Sunday, November 29, 2015

This week's lesson (November 28 - December 4): the Destruction of Jerusalem

"Jesus wept" --John 11:35 (NIV).

Want to know what Jeremiah really thought about the fall of Jerusalem?

Read the Book of Lamentations.
Just like its name says, Lamentation is a collection of laments -- five poems (the first four of which are acrostics) that mourn the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC.
And yes, there is hope; at the heart of these poems is this promise:
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him."
The LORD is good to those whose hope its in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young. Let him sit alone in silence, for the the LORD has laid it on him. Let him bury his face in the dust -- there may yet be hope. Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace. 
For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men -- Lamentations 3:21-33 (NIV).
But this message of hope is surrounded by grim accounts of Jerusalem's desolation -- accounts such as this one in Jeremiah 2:11f (NIV):
My eyes fail from weeping, I am in torment within, my heart is poured out on the ground because my people are destroyed, because children and infants faint in the streets of the city. They say to their mothers, "Where is bread and wine?" as they faint like wounded men in the streets of the city, as their lives ebb away in their mothers' arms.
Jeremiah's hope is not glib, in other words -- and his account of God's judgment is not some bloodless balancing of karma's scale.

No, there is a human cost to it all -- a human tragedy -- and his recognition of that human cost gives pathos to Jeremiah's message.

You cannot denounce sin, in other words, if you don't love the sinner.

You cannot denounce sin if you don't mourn what it does to the sinner.

No, you cannot preach judgment like Jeremiah . . .

Not unless you cry like Lamentations.

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