Jeremiah sat in the dust of a city in its death throes. The streets, once packed with people and activity, were now mostly silent. The stillness only being broken by the occasional wail of grief or agony, the garbled cries of the dying for the dead. The smell of the market place, once rich with the smell of fruits, spices, and bread, now bore only the stench of rot.
"Young and old lie on the ground in the streets; my young women and my young men have fallen by the sword; You have slain them in the day of your anger, you have slaughtered and not pitied." The corpses of his people littered the streets like refuse. Jeremiah had to cover his face for the smell of them and gather his robes to step over them. He saw them, like skin and bones, dead by the sword, by hunger, and by disease. He said the Yahweh had done this. His God whom he served had slain his own people. God had given their bodies to the birds.
"You summoned as if to a festival day my terrors on every side, and on the day of the anger of the LORD no one escaped or survived; those whom I held and raised my enemy destroyed." Jeremiah saw his friends die. He saw them perish by the sword in the streets; he saw them die desperately in their homes of hunger; he watched them waste of disease and die in their own filth with no one to help. God invited him to survey the slaughter, and his God moved his pen to write of the horror he beheld.
"See, O LORD, and consider! To whom have You done this? Should the women eat their offspring, the children they have cuddled?...the hands of compassionate women have boiled their own children; they became their food during the destruction of the daughter of my people." They ate their own children. They boiled them for food. Jeremiah bore witness. "I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of His wrath. He has led me and made me walk in darkness and not in light." God thrust him into the horrors. His God, whom he loved, compelled him into the darkness, into the nightmare of Jerusalem, to see the gaping mouths of the dead. The disfigured forms of the starved and maimed, eyes transfixed in horror. The Lord made him look, see, and write.
Such sights might drive a man insane, but this man Jeremiah recorded what he saw in a poem. It is called the Lamentations. He wrote it under the inspiration of the God who brought the slaughter. God did this for at least two reasons. One is for you and me. That we may see the just recompense for wickedness, and the hellish consequences of a life lived in abandonment of God. Secondly, he writes that we may read this, "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...Let him sit alone and keep silent, because God has laid it on him; let him put his mouth in the dust---there may yet be hope. Let him give his cheek to the one who strikes him, and be full of reproach."
Christian, have you read the Lamentations and pondered upon the terror that God brought upon Israel? For what? It is very important that you ask yourself this question, lest you get swept up into the hysteria of this age and forget what is important. God did not judge Israel for running up a national deficit. God crushed his beloved, his own garden, because the men were not faithful to the wives of their youth, because they were swindlers and cheats, because they exploited the poor, because they perverted justice for a bribe, and because they pursued their own lusts with abandon. And why did they do these things? They did them because they did not love God with all their heart, he who is lovely above all things, and because they chose a lesser glory, they became objects of contempt.
Behold the end of a people who claimed a form of godliness and denied the power thereof. Behold the end of a people who pay lip service to God, but are inwardly ravenous wolves. Read the Lamentations, and then pray that God would drive the idols that you pursue far from you.
I am a pastor serving in my hometown of Albertville, Alabama. The greatest evidence of God's grace in my life are my wife, son, and daughter. One look at me and then my wife will tell you that her "yes" was a modern day miracle. Otherwise, I am almost completely mundane.