JERUSALEM LIES DEVASTATED WITH NO ONE TO COMFORT
This is one of the darkest chapters in all of Scripture. You can find a few glimmers of hope – but for the most part this is a picture of sorrows without comfort. The repeated refrain says it all: “There is no one to comfort me.” This poetic chapter was written as an acrostic in the Hebrew. Most commentators divide this chapter into 2 sections based on the viewpoint of the one speaking:
A. (:1-11) Jeremiah’s Sorrow
B. (:12-22) Jerusalem’s Sorrow
I have taken a more thematic approach centered around the repeated refrain.
Steven Smith: Jeremiah writes that Judah is suffering because of her sin (v. 5), and that is why she is despised by all (v. 8). She fell because she failed to consider the consequences of her actions (v. 9). . . The idea is clear: sin brings ruin. Sin ruins individuals; sin ruins families; sin ruins churches; sin ruins cities. The weight of destruction is heavier still in light of the warnings: the prophets, the metaphors, the miracles. All the things God did in the past to prevent this from happening are now clear.
(:1) INTRODUCTION: SPIRITUAL GRIEF VS SPIRITUAL JOY
3 contrasts – see earlier message
A. Loneliness vs Community
“How lonely sits the city that was full of people!”
B. Helplessness vs Greatness
“She has become like a widow who was once great among the nations.!”
C. Slavery vs Royalty
“She who was a princess among the provinces has become a forced laborer!”
5 CRIES OF DESPAIR: (organized around the repetition of the same refrain)
I. (:2-6) THE DESPAIR OF EXILE AND CAPTIVITY
Refrain: (:2) “She has none to comfort her”
A. (:2A) The Emotion of Despair – Bitter Weeping
“She weeps bitterly in the night;
And her tears are on her cheeks”
B. (:2B) The Treachery of Despair – Friends have become Foes
“She has none to comfort her among all her lovers. = Refrain
All her friends have dealt treacherously with her;
They have become her enemies.”
MacArthur: lovers . . . friends . . . have become her enemies . . . This refers to the heathen nations allied to Judah, and their idols whom Judah “loved” (Jer 2:20-25). Some later joined as enemies against her (2Ki 24:2,7; Ps 137:7).
Ellison: Once the monarchy was firmly established, Israel was always faced with an inescapable choice. She could rely on God for her safety against external aggression, or she could turn to allies great and small. . . The prophets warned Israel that such alliances involved apostasy, but both the northern and the southern leaders would not listen. Judah had learned that such friends were a broken reed (Ezek 29:6-7).
C. (:3) The Harsh Bondage of Despair – Affliction without Rest
“Judah has gone into exile under affliction and under harsh servitude;
She dwells among the nations, but she has found no rest;
All her pursuers have overtaken her in the midst of distress.”
D. (:4) The Bitter Frustration of Despair – No fulfillment for God’s People
1. Frustration of Fellowship and Worship
“The roads of Zion are in mourning because no one comes to the appointed feasts.”
2. Frustration of Government and Justice
“All her gates are desolate”
3. Frustration of Religious Rulers
“Her priests are groaning”
4. Frustration of all that is Pure and Precious
“Her virgins are afflicted”
Albert Barnes: The “virgins” took a prominent part in all religious festivals
5. Frustration Summary – Nothing but bitterness
“and she herself is bitter.”
E. (:5) The Divine Discipline of Despair – God has Turned the Tables
1. Role Reversal
“Her adversaries have become her masters,
Her enemies prosper”
2. Righteous Execution of Divine Discipline
“For the Lord has caused her grief
Because of the multitude of her transgressions”
3. Collateral Damage
“Her little ones have gone away as captives before the adversary.”
F. (:6) The Nakedness of Despair
1. Stripping away of Majesty
“All her majesty has departed from the daughter of Zion”
2. Stripping away of Material Prosperity and Provision
“Her princes have become like deer that have found no pasture”
3. Stripping away of Might and Power
“And they have fled without strength before the pursuer.”
Constable: Once majestic, Jerusalem now sat humiliated. Her leaders, including Zedekiah and his advisers, had fled like frightened stags that could find no pasture even though they had been strong in the past (cf. 2 Kings 24:1, 12; 25:4; Jer. 39:4-5).
II. (:7-11) THE DESPAIR OF HUMILIATION AND DEFILEMENT
Refrain: (:9) “She has no comforter”
A. (:7) Mocked by those who witnessed her Great Fall
“In the days of her affliction and homelessness
Jerusalem remembers all her precious things that were from the days of old,
When her people fell into the hand of the adversary and no one helped her.
The adversaries saw her, they mocked at her ruin.”
B. (:8-9A) Despised because her uncleanness was exposed
“Jerusalem sinned greatly,
Therefore she has become an unclean thing.
All who honored her despise her because they have seen her nakedness;
Even she herself groans and turns away.
Her uncleanness was in her skirts;
She did not consider her future.
