“Jerusalem hath grievously sinned; therefore she is removed: all that honored her despise her, because they have seen her nakedness: yea, she sigheth, and turneth backward.” Lamentations 1:8
The prophet Jeremiah writes these sorrowful words while gazing upon what formerly was Jerusalem. A place that once was a vibrant city, full of joyous people and home to God’s Holy Temple, was no more. All was gone, for now the city was desolate, and empty. Jerusalem lay in ruins, her palaces burned, the Temple torched, and all the holy vessels taken away. Jeremiah mourned this devastating loss and declared that all of the beauty of the daughter of Zion had departed. Her adversaries mocked her Sabbaths and magnified their own selves. Jeremiah was heartbroken and asked all who passed by, “See if there be any sorrow like my sorrow” (Lam. 1:12).
He wept and acknowledged that the comforter was now far from him. The prophet can find no relief for his soul. The virgin daughter of Judah is as in a winepress. She has gone into captivity. All of Jerusalem’s friends are now her enemies. The straits have overtaken her. All of her enemies have heard of her trouble and are glad.
The Sin of Rebellion and Wickedness
Jerusalem and the citizens of Judah are in the winepress of God’s judgment. Jeremiah has preached repentance and a return to God’s righteousness for forty years. He has been ignored, insulted, and imprisoned. Jerusalem’s citizens have continued to sin. God keeps speaking to them through His prophet. He declares that their burnt offerings are not acceptable nor their sacrifices sweet. The prophets in the land prophesy falsely and are as wind. The priests live by their own means, and the people love their own lifestyle (Jer. 5:31). Those who dwell in Jerusalem and Judah possess a rebellious heart. They no longer fear the LORD, since they have forsaken Him for other gods. Abomination, idolatry, and rebellion rule. The cup of iniquity is full, and their continual sins have provoked the LORD’s anger. Jerusalem has grievously sinned and judgment is now at the gate.
The Book of Lamentations from which this passage is taken is read in every Jewish synagogue on Tish b’Av, (the 9th day of Av), a date on the Western Calendar that falls either in July or August. Its observance marks the destruction of the First and Second Temples. Every Jew either reads or hears these words and mourns. Lamentations, or Eicha in Hebrew, notes the distressing conditions that prevailed during the destruction of the First Temple and reflects on the reasons why it happened.
Most Jews spend this time in true mourning. Some choose to fast for 25 hours, sit on the floor, and forgo greeting others. In Jerusalem, thousands of people come to the Kotel (the Western Wall), during the evening to mark its arrival. They stand and offer prayers for the rebuilding of the Temple. They also ask God to forgive their sins.
Tish B’Av has also come to be a Jewish date of mourning not only for these events but also for later tragedies, such as the Crusades, the expulsion of the Jews from England, France, and Spain, as well as the Holocaust of World War II. Jews worldwide fast and pray that God would look kindly on them as a people during this date and refrain from sending judgments upon them.
We live in a world where sin is excused, forgotten, or covered up. Why make mention of something that is no longer fashionable? Life today is about choices and tolerance. Idolatry, secret abominations, and outright rebellion toward the Creator are the order of the day. Humankind, save for a remnant, has chosen again to forsake God.
What right does a man have to complain for punishment for the sins he committed? The answer is no right at all. God is just. We all want His grace, but we do not want His justice. Perhaps, like the Jewish people, this is a day too that Christians should cry out, ask God for forgiveness and plead for mercy.
A Word from the Lord
I banished Adam and Eve from the Garden for their sin and marked Cain for his transgression. I destroyed the world for its evils, save Noah and his family. I threatened to destroy the Israelites for their sin, save for Moses’ intercession. I used my prophet to convict David of his sin. I also sent my angel of judgment to Jerusalem because of David’s disobedience. I, too, allowed my Temples to be destroyed for they had become dens of iniquity. I am a God that that does not tolerate sin or rebellion, or a people that chose to embrace it.
Pray that men would turn from their wicked ways and repent while there is still time for them to do so in their lives. I am always a God of mercy. I also take no pleasure in the death of the wicked. There is forgiveness through my Son. Because of his sacrificial atonement you can enter boldly into my throne room and obtain my mercy and grace to help you in your hour of need (Heb. 4:14-16).
Lord, in your wrath, remember mercy. May we be a people with a humble heart, who chose to follow your footsteps. Help us have ears to hear your still soft voice that says: Come this way, walk ye in it.
Guide me this day, Lord, that I may be in your will, and sin not. May I also not forget to pray for those who have turned away from you. Rain your mercy on them and lead them quickly to repentance and restoration.
“Zion shall be redeemed with judgment and her converts with righteousness.” (Is. 1:27)
“I have seen thine adulteries, and thy neighings, the lewdness of thy whoredom, and thine abominations on the hills in the fields. Woe unto thee. O Jerusalem! Wilt thou not be made clean? When shall it once be?” (Jer. 13:27)
“Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us, in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know that LORD; his going forth is prepared as the morning and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.” (Hos. 6:1-3)
“I will heal their backsliding. I will love them freely; for mine anger is turned away from him.” (Hos. 14:4)
Jerusalem, Lest I Forget Thee by Gene Little
Available from our webstore: