Jerusalem, once so full of people, is now deserted. She who was once great among the nations now sits alone like a widow. Once the queen of all the earth, she is now a slave. She sobs through the night; tears stream down her cheeks. Among all her lovers, there is no one left to comfort her. All her friends have betrayed her and become her enemies. . . .
All the majesty of beautiful Jerusalem has been stripped away. Her princes are like starving deer searching for pasture. They are too weak to run from the pursuing enemy. In the midst of her sadness and wandering, Jerusalem remembers her ancient splendor. But now she has fallen to her enemy, and there is no one to help her. Her enemy struck her down and laughed as she fell.
Jerusalem has sinned greatly, so she has been tossed away like a filthy rag. All who once honored her now despise her, for they have seen her stripped naked and humiliated. All she can do is groan and hide her face. She defiled herself with immorality and gave no thought to her future. Now she lies in the gutter with no one to lift her out. “Lord, see my misery,” she cries. “The enemy has triumphed.” (Lamentations 1:1-2, 6-9)
This is the prophet Jeremiah’s song of sorrow for Jerusalem’s destruction. The nation of Judah had been utterly defeated, the Temple destroyed, and the people taken away as captives to Babylon. Jeremiah’s tears were for the suffering and humiliation of the people, but those tears penetrated even deeper into his heart. He wept because God had rejected the people for their rebellious ways.
Each year this book was read aloud to remind all the Jews that their great city fell because of their stubborn sinfulness. The warning was loud and clear: If Judah played with fire, its people would get burned. Jerusalem foolishly took a chance and lost, refusing to acknowledge that immoral living brings God’s punishment. The ultimate consequence of sin is punishment (Romans 6:23).
We can choose to ignore God’s warnings, but as surely as judgment came upon Jerusalem, so will it come upon those who defy God. Are you listening to God’s Word? Are you obeying it? Obedience is a sure sign of your love for God.