Monday, 10 November 2014

(315) November 11: Lamentations 1-2 & Hebrews 7

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­
As you read consider what the writer says has caused Zion’s predicament.

To ponder:
The writer laments the destruction of Jerusalem and fate of the Jews. This great and regal city is now deserted and like a widow or slave. She weeps and is not comforted by her lovers (false gods) or friends (allies), who have turned against her. After such hardship Judah is now in exile. So the roads on which people go to Zion mourn as none celebrate religious or wedding feasts any longer. And this is from the LORD, who has brought her grief because of her sins. All her splendour has therefore left her (1v1-6). Jerusalem is therefore said to be suffering and wandering into exile, remembering the treasures she once had. However, she was destroyed because she had become unclean. The note about those who honoured her now despising her in having seen her nakedness may refer to them witnessing her prostitute and flaunt herself with false gods. And because she did not consider her future, but continued in this, she fell in an astounding way with none to comfort her. So pagans entered the sanctuary of the temple and took her treasures, and the people give their treasures away in desperation for bread (1v7-11).
            Here the writer speaks as Zion. He calls on God to consider how he is despised, and calls on onlookers to see that the suffering the LORD has brought on him in fierce anger is most extreme. This suffering is described as a fire (which destroys) and a net (which captures), leaving him faint. He describes his sins as having been made into a yoke that weighs him down, weakens him, and mean that he is not subject to others just as the ox driven by its owner (1v12-14). He is clear it is the LORD who summoned the army against his warriors, crushing the vulnerable Judah in the winepress of his wrath. And seeing his children (the people) destitute means that Zion weeps without comfort. Jacob’s neighbours have turned against him. Jerusalem has become unclean. And Zion in the guise of the writer affirms that God is righteous in what has happened, for he (Zion) rebelled against him. He therefore recounts how his allies betrayed him, his leaders perished through famine, and how he is in torment because of the death within his walls. Asking God to see this, he prays God will bring the day he announced in which Judah’s enemies, who rejoice at her downfall, will experience what she did in judgement at their wickedness (1v15-22).
            In all this, we see a foreshadowing of the despair those who are exiled from Christ’s kingdom will feel as they remember what they once had and lost.
            Chapter 2 begins portraying how in anger God brought low the splendour and power of Jerusalem and Judah (2v1-3). This repeated emphasis implies Judah’s splendour was a sign of blessing. Shockingly, God is now portrayed not as Judah’s friend, but her enemy, destroying the place he dwelt in and met with the people, causing her feasts to be a thing of the past, her king and priest – the maintainers of her religion – to be spurned, and her altar and sanctuary to be rejected (2v4-7). In other words, God has given up the means by which his presence was maintained amongst the people. What follows is a description of the ramparts and walls of the city lamenting at her destruction, with her royalty exiled, the law no more, and prophets no longer receiving visions (2v8-9). So there is no guidance for the people either. In a day when we see large sections of the church lacking any who would preach the Bible, one cannot but wonder whether it is a judgement on our own society or church for its turning from Christ.
            The elders’ silence as they mourn, may be simple shock, or include the fact that they are no longer administering God’s law. The young and so unmarried women bowing low probably implies there is no hope for marriage and children as there is no hope for the future (2v10). At this point the writer, speaking as Zion (see 2v21) describes his own weeping because of the destruction of his people and the children fainting from hunger (2v11-12). He states that the city’s sufferings are incomparable, and seemingly beyond healing – in part because of the prophets’ false visions and refusal to expose the people’s sin (2v13-14). As before, passers by are said to scoff and shake their heads that this “perfection of beauty” and “joy of the whole earth” could come to this, whilst enemies angry boast of how they have finally swallowed her up. Yet we are told this is what God planned and predicted, and this is why he has exalted the horn (symbol of power) of Judah’s foes (2v15-17). But the hearts of the people are now said to be crying to the LORD, and the walls themselves told to weep without rest in the presence of God, praying for the starving children. Moreover, the writer as Zion calls God to look and see, asking who he has every treated this way, that women would eat their own children because of hunger, priests and prophets be killed in the sanctuary of the temple itself, and young and old lie together in the streets, slain by the sword without pity (2v18-20). It’s a shocking picture that displays just how serious Judah’s sin was, to warrant such punishment. Indeed, Zion can say God has summoned these terrors as he once summoned a feast day, meaning that all Zion cared for (his population) are destroyed, with none escaping God’s anger. Yet we are given a hint that the situation is not without hope, because the people can still cry to God. And this reminds us that whatever sin we might have committed, and whatever desperate situation we might face, we can always call upon the Lord.
Praying it home:
Praise God that he is ready to hear prayers for forgiveness and mercy. Pray that he would keep those who would reverse the decline in his church by the faithful preaching of his word.

Thinking further:
To read the NIV Study Bible introduction to Lamentations, click here.

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