Jeremiah 21-52; Lamentations 1-5 - The Bible from 30,000 Feet - Skip Heitzig - Flight JLA01
The Bible from 30,000 feet-- soaring through the Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.
Second part of the book of Jeremiah is where we're going to look at tonight very briefly before going into our five chapters of the book of Lamentations. Yes, this is the Bible from 30,000 feet. Yes, we are moving rapidly.
Yes, this is an important book. It is the kind of a book, frankly, that a lot of people would just brush over, not give it a whole lot of attention. Especially if they're prophecy buffs. There's not a whole lot in here about prophecy.
It's a sad kind of a book. It's a sad section of Scripture. But we're going to find some nuggets in this section of the Bible.
Now I don't know how you were in school when it came to dates, memorizing dates. Did you hate that when the teacher in history said there are certain dates you need to memorize? And of course, we memorized them and forgot them the next 20 minutes after the test, right?
But there were some dates in Israel's history that I want to share with you that are important. And it's the third one that is the real, real important date. But there were three successive attacks on the city of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. And that's the period of history we're dealing with.
The first date-- and since we're dealing with BC, the numbers get smaller even though the years move on chronologically. The first year is 605 BC. In that year, the Babylonians attacked the city of Jerusalem.
And they took some of the people captive, bringing them back home with them to Babylon as slaves. In that first deportation-- or a group of people that were deported to Babylon-- in that first group, a young man whom you know by the name of Daniel was taken. That's 605 BC. In that year, Daniel left Jerusalem and went and moved to Babylon where he ministered successfully for years. That's the first date.
The second date 597 BC, a few years after 605. In 597 BC, Babylonians again came against Jerusalem. And this time, they took some of the nobles and the leaders of the land, depriving the land of strong central leadership politically and spiritually.
The final year is 586 BC. And in 586 BC, that is when, ultimately, Jerusalem fell. Everyone was taken captive that the Babylonians wanted. The city was destroyed. And the city was burned with fire because the walls of Jerusalem had been breached.
Now in chapter 21 of Jeremiah, all the way to chapter 29, from 21 to 29, the prophet affirms the certainty of the conquest. What do I mean by that? Well, Jeremiah predicted Babylon is coming.
Most people didn't believe it. And they said, oh, we like what the other prophets are saying better than you, Jeremiah. They're saying Babylon isn't coming. They're saying we're not going to be taken captive. They're saying we're not going to be destroyed.
But Jeremiah is so utterly certain that what God told him is coming to pass, that Babylon will indeed destroy, ultimately, Jerusalem, that Jeremiah penned a letter to the captives or the would be, will be captives of the city of Jerusalem. In Jeremiah 29, it is that letter. And he tells them, look, you're going to be there a long time.
You're going to be there 70 years. Get used to it. Make a life out of it. Get married, have kids, get busy. Get involved in the city.
But I am going to eventually bring you back to your land. And he says for I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace, not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. You know that verse.
But now you know the context of that verse. The people who would be utterly defeated and morally depleted, who would think the Lord has forgotten about us. He allowed this to happen. God is saying, not only did I allow it to happen, but I have powerful-- with my righteous right hand to bring you back into the land, the land of Israel, the land of Canaan as your inheritance.
So God reveals to them the reason for the captivity. Think of it as a spanking, a spanking they would never forget. So they would run back into their father's arms.
As a parent, I hated spanking my son. There were times I had to spank Nate. Just last week-- no, I'm just kidding.
Fortunately, it was a period of time that didn't last long. But every time I did it, I hated to do it. But I loved the result.
Now with grandkids, that's not my job. My job is to fill them with sugar and send them home happy. Let the parents deal with that.
But as a parent, you would want to win their heart. And so you would administer certain hurts to them in order to do that. So the Lord spanked the nation, knowing the nation would eventually be brought back into that land of inheritance.
Now knowing the repeated failure of His people, God eventually-- and you'll see it now in chapter 31 of Jeremiah-- knowing the repeated failure of His people, God promised a brand new covenant eventually. You see, if you remember back when God gave the Torah, the law, to Moses, and Moses gave it to the people? And the people had said to Moses, you, Moses, you go near to Mt. Sinai. You hear what God says. And whatever it is that God instructs you to tell us, tell us, and we will do it.
It was a good heart. It was a noble thing to say. It was the right thing to say. But God knew of their inability to keep His law completely.
And so He said, oh, that my people had such a heart within them. God yearned for that heart, to be able to follow through. He loved their commitment. But He knew they were eventually unable to keep it.
So in Jeremiah 31, the time has come for God to announce a brand new covenant, a change of covenant. Chapter 31, verse 31, behold the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a covenant. Not we will, not a bilateral covenant. It's something I am going to do for people.
It is unilateral. I'm going to do the heavy lifting. I'm going to be the one who sets the terms of the covenant. I'm going to get the job done. All people will have to do is believe, receive, trust.
So He said I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant, which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord.
I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. And I will be their God. And they shall be my people.
