Don’t Forget To Remember (Lamentations 5)

The take-away is the main point of something, like a lesson or presentation, to learn and remember.

Tonight’s take-away is in verse twenty-one where we see that God loves to restore.

You can always be restored by God; and He loves to do it.

In the times when you are struggling, suffering, maybe even sinning, God is there working to, and waiting to, restore you.

If you’re like me, you can’t help but think of others who are far from God, so backslidden you have to wonder if they are truly saved.  This lesson certainly has application to them, too; it gives us hope to know God’s heart is for them, not against them.

Lamentations is just that – a series of laments about the judgment God brought upon His sinning people.  After literally hundreds of years warning them and striving with them, God sent upon them His discipline in the form of the army of Babylon.  The city was breached; the Temple burned; the people killed or taken captive.

This final chapter is not a lament like the first four but, rather, a prayer.  It’s a prayer for God to restore, to renew.

We should note that it opens with an honest review of the current condition of the Jews as well as the reasons for their current condition.

Maybe it’s telling us that, in order to be restored, a person must make an honest confession of their condition and the reasons for it.

Let’s read through it, pausing to make a few clarifying remarks.

Lamentations 5:1    Remember, O LORD, what has come upon us; Look, and behold our reproach!
Lamentations 5:2    Our inheritance has been turned over to aliens, And our houses to foreigners.
Lamentations 5:3    We have become orphans and waifs, Our mothers are like widows.
Lamentations 5:4    We pay for the water we drink, And our wood comes at a price.
Lamentations 5:5    They pursue at our heels; We labor and have no rest.
Lamentations 5:6    We have given our hand to the Egyptians And the Assyrians, to be satisfied with bread.

We can’t add much to the description; their condition is very graphically described.  Truth is, we don’t really want to picture the horror of it.  It’s good to take it in, though, because it is a warning of what can occur when a nation or a person turns away from God.

We might note the irony in verse five where it says, “we labor and have no rest.”  One of the areas of disobedience for which God disciplined them was their failure to trust Him by keeping the Sabbath Year.  According to the Law of Moses, every seventh year they were to let the land rest; plant no crops.  No crops meant no harvest, so, yeah, it required trust in God.

They refused to keep the Sabbath Year for 490 years.  When God sent them into exile in Babylon it was for a specified period of 70 years.  They had refused to keep 70 Sabbath Years during those 490 years, so God required those 70 years from them.

Had they rested rather than worked they would not be in a situation of laboring and having no rest!

It’s an example of God giving you what you think you want rather than accepting what He knows is best for you.

Lamentations 5:7    Our fathers sinned and are no more, But we bear their iniquities.

This does not mean they were unfairly held responsible for the sins of their “fathers.”  No, we are always responsible for our own sins.

Remember that Israel was God’s chosen nation.  He dealt with them as a nation.  Their “fathers” made certain wrong choices at a national level.  They allowed idol worship; they oppressed the poor; they refused to help the distressed; those kinds of things.

We talk like this today.  How many times have you heard a politician appeal to what we are leaving for our children to deal with, for example, with the national debt?  It’s not their fault but it affects them.

The succeeding generations of Judah continued on the same political path as their fathers.  They adopted the ways of their fathers, and that, too, is why it could be said of them, “we bear their iniquities.”  They were just like them; by choice.

Lamentations 5:8    Servants rule over us; There is none to deliver us from their hand.
Lamentations 5:9    We get our bread at the risk of our lives, Because of the sword in the wilderness.
Lamentations 5:10    Our skin is hot as an oven, Because of the fever of famine.
Lamentations 5:11    They ravished the women in Zion, The maidens in the cities of Judah.
Lamentations 5:12    Princes were hung up by their hands, And elders were not respected.
Lamentations 5:13    Young men ground at the millstones; Boys staggered under loads of wood.
Lamentations 5:14    The elders have ceased gathering at the gate, And the young men from their music.
Lamentations 5:15    The joy of our heart has ceased; Our dance has turned into mourning.

It was bad.  Really bad.  For everyone.  Their treatment during and after the fall of Jerusalem shows us the exceeding wickedness of sin.

It shows us its exceeding wickedness in the perpetrators who could do such things; who could carry-out such evil.
It shows us its exceeding wickedness in the victims.  They chose to go on sinning against God’s clear warnings.  Sin may be pleasurable for a season, but the end is horrific.

Why such evil?  Because Adam and Eve abused their free will to disobey rather than obey God.

Tertullian wrote, “Although the abuse of free will was foreseen by God, it could have been prevented by God only at the price of depriving human existence of its most noble attribute, namely, free will.”

Lamentations 5:16    The crown has fallen from our head. Woe to us, for we have sinned!

“The crown has fallen” can mean one of two things (and probably means both):

It can mean that their last king, Zedekiah, was vanquished leaving them without their own authority, to be ruled by foreign kings.
It can mean that their role as God’s primary nation on earth had been abdicated by them.  As they looked away from God and down, as it were, to earthly things the crown fell.

Then they say, simply but powerfully, “for we have sinned!”

That’s it, isn’t it?  That’s the honesty that is missing from my life when I rebel or from the lives of the backsliders I know.  So many times we try to blame our sin on others, or on circumstances.  We blame it on genetics, saying, “I was born this way!”

Even more wretched are times we say that what we’re doing isn’t sin – not for us, anyway.  We can even get to the point where we call good evil, and evil good.

God is ready to restore (as we will see in a moment).  But He can’t if we don’t think we need restoration.

Lamentations 5:17    Because of this our heart is faint; Because of these things our eyes grow dim;
Lamentations 5:18    Because of Mount Zion which is desolate, With foxes walking about on it.

Sick in heart; their eyes “dim” because they are filled with tears; they nevertheless, because they’ve confessed their sin, can ‘look’ beyond themselves to God.  They are saddened that “Mount Zion” is “desolate, with foxes walking about on it.”

In other words, their sin had defiled God’s holy mountain.  It wasn’t just about them anymore.  It was about their relationship with God.

A person needing to be restored must recognize their sin and understand that they have sinned against God – offending Him, grieving Him, abandoning Him.  It is the absolute ground zero for restoration.

The final four verses put the entire book into perspective. Jeremiah and the nation can only pray using these words because God works to restore them.

