THE DAY OF THE LORD’S ANGER CONSUMES JERUSALEM WITH TOTAL DESTRUCTION
This chapter should be a wake-up call to those who minimize or overlook the extent and severity of God’s wrath. Sin must be taken seriously. If God would so fiercely discipline His chosen nation Israel with such all-consuming anger, what will be the end of those who reject His authority and rebel against His commands? This day of the Lord’s anger is but a foretaste of that great and awful Day of the Lord that awaits. Let’s learn lessons from this account of “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Read this chapter through twice: the first time noting every reference to God’s anger and the second time underlining every description of the totality of destruction unleashed by God’s wrath.
Steven Smith: Walter Brueggemann observed that the Psalms move from orientation to disorientation to reorientation (Spirituality of the Psalms). Life is oriented in a certain direction, and then tragedy brings disorientation. We want to go back to the original orientation. This is not how God works. Rather, ultimately he reorients us to a new reality.
I. (:1-10) THE PERSPECTIVE OF WHAT THE LORD HAS DONE TO HIS PEOPLE – GOD HAS POURED OUT HIS WRATH IN TOTAL DESTRUCTION
Key phrase: “He has” – this is destruction the Lord has accomplished
(Think of the opposite of these as privileges that must be maintained and treasured by the people of God.)
Steven Smith: 26 action verbs attributed to God in the first nine verses . . . God has done this.
A. (:1) The Removal of Israel’s Glory
“How the Lord has covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in His anger!
He has cast from heaven to earth the glory of Israel,
And has not remembered His footstool in the day of His anger.”
Israel’s privileged position among all the nations has been negated for this time of the Lord’s discipline. His anger rather than His favor is being poured out on the nation.
B. (:2-3) The Destruction of Israel’s Strength and Defenses
“The Lord has swallowed up; He has not spared all the habitations of Jacob.
In His wrath He has thrown down the strongholds of the daughter of Judah;
He has brought them down to the ground;
He has profaned the kingdom and its princes.
In fierce anger He has cut off all the strength of Israel;
He has drawn back His right hand from before the enemy.
And He has burned in Jacob like a flaming fire consuming round about.”
John Calvin: Now it was in itself a grievous thing that the people had been so rejected by God, that no help could be expected from him; but it was still a harder thing, that he went forth armed to destroy his people. And the metaphor of fire ought to be noticed; for had he said that God’s right hand was against his people, the expression would not have been so forcible; but when he compared God’s right hand to fire which burned, and whose flame consumed all Israel, it was a much more dreadful thing.
C. (:4-5) The Role Reversal so that the Defender of Israel Now Destroys Like Her Enemy
“He has bent His bow like an enemy;
He has set His right hand like an adversary and slain all that were pleasant to the eye;
In the tent of the daughter of Zion He has poured out His wrath like fire.
The Lord has become like an enemy.
He has swallowed up Israel; He has swallowed up all its palaces.
He has destroyed its strongholds and multiplied in the daughter of Judah mourning and moaning.”
D. (:6-7) The Rejection of All Ritualistic Worship and Religious Celebration
“And He has violently treated His tabernacle like a garden booth;
He has destroyed His appointed meeting place.
The Lord has caused to be forgotten the appointed feast and sabbath in Zion.
And He has despised king and priest in the indignation of His anger.
The Lord has rejected His altar, He has abandoned His sanctuary;
He has delivered into the hand of the enemy the walls of her palaces.
They have made a noise in the house of the Lord as in the day of an appointed feast.”
E. (:8-9) The Obliteration of Israel’s Unique Identity as the People of God
1. Her defining walls and gates
“The Lord determined to destroy the wall of the daughter of Zion.
He has stretched out a line, He has not restrained His hand from destroying,
And He has caused rampart and wall to lament; They have languished together.
Her gates have sunk into the ground, He has destroyed and broken her bars.”
2. Her divinely appointed leadership
“Her king and her princes are among the nations;”
3. Her divine code for personal and civil conduct – “Thou shalt . . . Thou shalt not . . .”
“The law is no more.”
4. Her prophetic vision – “Thus saith the Lord”
“Also her prophets find no vision from the Lord.”
Constable: The city gates with their bars were no longer effective in keeping Jerusalem safe, and the king (Jehoiachin) and his advisers had gone into exile. The Mosaic Law now failed to govern the Israelites since they could no longer observe its cultic ordinances. Yahweh had also stopped giving His prophets revelations of His will.
Ellison: From the temple the lament passes briefly to the city and then to the king (surely Jehoiachin is meant) and his ministers in exile.
F. (:10) The Grieving Posture of a Devastated People
“The elders of the daughter of Zion sit on the ground, they are silent.
They have thrown dust on their heads; They have girded themselves with sackcloth.
The virgins of Jerusalem have bowed their heads to the ground.”
