Read Lamentations 4
4 How the gold has lost its luster,
the fine gold become dull!
The sacred gems are scattered
at every street corner.
2 How the precious children of Zion,
once worth their weight in gold,
are now considered as pots of clay,
the work of a potter’s hands!
3 Even jackals offer their breasts
to nurse their young,
but my people have become heartless
like ostriches in the desert.
4 Because of thirst the infant’s tongue
sticks to the roof of its mouth;
the children beg for bread,
but no one gives it to them.
5 Those who once ate delicacies
are destitute in the streets.
Those brought up in royal purple
now lie on ash heaps.
6 The punishment of my people
is greater than that of Sodom,
which was overthrown in a moment
without a hand turned to help her.
7 Their princes were brighter than snow
and whiter than milk,
their bodies more ruddy than rubies,
their appearance like lapis lazuli.
8 But now they are blacker than soot;
they are not recognized in the streets.
Their skin has shriveled on their bones;
it has become as dry as a stick.
9 Those killed by the sword are better off
than those who die of famine;
racked with hunger, they waste away
for lack of food from the field.
10 With their own hands compassionate women
have cooked their own children,
who became their food
when my people were destroyed.
11 The Lord has given full vent to his wrath;
he has poured out his fierce anger.
He kindled a fire in Zion
that consumed her foundations.
12 The kings of the earth did not believe,
nor did any of the peoples of the world,
that enemies and foes could enter
the gates of Jerusalem.
13 But it happened because of the sins of her prophets
and the iniquities of her priests,
who shed within her
the blood of the righteous.
14 Now they grope through the streets
as if they were blind.
They are so defiled with blood
that no one dares to touch their garments.
15 “Go away! You are unclean!” people cry to them.
“Away! Away! Don’t touch us!”
When they flee and wander about,
people among the nations say,
“They can stay here no longer.”
16 The Lord himself has scattered them;
he no longer watches over them.
The priests are shown no honor,
the elders no favor.
17 Moreover, our eyes failed,
looking in vain for help;
from our towers we watched
for a nation that could not save us.
18 People stalked us at every step,
so we could not walk in our streets.
Our end was near, our days were numbered,
for our end had come.
19 Our pursuers were swifter
than eagles in the sky;
they chased us over the mountains
and lay in wait for us in the desert.
20 The Lord’s anointed, our very life breath,
was caught in their traps.
We thought that under his shadow
we would live among the nations.
21 Rejoice and be glad, Daughter Edom,
you who live in the land of Uz.
But to you also the cup will be passed;
you will be drunk and stripped naked.
22 Your punishment will end, Daughter Zion;
he will not prolong your exile.
But he will punish your sin, Daughter Edom,
and expose your wickedness.
Lamentations chapter four is a continued poetic reflection over the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem and Jerusalem’s soon after exile. It is rich with contrasts of Jerusalem from when it was a place that sought to honor God before the siege, versus the sins that brought God’s judgment on Jerusalem in the form of the Babylonian siege. Although the people of God once lived out their identity of being precious and valuable, they allowed for sin to cover them and overtake their identity as God’s chosen. As a consequence of their evil there was immense cruelty, hunger, and judgment. Throughout this chapter it is evident that the high were brought low on account of their sins, and that all were judged because all had committed evil.
Verse 13 is pivotal to understanding the reason behind the Lord’s judgment. God is slow to anger (Psalm 103:8), and when He does unveil His wrath it is not spontaneous and unintentional but a divine judgment on evil. This chapter explained that the unrepented sins of the people of Jerusalem were the cause of His judgment, and the author specifically noted the sins of the priests and prophets. God is Just, and does not let sin go unpunished then or now. He does not sit back passively and ignore evil being done, but addresses it and judges it impartially (Romans 2:11).
We often desire for the Lord to punish evil, but request that He stops punishing sin when it comes to us. That would not be completely just though, so He promises to punish all evil (which includes ours). While in one hand we hold God’s perfect justice, in the other we hold God’s perfect love. God is love (1 John 4:16), and seeks to be in community with His children then and now. He was faithful to His covenant in the Old Testament which promised to love Israel and bring Jesus as Savior, and offers a covenant to all that our sins can be paid for through Jesus’ perfect life, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection. God’s sending of His only son Jesus is the ultimate act of His love (John 3:16).
The Holy Spirit preserved this book to teach human’s capacity for evil and God’s just judgment. It also teaches human’s ability to lament over their sin, confess their sins, and find God’s loving forgiveness (1 John 1:9). God is seen as both justice and love, and neither could be true without the other. The Lord’s judgment of punishing evil is complete through His love of sending Jesus to be punished in place of those who believe!
- What is your initial reaction to seeing that the Lord is a God of justice and One who judges sin?
- How do you understand that God is both justice and love? Is there one that you lean towards more than the other?
- How does God’s justice help you to understand His love more?
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