Now fast forward to the New Testament, the Gospel of John. When in chapter 1, it is written for the law came by Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. The old covenant tried to control people's conduct. The new covenant changes people's character.
Because with the new covenant comes the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in giving us power to be able to pull off what God commands us to do. There's a little poem. I've used it for years. Do this and live, the law commands, but gives us neither feet nor hands. A better word the gospel brings. It bids us fly and then gives us wings.
What the law could not do, Jesus, in the covenant of grace, can do. Think of it this way. Under the law, we were limited to sheet music.
If you were a musician and you know about the little dots and dashes on the lines of a sheet of music and you learn to memorize whole notes and half notes and the syncopation and the meter, you learn all that. And you read that in order to get through an instrumentation. That's the Old Testament.
In the New Testament, God says you're going to be able to play by ear. I'm going to put the ability for you to hear the song in your heart and it'll just supernaturally, naturally, flow out of you. I'm going to put the law in your mind. I'm going to write it in their hearts. I will be their God. They shall be my people.
Oh, again, comparing the old and the new, it's important because by the time we get to Romans chapter three in our weekend studies, Paul will make this point. He will say by the law is the knowledge of sin. The law can't cleanse you from sin. It just makes you very aware that you are indeed a sinner.
So through the law is the knowledge of sin. But compare that to the covenant of grace. Through grace is the forgiveness of sin.
One gives you the knowledge of it but can't cleanse you of it. One can forgive you of it. That's the new covenant.
Now I'm going to sum up several chapters here so we can get through this. The next several chapters are very personal. You should know that of all the prophets in the Old Testament, the writings of Jeremiah are the most personal. And he gives you details about his personal life more than any other prophet.
So in chapter 38, he is thrown in prison. Verse 6 kind of sums that up. And they let Jeremiah down with ropes. And in the dungeon there was no water but mire. So Jeremiah sank in the mire.
Now this prison, think of it as a cistern. That's probably what it was. You know what a cistern is.
It's dug out of solid rock. Rainwater was stored in it. And because they didn't have the kind of systems we have for cleaning water, you have to think of mud mixed with water, and somebody being lowered by ropes into that muddy, watery cistern.
So who's doing this? The leaders are doing this. The ones who will be taken captive in 597 BC. The leaders, the political leaders, the leaders, the spiritual leaders, the ones who think that Jeremiah is a wacko, conservative preacher, right wing crazy guy who needs to be eradicated or arrested.
So let's give him the mud treatment-- not like a spa mud treatment. They threw him in a cistern. It would be hard to breathe. He didn't have food. So the idea let's starve them to death.
Or being in a wet dank muddy environment could cause hypothermia. If you're there long enough, you'll just die of hypothermia. Well, story goes on. He doesn't die. After the commercial break, he gets released.
And he goes and stays in the court of the prison, the court of the house or the building where that cistern was. And he has a face-to-face conversation with King Zedekiah, the last king of Judah before the Babylonian captivity. In that conversation, King Zedekiah asked him a slew of questions. What's going happen? What does this mean?
In that conversation, the prophet begs the king to turn to God. It's not too late, man. Right now, at the 11th hour, you could turn your heart back to God. Of course, Zedekiah does not do that and the captivity goes on.
Chapter 39 is Jeremiah's eyewitness account of the fall of Jerusalem and the capture of King Zedekiah, where they poked his eyes out after killing his sons and took him captive. Chapter 40, 41, and 42-- this is now-- the Babylonians have entered the city. Jeremiah is under Babylonian care. He gets freed. He gets to live among the captives or the Jews still in Jerusalem until chapter 42, 43, and 44, where he is taken down to Egypt, again, personal details of the prophet.
Chapters 46 through 51 is a series of warnings not to Judah anymore, but to nations that touch Judah, that have had dealings with Judah. Surrounding nations like Moab on the East, like Judah down South, like Philistia in their midst, and up to the North, Northwest, and Damascus, and eventually Babylon-- all those nations are mentioned. Now we get to chapter 52, get to the end of the book.
Chapter 52, call it an historical supplement. That is, it's a recap of the fall of Jerusalem. We're going to go into more detail as we look in the book of Lamentations. But this is a recap of the fall of Jerusalem.
Jeremiah predicted the fall of Jerusalem. Jeremiah predicted the fall of Jerusalem. Habakkuk, called a minor prophet, predicted the fall of Jerusalem. And now it happens, and the story is told. Question-- what city in the Bible is mentioned more than any other city?
Jerusalem-- want to guess how many times? 810 times Jerusalem is mentioned. The second most often mentioned city in the Bible is--
--Babylon. Mentioned not nearly as many times, but mentioned 287 times. People have even said you could look at the Bible as "A Tale of Two Cities."
And there's a lot to that. We've looked at it before. We won't go into detail tonight. Jeremiah mentions Babylon 164 times, meaning Jeremiah mentions-- not Jerusalem, Babylon-- 164 times, more than the rest of the Scripture combined.
