Summary: This is a message in a series from the book of Lamentations
We live in a culture that is overrun by frivolous lawsuits. We are encouraged to sue if someone tramples on what we consider to be our rights. This is just another sign of the mentality, “I have the right to believe and act in whatever manner I deem appropriate.” Unfortunately this attitude has begun to seep into the church. Have you ever wondered what happens when Christian’s decide to do things their own way? How does God deal with those rebellious children who refuse to listen to Him and insist on having their own way? If you will think back the answer is found in Galatians 6:7, “A man reaps what he sows.” This spiritual principle is graphically illustrated in the destruction of Jerusalem a punishment brought on the Jews by their persistent disobedience to God. Lamentations does an excellent job of showing the consequences of Judah’s pursuit of pleasure and self gratification. Judah reaped the fruit of demanding their own way. The images that we see throughout Lamentations are graphic and quite unpleasant. However, let us dare not forget that those images are realistic and relevant. Let’s make another stop in Jeremiah’s diary and look at the lessons we can learn for today.
I. Five results of continued disobedience to God for both individuals and communities.
A. Diminishing of one’s dignity and loss of one’s ability to make an impact.
1. The storm had passed over Jeremiah’s head. As he picked himself up and gazed on the desolation around him, he declared with the voice of faith that this had been the work of the "Lord".
2. God’s wrath covered the nation like a storm cloud that had unleashed its fury on the helpless inhabitants below. Jerusalem is compared to a star that has fallen from heaven.
3. A nation that once enjoyed a privileged position with God through its covenant relationship never seemed to grasp the moral and spiritual obligations that such a relationship required.
4. Judah now finds herself no longer enjoying national prominence; her leaders no longer possess the power and position to guide her destiny.
5. The continued sin of the people had brought shame among the nations and has caused her to lose her ability to be a godly influence on the nations around her.
B. Loss of one’s internal stability and zeal for life.
1. The description of Judah’s total destruction continues in this verse. “Horn” is a frequent figure for strength and pride in the Old Testament.
2. Instead of coming to the defense of his people, the Lord had completely withdrawn his help (“his right hand”). God had become their enemy, even as the prophets said.
3. The hand that in past times had symbolized the Lord’s help was now turned against Judah.
4. Many people today take lightly the warnings of God’s coming judgment on sin, even as Jerusalem did before its destruction.
C. A deepening of your guilt and an increase in the intensity of your anguish.
1. Though historically Babylon was the enemy that destroyed Israel, theologically it was God who used Babylon as the instrument of punishment.
2. The intensive verb “swallow” heads a list of powerful verbs describing what God had done to Judah in his wrath. The same verb is repeated at the conclusion of the list where it is linked with the concept that Yahweh had become the enemy of his people.
3. No wonder the mourning and pain is felt on such a large scale, everything that nation took pride in has been destroyed.
4. The peoples’ decision to continually disobey God has led to their nation’s destruction.
D. A feeling of abandonment and emptiness.
1. Those who were “pleasing to the eye,” the youth of the nation, had been slain. God had withdrawn his right hand of help in the face of the enemy. Even worse, he had used that right hand in a gesture of hostility toward his people.
2. The Temple had been dismantled as easily as a garden hut. With the destruction of the Temple came the cessation of festival, sabbath, king and priest.
3. All the rituals and holy days associated with the temple had ceased. The altar, which once symbolized a place of reconciliation with God, was no more.
4. The enemy’s shouts of victory filled the despoiled temple with sounds reminiscent of the joyful, festive sounds of the worshipers on one of the appointed feast days.
5. This should serve as a warning that no amount of ritual can avert God’s judgment or take the place of obedience and a broken and contrite heart.
E. A loss of vision and a great lack of purpose.
1. God withheld his hand from protecting the people; here he did not withhold his hand of punishment.
2. There was no indication of God’s will, either through priestly interpretation of the law or through prophetic vision.