Therefore she has fallen astonishingly;
She has no comforter.” = Refrain
C. (9B:10) Defiled by those who exploited her vulnerability
“See, O Lord, my affliction,
For the enemy has magnified himself!
The adversary has stretched out his hand over all her precious things,
For she has seen the nations enter her sanctuary,
The ones whom You commanded that they should not enter into Your congregation.”
MacArthur: enter her sanctuary – This was true of the Ammonites and Moabites (Dt 23:3; Ne 13:1,2). If the heathen were not allowed to enter for worship, much less were they tolerated to loot and destroy. On a future day, the nations will come to worship (Zec 14:16).
D. (:11) Despised because she is destitute of even the bare necessities
“All her people groan seeking bread;
They have given their precious things for food to restore their lives themselves.
See, O Lord, and look, For I am despised.”
III. (:12-16) THE DESPAIR OF PAIN AND REJECTION
Refrain: (:16) “Because far from me is a comforter”
A. (:12) Pain that is Unique in its Severity
“Is it nothing to all you who pass this way?
Look and see if there is any pain like my pain
Which was severely dealt out to me,
Which the Lord inflicted on the day of His fierce anger.”
B. (:13-14) Pain that is Inescapable in its Suffering
“From on high He sent fire into my bones, and it prevailed over them.
He has spread a net for my feet; He has turned me back;
He has made me desolate, faint all day long.
The yoke of my transgressions is bound; by His hand they are knit together.
They have come upon my neck; He has made my strength fail.
The Lord has given me into the hands of those against whom I am not able to stand.”
Constable: The Lord had sent fire into the city’s bones when he allowed the Babylonians to burn it. He had captured Jerusalem as a bird in His net. He had thoroughly desolated and demoralized her by removing all sustenance from her. . . Four metaphors describe God’s judgment of Jerusalem in the last four verses: fire (v. 12), a net (v. 13), a yoke (v. 14), and a winepress (v. 15).
Albert Barnes: The yoke of punishment thus imposed and securely fastened, bows down her strength by its weight, and makes her totter beneath it.
C. (:15) Rejection that is Pervasive in its Scope
1. Extends to the Strong Men
“The Lord has rejected all my strong men in my midst;”
2. Extends to the Young Men
“He has called an appointed time against me to crush my young men;”
3. Extends to the Virgin Daughter of Zion
“The Lord has trodden as in a wine press the virgin daughter of Judah.”
D. (:16) Rejection that is Hopeless in its Salvation
1. Emotion of Despair
“For these things I weep; my eyes run down with water;”
2. Repetition of Refrain – No hope of Deliverance
“Because far from me is a comforter, one who restores my soul.”
3. Admission of Defeat
“My children are desolate because the enemy has prevailed.”
IV. (:17-19) THE DESPAIR OF ISOLATION AND POWERLESSNESS
Refrain: (:17) “There is no one to comfort her” — There is no one to help
A. (:17) Surrounded by Enemies
“Zion stretches out her hands;
There is no one to comfort her; = Refrain
The Lord has commanded concerning Jacob
That the ones round about him should be his adversaries;
Jerusalem has become an unclean thing among them.”
MacArthur: unclean – This refers to a menstruous woman, shamed, separated from her husband and the temple (cf. vv. 8,9 and Lv 15:19ff.).
B. (:18A) Submitted to Divine Discipline
“The Lord is righteous;
For I have rebelled against His command;
Hear now, all peoples, and behold my pain”
C. (:18B-19) Separated from all Helpers
1. Separated from Youthful Strength
“My virgins and my young men have gone into captivity”
2. Separated from Misguided Alliances
“I called to my lovers, but they deceived me”
3. Separated from Religious Ministers
“My priests and my elders perished in the city
While they sought food to restore their strength themselves.”
Constable: The city had called to its political allies (e.g., Egypt) and its leaders for help, but even the priests and elders had been selfishly taking care of themselves rather than guarding the citizens.
V. (:20-22) THE DESPAIR OF PROLONGED AND INTENSE SUFFERING
Refrain: (:21) “There is no one to comfort me” – How long, O Lord?
A. (:20) No Escape from Despair
1. Appeal to the Lord
“See, O Lord, for I am in distress;”
2. Anxiety and Affliction
“My spirit is greatly troubled;
My heart is overturned within me,”
3. Admission of Guilt
“For I have been very rebellious.”
4. Anywhere . . . No Escape
“In the street the sword slays;
In the house it is like death.”
B. (:21A) No Relief from Mocking
“They have heard that I groan;
There is no one to comfort me; = Refrain
All my enemies have heard of my calamity;
They are glad that You have done it.”
C. (:21B-22A) Cry for Retribution
“Oh, that You would bring the day which You have proclaimed,
That they may become like me.
Let all their wickedness come before You;
And deal with them as You have dealt with me for all my transgressions;”
D. (:22B) Cry of Suffering and Despair
“For my groans are many and my heart is faint.”