Now let's look at chapter 52 verse 4. It came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the 10th month, on the 10th day of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon and all the army came against Jerusalem and encamped against it. And they built a siege wall against it, all around.
A siege wall was a wall around a wall to keep people from going out of that protected wall and let other people coming in, like, supplies come in. So it was to starve them. It was to isolate them.
In verse 5, so the city was besieged until the 11th year of king Zedekiah. So we have a 2 and 1/2 year siege that takes place. Verse 13, he burned the house of the Lord. What is the house of the Lord-- the temple, and the king's house, the palace, and all the houses of Jerusalem. That is, all the houses of the great, he burned with fire.
Now this took place in what year, class?
586 BC. Would you believe it if I told you I could march you over to the digs just outside the city of Jerusalem today and point to some of the very houses from ancient Jerusalem at the time of Jeremiah, at the time of Nebuchadnezzar, from 586 BC? And you, with your own eyes, could look at the walls and see the marks where the fire left burns, still in the stones, visible to the human eye today.
So when we go to Jerusalem and we do the digs in the City of David and look at it, it's just one of those places where you just stand and look in amazement. I'm looking at the very marks made by the Babylonian fires from 586 BC, fulfilling the word of the Lord through Isaiah, through Habakkuk, through Jeremiah-- totally amazing. Well, now we get to the book of Lamentations.
In the book of Jeremiah, think of it this way. It's a book of warnings. We get to the book of Lamentations, it's a book of mournings, M-O-U-R-N-I-N-G.
In Jeremiah, the prophet warned the people of the impending conflict and Babylonian takeover. In the book of Lamentations, he mourned over the city that had been taken over. The judgment had come.
It's interesting. Because usually when you come to a book in the Old Testament of the prophets, the title of the book is the prophet's name. This is one book where the name is not given.
But the activity of the writer is given, a lamentation. The Septuagint version is an even stronger word. Wailings is the name of the book. Turn to the book of Wailings, a loud cry, a funeral cry.
Now Jeremiah, in this book, in this short book, five short chapters, is witnessing the death of a nation. And in this book, like you heard so beautifully by Alyssa moments ago, it is a poetic wail, a poetic lamentation. In fact, there are five songs altogether, five funeral dirges.
And the five are the five chapters. Somebody has even noticed there are five voices in the book of Lamentations. Can I give them to you? In chapter 1, it's the voice of the city personified, as if the city is crying out.
In chapter 1, the Lord is speaking. It's His voice, as if He is answering the city's cry in an antiphonal sort of way. In chapter 3, the longest of the chapters of the book, 66 verses in that chapter, it is the voice of the prophet speaking.
In chapter 4, it is the voice of possessions talking. That is, the things people accumulated-- the gold, the silver, the stuff. The stuff is talking. And then finally, chapter 5, it's the voice of the captives as they feel the chains around their ankles and around their wrists and they are taken to captivity.
So you really do have to read this book with as much emotion as you can. And if you're a musician, and you're going to put music to it, make sure you use the minor key for this book. There's not a lot of joy in it. There are some high points, but not a lot.
Now you might be asking the question, why is a book like this even in the Bible? What's the whole point of reading such a sad, sad-- who wants to sit down and read a funeral poem, a funeral dirge? Well, it's beneficial. Because it will help you focus on ultimate realities.
Yes. You are going to die. Yes, unless the Lord comes back, every one you know and love, typically older than you, will eventually die. So this book kind of tethers us. It grounds us. It brings us to these inevitable realities.
Remember what Solomon said in the book of Ecclesiastes? Was it Chapter 7, I think he said? He said it's better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting. Because that is the end of all men and the living will take it to heart.
So as you go through this book, it's good to take these words to heart. Nathaniel Hawthorne was an American novelist over a century ago. And he said "A grave preaches a sermon to the soul." Now I do a lot of funerals. And I take those sermons, not my sermons at the funeral, but the sermon of the funeral and death, to heart.
And the older we get, the more we think of that ultimate reality. Billy Graham, who is now in heaven, when he was asked, what is the most surprising thing about life, his classic answer was its brevity. This is the ultimate reality.
OK, something else-- this book, the book of Lamentations, is part of a section of the Bible called the Megillot. I'm pronouncing it, Americanizing it on purpose. Megilloth, or Megillot is the Hebrew pronunciation. And some of you will remember the term. It means the five scrolls, because we mentioned it when we went through the book of Ruth, the book of Esther, those are books that are in that little five-scrolled Megillot. Ruth, Esther, Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, and Lamentations-- these short, poetic books are books read in the synagogue of the Jews from antiquity to this present day on some of the notable feast days throughout the year.
The book of Lamentations is read on the 9th of Av. I'm going to tell you about that in a moment, the ninth day of Av, the Jewish Hebrew month of Av. Because that is that the date that they commemorate the fall of the temple in Jerusalem. And it is still read to this day in synagogues.
OK. The temple fell on the ninth day of Av, A-V. In a Jewish calendar, you write the day first and then the month. In our calendar, the Gregorian calendar, we write the month first, then the day.
