Today: [Lamentations 2] Does God Have No Pity? In this chapter, Jeremiah speaks of God’s seeming pitiless judgments upon the city of Jerusalem and the southern kingdom. There are times when we ask “how can God “be God” and not act to relieve human suffering. In this chapter Jeremiah decries some of the deepest questions we all have asked about divine sovereignty and human suffering in the earth.
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[Lam 2:1-22 KJV] 1 How hath the Lord covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in his anger, [and] cast down from heaven unto the earth the beauty of Israel, and remembered not his footstool in the day of his anger! 2 The Lord hath swallowed up all the habitations of Jacob, and hath not pitied: he hath thrown down in his wrath the strong holds of the daughter of Judah; he hath brought [them] down to the ground: he hath polluted the kingdom and the princes thereof. 3 He hath cut off in [his] fierce anger all the horn of Israel: he hath drawn back his right hand from before the enemy, and he burned against Jacob like a flaming fire, [which] devoureth round about. 4 He hath bent his bow like an enemy: he stood with his right hand as an adversary, and slew all [that were] pleasant to the eye in the tabernacle of the daughter of Zion: he poured out his fury like fire. 5 The Lord was as an enemy: he hath swallowed up Israel, he hath swallowed up all her palaces: he hath destroyed his strong holds, and hath increased in the daughter of Judah mourning and lamentation. 6 And he hath violently taken away his tabernacle, as [if it were of] a garden: he hath destroyed his places of the assembly: the LORD hath caused the solemn feasts and sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion, and hath despised in the indignation of his anger the king and the priest. 7 The Lord hath cast off his altar, he hath abhorred his sanctuary, he hath given up into the hand of the enemy the walls of her palaces; they have made a noise in the house of the LORD, as in the day of a solemn feast. 8 The LORD hath purposed to destroy the wall of the daughter of Zion: he hath stretched out a line, he hath not withdrawn his hand from destroying: therefore he made the rampart and the wall to lament; they languished together. 9 Her gates are sunk into the ground; he hath destroyed and broken her bars: her king and her princes [are] among the Gentiles: the law [is] no [more]; her prophets also find no vision from the LORD. 10 The elders of the daughter of Zion sit upon the ground, [and] keep silence: they have cast up dust upon their heads; they have girded themselves with sackcloth: the virgins of Jerusalem hang down their heads to the ground.
Lamentation 2 continues the personification of the city of Jerusalem as a woman experiencing the wrath of God speaking of her in the 3rd person. Verse 1 describes the Lord covering her with a cloud in his anger. This expression gives us an understanding of the anger of God and His response to us when we continue in inveterate disobedience. The phraseology when studied in the original languages means that God covered her in darkness. 1 John 1:5 tells us that God is light, therefore the idea of covering disobedient Judah with darkness implies that God simply withdrew from her. We can see this in Gen. 3:24 when God drove man out of the garden, thus expelling man from His presence. In studying this, some may say “well, that is Old Testament and doesn’t apply to us…” Yet in Eph. 4:30 Paul warns us not to grieve the Holy Spirit by engaging in corrupt communication, clamor and bitterness. This makes very clear the fact that even as a part of the redeemed community of born again men we can still grieve the Holy Ghost given to us and result in God withdrawing from us, or as Jeremiah puts it in Lam. 1:1 God covering us in darkness.
In verse 3 we see another expression of God withdrawing from the children of disobedience in terms of His protection. He “draws back His right hand from before the enemy…” implying that because of disobedience, the protecting hand of God is no longer with us and thus we fall prey to the enemy of our souls. This is not some arbitrary action on God’s part, it is clearly because of disobedience. Neither is the withdrawal of God’s hand motivated by some inscrutable determination that God has considered us so worthy to suffer for His name that He unleashes our enemies upon us (although this is much taught in modern Christian leadership today). Of all the reasons given for human suffering in the Bible, the overwhelming explanation is almost always connected with disobedience, either disobedience of the individual or disobedience of a larger people group such as a family, a city or a nation.