Lamentations 5:19    You, O LORD, remain forever; Your throne from generation to generation.

We like to say “God is on the throne.”  Or that God is “sovereign.”  The Jews recognized He was – not in spite of their condition but because of it.  He was behind it leading them to repentance so He could restore them.

If God is so sovereign, sitting on His throne, how do we account for some of the things He permits to happen?

God’s methods in exercising His sovereignty bear a striking resemblance to the ways good human parenting functions.

First, God sometimes permits our freedom to play itself out in consequences, even if we become a cause of our own suffering and others’ suffering.  Freedom could have no meaning if it did not risk going astray.  To posit a freedom that cannot possibly fail is to run away from the human freedom God gives.  God graciously allows human freedom the room both to stand and to fall.  The situation of the sixth centuries Jews attests to God giving them their freedom but bringing consequences.

Second, God sometimes hinders, at times directly resisting, our ill-motivated actions.  He puts obstacles in the way of our hurting ourselves, like the parent who builds a fence so the child will not go into the street.  The child still may find a way to get into the street, but not without confronting the serious effort of the parent at placing an obstacle in harm’s way.  An example of this is Satan’s complaint that God had put a hedge around Job.

Third, God might overrule us when we wander completely out of line.  The sons of Jacob sold their brother Joseph into slavery.  Then, as governor of Egypt, he became the means of the redemption of the whole family.  Joseph mirrored God’s own providence when he said to his pleading brothers: “You meant to do me harm; but God meant to bring good out of it…”

Fourth, God steers our way toward new options, opening some doors, closing others.  An example would be the apostle Paul being prevented from going to certain areas until he received the vision to go to Macedonia.

What will always remain a mystery to us is why God doesn’t overrule in some cases; why He doesn’t hinder in others.  We need to trust there are things He knows about the hearts He is dealing with and about the effects of everyone’s choices that we cannot hope to fathom.

Lamentations 5:20    Why do You forget us forever, And forsake us for so long a time?

Their discipline was so intense that it felt as if God had forgotten them.  It felt as if He had forsaken them “so long a time.”  In truth, it was they who had forgotten God for many centuries.

God had revealed to them He would never forget them; and the discipline had a very definite end – after seventy years.

They were feeling what God had been feeling.

Lamentations 5:21    Turn us back to You, O LORD, and we will be restored; Renew our days as of old,
Lamentations 5:22    Unless You have utterly rejected us, And are very angry with us!

Be honest.  You’ve felt utterly rejected by God.  You’ve wondered if He wasn’t very angry with you.  Of course He isn’t.
If He is disciplining, it is out of love.

Having come to the point of honest confession of sin, the people could ask The Lord to act to “turn us back to You, O Lord.”

Wait.  Do I turn?  Or does God turn me?

We get too caught up in the semantics.  Think it through.  God had been working all along to turn them back!  The famines; the pestilences; the prophets; all were God’s efforts to turn them back.

Finally the destruction of the city and their captivity was God’s final effort to turn them back… And it worked!

Their declaration, “turn us back to You, O Lord,” is a recognition of the Lord’s faithfulness toward them – working relentlessly to do just that!

Once “restored,” God “renew[s].”  There is that joy of His salvation; that first-love feeling.

I know it was brutal – the whole Babylonian invasion and captivity.  But it was nevertheless the work of a Father loving His children enough to discipline them.

And it worked!  The nation was preserved; they returned to their land; Jesus was born to be Savior of the world.

Godisnowhere (Lamentations 4)

My dad tried to warn me that, if I kept doing drugs, I would wake up one day homeless and destitute.  I never believed him.  Thankfully The Lord intervened in my life before I got to that point.

Our Heavenly Father warned His chosen nation, Israel, that if they  did not obey His statutes, and if they persisted in disobedience, they would wake up one day homeless and destitute.

God made a covenant with Israel, giving them His statutes, about 1406BC.  He struggled with their disobedience for the greater part of 800 years.  In 586BC their sins finally caught up to them as the Chaldean army of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon broke through the gates, burned the city, destroyed the Temple, and took captive those they did not kill.

God said this in 1406, and Israel (as a nation) agreed.

Leviticus 26:14    ‘But if you do not obey Me, and do not observe all these commandments,
Leviticus 26:15    and if you despise My statutes, or if your soul abhors My judgments, so that you do not perform all My commandments, but break My covenant,
Leviticus 26:16    I also will do this to you…

A long list of terrible consequences follows, including this:

Leviticus 26:29    You shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters.

Going forward 800 years we read,

Lamentations 4:10    The hands of the compassionate women Have cooked their own children; They became food for them In the destruction of the daughter of my people.

Cannibalism; probably necro-cannibalism, which is eating human flesh after someone has died rather than murdering them.

I’ll bet no Israelite ever thought it could possibly come to that.

Why do we not heed God’s warnings?  That’s the sub-theme tonight as we work through another terrifying chapter in Lamentations.

Lamentations 4:1    How the gold has become dim! How changed the fine gold! The stones of the sanctuary are scattered At the head of every street.
Lamentations 4:2    The precious sons of Zion, Valuable as fine gold, How they are regarded as clay pots, The work of the hands of the potter!

Solomon’s once glorious Temple was scattered all over the city.  As beautiful, as extravagant, as the Temple had been, God looked upon His people as far more beautiful and valuable.  They – you – are the “pearl of great price” on this earth.
Shifting illustrations mid-verse, God reminds them He was the Potter and nations are the clay.  In the famous passage in Jeremiah we learn God molds a nation according to their obedience or disobedience.

Listen: Whenever you hear or read about God being the Potter and men being the clay, remember He was talking about Himself in relation to the nations of the world and the key factor was their choices to obey or disobey Him.  God doesn’t portray Himself as a Potter Who makes some vessels for destruction disregarding their free will choices.

Lamentations 4:3    Even the jackals present their breasts To nurse their young; But the daughter of my people is cruel, Like ostriches in the wilderness.
Lamentations 4:4    The tongue of the infant clings To the roof of its mouth for thirst; The young children ask for bread, But no one breaks it for them.

Because of the siege, which was nearly three years long, the parents could not properly care for their children.