So what is today? What is the date today, is it the 8th? 10th-- I'm a preacher. OK. So it is 7-10. Correct?
If we were doing a Hebrew calendar, we would say 10-7. Wait a minute. Is that right? Yeah. 10-7, OK-- want to make sure. Again, I'm a preacher. These things can elude me sometimes.
So they put the day first, then the month. So why am I telling you this? Because the 9th of Av is such a horrible day because it's the memory of everything they held sacred being destroyed. So they commemorate that horrible day.
They call it 911-- the ninth day of the 11th month, the 9th of Av. Their 911 is the destruction of the temple. You want to hear something even more interesting, eerily interesting? That's just an eerie coincidence, I know.
But what's eerie about it is the temple of Solomon fell on the 9th of Av, 9/11. Guess what day the temple that was rebuilt was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, the exact same day, the 9th of Av. So they celebrate on the same day, two consecutive temples being destroyed, burned with fire.
It was mid-July that the city fell. It was mid-August that the city was burned. Jeremiah was there to see it.
Lamentations chapter 1, 22 verses. I'll explain that, maybe, if we have time, in a while. The first half of the chapter is different from the second half of the chapter. The first half of the chapter, it's as if you're on the outside looking in.
And beginning in verse 12, the second half of the chapter, it's like you're on the inside looking out. So Lamentations one, verse one, how lonely sits the city that was full of people. How like a widow is she, who is great among the nations. The princes, or the princess among the provinces, has become a slave.
Now Jerusalem normally is a very crowded city. There's a song that I repeat in my mind when I walk around the ramparts, the walls of Jerusalem. Because the buildings are just on top of each other. It's so smashed together.
And the psalmist said Jerusalem is a city compacted together, where the tribes go up. And it always feels crowded and compact. And it's, like, man, there's a lot of people in this little place. That's Jerusalem on a normal day.
The prophet is noticing how deserted the city is, as people have fled, run away, or have been taken captive. A few years ago, I got a little taste of this. I don't want to scare you off on a trip to Israel, because I just enticed you with seeing the stones from 586 BC.
But let me just say, years ago, when it was, I think, less safe than it is today, a riot broke out while I was in the old city of Jerusalem. It was fabulous to watch. Because you hear the commotion. You see crowds running.
And then you see the Jeeps and tanks roll up. And the soldiers get out. And there is this huge gate called the Damascus Gate that they closed the gate of the city while I'm in the city. And the city gets closed.
So you're kind of in the midst of the commotion. But then the streets are cleared. And after a while, that same section is a ghost town.
It's like people-- the windows get buttoned up. The doors are closed. Everybody's gone. And you hear crickets. So Jeremiah sees this city like that, desolate, after or during this destruction.
Verse 2 she weeps bitterly in the night. Her tears are on her cheeks among all her lovers. She has none to comfort. All her friends have dealt treacherously with her. They have become her enemies.
The lovers mentioned here are all of those nations that they sought to form alliances with to gain strength against Babylon-- nations like Egypt, or nations like Edom to the East, Tyre and Sidon, those Phoenician cities up North. Those are called lovers, and they failed her in her time of need.
Verse 14, go down to that verse. The roads to Zion mourn, so descriptive. Because no one comes to the set feasts, feast of Passover, feast of Pentecost, feast of Tabernacles. These were the set feasts.
All her gates are desolate. Her priests sigh. Her virgins are afflicted. And she is in bitterness.
Now not only was the city alive, teeming with people, but on the set feasts, all of the roads leading into Jerusalem were packed full of pilgrims, usually, singing, playing games, antiphonally reciting psalms, the psalms of assent, the Hallel psalms. But the city is mourning. The roads are empty.
And you just have to think of it this way. When somebody is mourning, they sometimes let themselves go. In Judaism, one mourns for 30 days. And when you mourn the death of a loved one, like a parent, according to tradition, you just let your hair go.
You let your hair grow for 30 days. You don't cut it. Your facial hair grow-- you just sort of look, like-- you look interesting. You're disheveled.
So these roads teeming with people, the roads to Zion, have just grown up. The weeds and grasses have grown up alongside of them, and nobody's visiting them anymore because of the desolation. Down to verse 10, the adversary has spread his hand over all her pleasant places. For she has seen the goyim, the Gentiles, the nations enter her sanctuary, those whom you commanded not to enter your assembly.
How disheartening for the Jew to look up and see the temple that they believed was sacred and supernaturally protected by God. God wouldn't let anything happen to His temple. Remember what Jeremiah did in Chapter 7, 8, 9, 10, the temple sermons that he gave we mentioned last week? He stood in the temple precincts as people were going to worship.
And he said, trust not in lying vanity, saying the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these. They were trusting in a ritual, in a place, rather than a relationship with a person. They lost the fear of the Lord. And soon they would lose the temple of the Lord.