11 Mine eyes do fail with tears, my bowels are troubled, my liver is poured upon the earth, for the destruction of the daughter of my people; because the children and the sucklings swoon in the streets of the city. 12 They say to their mothers, Where [is] corn and wine? when they swooned as the wounded in the streets of the city, when their soul was poured out into their mothers’ bosom. 13 What thing shall I take to witness for thee? what thing shall I liken to thee, O daughter of Jerusalem? what shall I equal to thee, that I may comfort thee, O virgin daughter of Zion? for thy breach [is] great like the sea: who can heal thee? 14 Thy prophets have seen vain and foolish things for thee: and they have not discovered thine iniquity, to turn away thy captivity; but have seen for thee false burdens and causes of banishment. 15 All that pass by clap [their] hands at thee; they hiss and wag their head at the daughter of Jerusalem, [saying, Is] this the city that [men] call The perfection of beauty, The joy of the whole earth? 16 All thine enemies have opened their mouth against thee: they hiss and gnash the teeth: they say, We have swallowed [her] up: certainly this [is] the day that we looked for; we have found, we have seen [it]. 17 The LORD hath done [that] which he had devised; he hath fulfilled his word that he had commanded in the days of old: he hath thrown down, and hath not pitied: and he hath caused [thine] enemy to rejoice over thee, he hath set up the horn of thine adversaries. 18 Their heart cried unto the Lord, O wall of the daughter of Zion, let tears run down like a river day and night: give thyself no rest; let not the apple of thine eye cease. 19 Arise, cry out in the night: in the beginning of the watches pour out thine heart like water before the face of the Lord: lift up thy hands toward him for the life of thy young children, that faint for hunger in the top of every street. 20 Behold, O LORD, and consider to whom thou hast done this. Shall the women eat their fruit, [and] children of a span long? shall the priest and the prophet be slain in the sanctuary of the Lord? 21 The young and the old lie on the ground in the streets: my virgins and my young men are fallen by the sword; thou hast slain [them] in the day of thine anger; thou hast killed, [and] not pitied. 22 Thou hast called as in a solemn day my terrors round about, so that in the day of the LORD’S anger none escaped nor remained: those that I have swaddled and brought up hath mine enemy consumed.
Because of this condition of recompensed disobedience upon the people Jeremiah says in verse 11 that his eyes fail with tears and his internal organs are poured out like water upon the earth because of the suffering of the people. Verse 12 describes the children inquiring of their mothers “where is the corn and the wine”. Remember that Gal. 4:26 tells us that the church is our mother. Corn and wine represent the wheat, or grain of God and the wine speaks to us of the joy of the Spirit. When Jesus said He was the bread that came down from heaven, He was identifying Himself as the grain of God that in John 12:24 was planted in death and raised in resurrection. The younger generations look at the church life of our generation and ask “where is the Bread of God” in our midst, and “where is the joy” of living for Jesus. Receiving no answer, they opt out and live lives in exclusion of the faith of their parents because the find no justification for giving themselves over to the anemic faith typified by so much of Christianity today.
In verse 13-14 Jeremiah describes the breach between God and the people as being so great how can it be healed? The prophets attempt to address the problem but only come up with vain and foolish visions, unable to discover the true iniquity of the people. When prophets no longer see, verse 14 says they fall back on imposing false burdens and causes for the banishment of the people from God’s presence. This is another characteristic of a disobedient generation, when the prophets lay burdens upon people without any trajectory of deliverance being offered. When you listen to a message being preached you must always ask yourself what you can actually DO based upon what is being said. In 2 Cor. 7:10 Paul said that godly sorrow works repentance, but condemnation only leaves one heavy hearted and burdened down. When the prophets have no answers they fail to let the people up out from under the heavy burden, not offering any proceeding word by which they can actually change and find relief for their souls.
Verse 17 describes God has having no pity on the city of Jerusalem or the people of the southern kingdom. Is this because there is no pity in God? Rather it is because of centuries of disobedience and systemic generational sin, the people had by their actions placed themselves beyond the scope of God’s mercy. God’s pity and His mercy is intact, but it is possible for a nation, or an individual to put themselves in a position not to enjoy the mercies of God because it would violate God’s own character for Him to overlook the condition of those thus suffering. In all of this Jeremiah grieves as He looks to heaven, pointing at the ruins of the city, the devastation in the temple and the suffering of the people. He understands that disobedience has brought such calamity to the people of God yet cannot look away as He cries out to God for clemency.
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