Summary: This is a message from a series from the Book of Lamentations.
How do you handle circumstances when there seems to be no hope? What do you do when all seems lost? Philip Yancey in his book “Open Windows” shares the story of a teenager by the name of Elie Wiesel who tragically had his faith in God destroyed during his imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp at Buna. The pivotal event that drove Wiesel to unbelief was the execution of a young boy. Wiesel and many others were forced to watch the Nazi Soldiers lead two men and a child to the gallows to be hanged. After the sentence was carried out Wiesel and the other prisoners were forced to march past the execution sight. Listen to the depth of the emotions as I share Wiesel’s description of what he saw. “The two adults were no longer alive. Their tongues hung swollen, blue tinged. But the third rope was still moving; being so light, the child was still alive…For more than half an hour he stayed there, struggling between life and death, dying in slow agony under our eyes. And we had to look him full in the face. His tongue was still red; his eyes were not yet glazed. Behind me I heard a man asking: ‘Where is God now?’ And I heard a voice within me answer: Where is he? Here He is…He is hanging here on this gallows.” Not everyone who endured the concentration camps found themselves pushed to the brink of unbelief. Many found hope to stand firm and a deeper meaning of life as result of their deep faith in God and strong inner convictions. Many saw God proving that He was still alive and well, caring for their needs, purifying their characters and judging their oppressors. So what does happen to us when there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel? How can we gain perspective during these times to enable us to grow in faith and find the strength to persevere? Once again we can find the answers in Jeremiah’s words. Let’s once again turn to the pages of Lamentations and discover what lessons we can learn.
I. The tragic events of the siege and ultimate fall of Jerusalem.
A. Chapter four vividly describes the afflictions that have come upon the people of Judah.
1. The youth, the most valuable asset of the nation, lay dead and scattered about like broken bits of pottery.
2. The little children starved from the lack of bread and milk.
3. The wealthy, accustomed to the finest food and clothing, were forced to scavenge in the city garbage dumps.
4. The princes of Judah once had been the picture of health. Now they were nothing but skin and bones. No one could even recognize them in the streets. Better for them had they been thrust through by the enemy sword rather than waste away in the famine.
5. The once tender-hearted mothers of Judah had resorted to cannibalizing their own offspring.
B. Jeremiah once again in this chapter presents a reminder of why these tragic events happened.
1. The ultimate cause of Zion’s downfall was the burning wrath of Yahweh. Virtually no one considered it possible that God would permit the holy city to be destroyed.
2. Jerusalem’s elevated location and walls, which made it almost impregnable from military takeover, as well as its belief that it was a holy city under God’s special protection, gave Jerusalem a sense of false security.
3. The sins of the spiritual leaders. Because of the evil counsel of the priests and prophets, many innocent persons had been executed by the government.
4. The stubborn resistance of the city was the other reason cited for the severity of the calamity. The inhabitants rejected the light of divine revelation and stumbled on in four delusions:
a. That some foreign nation would rescue them.
b. That they could successfully resist the might of Babylon.
c. That they would be able to flee the falling city.
d. That King Zedekiah would be able to provide protection for them.
II. Jeremiah’s words present us with five characteristics that are evident in any tragedy.
A. The experience of unexpected turmoil.
1. Not only did the people of Jerusalem but many of the nations around them considered Jerusalem to be invincible.
2. The false sense of security felt by the people was further fueled by the fact it took the Babylonian Army eighteen months to conquer Jerusalem.
3. This enables us to get an idea of why Jeremiah’s warnings were not heeded. They simply thought it couldn’t happen to them.
4. To their shock, Jerusalem was not only conquered but burned to the ground.
B. Circumstances that feel absolutely overwhelming.
1. The priests failed to instruct the people in the law and did not rebuke them when they sinned. Therefore those leaders were blamed for the bloodshed that had overtaken Jerusalem.