Day 19: A Disrespect for God

Lamentations 4:7-10 :

Jerusalem remembers in the days of her affliction and of her miseries
all her pleasant things that were from the days of old;
when her people fell into the hand of the adversary,
and no one helped her.
The adversaries saw her.
They mocked at her desolations.

Jerusalem has grievously sinned.
Therefore she has become unclean.
All who honored her despise her,
because they have seen her nakedness.
Yes, she sighs and turns backward.

Her filthiness was in her skirts.
She didn’t remember her latter end.
Therefore she has come down astoundingly.
She has no comforter.
“See, Yahweh, my affliction;
for the enemy has magnified himself.”

The adversary has spread out his hand on all her pleasant things;
for she has seen that the nations have entered into her sanctuary,
concerning whom you commanded that they should not enter into your assembly.

Here in Lamentations, there are three main ideas that keep repeating over and over again and are expressed using various comparisons. The three ideas are that Israel’s enemies and supposed friends didn’t help her when she was attacked but instead mocked her, that Israel’s sin was the cause of all her problems, and her enemies defiled the temple.

In this passage, Israel’s sin is, once again, compared to sexual promiscuity. In a sense, there is a confession here that the reason those who used to honor Israel turned away, was because they saw her sin. That’s actually a good reason to turn away from someone. Sin is pretty gross. The problem was that many of these other countries were being gross too. Their sin wasn’t yet exposed like Israel’s was.

One of the biggest sins was that these nations defiled the temple. It’s one thing to show disrespect for Israel because they sinned. It was another thing to show disrespect for the God of Israel. The God of Israel is perfect. In that sense, He really is holy. Remember that the word holy means separate. God is separate from Israel and her sin, and He is separate from the Gentiles who were unrepentant and unwilling to follow God’s law. This disrespect for God is really the main issue. If Israel, with all of her advantages, were unable to follow God’s law, the Gentiles actually had no hope at all. Their arrogance against Israel only confirmed that they were God haters.

Lamentations really exposes the human condition doesn’t it? God is holy, but mankind is prone to evil just like a person who is prone to sexual promiscuity. We may try to avoid our own guilt by pointing out the guilt of others, but the fact still remains that we don’t measure up to what our Creator expects.

Day 2: The Sins of Jerusalem

Lamentations 1:6-9 :

All majesty has departed from the daughter of Zion.
Her princes have become like deer that find no pasture.
They have gone without strength before the pursuer.

Jerusalem remembers in the days of her affliction and of her miseries
all her pleasant things that were from the days of old;
when her people fell into the hand of the adversary,
and no one helped her.
The adversaries saw her.
They mocked at her desolations.

Jerusalem has grievously sinned.
Therefore she has become unclean.
All who honored her despise her,
because they have seen her nakedness.
Yes, she sighs and turns backward.

Her filthiness was in her skirts.
She didn’t remember her latter end.
Therefore she has come down astoundingly.
She has no comforter.
“See, Yahweh, my affliction;
for the enemy has magnified himself.”

A beautiful thing about this lamentation, is that it doesn’t attempt to hide the fact that the people of Jerusalem had “grievously sinned.” I am told that it isn’t uncommon for historic writers to conveniently overlook the errors and wrongs of their own nations. That’s something that really sets the Bible apart. The Bible is written in such a way as to glorify God, not the nation of Israel and in cases like these, that means that Israel must expose itself as a filthy sinner. That’s exactly what we read here.

As Gentiles who believe in the Bible, we must also come to grip with our filthiness. God makes it clear that the Gentiles were also hopelessly filthy, in fact, that’s another thing we learn from this lamentation. It tells us that “the enemy has magnified himself.” Not only did the Gentiles not deserve God’s blessing because of their idolatry, they added to it by acting as if they were better than Israel. That reminds me of two important teachings in the Bible.

God teaches us that when we gloat over the destruction of someone else, He may stop punishing the ones He is punishing because of our hypocrisy. Let’s look at what it says:

Proverbs 24:17-18 :

Don’t rejoice when your enemy falls.
Don’t let your heart be glad when he is overthrown,
lest Yahweh see it, and it displease him,
and he turn away his wrath from him.

God also teaches us that as Christians, we my be tempted to think of ourselves as better than the Jews. This teaching comes with a severe warning. Let’s look at that too:

Romans 11:18-22 :

don’t boast over the branches. But if you boast, it is not you who support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in.” True; by their unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by your faith. Don’t be conceited, but fear; for if God didn’t spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. See then the goodness and severity of God. Toward those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in his goodness; otherwise you also will be cut off.

The Bible clearly teaches that how we treat the Jews is an expression of the reality of our faith. If we act is if we are better, we obviously don’t understand salvation, which means that we aren’t saved yet either. To put it in blunt terms, if you look down on the Jews, you are going to Hell not Heaven because you don’t really believe in Jesus yet. When we really understand our sin and our salvation, we stop looking down on the Jews and everyone else who sins.

Day 189: The Moab Mirror

Jeremiah 48:39-47

“How it is broken down!
How they wail!
How Moab has turned the back with shame!
So will Moab become a derision
and a terror to all who are around him.”
For Yahweh says: “Behold, he will fly as an eagle,
and will spread out his wings against Moab.
Kerioth is taken,
and the strongholds are seized.
The heart of the mighty men of Moab at that day
will be as the heart of a woman in her pangs.
Moab will be destroyed from being a people,
because he has magnified himself against Yahweh.
Terror, the pit, and the snare are on you,
inhabitant of Moab,” says Yahweh.
“He who flees from the terror will fall into the pit;
and he who gets up out of the pit will be taken in the snare,
for I will bring on him, even on Moab,
the year of their visitation,” says Yahweh.

“Those who fled stand without strength under the shadow of Heshbon;
for a fire has gone out of Heshbon,
and a flame from the middle of Sihon,
and has devoured the corner of Moab, and the crown of the head of the tumultuous ones.
Woe to you, O Moab!
The people of Chemosh are undone;
for your sons are taken away captive,
and your daughters into captivity.

“Yet I will reverse the captivity of Moab in the latter days,”
says Yahweh.
Thus far is the judgment of Moab.

The crime that Moab committed that caused them to receive this horrible punishment from God was that they dared to magnify themselves against Him. In other translations it says that they exalted themselves against God. As a result, God intended to hunt them down. He even said that if they appear to have gotten away once, He would catch them again and if they get away the second time, He will catch them again. Their children would also go into captivity.

When you look at the history of Moab, you see that they actually thought that they could fight against God by harming those He had chosen to bless. They used their abilities to find a way to wage a war against the will of God, as if they could actually win that war. As we look at others, it’s easy for us to see how foolish and horrible it is to attempt to do something like that, but I have found that when I take the same measuring stick and measure myself, it doesn’t look very good.

When I have a mind to sin, I tend to do what I can get away with too. For instance, when driving on the road, do we see how far below the speed limit we can legally go, or how high above it? My mind is quite willing to work overtime to figure out a way how to live in the flesh while walking in the Spirit, which is quite impossible. Even the concept of being “neutral” is an example of this war against God and His word. God says that those who are not for Him are against Him. If we claim that we are just being neutral, we are calling God a liar because He says there is no neutral! That’s just another war against God that He will judge. Our pride is very deep and deceptive. We tend not to see it because, of course, we wouldn’t do such a thing, would we?

The truth that God has made known to us is that we were all Moab and we still have our Moab moments. We all had that pride that guided our actions as we breathed God’s air and lived in the bodies that God made while doing things we knew He didn’t like. We were fighting against Him and both sin and death took us captive too. The wonderful thing about this passage is what it says at the end. God not only promised punishment, He also promised release. After all that Moab had done to God and His people, God determined to “reverse the captivity of Moab in the latter days.” This is a big reason for us to praise God. We all have sinned and deserve God’s eternal punishment, but God intended to free us by His grace. Praise God.