“Jerusalem has sinned gravely, therefore she has become vile. All who honored her despise her because they have seen her nakedness; yes, she sighs and turns away. Her uncleanness is in her skirts; she did not consider her destiny; therefore her collapse was awesome; she had no comforter. ‘O Lord, behold my affliction, for the enemy is exalted!’” Lamentations 1:8-9 (Read Lamentations 1)
Will the LORD God judge His own people? Would He carry out judgments against churches in this world?
Read the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 1 and 2. What does Jesus say? Jesus rebuked His churches for leaving their first love, compromising the true doctrine to join in sexual immorality and pagan worship practices, acting as if spiritually alive when spiritually dead, and for being lukewarm in practicing their faith. Again and again, Jesus warned of judgment and the removal of a church if it did not repent.
And what of God’s church in the Old Testament times? What happened? The people disobeyed God’s commandments. They joined in the pagan worship of the people around them. They sinned and rebelled against the Lord.
God’s judgments came (cf. Deut. 27 and 28; 2 Kings 24-25; 2 Chron. 36; Jer. 52). Jerusalem, the place of the temple and the center of Old Testament worship, was destroyed and its people killed through famine and disease or the sword and the survivors carried away captive to Babylon.
In 2 Chron. 36:15-16, we read: “And the Lord God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers, rising up early and sending them, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no remedy.” Read 2 Chron. 36, verses 17-21.
The Book of Lamentations describes, in poetic form, God’s judgment upon His people, their suffering, their anguish and the end of temple worship in Jerusalem for 70 years.
Lamentations is written in Hebrew acrostic form. It is divided into five chapters, with each chapter having verses ordered by the 22-letter Hebrew alphabet. Thus, chapters one and two, four and five, each have 22 verses, with each verse beginning with a new letter in the order of the Hebrew Alphabet. Chapter three, the middle chapter, has 66 verses, with an ordered three verses for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
Though the acrostic form is pretty much lost in the translation, the picture painted by the laments of Jeremiah, a prophet who warned God’s people of the coming judgments if they failed to repent and an eyewitness of the tragic fulfillment of those prophecies, is a picture we should consider in our day and in our time as God’s people and God’s churches compromise the truth of His Word, rebel against His commandments and join together in the sins and pagan practices of the world.
Will God judge those who claim to be Christian and followers of Christ when they tolerate abortion, accept homosexuality and same-sex marriage, engage in sexual immorality, join in the worship and pagan practices of the nations and peoples around us? He promises to do so! Cf. Rom. 1:18ff. Will we escape that judgment if we compromise our beliefs, soften our testimony to the truth, willfully engage in the sinful practices going on around us and accepted as normal by the world? No, His judgment will fall upon us! Cf. Rom. 2:1ff.; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Eph. 5:3-6.
What is the message conveyed to us by the Book of Lamentations? It is a call for us to examine our ways and repent of the sin and evil in our lives and look to Christ for mercy and forgiveness lest the same judgment fall upon us, lest our enemies be allowed to devastate our land and take our lives, lest our churches become temples for other gods and abominable practices, lest God’s Word and His blessing be taken from us and replaced with a curse!
If we do not repent of our sinful ways and turn to the Lord with all our heart, the lamentations of Jeremiah the prophet might become our lamentations. The scenes portrayed by Jeremiah in this Hebrew acrostic might be the scenes we see here during our lives.
God’s purpose, His desire for us, is that we examine our ways in light of His Word and repent of our sins and the evil in our lives and look to Christ Jesus and His atoning sacrifice upon the cross for mercy and forgiveness! We have an example in one of the late kings of Judah, Josiah, who, when he heard the Word of the LORD, repented and sought God’s mercy. Cf. 2 Kings 22-23; 2 Chron. 34-35. Though God’s judgment still came, God showed mercy to Josiah and the people during Josiah’s reign.
God grant to us mercy for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24). Amen.
[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]