Before you blame God for the suffering of innocent children remember He warned them 800 years earlier what could and would happen as the consequences of their decisions.  A nation that continued to disobey God would be overrun by another nation.  In that day and age it meant siege warfare, during which hunger would become so pronounced that necro-cannibalism was necessary to survive.

Sometimes people bring things on themselves, only to wonder why God is allowing it.  In a word: Consequences.

Lamentations 4:5    Those who ate delicacies Are desolate in the streets; Those who were brought up in scarlet Embrace ash heaps.
Lamentations 4:6    The punishment of the iniquity of the daughter of my people Is greater than the punishment of the sin of Sodom, Which was overthrown in a moment, With no hand to help her!
Lamentations 4:7    Her Nazirites were brighter than snow And whiter than milk; They were more ruddy in body than rubies, Like sapphire in their appearance.
Lamentations 4:8    Now their appearance is blacker than soot; They go unrecognized in the streets; Their skin clings to their bones, It has become as dry as wood.
Lamentations 4:9    Those slain by the sword are better off Than those who die of hunger; For these pine away, Stricken for lack of the fruits of the field.

FYI – you never want to be compared to Sodom, and you certainly don’t want to be considered worse off than Sodom.

These verses point to the protracted nature of the suffering.  You know, it is sometimes better for something to happen quickly and it be over and done than it be protracted over a long period of time.

Lamentations 4:10    The hands of the compassionate women Have cooked their own children; They became food for them In the destruction of the daughter of my people.
Lamentations 4:11    The LORD has fulfilled His fury, He has poured out His fierce anger. He kindled a fire in Zion, And it has devoured its foundations.

These two verses should be read together.  It’s a comparison.  Just like “the hands of the compassionate women” were forced by necessity to cook “their own children,” so God was forced by necessity to “kindle a fire in Zion” that “devoured” it and its people.  He took no pleasure in it; it was put in motion by their own stubbornness.

Lamentations 4:12    The kings of the earth, And all inhabitants of the world, Would not have believed That the adversary and the enemy Could enter the gates of Jerusalem –
Lamentations 4:13    Because of the sins of her prophets And the iniquities of her priests, Who shed in her midst The blood of the just.
Lamentations 4:14    They wandered blind in the streets; They have defiled themselves with blood, So that no one would touch their garments.
Lamentations 4:15    They cried out to them, “Go away, unclean! Go away, go away, Do not touch us!” When they fled and wandered, Those among the nations said, “They shall no longer dwell here.”
Lamentations 4:16    The face of the LORD scattered them; He no longer regards them. The people do not respect the priests Nor show favor to the elders.

Surrounding nations were astonished that Jerusalem could fall.  What they did not understand is that God’s people were indestructible unless and until they disobeyed Him, bringing judgment upon themselves.

God wasn’t just powerful; He was – and is – holy, and His people must therefore remain set apart from the sinful practices of this fallen world.

Israel could never be destroyed from without, by an enemy, unless she destroyed herself from within.

Lamentations 4:17    Still our eyes failed us, Watching vainly for our help; In our watching we watched For a nation that could not save us.

I wish I could capture the sadness of this verse.  The Jews, in their distress, looked for another nation to come to their aid and defense.  They especially looked to Egypt; but the Babylonians defeated Egypt at Carchemish.

All the while they had God to save them and all they needed to do was turn to Him in repentance.

It astonishes me when someone rejects Jesus because they don’t see how He can solve their problem.  Their focus is all outward, on the material world, and they don’t understand the real issues are always spiritual.

Lamentations 4:18    They tracked our steps So that we could not walk in our streets. Our end was near; Our days were over, For our end had come.
Lamentations 4:19    Our pursuers were swifter Than the eagles of the heavens. They pursued us on the mountains And lay in wait for us in the wilderness.

If a siege lasted long enough, and the besieged had storehouses, they might survive.  Once the gates fell, however, there was no place to hide from an enemy filled with pent-up rage.

Lamentations 4:20    The breath of our nostrils, the anointed of the LORD, Was caught in their pits, Of whom we said, “Under his shadow We shall live among the nations.”

The “anointed of the Lord” refers to Zedekiah, appointed to govern Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar.  If he had followed Jeremiah’s godly counsel and surrendered the city would have been spared.  Instead he led the nation into its ruin.

Lamentations 4:21    Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom, You who dwell in the land of Uz! The cup shall also pass over to you And you shall become drunk and make yourself naked.
Lamentations 4:22    The punishment of your iniquity is accomplished, O daughter of Zion; He will no longer send you into captivity. He will punish your iniquity, O daughter of Edom; He will uncover your sins!

History records the Edomites aiding the Babylonians at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem.  These verses tell them that a reckoning was coming.

God sits in judgment over all nations with regard to their behavior and, especially, their treatment of His people.

Look at the title of this study.  How do you read it?

Is it God is nowhere?
Is it God is now here?

It’s a famous wordplay; Ray Comfort uses it on Gospel tracts.

If you were in Jerusalem, cooking your dead children, you could think God is nowhere; or you could understand, God is now here – as He said, in judgment for our sins.

A lot of the time, when there is suffering and tragedy, people accuse God of being nowhere.

Truth is, He is there – “now here,” as it were.  Not always in judgment – although many times a person really is reaping what they have sown.

He is also there in compassion, with mercy, offering salvation.

The Mourning After (Lamentations 3)

A sequence of the most wonderful and powerful verses in all God’s Word are to be discovered in the third chapter of Lamentations.  When you are being buffeted, going through incredible suffering, it is nothing short of transforming to read,

Lamentations 3:22    Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not.
Lamentations 3:23    They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:24    “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!”
Lamentations 3:25    The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the soul who seeks Him.
Lamentations 3:26    It is good that one should hope and wait quietly For the salvation of the LORD.

Underline them.  Memorize them.  Live them.

There are 61 other verses in this chapter.  Among them are some of the most disturbing words in all of the Bible.  Some of what we will read seems to border on blasphemy.

The same believer who uttered verses twenty-two through twenty-six says about God, for example, “He has bent His bow And set me up as a target for the arrow.  He has caused the arrows of His quiver To pierce my loins” (v12-13).

Theologians and philosophers struggle to reconcile these two pictures of God.

