Summary: This is a message in a series on the Book of Lamentations.
Imagine if you will that you are one of the survivors of the Civil War left in the south. By the time of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, the South lay in ruin. Cities, farms, and homes have been burned and ravaged by cannon fire. Railroads and bridges have been destroyed. The economical, social and spiritual fabric of your culture has been torn to shreds. The loss of life has touched virtually every family. The practice of organizing military units with troops from the same town meant that some communities no longer have any surviving young men, all of them having died in the same battle. Tears well up in your eyes as you realize that life as you know it now lies in the charred rubble and there is nothing you can do to change what has happened. “Why!” you cry out. Lonely, hurt, broken and without hope your fall to your knees, bury your head in your hands and sob uncontrollably. That seems to describe exactly how Jeremiah felt as he wandered through the once glorious city of Jerusalem after it had been totally leveled by the Babylonian army. Jeremiah new that judgment was coming because he had faithfully delivered the message God had given to him to the people. “Repent of your sins or suffer the consequences!” But neither his knowledge of the pending doom nor his obedience to carrying out his God given mission lessened the deep sorrow he felt as he surveyed the piles of rubble that was once Jerusalem. Today I would like us to step alongside Jeremiah and survey with him firsthand the devastating effects of sin.
I. Jerusalem laments over her demise with expressions of sorrow and regret.
A. Jeremiah’s observations as he surveys the tragic scene.
1. Jeremiah first looks at Jerusalem, the capital and representative of Judah, and contrasted what she once had been with what she then was.
2. Even in the great days of David and Solomon, the territories of Israel never compared with those of Egypt, Assyria, and Babylonia at their height; while for buildings, riches (except perhaps in the days of Solomon), and population, Jerusalem never rivaled the great cities of the Near East.
3. These opening verses introduce the reader to an incredible scene. A once great lady has become a widow, a queen has become a servant girl; her friends have become her enemies, her rivals have gained the upper hand, her children have been carried off, and her many possessions have been lost.
4. What makes it all the more horrifying is the absence of any comforting hand. There is no shoulder to cry on, no heart to grieve along with her in her time of loss. Instead, the neighbors only laugh in contempt.
5. The roads that led to Jerusalem once were crowded with pilgrims but were now deserted. The priests groaned because the temple, formerly the center of their life and activity, was no more. “Her maidens grieve” because their chances for marriage and family were now precarious.
B. The question is, “What did Jerusalem do to warrant such a devastating judgment.
1. The Lord has brought devastation upon Jerusalem as a result of her many sins and continued rebellion.
2. They have rejected the Lord and turned their backs on His ways.
3. They had become so earthly minded that they lost sight of the eternal.
4. Personal pleasure rather than godly commitment became their standard of living.
C. The last eleven verses here in chapter one is marked by Jerusalem speaking for herself.
1. Jerusalem’s remarks highlight the intensity of her suffering and that her suffering has been brought on her by the Lord.
2. The intensity of her suffering is brought out in the numerous references to parts of the human body in these verses.
a. The Lord sends destruction into her bones.
b. He has tripped her feet.
c. He has placed the burden of her sins on her neck.
d. Her eyes are filled with tears.
3. Jerusalem is reminded that she is a part of the nation of Judah which the Lord is punishing. If the Lord is justified in destroying the nation than he is justified in destroying the city as well.
4. The city finally acknowledges the justness of her suffering. She had rebelled against a righteous husband. He has been treating her only as she deserves.
5. She points out her suffering now as an object lesson to other cities. A righteous God shows his righteousness by bringing suffering on the wicked.
6. Jerusalem appealed for the sympathy of other peoples; here it appealed to God to take notice of its suffering. Again Jerusalem admitted its rebelliousness that had led to death and pestilence in the streets and in the homes.
7. Jerusalem’s enemies heard of its “distress”; but instead of giving comfort, they rejoiced that God had brought punishment on his people. Jerusalem’s response was to call on God to punish its enemies, even as he had punished it.