Scriptures

Lamentations 4

Introduction

Lamentations 4 contrasts what Jerusalem used to be like, with the current state of the city after the Babylonians came along and destroyed it in 586 B.C.

‘How the gold has lost its lustre, the fine gold become dull! The sacred gems are scattered at every street corner. How the precious children of Zion, once worth their weight in gold, are now considered as pots of clay, the work of a potter’s hands! Even jackals offer their breasts to nurse their young, but my people have become heartless like ostriches in the desert. Because of thirst the infant’s tongue sticks to the roof of its mouth; the children beg for bread, but no one gives it to them. Those who once ate delicacies are destitute in the streets. Those brought up in royal purple now lie on ash heaps. The punishment of my people is greater than that of Sodom, which was overthrown in a moment without a hand turned to help her. Their princes were brighter than snow and whiter than milk, their bodies more ruddy than rubies, their appearance like lapis lazuli. But now they are blacker than soot; they are not recognized in the streets. Their skin has shrivelled on their bones; it has become as dry as a stick. Those killed by the sword are better off than those who die of famine; racked with hunger, they waste away for lack of food from the field. With their own hands compassionate women have cooked their own children, who became their food when my people were destroyed. The LORD has given full vent to his wrath; he has poured out his fierce anger. He kindled a fire in Zion that consumed her foundations. The kings of the earth did not believe, nor did any of the peoples of the world, that enemies and foes could enter the gates of Jerusalem.’ Lamentations 4:1-12

Ah, Jerusalem, the city that shone so wonderfully at one time has now become a place of devastation. Here Jeremiah describes the moral change which has taken place, Jerusalem who was that great and glorious product of the people is now an ash heap, with the ashes scattered all over the city’s streets.

We can almost imagine ourselves walking through what’s left of Jerusalem, there is ash everywhere, there are dead children laying in the streets. Like broken pots of clay, they just lay dead, which meant the people to whom this prophecy was written had no future in the land.

We can’t begin to imagine the picture which Jeremiah describes here, the Scriptures tells us that during those 30 months of siege against the city by the Babylonians, the situation was so bad in the city that mothers ended up eating their children, they became like ferocious monsters who turned against their own children. 2 Kings 6:24-30.

It’s interesting that Jeremiah uses the Ostrich to get his point across because these birds were well known for neglecting their own offspring, this is how he describes the mothers of the besieged city, they neglected their own children, Job 39:13-17.

The situation in the besieged city got to the point where those living there were digging their way through the city’s dumps to find food. Although this is a horrific situation it was only going to get worse, their fate was to be worse than Sodom, remember that Sodom was destroyed in a moment. This really is a sad picture Jeremiah is painting here, the conditions of those who were in Jerusalem went on like this for months whilst the city was being overtaken.

The rulers and leaders who once walked proudly before the people, wearing their expensive garments were now dead, and those rulers and leaders who survived were carried off into captivity in rags. Oh, how they used to enjoy good food and good living, so much so that some of them became fat from their lifestyle, but now they are but skin and bone.

‘But it happened because of the sins of her prophets and the iniquities of her priests, who shed within her the blood of the righteous. Now they grope through the streets as if they were blind. They are so defiled with blood that no one dares to touch their garments. ‘Go away! You are unclean!’ people cry to them. ‘Away! Away! Don’t touch us!’ When they flee and wander about, people among the nations say, ‘They can stay here no longer.’ The LORD himself has scattered them; he no longer watches over them. The priests are shown no honour, the elders no favour.’ Lamentations 4:13-16

There’s no doubting who God said was mainly responsible for the destruction of Israel as a nation, it was the leadership. Sadly, they never learned their lesson because this again would happen in A.D. 70 when the Romans destroyed the temple and the city again, Matthew 24:1-35.

Some say that ignorance is bliss, but the leadership truly were ignorant of God’s Word, the prophets preached lies, they gave false hope which resulted in immoral behaviour among the people and it was because of those leaders that the nation came to an end, Hosea 4:6 / Amos 9:8 / Hosea 13:11.

Notice that these so-called religious leaders were guilty of bloodshed, this is in terms of those who were actually faithful within the city had to pay the great price of death, we could say they were the innocent victims in all of this, 2 Kings 21:16.

There was obviously no respect for the leadership, especially when the people came to realisation that they were actually being led astray. They had preached peace when there was no peace, Jeremiah 6:14 and they didn’t preach against the sins of the people because like most politician’s today, they didn’t want to lose favour with the people.

They liked being popular, instead of preaching what God actually said, it’s sad because it seems as though both the leadership and the people actually believed the lies which were being preached and ended up being condemned because of it, Jeremiah 5:31 / Jeremiah 6:13 / Jeremiah 23:11-16.

‘Moreover, our eyes failed, looking in vain for help; from our towers we watched for a nation that could not save us. People stalked us at every step, so we could not walk in our streets. Our end was near, our days were numbered, for our end had come. Our pursuers were swifter than eagles in the sky; they chased us over the mountains and lay in wait for us in the desert. The LORD’s anointed, our very life breath, was caught in their traps. We thought that under his shadow we would live among the nations.’ Lamentations 4:17-20

It never ceases to amaze me where people look for help, time and time again people seem to go everywhere except God for that help, here Jeremiah tells us that Judah thought that the Egyptians would come to their help, Jeremiah 7.

They were sadly mistaken because the Babylonians were smart, they turned their attention away from Jerusalem for a short time to deal with the Egyptians, the Egyptians finally gave in and returned home, later around 582/581 B.C., the Babylonians returned to Egypt and totally destroyed the land.

The Babylonians were as swift as eagles, the Jews had no chance of escape, there was no place to hide, even Zedekiah tried to run away and escape from Jerusalem, but the Babylonians caught him too, Jeremiah 39:4-7. There was a few Jews who managed to escape to Egypt after they murdered Gedaliah, but the Babylonians went into Egypt to find them and ended up killing most of them.

‘Rejoice and be glad, Daughter Edom, you who live in the land of Uz. But to you also the cup will be passed; you will be drunk and stripped naked. Your punishment will end, Daughter Zion; he will not prolong your exile. But he will punish your sin, Daughter Edom, and expose your wickedness.’ Lamentations 4:21-22

The Edomites were always hostile towards Israel, though they were descendants of Abraham through Esau, but they soon came to an end because of the way they treated Israel. When Jerusalem was under attack from the Babylonians, Edom decided to join the Babylonians, they even went as far as to take advantage of the situation by taking some of the land possessions of the Israelites, Ezekiel 35:10-12 / Amos 1:11-12 / Obadiah.

The cup was a cup of judgment, Jeremiah 25:15-28 and Edom should rejoice while she could because disaster was coming her way and as a result she would fall under like a drunker in total humiliation. The good news was that Judah had a future, but Edom didn’t, they would be totally wiped out of existence, Obadiah 18.

Application

It’s so important to have good strong leadership within a congregation, too many times we’ve seen churches fall prey to false teaching, simply because the leadership won’t deal with it or even challenge it because they want to keep the peace. The Lord’s church desperately needs strong leaders, 1 Timothy 3:1-7, otherwise everyone will be led astray from God’s Word.

Our street corners are filled with people proclaiming all kinds of Gospels, our T.V. screens are filled with so called, ‘pastors’ who proclaim everything but the Gospel. You never hear words like, repent, judgment, sin and hell being used because people find those words offensive and so for popularity sake they stay clear of these topics and teach only about the love of God.

It’s a sad fact that many will listen to them, thinking they are preaching the truth, when all the time they are preaching lies, 2 Timothy 3:13 / 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12.

Go To Leviticus 5

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."

Joshua 1:9

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