I’m going to maintain that they do not need to be reconciled if we simply remember the context.  The lamenter was lamenting God’s dealings with His covenant nation, Judah.  In the sixth century they were mostly nonbelievers involved in gross and immoral idolatry.  What’s more, God had been reaching out to the Jews for almost 500 years to repent of their sins or they would face the judgments promised under the Law of Moses for disobedience.

Thus the key verse in this chapter is verse thirty-nine:

Lamentations 3:39    Why should a living man complain, A man for the punishment of his sins?

What happened to Judah and Jerusalem in the sixth century was the direct result of their sin and refusal to repent.  Their choices left God no choice but to judge and punish.  But in His wrath against sin He remembered mercy.  A remnant was spared and Israel exists to this present day.

This long chapter will not be without application for us, as Christians in the dispensation of grace.  We can definitely claim the verses about God’s mercy in our times of incredible suffering – not just because we want to, but because they reveal the essential nature and character of our gracious God.

On the other hand, even though we suffer – and can suffer severely – it would be wrong to think of our afflictions as the judgment of God upon us because our sins have already been judged on the Cross where Jesus took our place.

I am not the target of God’s arrows.  I am the target of the fiery darts of Satan.  And while you may think it amounts to the same thing, since the devil can only do what God permits, it’s not the same; not by a long shot.

Let’s get into it.  The first twenty or so verses are complaints to God about His direct role in the fall of the city and the suffering of its citizens.  They present a series of illustrations.

Lamentations 3:1    I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of His wrath.
Lamentations 3:2    He has led me and made me walk In darkness and not in light.
Lamentations 3:3    Surely He has turned His hand against me Time and time again throughout the day.
Lamentations 3:4    He has aged my flesh and my skin, And broken my bones.
Lamentations 3:5    He has besieged me And surrounded me with bitterness and woe.
Lamentations 3:6    He has set me in dark places Like the dead of long ago.
Lamentations 3:7    He has hedged me in so that I cannot get out; He has made my chain heavy.
Lamentations 3:8    Even when I cry and shout, He shuts out my prayer.
Lamentations 3:9    He has blocked my ways with hewn stone; He has made my paths crooked.
Lamentations 3:10    He has been to me a bear lying in wait, Like a lion in ambush.
Lamentations 3:11    He has turned aside my ways and torn me in pieces; He has made me desolate.
Lamentations 3:12    He has bent His bow And set me up as a target for the arrow.
Lamentations 3:13    He has caused the arrows of His quiver To pierce my loins.
Lamentations 3:14    I have become the ridicule of all my people— Their taunting song all the day.
Lamentations 3:15    He has filled me with bitterness, He has made me drink wormwood.
Lam 3:16    He has also broken my teeth with gravel, And covered me with ashes.
Lamentations 3:17    You have moved my soul far from peace; I have forgotten prosperity.
Lamentations 3:18    And I said, “My strength and my hope Have perished from the LORD.”
Lamentations 3:19    Remember my affliction and roaming, The wormwood and the gall.
Lamentations 3:20    My soul still remembers And sinks within me.

God is represented as a punisher wielding the rod; as a guide who led into darkness; as the besieger of the city.  The writer represents himself as if he were thrown by God into a dungeon worse than Hades itself.

One commentator goes on to say,

He appears as a traveller whose way is blocked, and that not by some accidental fall of rock, but of set purpose, for he finds the obstruction to be of carefully prepared masonry, “hewn stones” (v9).  Therefore he has to turn aside, so that his paths become crooked.  Yet more terrible does the Divine enmity grow. When the pilgrim is thus forced to leave the highroad and make his way through the adjoining thickets his Adversary avails Himself of the cover to assume a new form, that of a lion or a bear lying in ambush (v10).  The consequence is that the hapless man is torn as by the claws and fangs of beasts of prey.

It’s dishonest for us to try to argue that Jeremiah was angry and therefore inaccurate in his representations of God.  He was spot on.  God was this way toward the Jews; He did these things to them.

I’m not saying we should applaud it, but when we read about God doing things like this to, say, Sodom and Gomorrah, we understand it was deserved.  It doesn’t make it any easier to swallow, but at least we see it as the punishment of sins.

Remember in reading Lamentations that these were mostly nonbelieving Jews.  A few – like Daniel, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah – were caught-up in it but their lives were saved as God’s treasure.

The next sequence of verses shines against this pitch black background.  In His wrath against sin, God remembered His mercy and the unconditional promises He’d made to Abraham’s descendants.

Lamentations 3:20    My soul still remembers And sinks within me.

The opening verses were Jeremiah’s remembrance.  Even in the light of what he was about to say, his soul would always sink within him.  He took no pleasure in the death of the wicked; or in the death of innocent children who were caught in the fires.  Would to God the Jews would have repented.

Lamentations 3:21    This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope.
Lamentations 3:22    Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not.
Lamentations 3:23    They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.

I don’t want to rob us of these precious verses, but in their original context they mean that God would not, He could not, consume Israel because of His faithfulness.  He thus had compassion upon them and showed mercy to a remnant.  Every morning Jews could be assured these things are true.

Lamentations 3:24    “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!”
Lamentations 3:25    The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the soul who seeks Him.
Lamentations 3:26    It is good that one should hope and wait quietly For the salvation of the LORD.

Regardless the absolute horror of what happened in Jerusalem, a surviving Jew could encourage his or her heart that God was their portion, and that they ought to wait, seek, hope, and go on waiting to see the “salvation of The Lord” – which in their case meant the ultimate, final fulfillment of His plan to establish them as His capital nation on the Millennial Earth.

We need to move rapidly through the rest of the chapter.  Verses twenty-seven through thirty-nine establish that God is, in fact, longsuffering with mankind in their sin.  He works to bring you to salvation from your youth.

Lamentations 3:27    It is good for a man to bear The yoke in his youth.
Lamentations 3:28    Let him sit alone and keep silent, Because God has laid it on him;
Lamentations 3:29    Let him put his mouth in the dust – There may yet be hope.
Lamentations 3:30    Let him give his cheek to the one who strikes him, And be full of reproach.
Lamentations 3:31    For the Lord will not cast off forever.
Lam 3:32    Though He causes grief, Yet He will show compassion According to the multitude of His mercies.
Lamentations 3:33    For He does not afflict willingly, Nor grieve the children of men.
Lamentations 3:34    To crush under one’s feet All the prisoners of the earth,
Lamentations 3:35    To turn aside the justice due a man Before the face of the Most High,
Lamentations 3:36    Or subvert a man in his cause – The Lord does not approve.