II. (:11-19) THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE IMPACT OF THAT SCENE OF DESTRUCTION ON THE PROPHET – GOD’S PEOPLE LIE DEVASTATED – CRYING OUT TO THE LORD WHILE THEIR ENEMIES EXULT
Change of perspective indicator: “My eyes”
A. (:11-12) Unmitigated Sorrow with the Echoes of Pitiful Cries
“My eyes fail because of tears, my spirit is greatly troubled;
My heart is poured out on the earth, because of the destruction of the daughter of my people,
When little ones and infants faint in the streets of the city.
They say to their mothers, ‘Where is grain and wine?’
As they faint like a wounded man in the streets of the city,
As their life is poured out on their mothers’ bosom.”
B. (:13) Unprecedented Ruin with no Savior in Sight
“How shall I admonish you? To what shall I compare you, O daughter of Jerusalem?
To what shall I liken you as I comfort you, O virgin daughter of Zion?
For your ruin is as vast as the sea; Who can heal you?”
C. (:14) Unchecked False Prophets with their Failure to Reprove Sin
“Your prophets have seen for you false and foolish visions;
And they have not exposed your iniquity so as to restore you from captivity,
But they have seen for you false and misleading oracles.”
MacArthur: As Jer 23:16,17 indicates, these lies spoke of peace and comfort, not judgment. Cf. Jer 23:30-40 to see how such lying led to destruction.
Ellison: The best commentaries on this verse are Jeremiah 23:18-22 and Ezekiel 13:10-16. Just as the majority of preachers are so obsessed with the holiness of the church that they have not been able to take the church’s shortcomings seriously, so it was in Israel. It took the shock of the Babylonian exile to break the power and influence of the popular prophets and to discredit them finally.
D. (:15-16) Unabashed Mocking with Derisive Exultation
“All who pass along the way clap their hands in derision at you;
They hiss and shake their heads at the daughter of Jerusalem:
‘Is this the city of which they said, The perfection of beauty, a joy to all the earth’?”
All your enemies have opened their mouths wide against you;
They hiss and gnash their teeth.
They say, ‘We have swallowed her up!.
Surely this is the day for which we waited; We have reached it, we have seen it.’”
E. (:17) Unrelenting Discipline with the Sovereign and Faithful Lord Exalting Israel’s Enemies
“The Lord has done what He purposed;
He has accomplished His word which He commanded from days of old.
He has thrown down without sparing, and He has caused the enemy to rejoice over you;
He has exalted the might of your adversaries.”
This surprising work of judgment against God’s People came from the hand of the Lord Himself. He used Israel’s enemies as His instruments of discipline. The Lord is faithful to carry out His Word and accomplish all of His purposes.
Steven Smith: Anyone with any sympathy whatsoever is disturbed by this image of a city destroyed at the hands of God. What are we to make of this? How do we explain God’s action? First, remember the uniqueness of this situation. This nation is the (singular, definite article) chosen people of God. They are unique. They were to have a love relationship with God like a bride to her groom. As such, God would use them to be a blessing to the nations and to fulfill all his covenant promises. Their rejection of their groom/God was serious because their responsibility to their God was great. Knowing this instructs us not to attach divine motives on national or natural disasters when they occur in other times or to other nations. Israel is unique, and so is her relationship with God. This uniqueness is clear in the summary verse quoted above (v. 17).
F. (:18-19) Unceasing Crying with Pleas for Mercy and Compassion
“Their heart cried out to the Lord,
‘O wall of the daughter of Zion, let your tears run down like a river day and night;
Give yourself no relief, let your eyes have no rest.
Arise, cry aloud in the night at the beginning of the night watches;
Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord;
Lift up your hands to Him for the life of your little ones
Who are faint because of hunger at the head of every street.’”
Ryken: Then Jeremiah turned his suffering into intercession, which is the general movement of the book of Lamentations. One commentator calls the prayer at the end of the second lament “a desperate recounting of utmost woe.” It is the prayer of someone suffering a crisis of faith because he has witnessed unspeakable horrors, of someone who has no answers, only questions.
III. (:20-22) THE APPEAL TO THE LORD FOR COMPASSION
Change of perspective indicator: “See, O Lord and look”
A. (:20A) Desperate Appeal
“See, O Lord, and look!
With whom hast Thou dealt thus?”
B. (:20B-21A) Four Devastated Groups
1. Mothers / Infants
“Should women eat their offspring,
The little ones who were born healthy?”
2. Priests / Prophets
“Should priest and prophet be slain in the sanctuary of the Lord?”
3. Young / Old
“On the ground in the streets lie young and old”
4. Virgins / Young Men
“My virgins and my young men have fallen by the sword.”
C. (:21B-22) Summary of Destruction:
The Lord Has Consumed Jerusalem in Anger with Total Destruction
“Thou hast slain them in the day of Thine anger,
Thou has slaughtered, not sparing.
Thou didst call as in the day of an appointed feast my terrors on every side;
And there was no one who escaped or survived in the day of the Lord’s anger,
Those whom I bore and reared, my enemy annihilated them.”