The lament continues. It’s a new poem and the acrostic starts over again. Similar to the last one we have different perspectives throughout the poem. It starts with the narrator in v.1-10. In v.11, the perspective shifts to a personal one, “My eyes are spent with weeping…”, it seems like a prophet of sorts who weeps for the nation and its disobedience but who doesn’t consider himself part of the nation that disobeyed. He speaks to Jerusalem. Jerusalem responds, not to the prophets words, but back to God, just like the end of the last one, asking God to look upon them and have pity on how harshly He has dealt with them.
I’m not going to necessarily go line by line here, much of it is easy enough to understand. Again, though, it’s best to read through it by saying it out loud.
Lots about how angry God is in this chapter. When it says, “He has cast down heaven to earth the splendor of Israel” we are reminded that this nation was one that was once lifted up, brought high by the Most High God, and now they are brought low, cast from being held up by God and left to their own destruction. The phrase, “…day of his anger” is repeated here from chapter 1 and will continue to show up.
Notice in v.2 we’re told that the strongholds of Judah are broken down, which they were indeed warned about by the prophet Amos. God’s “right hand” has been withdrawn, the power hand that shows up in such circumstances as attacking Pharaoh’s armies and protecting his people, is no longer there to protect them. As a result, their enemies come and the narrator attributes the deaths that occurred during the siege of Jerusalem to God himself, saying “…he has killed all who were delightful in our eyes in the tent of the daughter of Zion…” This is likely in reference to the the many military men who fled with the king when the Babylonians came into town. They were eventually caught and either killed or captured (and the king himself had his eyes gouged out after they killed his kids in front of him and then he was led away). Jeremiah 52 has the deets if you want to read up on it.
Here’s the thing with all of this – I don’t like it. This killing and anger and abandoning of people, I don’t like it. But then I think of two things. 1.) These are indeed a rebellious people. As we read some of the prophets that came before this…why aren’t the people listening? God warned them and warned them and warned them. He called them to repentance over and over again. All that they mourn over losing were things God graciously gave them to begin with. They are not entitled to his mercy here, what they had they never earned anyway. And they took that status of being God’s people and they spit in his face. If the reactions recorded in Lamentations are to be believed, it seems like God’s methods work do they not? I worry that my initial reaction to this means that I don’t think sin is as bad as it really is. 2.) Justice isn’t mine, it’s God’s. Perhaps I can’t look at the world like that because I’m not humanly capable of it. We can handle the mercy stuff because it’s given out freely to anyone willing to turn and follow it into the Kingdom. But the justice, I don’t get to deal it out because I wouldn’t get it right. Too harsh, too soft, too gullible, whatever the issue is I know that I have it. So I can only communicate that God is ultimately just and will handle things appropriately.
In v.6, we’re reminded that not only are the people being punished but the very place where God lived among the people, the Temple (his booth, his meeting place), has also been destroyed. Not only that, but v.9 will say that the prophets of the people are no longer receiving visions of the Lord. He has gone silent. He has abandoned them.
Recognize the image from v.8? That’s right, Amos again. That plumb line used to show how out of joint the walls were shows back up and did the very thing he said he would. Continuing into v.9, that which protects them has been ruined, the law (part of their identity as God’s people) is no more, and the visions are gone. And the elders know it – they mourn for their circumstances they are now in.
v.10 switches to this prophet character. Either this is indeed just a character being used to express a prophet’s perspective or is a real dude who speaks but who is not among the prophets with no vision. In either case, he’s devastated both emotionally and physically. Especially worth noting is his reaction to the least able in society, the infants and the babies, who are being impacted by the sins of the parents. There was indeed a great famine in the city at the time. Children are not only dying here but, jump to v.20, it seems like mothers may be eating their children to stay alive (again, the depth of their depravity).
15-16 speaks of the perspective of her enemies – how they scoff and celebrate and her downfall. Directly following, a reminder that God said this would happen. v.20 Jerusalem now speaks and demands that the Lord see what the destruction He has brought is doing to them. They protest at the impact on the children and how those who (are supposed to) do the work of God are being killed within the place where the Lord dwells. How could He let this happen? The young and the old are dead, the youth have died, and they lay it at God’s feet – He has killed them in the day of his anger (phrase is back in both 21 and 22).
Remember the type of writing this is, it’s a lament, not a straightforward argument (although it contains elements of one). It kind of makes you wish for a Job type response, kind of an “are you done?” moment where God reminds them of who they are, who He is, and how many times he warned them and called them to repentance. But that’s not what’s happening here, we get predominantly the weeping and wailing in the streets.
|<<< Chapter 1||Chapter 3 >>>|