God afflicts, but He is hoping to evoke repentance.

Lamentations 3:37    Who is he who speaks and it comes to pass, When the Lord has not commanded it?
Lamentations 3:38    Is it not from the mouth of the Most High That woe and well-being proceed?
Lamentations 3:39    Why should a living man complain, A man for the punishment of his sins?

God must act when sin goes unconfessed and there is a refusal to repent.  If you’re a parent – Do you look forward to spanking your child?  Of course not; but you do it; you must, if you love them.

If they complain, do you not tell them to choose obedience next time?

Verses forty through forty-seven show that the Jews refused to repent.

Lamentations 3:40    Let us search out and examine our ways, And turn back to the LORD;
Lamentations 3:41    Let us lift our hearts and hands To God in heaven.
Lamentations 3:42    We have transgressed and rebelled; You have not pardoned.
Lamentations 3:43    You have covered Yourself with anger And pursued us; You have slain and not pitied.
Lamentations 3:44    You have covered Yourself with a cloud, That prayer should not pass through.
Lamentations 3:45    You have made us an offscouring and refuse In the midst of the peoples.
Lamentations 3:46    All our enemies Have opened their mouths against us.
Lamentations 3:47    Fear and a snare have come upon us, Desolation and destruction.

Verses forty and forty-one are what they should have done.  It was what God was urging through His prophets for 500 years.
Verses forty-two through forty-seven are what God had to do because of their refusal to repent.
Lamentations 3:48    My eyes overflow with rivers of water For the destruction of the daughter of my people.
Lamentations 3:49    My eyes flow and do not cease, Without interruption,
Lamentations 3:50    Till the LORD from heaven Looks down and sees.
Lamentations 3:51    My eyes bring suffering to my soul Because of all the daughters of my city.
Lamentations 3:52    My enemies without cause Hunted me down like a bird.
Lamentations 3:53    They silenced my life in the pit And threw stones at me.
Lamentations 3:54    The waters flowed over my head; I said, “I am cut off!”

This reads like a summary of Jeremiah’s experience for forty years serving God, trying to reach these people.

Lamentations 3:55    I called on Your name, O LORD, From the lowest pit.
Lamentations 3:56    You have heard my voice: “Do not hide Your ear From my sighing, from my cry for help.”
Lamentations 3:57    You drew near on the day I called on You, And said, “Do not fear!”
Lamentations 3:58    O Lord, You have pleaded the case for my soul; You have redeemed my life.
Lamentations 3:59    O LORD, You have seen how I am wronged; Judge my case.
Lamentations 3:60    You have seen all their vengeance, All their schemes against me.
Lamentations 3:61    You have heard their reproach, O LORD, All their schemes against me,
Lamentations 3:62    The lips of my enemies And their whispering against me all the day.
Lamentations 3:63    Look at their sitting down and their rising up; I am their taunting song.
Lamentations 3:64    Repay them, O LORD, According to the work of their hands.
Lamentations 3:65    Give them a veiled heart; Your curse be upon them!
Lamentations 3:66    In Your anger, Pursue and destroy them From under the heavens of the LORD.

Jeremiah suffered, both more and less than the Jews whose city and Temple were destroyed.

He suffered more because, in addition to having to endure the siege, the destruction, and captivity, he was hated and persecuted by the very people he was called to minister to.  And the destruction of the city and Temple would be felt much stronger by him as a believer than the others.
He suffered less in the sense that God was his portion.  He heard God say, “Do not fear!”  God redeemed his life, considering it a treasure, a spoil of the war.  Jeremiah had a sense that God would vindicate him ultimately and totally.

If you are a believer, you can relate to Jeremiah (or Daniel or Ezekiel).  You suffer both more and less than nonbelievers as you seek to share with them the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

And while verses twenty-one through twenty-six were written to the Jews, they reveal the heart of God to anyone, to everyone.

Along those lines let me suggest something.  In verse twenty-two we read, “through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed.”  There is a better, preferable, translation.  The ESV says, “the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end…”

It’s not that God has to endure us because He happens to be merciful – as if He’d rather just blot us out!

No, it’s that He loves us so much that new mercies are always available by which we are maintained or restored to His grace.

All Nations Under God (Lamentations 2)

Let’s talk about nations.

God establishes all the nations of the world.  Paul the apostle said, “From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live” (Acts 17:26).

God has a rather simple approach in His dealings with the nations He establishes:

Jeremiah 18:6    “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the LORD. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel!
Jeremiah 18:7    The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it,
Jeremiah 18:8    if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it.
Jeremiah 18:9    And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it,
Jeremiah 18:10    if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it.

A good summary of that is the simpler statement of Proverbs 14:34, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.”

The seriousness of practicing righteousness is understood when you read Psalm 9:17:

Psalm 9:17    The wicked shall be turned into hell, And all the nations that forget God.

I’m focusing on God’s ways of dealing with nations because it helps make better sense of what happened to the Jews when Jerusalem fell in 586BC.  The catastrophe that befell them at the hands of the Chaldean army of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was quite awful.  In the account we will be reading tonight, in Lamentations chapter two, we encounter things like the cannibalism of children by their parents.

The catastrophe is directly attributed to God.  It isn’t that He allowed it; He accomplished it.

Our immediate reaction can be, “How can God do that to His own people?”  The answer is that He was dealing with Israel as a nation – not as individual, saved Jews who were His children.

Just because the nation of Israel is called His elect nation, or God’s chosen people, it doesn’t mean every Jew was or is saved.
When God made His promises to Abraham He specified there would be three groups of people who would spring forth from Abraham and be considered his descendants:

Abraham would have physical descendants, or we might say natural descendants, who would be the ethnic people we call Jews.  These especially descend from Isaac through Jacob as the twelve tribes.
Among these natural descendants some would also become spiritual descendants; i.e., they would believe God and He would save them.
In the New Testament we see a third group who are not naturally descended from Abraham but who are nevertheless called his spiritual descendants.  These are saved Gentiles.

We are therefore reading the record of God’s discipline against a nation of mostly nonbelievers.  As a nation they had done evil in His sight and He had come to destroy them.

