Day 24: Turn Us To Yourself

Lamentations 5:19-22 :You, Yahweh, remain forever.Your throne is from generation to generation.Why do you forget us forever,and forsake us for so long a time?Turn us to yourself, Yahweh, and we will be turned.Renew our days as of old.But you have…

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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 1: An Elaborate Expression of Sorrow

Lamentations 1:1-5 :

How the city sits solitary,
that was full of people!
She has become as a widow,
who was great among the nations!
She who was a princess among the provinces
has become a slave!

She weeps bitterly in the night.
Her tears are on her cheeks.
Among all her lovers
she has no one to comfort her.
All her friends have dealt treacherously with her.
They have become her enemies.

Judah has gone into captivity because of affliction
and because of great servitude.
She dwells among the nations.
She finds no rest.
All her persecutors overtook her in her distress.

The roads to Zion mourn,
because no one comes to the solemn assembly.
All her gates are desolate.
Her priests sigh.
Her virgins are afflicted,
and she herself is in bitterness.

Her adversaries have become the head.
Her enemies prosper;
for Yahweh has afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions.
Her young children have gone into captivity before the adversary.

In the book of Jeremiah, we learned that the prophet was allowed to live in Judah after most of the people were removed from the land by Babylon. In this book, Jeremiah writes sad poetry to tell us what it was like there. It isn’t apparent in English, but the Hebrew poetry in this book follows very strict forms. It has exact numbers of verses and those verses start with consecutive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. I am told that there are five poems here, the first four of which follow the acrostic pattern. That makes this a very difficult work in literature.

In this first poem, we read about the sorrow of seeing Judah empty after having been a thriving and powerful country for so long. We read that no one helps her even though she used to have many “lovers.” They have now become her enemies. We are reminded that no one goes to the temple any more or meets at the gates of the city. We read that Israel’s enemies are now in charge and are prosperous.

In these first five verses, we are also reminded about why this has happened. “Yahweh has afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions.” God is using Jeremiah to give us a close look at what it feels like to be judged by God for sin. Why did God have Jeremiah write these sad things down in such an elaborate way? That’s a question that I would like us to consider as we continue our journey through these poems. I don’t believe that these poems are just about how sad Jeremiah was. I believe that we will discover that they hold an encouraging message for us about what our response should be and what God’s discipline produces in those He loves.