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 210: Epic Themes

Jeremiah 51:49-53

“As Babylon has caused the slain of Israel to fall,
so the slain of all the land will fall at Babylon.
You who have escaped the sword, go!
Don’t stand still!
Remember Yahweh from afar,
and let Jerusalem come into your mind.”

“We are confounded
because we have heard reproach.
Confusion has covered our faces,
for strangers have come into the sanctuaries of Yahweh’s house.”

“Therefore behold, the days come,” says Yahweh,
“that I will execute judgment on her engraved images;
and through all her land the wounded will groan.
Though Babylon should mount up to the sky,
and though she should fortify the height of her strength,
yet destroyers will come to her from me,” says Yahweh.

As I have studied the Bible, I have noticed that there is an epic theme that emerges. It could be called: “The Tale of Two Cities.” I’ve been told that Babylon is the most mentioned city in the Bible after Israel and that makes sense. These two are in conflict with one another. Babylon represents the world and Israel represents God. The world is involved in idolatry and God’s city isn’t supposed to do that. There was a time when God had Babylon destroy Israel, but these verses of Jeremiah help us to see that there is more going on here. God wasn’t done with Israel or Babylon yet.

The world “holy” means: separate. The Bible tells us that God is holy. In a sense, He is separate from both Israel and Babylon and verses like these remind me of that. God intended for Israel to be the city that demonstrated His holiness by showing the world who He is, but instead, they decided to practice idolatry. So, God had them destroyed, but that didn’t let Babylon off the hook for their idolatry. God was still planning to destroy Babylon too, as we read here. God’s holiness will not be disturbed by any city. If anyone chooses to worship another god, they will be destroyed no matter how they started out. In this sense, the two cities became the same for a while, but why would God allow that?

I believe that this shows us yet another epic theme and that is the theme of grace. God allowed Israel to fall into sin so that He could save them by grace. Their works were not allowed to save them. Instead, God’s city was to rise up out of the ashes as a city blessed by the grace of God, not by works, so that no one could boast. Those who trust in their own works cannot build a city strong enough to withstand Babylon, but those who have been saved by God’s grace, rest on the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus must first save Israel and when Israel rises up by grace, the Holy Spirit will make it unstoppable.

Day 186: Making a Clean Break

Jeremiah 48:10-17

“Cursed is he who does the work of Yahweh negligently;
and cursed is he who keeps back his sword from blood.

“Moab has been at ease from his youth,
and he has settled on his dregs,
and has not been emptied from vessel to vessel,
neither has he gone into captivity;
therefore his taste remains in him,
and his scent is not changed.
Therefore behold, the days come,” says Yahweh,
“that I will send to him those who pour off,
and they will pour him off;
and they will empty his vessels,
and break their containers in pieces.
Moab will be ashamed of Chemosh,
as the house of Israel was ashamed of Bethel, their confidence.

“How do you say, ‘We are mighty men,
and valiant men for the war’?
Moab is laid waste,
and they have gone up into his cities,
and his chosen young men have gone down to the slaughter,”
says the King, whose name is Yahweh of Armies.
“The calamity of Moab is near to come,
and his affliction hurries fast.
All you who are around him, bemoan him;
and all you who know his name, say,
‘How the strong staff is broken,
the beautiful rod!’

The history of Moab’s dealings with Israel are covered in the Bible. I agree with others who study Moab that it is a good representation of a corrupting influence. Moab harmed Israel from the inside. It was Moab’s king that hired Balaam to curse Israel in order to keep them from harming Moab but God blessed Israel instead. Eventually, Moab realized that the way to stop Israel was to pervert them. They had their women infiltrate Israel and get the men to have sex with them. Pretty crafty wasn’t it? Israel was supposed to kill their enemies, not sleep with them!

The first verse in this passage has special meaning in light of Israel’s history with Moab. God wants us to make a clean break from sin. In this case, Israel was neglegent in killing the Moabites. Moab was harming Israel, but Israel decided to enjoy the sin that they could have with them. Israel refused to separate themselves from their sin and they ended up being punished by God for it.

Moab, on the other hand, was still around. Perhaps that is why this prophesy says: “Moab has been at ease from his youth.” God had some things that He needed to finish with Moab and we read about that here. You can imagine that after getting away with sin for such a long time that you might begin to think that you are strong and valiant. Moab thought they were strong, according to this passage, but they were about to be broken.

It’s important for unbelievers to realize that even if they are successful at perverting believers and getting them to sin, that they won’t escape God’s hand. It’s also important for us, as believers, separate ourselves from sin and sinful influences. Living a life of holiness means that we make a clean break. We need to stop playing around with sin and fight against it instead.