Remember, too, God’s longsuffering.  He had been holding off His judgment for many years.  I’ve been saying forty years as we are going through Jeremiah; but the truth is the Jews had been disobeying God for at least 490 years.

During that time He had sent famines and droughts and pestilence; He had sent His prophets to make clear what was happening and why.  The Jews only hardened their hearts all the more.  By this time they were involved in gross idolatry which included the sacrifice of their infant children.

Sadly, the believers in Judah – men like Daniel and Ezekiel and Jeremiah – were caught in the judgment of God.  But, as we’ve seen, God was working in and through them.  He considered their lives His spoils of this war.

All of what I just said needs to be kept in mind as we read this chapter.  God’s dealings with Israel were, on the one hand, no different than Him judging Assyria, or Babylon, or Medo-Persia, or Greece, or Rome.

On the other hand, in His judgment He remembered mercy, and kept a remnant of saved Jews safe to fulfill the destiny of their nation.

The first nine verses depict the destruction of Jerusalem from Heaven’s perspective.  It was God who did it.

Lamentations 2:1    How the Lord has covered the daughter of Zion With a cloud in His anger! He cast down from heaven to the earth The beauty of Israel, And did not remember His footstool In the day of His anger.
Lamentations 2:2    The Lord has swallowed up and has not pitied All the dwelling places of Jacob. He has thrown down in His wrath The strongholds of the daughter of Judah; He has brought them down to the ground; He has profaned the kingdom and its princes.
Lamentations 2:3    He has cut off in fierce anger Every horn of Israel; He has drawn back His right hand From before the enemy. He has blazed against Jacob like a flaming fire Devouring all around.
Lamentations 2:4    Standing like an enemy, He has bent His bow; With His right hand, like an adversary, He has slain all who were pleasing to His eye; On the tent of the daughter of Zion, He has poured out His fury like fire.
Lamentations 2:5    The Lord was like an enemy. He has swallowed up Israel, He has swallowed up all her palaces; He has destroyed her strongholds, And has increased mourning and lamentation In the daughter of Judah.
Lamentations 2:6    He has done violence to His tabernacle, As if it were a garden; He has destroyed His place of assembly; The LORD has caused The appointed feasts and Sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion. In His burning indignation He has spurned the king and the priest.
Lamentations 2:7    The Lord has spurned His altar, He has abandoned His sanctuary; He has given up the walls of her palaces Into the hand of the enemy. They have made a noise in the house of the LORD As on the day of a set feast.
Lamentations 2:8    The LORD has purposed to destroy The wall of the daughter of Zion. He has stretched out a line; He has not withdrawn His hand from destroying; Therefore He has caused the rampart and wall to lament; They languished together.
Lamentations 2:9    Her gates have sunk into the ground; He has destroyed and broken her bars. Her king and her princes are among the nations; The Law is no more, And her prophets find no vision from the LORD.

Let’s concentrate on two major ideas in those verses.  The first has to do with the Temple.  The “footstool” of The Lord mentioned was the ark of the covenant with its mercy seat cover.  Also mentioned was the tabernacle – the inner room of the Temple.  There was mention of the altar and the sanctuary, too.

In other words, God destroyed the Temple.  This is significant because the nonbelieving Jews thought that they were safe, and could sin all they wanted, because God would never destroy (or allow to be destroyed) the Temple.  They thought of it as a kind of magical or lucky charm that automatically protected them.
Because they were neglecting true worship, God took away all the institutions of their worship that they were observing in hypocrisy.  Without any altar or tabernacle; without the priests; would they still worship Him?

It’s a reminder that The Lord is interested in worship from our hearts.  The old adage is still true: The heart of worship is worship from the heart.  It does no good to go through the outward motions of worship if our hearts are far from Him – and especially if we are committing sin openly, habitually, while still calling on the name of The Lord, thinking He won’t do anything to discipline us.

The other major idea – or major image we might say – is The Lord as their “enemy,” bending His bow to shoot them.  Even though it was the Chaldeans who battered the walls and burnt the city, God says it was Him.  He wasn’t simply allowing it; He was accomplishing it.

This isn’t a case of “Why do bad things happen to good people?,” or to God’s people.  This was more like God judging Sodom and Gomorrah.

Yes, believers were caught up in it; but in a world in which sin exists because God’s longsuffering waits and gives space for repentance, the suffering of believers among nonbelievers is going to be inevitable.

The next group of verses in our chapter try to express inexpressible grief.

Lamentations 2:10    The elders of the daughter of Zion Sit on the ground and keep silence; They throw dust on their heads And gird themselves with sackcloth. The virgins of Jerusalem Bow their heads to the ground.
Lamentations 2:11    My eyes fail with tears, My heart is troubled; My bile is poured on the ground Because of the destruction of the daughter of my people, Because the children and the infants Faint in the streets of the city.
Lamentations 2:12    They say to their mothers, “Where is grain and wine?” As they swoon like the wounded In the streets of the city, As their life is poured out In their mothers’ bosom.
Lamentations 2:13    How shall I console you? To what shall I liken you, O daughter of Jerusalem? What shall I compare with you, that I may comfort you, O virgin daughter of Zion? For your ruin is spread wide as the sea; Who can heal you?

We are right to be horrified at the suffering that came upon the innocent children.  But why do blame God for it when the real problem was the sin of the people?  Should God have ignored the fact they were sacrificing their own children already to the fires of idolatry?

Whenever we see anything along these lines, anywhere in the world through history, we ought to be reminded of the exceeding sinfulness of sin.

Lamentations 2:14    Your prophets have seen for you False and deceptive visions; They have not uncovered your iniquity, To bring back your captives, But have envisioned for you false prophecies and delusions.

They had the Word of God, as well as true prophets, but preferred the words of lying prophets who told them their sin wasn’t really sinful.  One of the gravest errors a society can make is to call sin and evil ‘good.’

Lamentations 2:15    All who pass by clap their hands at you; They hiss and shake their heads At the daughter of Jerusalem: “Is this the city that is called ‘The perfection of beauty, The joy of the whole earth’?”
Lamentations 2:16    All your enemies have opened their mouth against you; They hiss and gnash their teeth. They say, “We have swallowed her up! Surely this is the day we have waited for; We have found it, we have seen it!”
Lamentations 2:17    The LORD has done what He purposed; He has fulfilled His word Which He commanded in days of old. He has thrown down and has not pitied, And He has caused an enemy to rejoice over you; He has exalted the horn of your adversaries.

