Lamentations 1 - Outline of Lamentations (Book Notes menu page)
Jerusalem's Desolation because of Her Sin, ch. 1
I. Desolation Described, v.1-11
In this section, Jeremiah observes Jerusalem's troubles, as though looking in from the outside. He sees their calamity against the backdrop of the scriptures which they had ignored, and upon which he fed. His description contains frequent parallels to Deuteronomy ch.28 (which spells out the blessings for serving the Lord and the cursings for forsaking Him).
  1. Observation of the unimaginable tragedy that has overtaken them, v.1-7; cp. Deu 31:17; Dan 9:13
    1. Her desolation in contrast to her former greatness, v.1-
    2. Her abandonment by former lovers, v.2; cp. Jer 22:20-22
    3. Her servitude to the nations, v.3; cp. Deu 28:65
      She was overtaken in the "straits" {ie., the narrow places}. This is a figurative way of saying that there was no way for Judah to escape her enemies.
    4. Her silent roads and empty gates, v.4
      In better days, her abandoned roads were filled with joyous crowds going up to the Temple and the feasts. Now, no one approaches, no one enters the city gates (cp. Jer 25:10-13). Zion, the city of the LORD, the Great King (Psa 48:1,2), has become an uninhabited ghost town.
    5. Her foes have become her masters, v.5a; cp. Deu 28:43,44
    6. Her children have become captives, v.5b,6a (cp. Deu 28:32).
      The beauty {HB= hadar, ie., splendor, glory} of Zion's people has departed from them, as the glory {HB= kabod} of the LORD had done previously (cp. Eze 9:3; 10:4; 11:23).
    7. Her princes have fled (like chased deer with no place of refuge), v.6b; cp. Deu 28:25
    8. Her former luxuries and holy days are cause for bitter memories and cruel mockery, v.7
  2. Explanation of Jerusalem's desolation: She has grievously sinned {lit., has sinned sin}, v.8-11
    The effects of sin - Because of her sin, she was...
    • Removed from her former position and honor. v.8a
    • Filled with regret, and a desire to return. v.8b
    • Filled with filthiness. v.9a
      • Her great wickedness was magnified, by her refusal of God's offer of cleansing.
        Isa 1:18-21; Eze 24:13
      • The force of her great fall was intensified by the height of her favored position.
        "She came down wonderfully" {ie., her fall was a source of amazement, something to marvel over}. cp. Deu 28:45-48; 29:24-28; Jer 22:8,9
    • Without a comforter, and greatly afflicted by her enemies. v.9b; cp. Deu 32:28-30
    • Violated... by the heathen who have entered the LORD's inner sanctuary to defile it. v.10
      Ungodly gentiles, who were previously excluded from assembling with the LORD's people in the outer courts of the Temple (eg., Deu 23:3), have entered, desecrated and destroyed the Holy Places where none but the priests were permitted. (cp. Jer 51:51; Isa 64:10,11; Psa 74:4-8; 79:1)
    • Impoverished... destitute... starving... vile {ie., worthless}. v.11
II. Desolation Mourned, v.12-22
Observe the change in voice from the third person, to the first person, beginning at v.11c, "...I am become vile." The sorrow, that pours forth in the remainder of the chapter, is not the experience of 'those poor unfortunates in that city over there,' but "my sorrow."
     The speaker no longer narrates the destruction that is to be observed all around, but now appeals to others to observe the ruin within:
This unspeakable sorrow is uttered in three voices (the prominence of each voice varies from verse to verse):
  1. The voice of Jeremiah - v.12,13
    Jeremiah's sorrow {lit., pain} is intense, as he sits in the midst of the ruin of his beloved city and people.
    "Is it nothing to you, all ye who pass by?"
       Who were these disinterested persons? The enemy troops? The Jews being herded into captivity, fearful and resolved to their fate... but still not sorrowing unto repentance for their offense... still unmoved by the Word of God that had warned them of the wrath of God.
       Yet, that Word "from above" continued burning like fire in Jeremiah's bones (cp. Jer 20:9).
  2. The voice of Jerusalem (personified) - v.13b-22
    • my sorrow which is done unto me...
    • the LORD hath afflicted me... He hath...
      • ...spread a net for my feet... v.13b; cp. Eze 12:13; 17:20
      • ...trodden under foot... as in a winepress...
        1. my mighty men, v.15a - (ie., the soldiers who defended the city)
        2. my virgin daughters, v.15b - (ie., the defenseless, whose defenders were trampled)
    • the comforter is far from me... there is none to comfort me, v.16,17 -
      The LORD, is known as "the God of all comfort, who comforteth us in all our tribulation" (2Cor 1:3,4). But when He turns against a people for their sin, there can be no comfort, until He turns again to favor them (cp. Jer 31:13; Isa 51:3,19).
    • I called for my lovers... but they deceived me (v.19-22) -
      Jerusalem had sought comfort and security in false gods and in political alliances with other nations.
         But now she sees the foolishness of her misplaced confidences. She comforts herself, in the knowledge that the LORD will judge her former friends who have become her enemies, just as He judged her. He will judge them, according to His Word in "the day that thou hast called" (ie., the appointed time of judgment upon the nations, eg., Jer 25:29-31).
         When measured by the volume of words, her prayer is pre-occupied with self-pity for her desolate condition, and secondarily, with her desire for vengeance upon her enemies. With very few words, she acknowledges her sin as the cause of her trouble (v.18), and confesses that she has "grievously rebelled" against the LORD (v.20). It was, for these few words, that the Lord waited.
    • The Lord is righteous; for I have rebelled against His commandment, v.18
           (This verse is purposely taken out of order, to emphasize its importance.)
      Jerusalem hath grievously sinned (v.8)... The Lord is righteous (v.18)...
      • Here is the reason for His wrath poured out upon them.
      • Here also is reason for hope, for the living God, who deals harshly with sin, loves them still.
        Dr. G.Campbell Morgan explains (as quoted by J.V.McGee):
        "This is a supreme necessity in the interest of the universe. Prisons are in the interest of the free. Hell is the safeguard of heaven. A State that cannot punish crime is doomed; and a God Who tolerates evil is not good. Deny me my Biblical revelation of the anger of God, and I am insecure in the universe. But reveal to me this Throne established, occupied by One Whose heart is full of tenderness, Whose bowels yearn with love; then I am assured that He will not tolerate that which blights and blasts and damns; but will destroy it, and all its instruments, in the interest of that which is high and noble and pure."
        "The LORD is Righteous" to judge sin.
        "The LORD our Righteousness" delivers from sin. (cp. Jer 23:5,6; 33:15,16; 1Cor 1:30)
  3. The voice of "The LORD our Righteousness," v.11b-14
    The voice of Him who bore our sorrows (Isa 53:4) blends with the voices of those who sorrow because of sin.

