The Despair of a Disciplined Nation

Chapter 2 of the book of Lamentations might well be titled, “The Purposeful Punishment of God’s People.” It begins with the same word as chapter 1, “How!” It is a word of utter amazement, the only word the prophet could think of as he surveyed the devastation that God had brought upon His people, His beloved nation, Judah.

The Bible says in Hebrews 10:31 that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God: He is a holy God—an all-knowing, an omni-present, loving God—who invests far too much in His own than to let them self-destruct without purposefully meting out discipline designed to correct their waywardness and restore them to a privileged place of unparalleled blessings.

Sin, unchecked and unconfessed, finally found Judah out. After years of sending messengers and prophets to warn the nation, pleading with her to repent, returning to Him, the longsuffering God at last brought the hammer down, severely judging the nation.  Chapter 2 describes that judgment in stark detail:

(1) A description of the punishment as told by an eye-witness, Jeremiah:

  • The Lord hath covered, v.1
  • The Lord hath cast down, v. 1
  • The Lord hath remembered not, v. 1
  • The Lord swallowed, v. 2
  • The Lord hath not pitied, v. 2
  • The Lord hath brought them down in wrath, v. 2
  • The Lord hath brought them down to the ground, v. 2
  • The Lord hath polluted the kingdom, v. 2
  • The Lord hath cut off, v. 3
  • The Lord hath drawn back, v. 3
  • The Lord hath burned, v. 3
  • The Lord hath bent His bow, v. 4
  • The Lord has stood…as an adversary, v. 4
  • The Lord slew all that were pleasant, v. 4
  • The Lord hath poured out His fury like fire, v. 4
  • The Lord was an enemy, v. 5
  • The Lord hath swallowed up Israel, v. 5
  • The Lord hath swallowed up all her palaces, v. 5
  • The Lord hath destroyed His strong hold, v. 5
  • The Lord hath increased mourning and lamentation, v. 5
  • The Lord hath taken away His tabernacle, v. 6
  • The Lord hath destroyed the places of His assembly, v. 6
  • The Lord hath caused the solemn feasts and sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion, v. 6
  • The Lord hath despised the King and Priest, v. 6
  • The Lord hath cast off His altar, v. 7
  • The Lord hath abhorred His sanctuary, v. 7
  • The Lord hath given up into the hand of her enemy the walls of her palaces, v. 7
  • The Lord hath purposed to destroy the walls of the daughters of Zion, v. 8
  • The Lord hath stretched out a line, v. 8
  • The Lord hath not withdrawn His hand from destroying, v. 8
  • The Lord hath made the rampart and wall to lament, v. 8
  • The Lord hath destroyed and broken her bars, v. 9
  • The Lord hath allowed her kings and princes to be scattered among Gentiles, v. 9
  • The Law is no more, v. 9
  • The prophets find no vision from the Lord, v. 9
  • The elders sit upon the ground and keep silent, v. 10
  • The virgins hang down their heads to the ground, v. 10

To refresh one’s memory as to the roots of such severity of judgment, 2 Kings records the words of the Lord: “Because they have done that which was evil in my sight, and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came forth out of Egypt, even unto this day.” (2 Kings 21:15) Heading this list of sins would be, of course, idolatry.

(2) The despair of the divinely disciplined people of God is recorded in Jeremiah 2:11-17. He conveys that the children were hungry, literally starving to death, begging their mothers for food, dying in the streets. He then cites the foolish prophets who were still prophesying lies, giving out false visions and denying that the sword and famine were coming. Jeremiah cried out, “My heart within me is broken because of the prophets.” (Jer. 23:9)

There was despair also because of the fallen city (Lam. 2:15), and because of the jubilant enemies who were taking credit for what God had done and who were rejoicing at what had happened to God’s people. (Lam. 2:16).  Times could not have been bleaker in Jerusalem.

(3) The last section records the utter depth of the lament. It reads like the prophet, the people and God all chiming in with observations. It is a compassionate cry with tears running down like a river, day and night; a pouring out of their hearts like water. (Lam. 2:18) It is also a continual cry, wherein “day and night” they were to “give thyself no rest,” crying out in the night in the beginning of the watches. (Lam.2:19) Finally, it is am. 2:20a)

With pictures of women eating the fruit of their wombs to keep from starving, and both young and old lying on the ground and in the streets waiting for death, the readers and the hearers of Jeremiah’s lament cannot escape the awful reality of sin’s dreadful consequences.

Sin pawns itself off as a lover but proves in the end to be a loser; it presents itself as pretty but one will discover it to be putrefying; it will make one to believe it is beautiful, but it is beastly; its siren sounds allure, but its sudden clutches asphyxiate. It is a master deceiver. Its first triumph was in the Garden on an untested couple who believed its sugar-coated lies; its last triumph will be at the end of the one-thousand-year rule and reign of Jesus Christ, when a mass-deception of humanity will convince peoples of all nations to believe the Devil’s damnable deceits, following him in one final unsuccessful coup against the Christ.

To see sin in its unmasked final, failed consequences, just reread Lamentations 2.

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” (Matt.23:37)

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