22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.
Lamentations 3:22-26 (NIV)
37 Who can speak and have it happen
if the Lord has not decreed it?
38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
that both calamities and good things come?
39 Why should any living man complain
when punished for his sins?
40 Let us examine our ways and test them,
and let us return to the LORD.
This was a horrible time for Jerusalem, as everything had been destroyed and Jeremiah was penning what he and his people were going through – an absolute whirlwind of emotions. The horror of the times that he reports is graphic:
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 sapphires. [c]
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.
I cannot even imagine the destitute lives that were being lived at the time. Jerusalem was certainly paying for its collective sin. But it is interesting that Jeremiah offers praise for God and his salvation in Chapter 3, verses 22-26, and acknowledges that Jerusalem has brought this suffering upon itself in verses 37-40. Jeremiah is certainly in touch with God – his salvation, his justice, his love, and his mercy.
Have you ever felt like you are being punished for your sins? How did it feel? How did you respond? Sometimes I wonder if I am even in touch enough to know if and when I am being punished by God. I wonder how I would really react – would I be mad? Hurt? Sing praises? I am honestly not sure sometimes. To me, it is a hard thing to know if what I am going through is a punishment or is it just the course of life that God is taking me through?
Another thought that comes to mind in reading Lamentations is this: I do wonder if our country is headed down the path of Jerusalem. This country was found on “In God we trust” by Christian people fleeing persecution. God blessed this land for many, many years. We have slowly drifted from God and now it is like a snowball running downhill it seems. It seems we are running from God collectively at breakneck speed. It makes me wonder where the bottom will be. I just hope that I am not around when it hits, because it won’t be pretty.
It seems that history has been littered with great nations who once had a strong belief in God, then drifted away, and then were ruined. It seems that they all lost touch with what had made them great, and they failed to recognize it. I just hope that we all recognize both individually and collectively when we are sinning against our God, and recognize when he chooses to reprimand us for those sins. I pray that we react the way we need to, by examining our ways and returning to the Lord.
Dear Lord, I pray that I see when you choose to reprimand me for sins that I have committed against you. I pray for our country that we do the same, that we collectively examine our ways and return to you. Lord, our great country has turned from you and I wish that we would recognize that You were what made us great individually and collectively and only You can restore us to greatness. Amen.