Paul Wilson was found dead after buying a takeaway containing peanuts from a Indian restaurant. The restaurant owner is on trial for manslaughter after he took a “reckless and cavalier attitude to risk” and “put profit before safety”. The owner received repeated and numerous warnings that he was putting his customers’ health, and potentially their lives, at risk by not labelling his meals correctly.
The prosecuting attorney told the court that tragically for Paul Wilson, the owner took none of those opportunities and ignored all of the warnings he was given. Now he is facing criminal prosecution.
This brings us to Lamentations chapter 2.
For hundreds of years the people of Judah and Jerusalem had ignored God’s repeated and numerous warnings through the prophets and now God had brought the judgment and wrath he promised he would.
It was a terrible time for those living in Jerusalem. The Babylonian army besieged Jerusalem for 18 months. Food supplies ran out. There was starvation, death and disease. Finally, in 587BC the Babylonian army broke through the city’s wall and invaded. It was like an ISIS invasion in Syria. The people who survived the siege and slaughter were marched off into exile to far-off Babylon. The city walls were pulled down and the grand temple of God was destroyed.
Lamentations, gives us a small foretaste of what it’s like to experience God’s fierce anger.
The surprising enemy
Chapter 2:1 is a very shocking verse.
V1 How the Lord in his anger
has set the daughter of Zion under a cloud! (Dark cloud of judgment)
He has cast down from heaven to earth
the splendour of Israel;
he has not remembered his footstool in the day of his anger.
God symbolically dwelt in the Most holy place in the temple above the ark of the covenant between the cherubim. The ark was his footstool, where he rested his feet. As heaven is God’s throne, so the earth – specifically the temple – was his footstool. The temple in Jerusalem in the Old Testament was a visible picture and reminder that God was seated on his throne ruling the universe.
V1 …he has not remembered his footstool in the day of his anger.
How shocking is this first verse. All the calamity that has fallen on Jerusalem and even the temple of God, it the result of God’s own anger and judgment. God had destroyed his own temple. Behind the hammer of the Babylonian army was the hand of God.
V2 The Lord has swallowed up without mercy
all the habitations of Jacob;
One of the great descriptions of God in the Bible is this: The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
But now v2 says:
The Lord has swallowed up without mercy all the habitations (homes) of Jacob (Israel).
In fact, 3 times in chapter 2 it says that God was judging without mercy.
V2, without mercy.
V17, without pity (mercy).
V21, without pity (mercy).
The day of God’s fierce anger brings judgment without mercy.
The Babylonian attack in 587 BC is but a small picture of the Great Day of Judgment to come.
2 Peter 3:9 refers to the return of Christ and the Great Day of God’s judgment when we will all stand before Almighty God to give account of every thought, word and deed:
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
Why has the day of God’s fierce anger not yet come?
Why is God still being patient?
Why is God still bearing with people who reject him?
Why is God still bearing with a world full of child abuse, murder, cop-killings, political killings, sex-trafficking, idolatry, greed, pride and gossip?
Because he’s still showing mercy… “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
Call on the Lord while he is near
But on the Great Day of God’s judgment the day of mercy will be over; and if you do not belong to Christ there will only be wrath, fierce anger and judgment.
The Bible urges us to call on the Lord while he is near – because he won’t always be near.
Verse 4 and 5 are even more shocking:
V4 He has bent his bow like an enemy,
with his right hand set like a foe…
V5 The Lord has become like an enemy…
What’s even more shocking is that God, Israel’s Saviour, has become Israel’s enemy. And when God becomes your enemy you know you have serious problems.
The question is: who can you turn to when God is your enemy?
In November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines. It was the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded at landfall and caused catastrophic damage, destroying whole towns and villages. One little girl manages to reach an evacuation center. As the waters rushed in, her mother shouted to her to go up to the second floor. At that moment, the little girl cried out, “Jesus, tama na po”, which means, “Jesus, please, enough!” She felt someone lifting her up to safety and she survived.
It’s interesting what the little girl had said. Her worldview was exactly right.
She knew God was in ultimate control. That’s why the girl prayed and she addressed God as Jesus. And the little girl saw Jesus as Saviour, that why she called out to him. Jesus, please, enough!*
If God is your enemy, who can you turn to?
You can only turn to God himself because no-one else can help you. We are able to turn to God because God has made himself known in the person of Jesus Christ.
God is our Creator, Preserver, Judge and Saviour.
There is still hope because God is still showing mercy; the day of God’s anger has not yet come.
*Illustration found in Christopher Wright’s “Message of Lamentations” (BST), page 48.