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The Lamentations of Jeremiah
1. The compassionate Christ. Even now we can, in our imagination, see the Lord Jesus Christ as He wept over Jerusalem. We can hear His mournful words: "If thou hadst known, even thou at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes."
Then the Lord went on to tell the things which were about to befall Jerusalem. He prophesied saying: "The days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee * *; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation."
It was not, however, alone on this occasion that Christ bemoaned Israel. How plaintive were His words: "How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not."
There is an expression that gives us an insight into the heart of our Lord. Here it is: Jesus was "moved with compassion." He was filled with compassion because everything that affected the sons of men affected Him. Their sorrows were His, their pains, their sicknesses, their disappointments; all were upon Him.
2. The compassionate Paul. Take Paul's words as he saw the coming anguish of Israel. Paul said: "I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh."
All will grant that the Apostle Paul was one of the greatest soul-winners of any age. May we not, therefore, also grant that one of the reasons for his success in winning men lay in his deep passion and compassion for men?
Listen, dear young people: We who would enter the field of service for God as winners of souls, must possess three great prerequisites:
(1) We must know the Person of Christ for our theme. Our conviction of His Deity and His ability to save must be paramount. We must know that "Calvary covered it all." We must believe that the Gospel is the power of Christ unto salvation, to every one that believeth.
(2) We must be clothed with the power of Christ for our testimony. Our Lord said, "All power is given unto Me." We must be surcharged with that all-power. We must, experimentally, know what it is to be filled with the Spirit. For Christ said, "Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you."
(3) We must be consumed with the passion of Christ for our testimony. We must have His longing for men. We must possess His deep fervor, until the zeal for our Father's House eats us up, as His zeal ate Him up.
3. The compassionate Prophets. These men, for the great part, were endued with a longing that would not let them go. They pronounced many severe judgments from the Lord, but they pronounced them with tears. Their hearts ached for the people to whom they spake, and against whom they prophesied.
As we study the Prophets of the Old Testament, we are fired with a something that led them on. They spoke with authority, but they also spoke with a fire of conviction and of compassion that was given of God. Whether by life or by death; whether received, or rejected; they told their message as God endued men.
God give us more men like these saints and seers of old!
I. THE CITY SOLITARY (Lamentations 1:1 )
1. The city and its past glory. Lamentations 1:1 says, "How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people!" There is in these words a striking comparison of the present with the past. The city was formerly filled with people. The expression suggests its former throngs, who went about its crowded thoroughfares. Yes, Jerusalem was of old the glory of the whole earth. The queen of Sheba bore testimony that the half of its glory and wisdom had not been told.
2. The city and its desolation. Our verse says, "How doth the city sit solitary!" It says: "How is she become as a widow!" It says, "How is she become tributary!"
We have been in Jerusalem, ourselves. We have beheld its sorrows, its travail. Life itself seemed to be at a premium there. Dangers lurked at every corner. The population was divided into antagonistic groups. The Arabs and the Jews were at enmity. Within the old walls there was but little of the ancient beauty. The Mosque of Omar stands where the Temple of Solomon once stood. The narrow streets teem with unhappy crowds, pushing their way hither and thither. Small shops are everywhere. It is overrun with the Gentiles.
It is, indeed, solitary. Its influence hardly goes beyond its city walls. It counts for nothing in the great outside world. If it were not for the pilgrims who come and go, seeking to view the city where Christ once walked and taught; it would, indeed, be but little known.
II. A PEOPLE WHO KNOW NO REST (Lamentations 1:3 )
1. Judah has gone into captivity. The world traveler finds the Jew wherever he goes. There is no land where he has not been driven. There is no place where he is not to be found. Our verse says, "She dwelleth among the heathen (the nations)." While many Jews are in Jerusalem and in Palestine yet they but number a small part of the land. Strangers dwell where they once were supreme. They themselves are not wanted in their own country. Alas, what a plight is theirs! They are not wanted at home, they are not wanted in most of Europe, in Russia, and in the world.
They wander about from land to land, from nation to nation. They feel themselves but exiles and strangers. Thank God the United States of America has been a friend to the Jews. However, even in our own beloved land there is a growing antipathy toward the Jews. God only knows what lies ahead. There are now many Jewish refugees fleeing from Europe; yet where shall they flee? Few are the open doors to welcome them.
2. She findeth no rest. The Prophet Jeremiah wrote for just such a day as this. If the Jew goes to any one place, he has no promise of a permanent home where he can dwell in peace.
Personally, we have no sympathy for the treatment that many nations are giving the Jews. However, we are not slow to admit that they, the Jews, are reaping what they have sowed.
