Lamentations 1:1–2:22, Romans 15:8–21, Proverbs 30:1–33
In 586 B.C. after God’s people were taken into captivity, Jeremiah expressed his deep sorrow over their fall into sin and the result of that fall. He speaks of their loneliness and how the city that was once great became like a widow, even like a slave. Jerusalem weeps bitterly with no one to comfort her; her friends have become her enemies. (Lamentations 1:1–2)
Further, the enemy has taken her precious things by entered her sanctuary where God had forbidden them to enter. Her people searched for bread (during the two year siege) and traded their treasures for food, crying out to God that they are despised. (Lamentations 1:10–11)
They also found themselves bound as by a yoke, with failing strength as they were given “into the hands of those whom I cannot withstand” and rejected by the Lord and crushed, “trodden as in a winepress.” (Lamentations 1:14–15)
Sometimes we must break before we can be rebuilt. Sometimes we must fall before we can rise to the greatness God has called us to. Certainly these people were broken. They cried out to God saying, “The Lord is in the right, for I have rebelled against his word; but hear, all you peoples, and see my suffering; my young women and my young men have gone into captivity. I called to my lovers, but they deceived me; my priests and elders perished in the city, while they sought food to revive their strength. Look, O Lord, for I am in distress; my stomach churns; my heart is wrung within me, because I have been very rebellious. In the street the sword bereaves; in the house it is like death. They heard my groaning, yet there is no one to comfort me. All my enemies have heard of my trouble; they are glad that you have done it. You have brought the day you announced; now let them be as I am.” (Lamentations 1:18–21)
Jeremiah saw the anger of the Lord as He “cast down from heaven to earth the splendor of Israel” and he told the people, “Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the night watches! Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord! Lift your hands to him for the lives of your children, who faint for hunger at the head of every street.” (Lamentations 2:19)
This is a sad and brutal time. Babies and children become food for their starving parents during the siege, a story of human depravity that demonstrates how much humanity needs God, how much we need a Savior.
Solomon did not write all of the Proverbs. Agur also expresses the root of human depravity: “I am weary, O God; I am weary, O God, and worn out. Surely I am too stupid to be a man. I have not the understanding of a man. I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the Holy One.” (Proverbs 30:1–3)
He goes on to describe how we sinners resist God. Even though “every word of God proves true” and “He is a shield to those who take refuge in him” we “add to His words” and “are clean in (our) own eyes but are not washed of (our) filth.” (Proverbs 30:5–6, 12)
Without the grace and mercy of God, we are like Jerusalem. Without the redemption that is found in Jesus Christ, we would also be given over to our enemies and perish in our sin.
This is the dark side of spiritual reality. The bright side is Jesus Christ. In Him we have forgiveness and new life. In Him we can start over, serving God with His power instead of our own. God has accomplished this for us; our part is to believe Him.
When we do, the “God of hope fills (us) with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit (we) may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13) What a far cry from the Lamentations of Jeremiah. Paul could declare our hope, even that, “In Christ Jesus, I have reason to be proud of my work for God.”
The Apostle denied pride and did not depend on or boast of himself, refusing “to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed.” His rejoicing was in “the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God.” (Romans 15:17–19)
There are days when I feel like Jerusalem. I’ve failed to bow to God and He chastens me. In that, I also know the humility of Agur. How foolish is sin, and how miserable I am apart from trusting the Lord in all things. Yet by grace, God gives me moments when I can relate to Paul’s hope and joy. In Christ Jesus, I can see the power of God in my life. May the former days decrease, even disappear, and those moments of blessing increasingly become hours and days that mark the work of the Holy Spirit in me.