First off, please read our text today, which is Lamentations 2:1-10
Chapter two starts back with the original voice, the observer, as he starts off with declaring that the Lord has “covered” his daughter with his anger…and then the rest of the verses (1b-10) are just a litany of God’s wrath upon her. He even goes as far as calling God “like an enemy” as how could a loving and faithful God do this to his own people? It’s as if God is systematically taking apart this city piece by piece and not only removing it but obliterating it with fire, bows, rejection, and simply flattening her down into a pile of nothing. But why? Why is all of this happening?
Well, first off, verses 1-10 do not give us what we want as there is no “why” in there. We can jump to verse 14 and read about false visions, worthless prophets, and not addressing the sin of the people. We can jump to verse 19 and read this lament as there is an encouragement to “pour out your heart” to God – which means they were NOT doing it before as they ignored God, didn’t turn to him, and didn’t seek His name and his name alone. So in the end, while we don’t get exactly the details OF her sin we know that her sin was vast, deep, complex, and she was unrepentant from them. And so God responded as he said he would. God has always declared that sin has no place with him – nor with his children. God has always declared that WHEN you sin you atone for it, you seek forgiveness, restoration, and holiness. But what happens when you continue to sin and ignore seeking his heart? What happens when you continue to blatantly sin? Well, then God responds the only way he can: with punishment. And as so often happens the sinner doesn’t like the punishment. And as verses 1-10 show us the punishment handed down by God is severe.
As I read these verses I can’t help but recognize God’s own dismantling of Daughter Zion but what really strikes me is WHAT he is dismantling. Israel boosted herself up to the “splendor” of heaven as she thought herself loftier than she really was. The “dwellings of Jacob” and the “strongholds of Judah” are those things that we covet, that we build up and put our hopes and futures in and yet here we see God rubbing their noses in it. The “horn of Israel” is their pride, he has removed “pleasing” things to the eye like her palaces, her strongholds, her “things” of this world. So no more is she protected by her walls, no more does her gates stand strong, no more do her king and princes stand proud, no more do her prophets walk around prophesying for all the things she put her hope in, all the things she took pride in, all the things she built her reputation on are now removed. Why? Because She, Daughter Zion, turned to them and not to God. Because she, the covenantal daughter of God, forgot her true love: which was God himself. So God, in his dealing with her sin, has removed the very things she loved more than him.
As a kid I remember that when I would skin my knee on the ground it not only hurt really bad but there was always this inner turmoil that would strike me as I went to my parents. Going to them meant they could address the wound. Going to Mom and Dad meant soothing words would be given. Going to Mom or Dad meant a damp washcloth, some A&D Ointment, and a fresh Band-Aid. But going to Mom or Dad also meant the dreaded Hydrogen Peroxide would be poured on and even before THAT there was the scrubbing of the wound! I didn’t care that they were necessary steps. I didn’t care that the wound had to have whatever debris was in it removed. I didn’t care that the peroxide cleaned and the scrubbing scrubbed. All I cared about was the pain! And yet those two steps were needed because they not only helped in the healing they also helped remove any possible infection. What I didn’t understand was that if we just slapped a bandage on that healing really wouldn’t work very well. What I didn’t understand was that sometimes the beginning of healing and restoration hurts more than the wound itself. What I didn’t understand was that sometimes the pain is what is best for me. What I didn’t understand was that in order to address the wound you have to remove the debris that’s keeping you from healing.
The people of God had an infection in their lives. Daughter Zion was not living into what it meant to be the daughter of God. She had turned away from him and turned within. She had become the very people God had called her NOT to be. The infection had set in. Coveting had begun. Self-love, self-appreciation, and personal-luster had become her idols. No more did she turn to God for help, love, joy, and worship. And just like any infection, the only way to deal with it and aid healing is to actually address the infection and remove it from within. And just like my wounds that were being addressed by my parents – sometimes pain kicks-off the healing process. So while verses 11-19 deal with the aftermath of the pain these first 10 verses are just the beginning of what she’s going to endure.
Lamentations isn’t only a book about sadness and grief, it’s a book that reminds us of who God is and what happens when we are consistently choosing ________ over him. It’s a book that reminds us that the actions we take, or don’t take, have consequences. It’s a book that reminds us that God isn’t going to allow us to fester and wallow in our sin – that he’s going to do something about it. It’s a book that propels us forward to Christ’s birth and the fact that Christ IS the answer to our festering sin. That God despises sin and destruction so much and that he loves us so much that he was, and is, willing to go to the ends of the earth to remove it from our lives. That he, himself, will take it on in our place. But the very thing people avoid the book of Lamentations for comes out in these opening 10 verses of chapter 2 – and yet it’s these same verses that should keep us coming back to the book! We need to be reminded of how bad we really are and yet how active God is in stamping it out! We need to be reminded that often times before healing can begin there could be some pain. We need to be reminded and challenged to look within and see what walls, palaces, idols, and other things WE have in our lives that WE turn to instead of God. We need to be reminded that God wants us to be healthy, good, and holy, and in order for that to happen certain things need to be taken care of and we can’t do it on our own.
These opening 10 verses of chapter 2 are the scrubbing of sin in our lives that we, as beloved and loved children of God, need. When sin takes its grip on us all it does it keep festering and consuming us more and the more we let it go the worse it becomes. Yes it hurts to deal with sin, yes the exposure of our dirtiness is painful and yet the pain is the beginning of the healing. And we’ll see that it’s just gonna get worse for Daughter Zion and yet this is still part of the process we’ve gotten ourselves into. And yet we believe and affirm that God is doing this for our best interests and since we couldn’t heal, or begin the healing and scrubbing, on our own – then he has taken it into his own measures. It’s drastic at times, it’s painful at times, and yet God knows exactly what we need when we need it and how much we need. It’s why Christ left his throne on high. It’s why he sacrificed himself, shed his own blood, and atoned for our sins. God knew it’s what we needed and so he took the necessary steps to bring us healing. And the truth of Lamentations not only declares that but it also declares the truth that during this time of painful healing we are allowed the space and place to lament from our pain. That even during the healing process, we can get stuck on what was and not what will be.
3 Questions for you to think through
- What stands out for you in this text? Why?
- How do you feel about verses 4 and 5 where God is likened to an “enemy”? We know that’s not who God is and yet in the midst of pain and suffering how often do we feel like God is against us as an enemy is?
- One thing that always strikes me is God’s timing. Could not God have come early, before all this got this far out of hand, and dealt with them in a “softer” manner? Why does God wait this long? What does this declare about God’s timing in YOUR life?