It is a warning to those, if there are any, who look to a place. We mentioned holy places last week versus holy people. Remember the conversation that our Lord had with a woman at the well of Samaria? And she said, look, it's all about the place.
She said our fathers worshipped in this mountain, pointing to Mt. Gerizim in Samaria. Our fathers worship in this mountain. And you Jews say Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.
And Jesus said, woman, the hour is coming and now is when neither here nor in Jerusalem will one worship the Father. For God is looking for those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. But they made it all about the place, all about the art rather than the heart, all about the place rather than the person, all about the ritual more so than the relationship. And the problem was their disobedience. The disobedience brought destruction.
When it comes to buildings, I've always thought that buildings are important. But they are secondary. What's important about this place or about Calvary isn't the structure. It's you.
It's like a lunch sack or a lunch pail. Remember when you go to school-- anybody have lunch pails? Did you ever have lunch pails? Did you ever have-- did you not do lunch pails? How many did lunch sacks?
OK. Either way, whether you had a pail or a sack, the rest of you starved, I suppose. And I feel really bad for you now. But whether you had a lunch pail or a lunch sack, what was important-- well, maybe to you the lunch pail was important.
Because it is cool. Look it. It's got whoever you had on. I had the Beatles on mine.
But what was really important wasn't the sack or the pail, but what's inside, the lunch, the nourishment. What's important isn't the building. What's important is the people in the building and the nourishment, the spiritual food, the spiritual growth, the changed lives that occur. So buildings serve a purpose, but a secondary purpose-- you being the primary purpose.
Now we have, I'd better speed up, from the inside looking out, verse 12. Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Behold and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow, which has been brought on me, which the Lord has inflicted in the day of his fierce anger. Verse 16-- for these things I weep, writes the prophet.
My eye, my eye overflows with water. Because the Comforter who should restore my life is far from me. My children are desolate because the enemy prevailed.
Zion spreads out her hands. But no one comforts her. The Lord has commanded concerning Jacob that those around him become his adversaries. Jerusalem has become an unclean thing among them. Now here is where we see Jesus, I believe, in the book of Lamentations.
One of the rumors circulating around the country when Jesus was on the Earth is that maybe he was Jeremiah. In Matthew 16 and parallel passages, Jesus said, who do men say that I, the Son of man, am? Answer-- some say you are Jeremiah or one of the prophets.
Why would they say He is Jeremiah? Well, maybe it's his strong denunciations. But I think it was His compassion. Jeremiah's called the weeping prophet.
Jesus will stand on the precipice of the Mount of Olives, overlooking the city of Jerusalem. And the Bible said he'll weep. He'll weep out loud, like a convulsive weep, a sob and say, oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem! How often I would have gathered you, like a hen gathers her chickens?
But you were not willing. So compassionate, torn up because He saw the destruction of the temple. Their 911 coming in 70 AD.
Now in chapter 2, we have the second dirge. It is the details of God's judgment. It depicts the anger of God, and thus, the dismantling of the city. And you will notice that God is the one taking responsibility. He's like a one man wrecking crew.
In the book of Hebrews, there's a verse that not a lot of us love to memorize or underline, I believe. Hebrews 10 says it's a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a living God. The living God is against the city of Jerusalem in 586 BC.
Chapter 2, verse 1, how the Lord has covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in his anger. He cast down from heaven to the Earth the beauty of Israel. That's a reference to the temple. He did not remember his footstool in the day of his anger.
In First Chronicles 28, and if memory serves, Psalm 132, David refers to the temple as God's footstool, the footstool of our God. Chapter 2, verse 5, the Lord was like an enemy. Mark that. He has swallowed up Israel. He has swallowed up all her palaces.
He has destroyed her strongholds and has increased mourning and lamentation-- there's that word-- in the daughter of Judah. Now I mentioned that Jeremiah writes, speaks of, makes mention of the city of Babylon 164 times. Guess how many times he mentions it in the book of Lamentations?
Zero-- you go zero? Yeah, zero-- he doesn't mention Babylon. Oh, they're the ones doing the destruction.
But what I want you to notice is here he turns to the Lord and says, actually, the Lord did this. Actually, the God in heaven, the sovereign Lord, used the Babylonians. So he is going all the way back to the source, identifying God as the agent.
Just like the Book of Daniel, chapter 1, verse 1 and 2, it says Nebuchadnezzar came against Judah. The Lord delivered Judah. And king Joachim into Nebuchadnezzar's hands.
Two things were happening. Humans were active. On the other hand, God was active. And so the Lord, verse 5, was like an enemy that swallowed up Israel, swallowed up all of her palaces.
What does that mean to you and I when it comes to human suffering and pain? Let me give you a tidbit. God is willing to give us hurts if it will turn our hearts. The hurts He allows to come are in order to turn our hearts back to Him.
He gives the hurts because He wants our hearts. He has a goal in mind. God doesn't have a mean streak. God isn't getting back at you.
God has a love streak. Whom the Lord loves, he chastens, the Bible says. And He disciplines every son that He receives.
