As I write this (August 10, 2011), riots are the news in England. Civilized people are speaking out against the destruction and looting by their fellow countrymen. Civilian brigades are being formed for protection and clean-up. Everyone is asking: “Why is this happening?”
Some reply: “It’s happening because of the displacement of the poor. They have no where to go and no one to help and no hope for the future. In their frustration, they are lashing out.” Others reply: “These are just hooligans who, using social media to organize, are wrecking havoc wherever they can.”
There’s a bit of both of these answers in Lamentations (though no social media). Written from his observations of the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, some used the occasion to serve their baser instincts – pointing out the sinfulness God knew was there. Others simply gave in to the pressure and deprivation they felt and were trying to survive. Either way, it wasn’t a pretty picture.
Reading Lamentations 4, we are struck again by an incident mentioned already in chapter 2: the eating of children by their starving mothers. It is a thought too repugnant to dwell on long. Remember first: all this happened because of the punishment sent by God. How could a just God cause all this?
Remember second: It didn’t have to be this way. God has been calling to His people for change for three centuries. They have ignored Him. What is happening now is that, under pressure, Jeremiah (and we, his readers), is seeing the true character of Judah. God did not push them to this. The events only reveal what has been developing all along.
Pressure does that to us: it reveals who we really are. Those whose hope is in the Lord will may not fare better in difficult times (Jeremiah certainly didn’t), but they will look better and act better and their reward will be better.