The Jews were supposed to be revealing the glory of God to the other nations. They were God’s plan of evangelism. If they wouldn’t do it from a position of obedience to God that He could bless, He would show His mighty power to the nations through His discipline.

Lamentations 2:18    Their heart cried out to the Lord, “O wall of the daughter of Zion, Let tears run down like a river day and night; Give yourself no relief; Give your eyes no rest.
Lamentations 2:19    “Arise, cry out in the night, At the beginning of the watches; Pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord. Lift your hands toward Him For the life of your young children, Who faint from hunger at the head of every street.”

It took this much for them to turn to face The Lord.  He had tried everything else.  Tried everything else for nearly five centuries!

Lamentations 2:20    “See, O LORD, and consider! To whom have You done this? Should the women eat their offspring, The children they have cuddled? Should the priest and prophet be slain In the sanctuary of the Lord?
Lamentations 2:21    “Young and old lie On the ground in the streets; My virgins and my young men Have fallen by the sword; You have slain them in the day of Your anger, You have slaughtered and not pitied.

Some parents became cannibals and ate their own children.  This action was predicted centuries earlier by Moses when he warned Israel of the consequences of disobedience to God’s Law (Leviticus 26:27-29; Deuteronomy 28:53-57).

People have an amazing propensity for ignoring not only warnings but very real danger.  Then they blame God when, all the while, He told them what was inevitable should they sin.

Lamentations 2:22    “You have invited as to a feast day The terrors that surround me. In the day of the LORD’s anger There was no refugee or survivor. Those whom I have borne and brought up My enemies have destroyed.”

God would much rather have seen His people gathered to one of Israel’s solemn feasts. Instead they forced Him to gather together terrible enemies to consume them.

Since we’re talking about nations, what can we say about the United States?

Well, we are not a major player in Bible prophecy, and that by itself is concerning.

It doesn’t mean some horrible judgment is on the horizon. It could be that the rapture of the church changes world politics more than we can imagine. We are hardly a Christian nation but when the rapture occurs a great number of people will be removed. It could be that those left must join with Canada and Mexico to form a North American Union.

The United States is not Israel.  We are a nation God has raised up.  Righteousness will exalt us.  Sin is a reproach that invites God to remove us.

We must stand for righteousness; but the first place to do it is right in our own lives, and in the corporate life of the church.  Judgment should begin in the house of God (Peter said).

I don’t say that as a rebuke, but as a reminder to look within before we look around.  The immorality of the world is to be expected.  The immorality of the church, of Christians, is not to be expected.

Let’s get back to our first love and remain there and see our nation change one servant at a time.

Look, It’s Your Destiny (Lamentations 1)

Below the hill now known as Golgotha and Calvary, just outside of Jerusalem, there is a dark incline known as Jeremiah’s Grotto.  This is suggested as the location where the prophet sat and observed the ruins of the city while writing his Lamentations.

If this is true, then it is appropriate that Jeremiah’s Grotto is located so closely to the spot where the Savior, Jesus Christ, died on the Cross some 600 years later.  He, too, wept over Jerusalem’s destruction, knowing what would befall the Jews for having rejected God’s offer of the kingdom by despising their one true King.

Having warned Judah for four decades of the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple, Jeremiah put his tears into words once more in a series of five laments.

Although there are other examples of this literary style in the Bible, this book is the only one wholly written as a lament.

The Hebrew title of the book comes from the first words of chapters one, two and four – Ekah, meaning “Ah, how!”  Another Hebrew word Ginoth has been used, meaning “elegies” or “lamentations.”  The Greek title is Thronoi – “dirges” or “laments.”  The Latin is Threni – “tears” or “lamentations.”

I think you get the idea!  It’s gonna be sad.

Three themes reappear and run through Jeremiah’s five laments.

There is mourning over Jerusalem’s destruction and desolation.
There is confession of sin and the acknowledgment God’s judgment was righteous and deserved.
We see the wealth of God’s mercies and the certain hope of Israel’s restoration.

We are picking as the book’s key verses 3:22-23,

Lamentations 3:22    Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not.
Lamentations 3:23    They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.

We’ve chosen as a title for the series, New Every Mourning – spelling it m-o-u-r-n-i-n-g.  The Lord’s faithfulness and mercies are indeed new each day but they are especially real to us each time we find cause for mourning – for sorrow, for tears.

Chapter one breaks very obviously into two movements.  The first, in verses one through eleven, is a lamentation by Jeremiah.  Then, in verses twelve through twenty-two, Jerusalem is personified as lamenting.
Lamentations 1:1    How lonely sits the city That was full of people! How like a widow is she, Who was great among the nations! The princess among the provinces Has become a slave!
Lamentations 1:2    She weeps bitterly in the night, Her tears are on her cheeks; Among all her lovers She has none to comfort her. All her friends have dealt treacherously with her; They have become her enemies.
Lamentations 1:3    Judah has gone into captivity, Under affliction and hard servitude; She dwells among the nations, She finds no rest; All her persecutors overtake her in dire straits.
Lamentations 1:4    The roads to Zion mourn Because no one comes to the set feasts. All her gates are desolate; Her priests sigh, Her virgins are afflicted, And she is in bitterness.
Lamentations 1:5    Her adversaries have become the master, Her enemies prosper; For the LORD has afflicted her Because of the multitude of her transgressions. Her children have gone into captivity before the enemy.
Lamentations 1:6    And from the daughter of Zion All her splendor has departed. Her princes have become like deer That find no pasture, That flee without strength Before the pursuer.
Lamentations 1:7    In the days of her affliction and roaming, Jerusalem remembers all her pleasant things That she had in the days of old. When her people fell into the hand of the enemy, With no one to help her, The adversaries saw her And mocked at her downfall.

Jeremiah’s mind and heart are flooded with images that inspire sorrow.  He compares Jerusalem and its citizens to a widow; then to a slave; then to an abandoned lover; then to a betrayed friend.

The priests, so important and active in bridging the gap between man and God, have no place to work.  Innocent young virgins, indeed all the innocent children, suffer for the sins of their parents and leaders.