Any parent knows this. A child left to himself or a child left to herself, we have a name for that. It's called a brat. You've seen brats.
Brats are produced by parents who do not believe in disciplining children. Oh, just negotiate with the child. Distract the child. Talk him out of that and talk him into something else. And what will happen is you will have a child who's used to getting his or her own way forever.
And so David writes in Psalm 119, before I was afflicted, I went astray. But now I keep Your word. You get the picture, right?
In other words, the spanking really helped. Your hurt got my heart. And now I gave it back to you.
CS Lewis put it this way. Pain plants the flag of truth in the fortress of a rebel soul-- always loved that quote. Verse 7 of chapter 2, the Lord has spurned His altar.
He has abandoned His sanctuary. He has given up the walls of our palaces into the hand of the enemy. They have made a noise in the house of the Lord as on a day of a set feast.
An interesting development, and I'm going to make this quick. And believe me, it's hard for me to go quickly. You know how I like to sit and probe deeply. But that's for a different kind of a study. OK.
It says the Lord abandoned His sanctuary. Notice that? When the temple was destroyed, the Jews were taken captive. They faced a problem.
No temple, no temple, how did they do sacrifices? They cannot practice ceremonial law and be obedient to God in a foreign land. So a brand new institution developed in Babylon, in captivity, that continues with us to this day. It's called the synagogue and rabbis.
You don't read of rabbis until the New Testament. You don't read of synagogues till the New Testament. You know why? They didn't exist in the Old Testament.
They existed. They were born in captivity. Now you had elders sitting around saying since we can't practice ceremonial law, we can at least discuss ritualistic law. And we can apply the law of Moses to different life situations.
So they developed the tradition called the oral law, questions like, what would Moses do in this situation? And they would argue and sermonize. And they would write down what was orally passed down into what is called the Talmud.
And you have two Talmuds, the Babylonian Talmud, I have a copy of it upstairs. It is also-- not over and against or compared to the Jerusalem Talmud. The Babylonian Talmud, I think, is nine times longer than the Jerusalem Talmud. But it's all these adjudications and opinions, legal rabbinical opinions, that came from the oral law.
By the time of Jesus, the oral law, in some cases, superseded the written law, the law, God's law. That's what Jesus meant when He said-- now it's going to make sense-- you have heard that it was said by those of old, da, da, da da. But I say unto you-- a lot of it, they took the law, but they added stuff to it, and it became the oral law.
But Jesus-- now let me tell it to you straight. OK, verse 13-- how shall I console you? To what shall I liken you, O daughter of Jerusalem? What shall I compare with you, that I may comfort you, O virgin daughter of Zion, for your ruin is spread wide as the sea.
Who can heal you? In other words, what other nation has suffered like this nation, God's nation? I'll get back to that in a second.
Verse 15, all who passed by clapped their hands. Can you picture people walking by? [CLAPS] They're applauding the destruction. They hated Jerusalem.
Neighbors like Moab and Edom that collaborated with the Babylonians, and the Babylonians gave them land as a reward, the lands of Judah. They rejoiced. They clapped their hands, they were so happy about it.
They hiss and shake their heads at the daughter of Jerusalem. Is this the city that is called the perfection of beauty, the joy of the whole Earth? Do you remember Psalm 148? Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised.
In the mountain of our God, in the mountain of His Holiness, beautiful in elevation. The joy of the whole earth is Mount Zion and the sides of the North, the city of the great King-- the beauty of the Earth. The rabbis used to say this.
God gave 10 measures of beauty to the world, 10 measures of beauty to the world. Nine were given to Jerusalem. And one to the rest of the world. Now if you're from Colorado or Oregon and you go see Jerusalem, you'll dispute that. But that was their saying.
But they also said this. The rabbi said God gave 10 measures of suffering to the world. Nine were taken by Jerusalem. And one distributed to the rest of the Earth.
And when you understand their history, they were onto something. Chapter three has 66 verses. It is three times longer than chapters 1, 2, 4, and 5 that have 22 verses.
Why 22 verses do these chapters have? Because the Hebrew alphabet has how many letters-- 22. So those are acrostic chapters. That is, it begins with the first letter aleph and then bet and then [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH], then [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH], all the way, [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH].
So A to Z, it's an acrostic with the exception of chapter 5. Follow me? Now we get to the middle chapter and it's three times longer. Because the first three letters begin with the first letter of the alphabet, the second three verses with the second, the next three verses with the third letter, et cetera.
So it's tripled. Though the verses are tripled, they're 1/3 shorter than the rest of the book. So three times longer, but the verses are truncated. It's a certain kind of style known as the kinah meter, this clipped or quick meter. If you're into literature, you'll like that.
Also, if you know literature, you'll appreciate this. The flow of the whole book of Lamentations is a chiastic model. If you have a literature background, you'll understand what chiastic is.
It's like this, A, B, C, and then beginning with C back to B, back to A. That's how the rhythm of the book flows. Enough said.
