Today: [Lamentations 4] The Languishing of the City of Jerusalem. In this chapter Jeremiah describes starving mothers eating their young to stay alive in the siege of Jerusalem. The leaders during the siege were seen covered in blood because the people are so starved they have resorted to the unthinkable. There is a lesson for us today in the suffering of the people during the Babylonian invasion. We tend to neglect the younger generations to their own hurt when the pressures of life are great upon us. To that end Jeremiah laments the state of affairs in Jerusalem, that has application for us today when facing the modern day spirit of Babylon in our midst.
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[Lam 4:1-22 KJV] 1 How is the gold become dim! [how] is the most fine gold changed! the stones of the sanctuary are poured out in the top of every street. 2 The precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold, how are they esteemed as earthen pitchers, the work of the hands of the potter! 3 Even the sea monsters draw out the breast, they give suck to their young ones: the daughter of my people [is become] cruel, like the ostriches in the wilderness. 4 The tongue of the sucking child cleaveth to the roof of his mouth for thirst: the young children ask bread, [and] no man breaketh [it] unto them. 5 They that did feed delicately are desolate in the streets: they that were brought up in scarlet embrace dunghills. 6 For the punishment of the iniquity of the daughter of my people is greater than the punishment of the sin of Sodom, that was overthrown as in a moment, and no hands stayed on her. 7 Her Nazarites were purer than snow, they were whiter than milk, they were more ruddy in body than rubies, their polishing [was] of sapphire: 8 Their visage is blacker than a coal; they are not known in the streets: their skin cleaveth to their bones; it is withered, it is become like a stick. 9 [They that be] slain with the sword are better than [they that be] slain with hunger: for these pine away, stricken through for [want of] the fruits of the field. 10 The hands of the pitiful women have sodden their own children: they were their meat in the destruction of the daughter of my people. 11 The LORD hath accomplished his fury; he hath poured out his fierce anger, and hath kindled a fire in Zion, and it hath devoured the foundations thereof. 12 The kings of the earth, and all the inhabitants of the world, would not have believed that the adversary and the enemy should have entered into the gates of Jerusalem.
In chapter 4 of Lamentations the writer compares the fall of the Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple as being greater than that of Sodom and Gomorrah. We will remember that Jeremiah was in the city of Jerusalem throughout the 3 year siege he was kept in the dungeon of the king’s house and would have witnessed all the deprivations that attend such a lengthy assault on the walled city. The gold and gems of the sanctuary are given as a metaphor for the people who inhabited Jerusalem, now taken and poured out in the top of every street like so much refuse to be carried away to captivity and death. To compare the people to gold and precious stones is interesting in light of the words of Jesus in the gospel of Matthew:
[Mat 4:19 KJV] 19 And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
That word make includes the meaning of “spending”. One rendering of the passage is “follow Me and I will ‘spend’ you…” This is the value of the people of God. We exist to be change in His pocket, spent upon His kingdom and His purposes. If we as the people of Judah refuse, what is our end? There are no third options. Because of secularism in our culture people believe that they that can simply opt out of certain aspects of the Christian faith or abandon it altogether as simply not being the truth they choose to recognize. We must understand that abandoning the faith, or attempting to stylize the faith to our own designer concepts only results in heartbreak and down turn, as the inhabitants of the besieged city of Jerusalem found.
The first part of the chapter focuses on the plight of the children during the siege. The mothers are compared to ostriches who were believed to abandon their eggs after they are laid. In verse 3 the prophet remarks that even sea monsters (great whales) were observed to care for and defend their young but the children of the mothers of Judah were languishing without food. Verse 4 says that the very tongues of the children were cleaving to the roofs of their mouth for milk but the mothers cared not for it. What application can we find for us in this passage? Our mother according to Gal. 4:26 is the church:
[Gal 4:26 KJV] 26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
The milk our mother is intended to feed us is the sincere milk of the word that Peter taught concerning:
[1Pe 2:2 KJV] 2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:
We can see then that the milk we feed on as believers is the twin breasts of both the Old and the New Testaments. We hear much teaching on the need for maturity and maturing among God’s people. Pastors deride believers for being yet babies long after they should have grown to maturity in Christ, yet ask the question, has the word been taught? Topical messages alone without expositional inquiry into the scriptures is a great imbalance. In the congregational life of the New Testament believers Paul was insistent about the importance of reading of the scriptures:
[1Ti 4:13 KJV] 13 Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
In our churches we make room for worship, for topical messages, for the offering and many other things, but when was the last time there was time and room in our services made for reading and expounding vast swaths of scripture, the sincere milk of the word? If we neglect this practice our spiritual children will languish, they will never come to maturity, and the fault lies not with the people, but with the leadership who as the mothers in the siege of Jerusalem, have no true pastor’s heart for the suffering of her young.
