“The Lord has set at nothing all my mighty men within me. He has called a solemn assembly against me to crush my young men. The Lord has trodden the virgin daughter of Judah as in a wine press.
“For these things I weep. My eye, my eye runs down with water, because the comforter who should refresh my soul is far from me. My children are desolate, because the enemy has prevailed.”
Zion spreads out her hands. There is no one to comfort her. Yahweh has commanded concerning Jacob, that those who are around him should be his adversaries. Jerusalem is among them as an unclean thing.
“Yahweh is righteous, for I have rebelled against his commandment. Please hear all you peoples, and see my sorrow. My virgins and my young men have gone into captivity.
One of the surprising things about the Law of Moses, to me, was the harsh sentence that God imposed on rebellious children. It makes rebellion a capitol offense. A child that rebels is to be put to death. I will admit that this seemed a bit extreme to me, but now I have come to realize that the reason it seemed extreme was because I failed to see the seriousness of it.
As I consider rebellion’s history, I realize that it was rebellion that got us into this mess in the first place. Satan was one of God’s “children” and he rebelled against God, becoming the originator of sin. He, then, convinced Adam and Eve to rebel against God too. This resulted in the death of the entire human race. If God had killed Satan the moment he rebelled, Adam and Eve would not have sinned. From that point-of-view, killing a rebel is a protection against the spread of rebellion. It’s not healthy for me to go on thinking that rebellion isn’t really that bad. God chooses to correct my thinking and I believe that one way He does that is by giving me this passage from Lamentations.
In this passage, Judah is personified. She is explaining the horror of her circumstances to “all peoples” and that would include you and I at this point. She describes her continual sorrow and explains that her people have been crushed like grapes in a wine press. She explains that she has no one to comfort her and probably the worst thing of all is that she is being opposed by God Himself. Her people have become slaves to foreigners and all of this because she rebelled against God. I think that it is safe to say that rebellion is the main problem we all have. It sums up all sin with one word. God calls us to repent of it and in order to do that, we need to see it for the horror it is. One good thing that came out of Judah’s fall was the fact that you and I can now see more clearly what rebellion will cost us if we continue in it.
Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel, says: “Yet again they will use this speech in the land of Judah and in its cities, when I reverse their captivity: ‘Yahweh bless you, habitation of righteousness, mountain of holiness.’ Judah and all its cities will dwell therein together, the farmers, and those who go about with flocks. For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul.”
On this I awakened, and saw; and my sleep was sweet to me.
“Behold, the days come,” says Yahweh, “that I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man and with the seed of animal. It will happen that, like as I have watched over them to pluck up and to break down and to overthrow and to destroy and to afflict, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,” says Yahweh. “In those days they will say no more, “ ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ But everyone will die for his own iniquity. Every man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth will be set on edge.
You can imagine that Jeremiah had trouble sleeping. God had given him a horrible glimpse into the future; one that involved the annihilation of his people. God had also allowed him to be hated by his own people including being disowned by his own family members. He even had people who wanted to kill him, but it appears that the thing that really kept him up at night was the fact that God’s wonderful plan for Jerusalem and His people Israel was stopping. So, what we have in this chapter is God making it extremely clear that God’s plan for Jerusalem and for Israel was not coming to a complete end. In fact, God intended to make things much better. Here we read that this revelation made it into the heart of Jermiah because he wrote here: “On this I awakened, and saw; and my sleep was sweet to me.” God told Jeremiah that He intended to “reverse” the captivity of Judah. God even refers to himself as: “the God of Israel.” It wouldn’t make sense for God to refer to Himself as the God of those He rejects. Jeremiah was obviously very concerned about God’s people and God’s land and perhaps even panicked when he heard of God’s intention to destroy them. God made sure to help His prophet through these thoughts so that his mind would be at ease. This same God helps us in our times of distress too.
The next section of this passage tells us that the future kingdom of Israel will be governed differently. The current kingdom allowed the children of those who sinned to suffer for their father’s errors. This is clearly not God’s intention and I believe that this is caused by poor government leaders. The reason I make this assertion is because I believe that God is referring to the future messianic kingdom of Israel here. One of the amazing things about the reign of Jesus on earth will be the difference in the speed and precision of justice. The Bible tells us that Jesus will rule with a rod of iron. He won’t be a passive leader at all. The Bible indicates that sinners will get caught immediately under Jesus’ rule. This won’t allow children to be affected by their parent’s sin anymore. There won’t be time for them to learn how to sin from their parents before the parents are publicly exposed and shamed. This may not be what people are expecting of Jesus in His leadership role, but I don’t see how it could mean anything else at this point. I don’t believe that there will be “death row.” People will probably die the day after they murder someone else and children will be given good fathers in their place. It’s hard to imagine Jesus ruling in our time isn’t it? But we should spend some time considering it because Jesus will eventually rule over this sinful world. I may not be right about what this is referring to, but I do know that Jesus will return and rule over this earth for 1000 years and we will see justice like we have never seen before.
For Yahweh says concerning the house of the king of Judah: “You are Gilead to me, the head of Lebanon. Yet surely I will make you a wilderness, cities which are not inhabited. I will prepare destroyers against you, everyone with his weapons, and they will cut down your choice cedars, and cast them into the fire.
“Many nations will pass by this city, and they will each ask his neighbor, ‘Why has Yahweh done this to this great city?’ Then they will answer, ‘Because they abandoned the covenant of Yahweh their God, worshiped other gods, and served them.’ ”
God has repeatedly told Judah about His plan to destroy them hasn’t He? Sometimes I worry about what God’s will is. I wonder if I missed the memo somehow, especially when I suffer for one of my decisions, but when I read Isaiah and Jeremiah, I remember that if God had wanted me to know something, He would have probably repeated it several times like He did for Israel and Judah. When we are punished by God, it’s because we didn’t obey the clear direction that God gave us. God loves Israel and didn’t want to punish them, but just like when a parent threatens a child with punishment, they may become complacent and rebellious thinking that they will get out of it and still do whatever they want. Eventually, a loving parent has to take action to punish a child. At that time the child will know what they are getting punished for, that’s for sure.
One of the reasons that God must punish rebellion is because His reputation is important for those who are watching from the outside. If God’s people were to get away with murder, everyone would learn that God is a push over. He doesn’t really mean what He says when He tells them to follow His laws. It’s interesting that Moses was concerned that if God destroyed the people, He might get a bad reputation, but the exact opposite is true. If God were to not destroy a wicked people like Judah, people would not understand the seriousness of His law. So, we read here that one good result of God’s destruction of Judah and Jerusalem will be that people will walk by the destruction and know why it happened. It will actually promote the fear of God among the nations. God intended for Israel to participate in causing the nations to fear God, and here we see that God is able to accomplish that with or without them.