Chapter 3, verse 1, I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of His wrath. In other words, Jeremiah said I'm the guy that watched God spank the nation. He has led me and made me walk in darkness and not light.
Verse 7, He has hedged me in so that I cannot get out. He has made my chains heavy. Even-- verse 8-- when I cry and shout, He shuts out my prayer.
Why would Jeremiah say this? Because on one hand, God told Jeremiah to pray. Call on Me, Jeremiah 33:3, call on Me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things which you know not.
But there came a point at which God three times said, Jeremiah, don't pray for this people anymore. I'm done listening. I won't answer.
Verse 9, He has blocked my ways with hewn stone. He had made my paths crooked. I feel isolated.
Verse 19, remember my affliction and roaming. The wormwood and the gall, the strong smelling plant that yields that very bitter, bitter dark oil. Verse 20, my soul remembers and sinks within me.
Now in the midst of all this pain and destruction, there is a gem right in the middle, right in the heart of this book. Suddenly, Jeremiah recalls something he knows of the character of God. Do that.
When you face uncertain times, call to mind that which is certain. When you don't know what to do call to mind what you do know about God. Verse 21, this I recalled in my mind. Therefore, I have hope.
Through the Lord's mercies, we are not consumed. Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness.
The Lord is my portion, says my soul. Therefore, I hope in Him. The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
This is the only bright spot in the whole book. Five elegies are given, five dirges, five sad, sad songs. This is like a diamond in a bunch of coal. You're raking through the coal. And now you see this beautiful diamond.
Notice the word mercies. Through the Lord's mercies, we are not consumed. 250 times in the Old Testament that word appears. It's usually translated in New King James, loving kindness.
The Hebrew word is [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] is literally a covenant love. God is merciful because He has made a covenant with His people. And because of the covenant, He will show mercy. He will show love.
So God made a covenant with us. And therefore, because of the covenant, He acts in mercy. It's an interesting word.
And it's interesting to me because a couple of years ago I sat in the office of Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, who is talking of Jesus. And He was looking for the right word. He goes Jesus was filled with-- what's the word? He goes [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH].
And he was saying it to his aide. And I recognized the word. I said loving kindness. He goes, yeah. That's it-- loving kindness.
Jesus was filled with love-- and brought to our people loving kindness. And I thought, well, you're on the right track. Keep that thread going. Keep searching through that thread.
But I love it. He says, verse 23, great is your faithfulness. There's a great hymn that we're going to close the evening out with. This hymn, written by Thomas Chisholm. Thomas Chisholm was born in a little shack back in Franklin, Tennessee.
And he wrote a great hymn that you know, great is thy-- great is thy-- is it working now? Great is thy faithfulness, oh, God, my Father. There is no shadow of turning with thee. Thou changes not, thy compassions, they fail not. Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me-- a great, great song, penned based upon the words of this great portion of Jeremiah's writing of Lamentations.
Go down to verse 31. The Lord will not cast off forever. Verse 32, though He causes grief, yet He will show compassion according to the multitude of His mercies.
All of this is a statement of faith based upon not what He saw, but based upon what He knew in spite of what He saw. Here's what I saw-- destruction, bad stuff happening, death, desolation.
But this is what I know to be true, regardless of what I see. And so this is his statement of faith. God is faithful.
For a couple of years, about three years, I lived in a little Southern California town called San Juan Capistrano. What's famous about that town is its mission, Mission San Juan Capistrano. And what's famous about the mission, among other things, is that there's a species of bird called the cliff swallow that makes a 600 mile journey every year from Argentina to California to that mission.
It leaves on March 19th from Argentina to go to California. And October 23rd, leaves California, go back to Argentina. And you could just be there on the day. Set your watch. Hang out there.
Sure enough, on that day, they're faithful to show up. Or let me put it better. God is faithful to put into that birdbrain the ability to make it 600 miles without a GPS unit to a mission in San Juan Capistrano, southern California. And it's an amazing truth of nature. But all I can say, if God cares about the timing of birds that much, don't you think God will be in perfect timing in the situations that arise in your life, child of God, better than a cliff swallow?
Yes. He will. The fourth dirge, chapter four, Jeremiah surveys the scenes, describes the heartache. Verse 1, how the gold is become dim, how changed the fine gold, the stones of the heavy sanctuary are scattered at the head of every street.
Verse 11, the Lord is afflicted-- or the Lord has fulfilled His fury. He has poured out His fierce anger. He has kindled a fire in Zion. He has devoured His foundations.
The kings of the Earth, all of its inhabitants-- I'm going down to verse 12. Sorry. I'm skipping around. Verse 12, all of the inhabitants of the world would not have believed that the adversary and the enemy could enter the gates of Jerusalem.
The Jews had a saying. The land of Israel is at the center of the world. The land of Israel is at the center of the world. Jerusalem is at the center of the land of Israel. The temple is at the center of Jerusalem.