Now that the destruction has come the people look upon what they’ve lost.

The cause was given in verse five, “the multitude of her transgressions.”  It’s expanded upon beginning with verse eight.

Lamentations 1:8    Jerusalem has sinned gravely, Therefore she has become vile. All who honored her despise her Because they have seen her nakedness; Yes, she sighs and turns away.
Lamentations 1:9    Her uncleanness is in her skirts; She did not consider her destiny; Therefore her collapse was awesome; She had no comforter. “O LORD, behold my affliction, For the enemy is exalted!”
Lamentations 1:10    The adversary has spread his hand Over all her pleasant things; For she has seen the nations enter her sanctuary, Those whom You commanded Not to enter Your assembly.
Lamentations 1:11    All her people sigh, They seek bread; They have given their valuables for food to restore life. “See, O LORD, and consider, For I am scorned.”

They had “sinned gravely.”  We’ve seen in our studies in Jeremiah how they constructed idols in the Temple; worshipped the foreign gods by participating in immoral sexual rituals; and sacrificed their own infant children to death.

I want to focus on the words in verse nine, “she did not consider her destiny; therefore her collapse was awesome.”
There are at least two ways to think of the word “destiny.”  One way is that the people did not think ahead to see the consequences of their behavior.  Even in light of the warnings in God’s written Word and through God’s spoken words, through the prophets, the people did not think ahead to consequences.

Why did they ignore the consequences?  Something Jeremiah said in his other book comes to mind.  As he would warn the people, they would say, “The Temple of The Lord!  The Temple of The Lord!”

In other words, they thought of the Temple as a sort of good luck charm that would protect them from any ‘real’ harm.  They could push the limits, go beyond God’s boundaries, because they had His Temple.

They had watched while God allowed the Northern kingdom of Israel to be overrun and destroyed by the Assyrians.  Ah, but the Northern kingdom did not have the Temple, did they?  Bad for them, the Jews in Judah thought; nothing like that can happen here.

Destiny can also refer to their ultimate purpose as a nation – to bring the knowledge of God to the world.  Instead of considering that awesome mission, they allowed the world to influence them.

Their “collapse was awesome” because they never thought it could come.  God, however, wasn’t messing around.  Though He was slow to bring it, the destruction came as forewarned.

We should think more about our destiny, in both these ways, as believers in Jesus.  We, too, are commissioned to bring the knowledge of God to the world.  People are perishing.  If they’re not perishing, they are suffering.  We have the words of eternal life – the keys to unlock the kingdom.  We can offer God’s forgiveness of sins and promise that as old things pass away, all things become new.

We should not have time to sin in light of our mission and the seriousness of reaching folks who need what only we can share.

On a more gut level, sin always has consequences.  It may offer excitement and pleasure but it always, always, leaves you a widow… Or a slave… or an abandoned lover… or a betrayed friend.  It harms those who are innocent around you – your children, if you have them, for example.

If you have time to sin, you don’t understand the times!

The last half of the chapter has Jerusalem personified speaking out about her fate.

Lamentations 1:12    “Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Behold and see If there is any sorrow like my sorrow, Which has been brought on me, Which the LORD has inflicted In the day of His fierce anger.
Lamentations 1:13    “From above He has sent fire into my bones, And it overpowered them; He has spread a net for my feet And turned me back; He has made me desolate And faint all the day.
Lamentations 1:14    “The yoke of my transgressions was bound; They were woven together by His hands, And thrust upon my neck. He made my strength fail; The Lord delivered me into the hands of those whom I am not able to withstand.
Lamentations 1:15    “The Lord has trampled underfoot all my mighty men in my midst; He has called an assembly against me To crush my young men; The Lord trampled as in a winepress The virgin daughter of Judah.
Lamentations 1:16    “For these things I weep; My eye, my eye overflows with water; Because the comforter, who should restore my life, Is far from me. My children are desolate Because the enemy prevailed.”
Lamentations 1:17    Zion spreads out her hands, But no one comforts her; The LORD has commanded concerning Jacob That those around him become his adversaries; Jerusalem has become an unclean thing among them.

As we read this you see the repetition of “the Lord,” “the Lord,” “the Lord.”  One thing is certain: God now had their full attention.

Did He really have to go that far to get their full attention?  Yes; that far and no farther.

From our perspective it can seem God allows things that are extreme.  But He’s not like the person who finally loses his temper and lashes out.  His punishments are all measured and perfect.

Judah was overrun, Jerusalem destroyed, the Temple burned, the people taken captive – because nothing short of that would return them to their spiritual center.

Lamentations 1:18    “The LORD is righteous, For I rebelled against His commandment. Hear now, all peoples, And behold my sorrow; My virgins and my young men Have gone into captivity.
Lamentations 1:19    “I called for my lovers, But they deceived me; My priests and my elders Breathed their last in the city, While they sought food To restore their life.
Lamentations 1:20    “See, O LORD, that I am in distress; My soul is troubled; My heart is overturned within me, For I have been very rebellious. Outside the sword bereaves, At home it is like death.
Lamentations 1:21    “They have heard that I sigh, But no one comforts me. All my enemies have heard of my trouble; They are glad that You have done it. Bring on the day You have announced, That they may become like me.
Lamentations 1:22    “Let all their wickedness come before You, And do to them as You have done to me For all my transgressions; For my sighs are many, And my heart is faint.”

Allow me to pick out a few phrases and string them together.  “The LORD is righteous… Hear now, all peoples… do to them as You have done to me for all my transgressions.”

They had a testimony (“the Lord is righteous”) to tell other nations and peoples (“hear now, all peoples”) with the warning that God’s longsuffering with sin will one day end and He must judge them (“do to them…”).

God would use them in their repentance to show His coming judgment upon all nations for their sins, but also His mercy upon those who would repent at their example.

It reminds me of King David’s attitude about God’s punishment after he’d sinned.

Psalm 51:10    Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Psalm 51:11    Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Psalm 51:12    Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
Psalm 51:13    Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners shall be converted to You.

If ever you find yourself mourning over your sin… in a place where your “collapse is awesome…” God will restore you.  You will again minister to folks looking on.

You will reveal to them that His mercies are indeed new every morning and in each mourning.