13 For the sins of her prophets, [and] the iniquities of her priests, that have shed the blood of the just in the midst of her, 14 They have wandered [as] blind [men] in the streets, they have polluted themselves with blood, so that men could not touch their garments. 15 They cried unto them, Depart ye; [it is] unclean; depart, depart, touch not: when they fled away and wandered, they said among the heathen, They shall no more sojourn [there]. 16 The anger of the LORD hath divided them; he will no more regard them: they respected not the persons of the priests, they favoured not the elders. 17 As for us, our eyes as yet failed for our vain help: in our watching we have watched for a nation [that] could not save [us]. 18 They hunt our steps, that we cannot go in our streets: our end is near, our days are fulfilled; for our end is come. 19 Our persecutors are swifter than the eagles of the heaven: they pursued us upon the mountains, they laid wait for us in the wilderness. 20 The breath of our nostrils, the anointed of the LORD, was taken in their pits, of whom we said, Under his shadow we shall live among the heathen. 21 Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom, that dwellest in the land of Uz; the cup also shall pass through unto thee: thou shalt be drunken, and shalt make thyself naked. 22 The punishment of thine iniquity is accomplished, O daughter of Zion; he will no more carry thee away into captivity: he will visit thine iniquity, O daughter of Edom; he will discover thy sins.
Verse 13 turns the focus upon the prophets and the priests who are blind, and polluted with blood because they have neglected the spiritual well being of the people. What does blood represent? Blood represents the lives of the people, according to the command of Moses in Leviticus:
[Lev 17:11 KJV] 11 For the life of the flesh [is] in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it [is] the blood [that] maketh an atonement for the soul.
The pollution of the priests and the prophets is found in that they teach that the lives of the people should be wrapped up and consumed in the activities of the church almost to the exclusion of all else, yet they are blind leaders of the blind that Jesus spoke of, leaving the people without help in the time of their need. We have seen this in years past when there was something happening at the church every night of the week, and the people were taught if they were really committed and sincere believers they would be at the church every time the doors were open. What were the leaders doing? They were consuming the life, the blood of the people of God, yet were not feeding them the sincere milk of the word, but rather programs, activities and entertainments with only marginal value from a spiritual perspective. The message of Lamentations 4 is that a pastor or leader who dominates the time of God’s people without giving them the spiritual sustenance of God’s word is in fact polluting his own life with judgment and accountability for squandering the time of the people in the name of “faithfulness to church” when in fact the true, heartfelt and accurate message of the gospel is being neglected. In so doing verse 15 declares these pastors and prophets as a pariah, unclean and to be avoided.
Verse 16 tells us that the anger of the Lord has caused the priests, the prophets and the elders to be divided between themselves. We see this often when leaders get under pressure, and the church suffers. They rise up and blame each other. The elders want a meeting with the pastor, the pastor blames the prophets for bringing division in the church, the deacons are upset. What is going on? Is this devil or is this God bringing division among a leadership who has neglected their primary duty of bringing the word of God to the people and not the endless, anemic programs in which Christ is seldom if ever mentioned, or the center of? When these conditions exist, verse 18 says it is a sign that the end is near, the life of the church is being snuffed out and the people of God have become a prey for those who would take advantage of them. Verse 22 describes this condition as the accomplishment of the punishment of the people of God for their iniquity. There is nothing left to her but to expire and go into captivity.
We see the languishing of the people of God advancing to a critical stage today. Over the last many years services in our churches have been canceled, to the point that a Sunday evening, or Wednesday evening service is a rarity, and a Sunday morning only meeting is the norm. After the church growth craze of the 1980’s church life whether we realize it or not is being marginalized in our society, even in America to a great degree. Those who study such things have measured this as a decline of church life in our culture and predict within just a few short years, a decade at best that spiritual life in the US is going to go the way of Western Europe with its vast and beautiful cathedrals, sadly empty because no one wants to participate in the church life that was once conducted there. This is the assault of the spirit of Babylon upon society and upon our church life altogether and while we cannot change it in a day, we should at least have the clarity of mind and heart before God to recognize that something valuable has been lost and but for the grace of God might never be recovered again.
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