That's their way of saying the very epicenter of the Earth is the temple. Jeremiah, who loved the temple, watches as it is destroyed, dismantled by the Babylonian army. What are the reasons? Verse 13, because of the sins of her prophets, the iniquities of her priests, who shed in her midst the blood of the just.
If you remember the book of Jeremiah, Jeremiah had a ministry buddy by the name of Uriah-- not Uriah Heep, the band-- Uriah, the prophet, the contemporary of Jeremiah who was murdered by the leadership in Jerusalem. Verse 14, they wandered blind in the streets. They had defiled themselves with blood so that no one would touch their garments.
So the leadership was corrupt. Verse 21, rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom. You dwell in the land of Uz. You know who was from the land of Uz? Job-- so that land east of the Dead Sea, the land of modern day Jordan, is the land of Uz, or Edom.
The cup also shall pass over to you. You shall become drunk and make yourself naked. The punishment of your iniquity is accomplished, O daughter of Zion. He will no longer send you into captivity.
He will punish your iniquity, O daughter of Edom. He will uncover your sins. I said, Edom took a role in promoting the fall of the destruction, clapping their hands, collaborating with the Babylonians, prophets.
It says, you'll get your upcomings. God's watching this. And so takes us to chapter 5. We have just under three minutes to finish the book.
The fifth dirge breaks the pattern. What is the pattern? The acrostic, remember the acrostic, A to Z?
The letters in this chapter do not all begin with the subsequent letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Why? Couldn't tell you-- maybe it's to kind of illustrate the confusion brought on by the destruction.
It is the prayer of Jeremiah for the people. Chapter 5, verse 1, remember, O Lord, what has come upon us. Look and behold our reproach.
Verse 2, our inheritance has been turned over to aliens, our houses to foreigners. Verse 12, princes were hung up by their hands and elders were not respected. A possible-- I'm just saying possible reference to crucifixion-- the typical means Babylonians used to kill victims of a raid like this was impaling.
It could be this is a reference to crucifixion. One thing we know is that the ones who will succeed the Babylonians and the Medo-Persians are the ones who really invented, as a way of destruction, sometimes mass destruction, but capital punishment. They developed crucifixion. Then the Romans picked it up later on.
Verse 16, we're getting there, verse 16. The crown has fallen from our head. These are the captives speaking. Woe to us, for we have sinned. There's the admission.
There's the confession. Verse 19, You, O Lord, remain forever, Your throne from generation to generation. Why do You forget us forever and forsake us for so long a time? Turn us back to You, O Lord, and we will be restored. Renew our days as of old, unless you have utterly rejected us and are very angry with us.
So the book ends with the possibility of hope, the captives looking for, in spite of suffering for sin, that Judah would not be abandoned. Jeremiah certainly knew, through all of his tears, that the city and the country would be restored. God would be faithful and merciful.
Question as we end, what do you do when you get a phone call? Good. Yeah. But some would say ignore it. Somebody said depends who's there.
But you answered what I wanted you to. You answer it. And if need be, you act on it. If it's an emergency, you act on it.
Every August in Finland, there is a contest called the Mobile Phone Throwing World Championship. Yeah, I know. It's, like, really? You got nothing better to do than that?
They have people throw phones. Years ago, a guy from Finland won, like, 86 meters. The record standing now is the German who threw a mobile phone 136 meters.
Pretty amazing, right? I feel like that sometimes. I want to throw that stinking phone sometimes, right? But for 40 years, Jeremiah announced God is calling. For 40 years, they chucked it and chucked it, threw it, didn't listen.
The wages of sin is--
--death. There's always a consequence to sin. If God is trying to get through to your heart, pick up the phone. Jesus said, behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone will open the door, I will come in and have fellowship with him, sup with him.
If God is speaking to your hardened heart, pick up the phone. He's faithful. That's bow our heads and our hearts.
Father, in submission, we come to you realizing you are sovereign and you can bring anything you want upon a nation at any time. There are no guarantees, except for us who are in a covenant with you. We are guaranteed your mercy, your compassion, your love. You will act on us in a covenant with you, even though things around us may look like they're falling apart, great is your faithfulness.
I pray for anyone who might be here right now who isn't in a relationship with you, that they would ask you to forgive them of their sin, cleanse them of their iniquity, and make them sons or daughters of the living God. If that's something you have never done but you want to do now, you are convinced that you need to turn to Him, would you just, as our eyes are closed, raise your hand up so I can notice it. Just raise it up. You're saying, I need to give my life to Him or come back to Him. Just raise your hand up and I'll lead you in a prayer.
I see your hand. Would you just, right where you are, just say, Lord, I turn from my past. I turn to Jesus as my Savior. I want to follow Him as my Lord.
I know I'm a sinner. Forgive me. I repent of my past. I turn to Jesus in the present.
I believe that you came, Lord Jesus, from heaven to Earth to die on a cross, to be buried and raised again from the dead. And by believing in that, I can live forever. It's in His name I pray. Amen.
We hope you enjoyed this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Church. For more resources, visit CalvaryNM.Church. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from The Bible From 30,000 Feet.