3. Her persecutors overtake her in the straits. The Jews find themselves in a strait, with obstacles unsurmountable, only to be overtaken by her persecutors. She cannot defend herself, for she is unarmed and scattered. Had her persecutors come against her as of old when she was walking with God, and was a nation able to protect herself, it would be different. Now, however, Israel is in the straits. She is where she has no power of resistance.
III. THE LORD HATH AFFLICTED HER (Lamentations 1:5 )
There are several things in our text that will bear consideration.
1. Her adversaries are her chief. Woe be to the individual, the city, the state, or the country, when those who hold sway are enemies! It cannot be true that our adversaries will seek our best welfare. Satan is our chief adversary. He goeth about seeking whom he may devour. He seeks to destroy, not to build up; to wreck and to ruin, not to save and to cherish.
2. The Lord hath afflicted her. Is is bad enough to have our enemies against us; however, when the Lord, our best Friend, is using the chastening rod against us, we cannot escape.
There is but one difference: the enemy attempts to lay us low; while the Lord seeks, by correction, to lift us up. Therefore, if God should ask us our choice as to whether we should fall into the power of the devil, or under the power of His rod, let us flee to the Lord every time.
The Lord may deal with us very forcefully for the time, yet in the end His correction is far better.
3. Her children are gone into captivity. Would that both saint and sinner would weigh well the cost of disobedience and sin before they choose that path. Does it ever pay to drift away from God? Does sin ever bring happiness? Is the way of the wicked ever the way of life and light?
It is not pleasant to be in captivity. Then let people shun sin.
It is not pleasant to suffer for our sins. Then let us shun sinful acts.
IV. HER BEAUTY IS DEPARTED (Lamentations 1:6 )
1. Where God found Jerusalem. The Book of Ezekiel so marvelously tells of Israel's beginning (chapter 16). Here are its words: "Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan." It was there that God formed the people into a nation. Then God says: "As for thy nativity, * * thou wast cast out in the open field, to the lothing of thy person."
All of us might do well to consider what we were until grace found us. We too were corrupt. From our feet to our head there was no soundness in us, but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores. We were sinners, in our sins.
2. What God did for Israel. The same chapter in Ezekiel says: "I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live." Then God entered into a covenant with her and she became His. Then He washed her with water, and anointed her with oil, and clothed her with all manner of fine linen.
All this the Lord did also unto us. He found us in our sins, and washed us with His Blood. Then He anointed us with the Spirit, and clothed us with the robes of His righteousness.
3. What Israel did with her beauty. She was made beautiful by Him; He was her beauty and her glory. Then she trusted in her beauty, and played the harlot with the nation among whom she dwelt. She took the jewels of silver and of gold that He had put upon her, and made idols. The truth is that Israel departed from the Lord her God. She even entered into the grossest of sin, and caused the Name of her Lord to be blasphemed wherever she went.
V. SHE HAS NO COMFORTER (Lamentations 1:9 )
Things are piling up against Israel. Statement after statement, each one freighted with meaning, falls from the lips of God in her condemnation.
1. The pleasant things of old are ever before her. She remembereth, in the days of her sorrow and deprivations, her former glory. That glory now seems to mock her. The contrast between her present and her past staggers her. Was she not the joy of the whole earth the chosen of the Lord? But now she is despised of men and set aside by God.
2. There are none to help her. She has fallen into the hands of her enemies, and she cries in vain for someone to pity her in her distress. Her former friends are her foes. Those she succored, forsake her. Even God has let her be trodden down by her enemies.
3. Her foes mock her. This is even worse. Our Lord is sympathetic with Israel, for He was mocked by His persecutors. They surrounded His Cross, wagging their heads and crying out against Him. Why, then, does He not arise to her help, as in the days of yore?
4. Jerusalem hath grievously sinned; therefore she is removed. God cannot help the ungodly. To forgive a heart that is rebellious, is only to encourage its evil ways. When Israel repents, then the Lord will be gracious unto her.
5. She has come down wonderfully. Her fall has been from the heights of favor and blessing, to the depths of despair and disgrace. All who look at her marvel at her shame. They measure the distance from her former estate to her present condition, and they say, "How is she * * that was great among the nations, * * become tributary!"
6. She has no comforter. Any sorrow may be borne, if there is someone near to aid and to cheer. God is the God of all comfort. Then why does He not comfort His fallen and beset people? Peter cursed and swore, and said, "I know not this Man of whom ye speak." The Lord turned and looked at Peter. However, He permitted Peter to go out and weep bitterly. He permitted Peter to stand hard by the Cross, as He died, yet He gave him no word of forgiveness. Christ said to the thief who cried, "Remember me," "To day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise"; but to Peter He said nothing.
After the resurrection, however, the Lord appeared to Peter. He forgave Him and restored him. So has God, for the time, withheld from Israel His smile, and from Jerusalem His blessing. However, He will yet choose Jerusalem, and He shall yet save Israel. She who has no comforter, shall yet be comforted.
