jerusalem. Despite prophetic warnings to surrender, King Zedekiah chose to ignore God. Jeremiah describes briefly the total destruction of Jerusalem in chapters 39 and 52; throughout the book of Lamentations this tragedy is described by the Prophet Jeremiah in much more detail.
There are some recurring themes or principles that stick out to me throughout the Bible. Reading the books of Jeremiah and Lamentations highlights the convergence of two of those. Throughout the Bible, we are taught there are consequences for our actions – as the Apostle Paul puts it in Galatians 6:7, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” What did the ancient Jews of Jeremiah’s day sow that warranted reaping such a terrible consequence? As we’ve seen in several recent readings, the prophets of the Old Testament write extensively about this; a good summation can be found in Jeremiah 2: 11-12: “My people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols! The heavens are shocked at such a thing.” The people of the kingdom of Judah mocked God by turning away from Him and the protections and blessings He offered them in exchange for the false gods of their day and what the surrounding cultures offered.
While there is a lesson in just that part (especially given the draw of the idols of wealth, power, popularity, and acceptance in today’s culture), one of the other recurring themes I see in the Bible is that of an overwhelming hope available for all people who put our faith in Christ regardless of what we have done. Jeremiah is known as the “Weeping Prophet” because he cries in response to the devastating suffering God showed him would befall the people of Jerusalem as a consequence for their sin (for instance, see Lamentations 1:16). In Jeremiah 32, God gives Jeremiah a vision of the destruction that is about to take place in Jerusalem, the destruction that Jeremiah wrote about in today’s reading after it had occured. However, in that same chapter, God also provides Jeremiah with a vision of hope for His people and Jerusalem:
“For this is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘Someday people will again own property here in this land and will buy and sell houses and vineyards and fields.’” Jeremiah 32:15
While Jeremiah knows that the Israelites have caused the devastation we read about today by their own disobedience and disregard for God, he is so blown away that God has a plan of restoration for them that he breaks out in prayer praising God for His goodness, mercy, and power (I highly recommend reading the prayer in Jeremiah 32:17 – 25).
I can see how these same two concepts of consequence and hope apply to my life. I suffer consequences when I disobey God and choose to sin. However, even though I turn from Him when I sin, God doesn’t give up on me. He continues to offer forgiveness and the hope of salvation through Jesus. As Paul wrote in Romans 5:21, “So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Lord, thank You that You love me so much that You never give up on me. I pray that You help me to see the hope You offer no matter how challenging a circumstance I find myself in. I also pray for the humility to accept the consequences of my actions if I turn from you and the awareness to confess and repent my sin to You. I trust in You fully, and just like Jeremiah, I am blown away by your grace and mercy. Through my Savior Jesus, I pray – Amen.