Day 18: What We See and What Will Be

Lamentations 4:1-6 :

How the gold has become dim!
The most pure gold has changed!
The stones of the sanctuary are poured out
at the head of every street.

The precious sons of Zion,
comparable to fine gold,
how they are esteemed as earthen pitchers,
the work of the hands of the potter!

Even the jackals offer their breast.
They nurse their young ones.
But the daughter of my people has become cruel,
like the ostriches in the wilderness.

The tongue of the nursing child clings to the roof of his mouth for thirst.
The young children ask bread,
and no one breaks it for them.

Those who ate delicacies are desolate in the streets.
Those who were brought up in purple embrace dunghills.

For the iniquity of the daughter of my people is greater than the sin of Sodom,
which was overthrown as in a moment.
No hands were laid on her.

When I look at my world today, it appears that most popular entertainment assumes that God isn’t there. TV shows, movies and even the commercials promote things that go against God’s word. It’s as if there’s this assumption that Christianity is just a silly little pretend thing that some people like to do. At the same time, everyone seems to be getting and staying quite wealthy as if they are right in what they are thinking. What we read here in Lamentations, reminds us that what we see now, could disappear completely.

What Jeremiah witnessed was the fall of a great civilization and he lived to write about it. The expensive and great buildings of Jerusalem were turned into broken down slums. The children of this once great culture were lacking food and milk so badly that they were worse off than the wild animals around them. Those who used to live confidently in their wealth were now living in what I would probably call “crap” today. Jeremiah called it “dunghills.” It may have seemed, at one time, like the people were secure in their wealthy self-sufficient lives, but they weren’t.

Jeremiah writes, and God affirms, that “the iniquity of the daughter of my people is greater than the sin of Sodom.” Even though the people of Judah and Jerusalem appeared to be doing quite well without following God’s rules, they were actually setting themselves up for complete destruction. What we can learn from this is that what we see may not be even close to the reality of what is coming. It all depends on what God is preparing and that depends on how we treat His word. If a culture chooses to deny God’s word and follow their own way, they are building up wrath, but if they choose to repent and turn to God, they find His favor, even if they are poor. It’s important for us to not to assume that what we see here, represents the truth about a culture. In our current age, things can be turned upside down in a very short period of time.

Day 17: Hardness of Heart

Lamentations 3:58-66 :

Lord, you have pleaded the causes of my soul.
You have redeemed my life.
Yahweh, you have seen my wrong.
Judge my cause.
You have seen all their vengeance
and all their plans against me.

You have heard their reproach, Yahweh,
and all their plans against me,
the lips of those that rose up against me,
and their plots against me all day long.
You see their sitting down and their rising up.
I am their song.

You will pay them back, Yahweh,
according to the work of their hands.
You will give them hardness of heart,
your curse to them.
You will pursue them in anger,
and destroy them from under the heavens of Yahweh.

At the end of this third lamentation, we are told that God not only sees Israel but that He has redeemed them. We also learn that God has seen the evil done by Israel’s enemies. God had already prophesied this through Jeremiah, but here in this lamentation, Israel recognizes the truth that God intends to pay their enemies back for what they had done. The thing that really caught my attention is the way in which God chose to curse Israel’s enemies.

It says here that God chose to curse Israel’s enemies by giving them “hardness of heart.” That may not seem like much of a curse, but it’s important to understand where we have seen this curse before. Hardness of heart is what God cursed Pharaoh with back when the Israelis were enslaved by Egypt. This gives us a great example. Every time that Moses would ask Pharaoh to let his people go, Pharaoh’s heart would be hardened and he would refuse to do it, and every time he did that, there would be a horrible plague that would do damage to him and his country. That shows us just how the hardness of heart is a curse. It causes a person to destroy himself by stubbornly refusing to obey God. Through disobedience, God merely punishes the hard-hearted one until he is completely destroyed. The hardness of heart is what God uses to “pursue them in anger, and destroy them from under the heavens.”

A hardness of heart is quite evident in my world at the time of this writing. It’s as if people cannot see the harm that our disobedience to God is doing. Against all reason, some are choosing to refuse to allow the goodness of God to guide our country as a whole. They are abandoning God’s word and replacing it with disorder and confusion. Instead of going back to God as things deteriorate, they run farther from God. This lack of sense causes me to think that these people may be experiencing the curse of a hard heart. Pharaoh ended up dying, along with his entire army. Babylon was also destroyed. In the same way, I don’t believe that things will go well for those whose hearts are hardened by God today.

Day 138: God Isn’t Nice to Sinners

Jeremiah 32:16-23

Now after I had delivered the deed of the purchase to Baruch the son of Neriah, I prayed to Yahweh, saying,

“Ah Lord Yahweh! Behold, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for you. You show loving kindness to thousands, and repay the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them. The great, the mighty God, Yahweh of Armies is your name: great in counsel, and mighty in work; whose eyes are open to all the ways of the children of men, to give everyone according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings; who performed signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, even to this day, both in Israel and among other men; and made yourself a name, as it is today; and brought your people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs, with wonders, with a strong hand, with an outstretched arm, and with great terror; and gave them this land, which you swore to their fathers to give them, a land flowing with milk and honey. They came in and possessed it, but they didn’t obey your voice and didn’t walk in your law. They have done nothing of all that you commanded them to do. Therefore you have caused all this evil to come upon them.

It’s difficult to relate the the level of fear that must have been in the air at this time in Jeremiah’s life, but by this act of faith, it appears that Jeremiah was encouraged to worship God. What Jeremiah had predicted was coming true, even though it was a horrible thing. On top of that, he also had God’s clear promise to make Israel great again.

This passage reminds us that God can encourage us during times of stress in our lives. It also reminds us that God is in complete control. Israel had disobeyed God for a very long time and they thought that they were getting away with it. They seemed to expect God to keep blessing them even when they had decided to worship other gods and had stopped obeying His laws.

Sin has an unavoidable consequence. I’ve listened to many people as they try to explain why God would never send them to Hell. Most of them admit that they have done bad things, but they try to argue that God is nice and would be willing to overlook their sins and let them into Heaven anyway. That’s not exactly how it works. Jeremiah witnessed the fact that God will punish everyone who sins. The Bible tells us that there can be no forgiveness without punishment and that is not something that my generation appears to understand. The only way to not be punished for our own sins is for us to accept the fact that Jesus was punished for them already. It’s not that God is just ignoring our sins because He is nice. The opposite is true. God isn’t nice about sin at all and He even punished His own Son to prove that point. Our responsibility is to believe this and then God will not have to bring punishment down on us.