Jehovah Tsidkenu {The LORD our Righteousness}
     by Robert Murray McCheyne, 1813-1843

I once was a stranger to grace and to God,
     I knew not my danger, and felt not my load;
Though friends spoke in rapture of Christ on the tree,
     Jehovah Tsidkenu was nothing to me.

I oft read with pleasure, to sooth or engage,
     Isaiah's wild measure and John's simple page;
But e'en when they pictured the blood sprinkled tree
     Jehovah Tsidkenu seemed nothing to me.

Like tears from the daughters of Zion that roll,
     I wept when the waters went over His soul;
Yet thought not that my sins had nailed to the tree
     Jehovah Tsidkenu; 'twas nothing to me.

When free grace awoke me, by light from on high,
     Then legal fears shook me, I trembled to die;
No refuge, no safety in self could I see;
     Jehovah Tsidkenu my Saviour must be.

My terrors all vanished before the sweet name;
     My guilty fears banished, with boldness I came
To drink at the fountain, life giving and free;
     Jehovah Tsidkenu is all things to me.

Jehovah Tsidkenu! my treasure and boast,
     Jehovah Tsidkenu! I ne'er can be lost;
In thee I shall conquer by flood and by field,
     My cable, my anchor, my breast-plate and shield!

Even treading the valley, the shadow of death,
     This "watchword" shall rally my faltering breath;
For while from life's fever my God sets me free,
     Jehovah Tsidkenu, my death song shall be.

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