VI. IS IT NOTHING TO YOU? (Lamentations 1:12 )
1. There was a weeping Israel. Here is the heart of Lamentations 1:11 : "All her people sigh." What does this mean? Israel is weeping for her woes that have fallen upon her. She weepeth sore in the night. It is a sad day when Israel weeps and sighs. It is, however, a day filled with tokens of coming blessings.
In the Book of Judges we find Israel sinning, then God delivering her into the hands of her enemies. Then Israel cries unto the Lord, and He delivered her. Once more Israel is beginning to cry, with many tears. Soon her cry will cause the Lord to come down to rescue her.
2, There was the weeping Prophet. He too is weeping as he sees the calamities about to fall upon the chosen race. In his day, Israel's defection from God was well on its way. God had spoken to Jeremiah of His coming judgments. The Prophet knew that the judgments were just and righteous; yet he grieved in his heart, knowing full well what God had said He would do.
3. There was the cry for sympathy. Here is the cry: "Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?" That is the voice of Israel at this very moment. She is in sore affliction. The nations know of her plight, yet, for the most part, they are hedged in where they can do but little to help her in her need.
Ethiopia felt that way when she saw her country invaded, and her ancient lands being taken from her; Czechoslovakia felt that way when she saw a nation far stronger than she coming in to devastate her realm.
At this moment the Jews feel that way. But how do we feel? Is it nothing to us as we pass by? We see the sorrows of the Jews at this present moment. We know of the bitterness of the cup they are now drinking. Do we really care?
It should be something to us, in a most real sense. The Jews are the people of the Lord. They are ours, too. From them came our Lord, after the flesh; from them came the Prophets and the Apostles. We owe them much. We know that they, as a nation, have wandered from God. Let us pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Peace be within her palaces.
VII. THE LORD IS RIGHTEOUS (Lamentations 1:18 )
1. The Lord is righteous in His judgments because He knows the hearts of men. Man looks on the outward appearances, and may make mistakes in judgment. Man acts often upon wholly circumstantial evidence. With God it is different. The very thoughts of all hearts are open to God. Even the imaginations He can see. He knows our down-sitting and our uprising, and understandeth our thoughts afar off. There is not a word in our tongue but He knows it altogether.
God also knows the end of every word, or thought, or deed, at its beginning. He knows the fruitage of every evil way. He judges with the full results before Him.
This all means that God can make no mistake. There are no innocent victims who suffer falsely; there are no overpayments for sin. All judgments are just.
2. The Lord is righteous in judgments because He loves all men. Yes, He loves the very ones He punishes. It is "whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth." No individual and no race can say God punishes because He hates, or because His love is lukewarm.
God indeed commends His love to us while we are yet sinners. He died for the vilest of the vile, and is not willing that any should perish.
God's love, however, does not mean that the sinner may expect to go free. God is just, as well as good. His love does not obstruct His justice.
3. The Lord is righteous in judgments because He is long-suffering in heart. After God has seen sin, He gives full time for repentance on the part of the sinner. We read: "The longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing." Again we read, "The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance." The truth is, we have often wondered and marveled at God's long waiting before His wrath falls. Even Israel was dealt with in all considerateness and patience.
Remember this, however: God's long-suffering does not mean that His wrath will never fall. It is written, "My Spirit shall not always strive with men." Again it is written, "But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God."
Thus we must remember, in today's study, that even in the midst of the tears over Israel's calamities, the Prophet cried out, "The Lord is righteous."
The illustration below of the boy and his pennies shows the supremacy in value of heart pity and love.
"A little boy, who had plenty of pennies, dropped one into the missionary box, laughing as he did so. He had no thought in his heart about Jesus, the heathen, or the missionary. His was a tin penny; it was as light as a scrap of tin. Another boy put a penny in, and as he did so looked round with a self-applauding gaze, as if he had done some great thing. His was a brass penny; it was not the gift of a 'lowly heart,' but of a proud spirit. A third boy gave a penny, saying to himself, 'I suppose I must, as all others do.' That was an iron penny; it was the gift of a cold, hard heart. As a fourth boy dropped his penny into the box he shed a tear, and his heart said, 'Poor heathens! I'm sorry they are so poor, so ignorant, and so miserable.' That was a silver penny; it was the gift of a heart full of pity. But there was one scholar who gave his penny with a throbbing heart, saying to himself: 'For Thy sake, O loving Jesus, I give this penny, hoping that the poor heathen, whom Thou lovest, will believe on Thee, and become Thy disciples.' That was a golden penny, because it was the gift of love. How many give golden pennies? 'For love's sake' (Philemon 1:9 ). 'Love is of God' (1 John 4:7 ). He loved we love."
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Lamentations 1". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent