TODAY’S READING: LAMENTATIONS 1-2
“How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she who was great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces has become a slave.” – Lamentations 1:1
As the first verse of the book shows, Lamentations is an expression of the grief of the fall of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is the place where Solomon built the Lord’s temple. As such, Jerusalem was the dwelling place of God. The city was once full of people, but now Jerusalem sits alone. Because the people have abandoned God’s dwelling place, in a sense it is God who has been left alone. It is God who is lonely.
I believe this is an important key to seeing Jesus in Lamentations. While Jeremiah writes that God is doing and/or allowing all these things terrible things to happen to Jerusalem, the reality is just the opposite. For, it is Jerusalem doing all these terrible things to Jesus. And, Jesus willingly bears all the sin that Jerusalem can dish out in order to reveal the fullness of God’s love.
The Hebrew word for lonely is badad. It means alone, solitary, lonely, desolate.
“How desolate sits the city that was full of people!”
In Matthew 23:37-39, Jesus said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under wings, and you were not willing! See your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'”
Who is the one that is truly lamenting? Who is the one lamenting in Lamentations?
Jesus reveals that God has always been trying to gather and protect his people like a mother hen that puts her chicks under her wings to protect them.
Who is the one doing the violence?
Jerusalem was the city that killed the prophets and stoned all those that God sent to her in an attempt to get her to turn from her evil and wicked ways.
Go on to read Matthew 24 and you will read of the destruction of Jerusalem. But, it’s not God that destroys it. Rather, nation rises against nation, kingdom against kingdom. Other nations, not God, deliver Israel to tribulation and death. It is because lawlessness increases and the love of many grows cold.
The first time badad is used is in Leviticus 13:45-46, which says, “The leprous person who was the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone [badad]. His dwelling shall be outside the camp.”
Israel camped around the tabernacle, God’s dwelling place. But, the leprous person had to dwell outside the camp. He had to live alone.
Israel camped in Jerusalem, God’s dwelling. But, Jesus identified himself with the leprous person, the unclean person. Jesus was touched by the woman with the issue of blood for 12 years. This would have made him unclean too. Jesus was asked why his disciples did not wash before eating for this would make them unclean. The question presumes that Jesus was promoting uncleanness among his disciples.
Importantly, as one who identified himself with the unclean, the Bible never records Jesus spending one night in Jerusalem. Jesus, the son of God, never spends one night in God’s dwelling place, Jerusalem. He lived alone. He had no place to lay his head. He dwelled outside the camp.
Badad is used 11 times in the Old Testament. The number 11 symbolizes imperfection, disorder, incompleteness. Jerusalem, God’s dwelling place, sits desolate, lonely, because of the actions of God’s people. The number 11 symbolizes the imperfection and disorder brought by man’s works apart from God.
However, man attributes his own works apart from God that make him lonely to be the works of God himself, thereby blaming God for his loneliness. This is what we see in Lamentations. But, as I said the reality of what we read in Lamentations is just the opposite. It’s not God doing the destroying, killing, etc. to Jerusalem. We are the one’s doing it to God. We have projected our own violence onto God.
This is what Jesus reveals on the cross. And, it’s the revelation of Jesus as the innocent son of God being tortured, persecuted, destroyed, and killed by us on the cross then forgiving us that reveals the reality of the situation. God loves us. He does not destroy us. We destroy ourselves.
Just look at some of things Lamentations says God does to Jerusalem, and to us, but in reality are what Jerusalem, and we, did to Jesus.
“Because the Lord has afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions.” – Lamentations 1:5
Isaiah 53:4-5, speaking of Jesus, says, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for [because or by] our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”
God does not afflict us because we sin. We afflicted Jesus because of our sins, our lawlessness, our transgressions.
“All her people groan as they search for bread; they trade their treasures for food to revive their strength. ‘Look, O Lord, and see, for I am despised.'”
Isaiah 53:3, speaking of Jesus, says, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
We are not despised because we can’t find bread and food to revive our strength. Instead, we are the despisers and rejecters of Jesus. Israel was given the choice between Jesus and Barabbas. They rejected Jesus and chose Barabbas. Jesus was spat upon. He was mocked on the cross by all.
This should bring a different understanding to Lamentations 1:12, which says, “Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow, which was brought upon me, which the Lord inflicted on the day of his fierce anger.”
We blame God for inflicting us on the day of his anger and wrath, causing us great sorrow. But, the reality is just the opposite. We inflict God with our anger and wrath. And, Jesus is the one on the cross saying, “Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow, which was brought upon me.”
“He [God] did not restrain his hand from destroying.” – Lamentations 2:8
Was God the one doing the destroying?
In John 10:10, Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
Satan destroys. And, we destroy. Jesus was tabernacled among us. He was the dwelling place of God. He was the true temple. And, we destroyed him, the true temple, on the cross.
When we truly understand the reality of the cross, we realized that all of conceptions of who God is are wrong. This is why Jesus started his ministry by saying, “Repent [change your mind], for the kingdom of God is at hand.” And, this is why Paul said we must “be transformed by the renewal [a continual renewing] of your mind.”
Through the cross we see that left God and Jesus alone and desolate.
But, he never leaves us or forsakes.