sad man August 23-24 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Psalm 74, 79, 85, 102, 120, 137; Lamentations 1, 2, 3

Note: Because this is a two day study, it is suggested that the Bible reading be done on August 23 and the Bible study read on August 24.

Loss and Hope

Many Country and Western songs are written about painful circumstances, especially lost love. Fans might like the music style, even if they do not know the lyrics. Or, they might identify with the words because of similar circumstances they are going through. The best songs composed of any genre' are usually born from experience.

These six Psalms and the book of Lamentations in today’s Bible reading are songs of national lament, possibly written by Jeremiah since he was present at the destruction of the city of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. These were times of anguish, tears, despair and hopelessness. What happened to Jerusalem? In his petition to God, the Psalmist writes,

Your foes [the Babylonians] roared in the place where you met with us; they set up their standards [flags] as signs. They behaved like men wielding axes to cut through a thicket of trees. They smashed all the carved paneling [of the temple] with their axes and hatchets. They burned your sanctuary to the ground; they defiled the dwelling place of your Name. They said in their hearts, ‘We will crush them completely!’ They burned every place where God was worshiped in the land, (Psalm 74:4-8, NIV).

O God, the nations have invaded your inheritance; they have defiled your holy temple, they have reduced Jerusalem to rubble. They have given the dead bodies of your servants as food to the birds of the air, the flesh of your saints to the beasts of the earth. They have poured out blood like water all around Jerusalem, and there is no one to bury the dead. We are objects of reproach to our neighbors, of scorn and derision to those around us (Psalm 79:1-4, NIV).

Babylon's army destroys the nation of Judah. She experiences famine while besieged—there is nothing for the people or animals to eat or drink—they finally result to cannibalism. Women are even eating their own children. Finally, Jerusalem’s impregnable walls are battered down by their enemies and reduced to rubble. King Zedekiah and his small army flee the city, but the king is captured as his army scatters. He is taken to Babylon in shackles, where his sons are killed before his eyes.

In the meantime, Jerusalem’s temple is pillaged, destroyed and burned. The king’s palace and all the important buildings are burned. Most of the Jews remaining in Jerusalem are either killed or taken into exile. The women are raped. The young men are tortured after they are strung up. The elderly are despised. Only a few of the poorest people, with no position or property, are allowed to stay in the land of Judah to care for it. Even the princes of the land are reduced to nothing, having to scrounge around for food. With any money the remnant can find, the people buy water to drink and wood for cooking. There is no joy in Jerusalem. The survivors wonder, “what do we do now? Where is God? Doesn’t he care anymore? Will we be totally forgotten? Will we perish?”

The glorious presence of the LORD has left the temple (Ezekiel 10-11), and it, the land and people are devastated. The book of Lamentations is a sad book of grief and tears. It demonstrates God’s faithfulness in fulfilling the covenant He made with Israel 900 years earlier in the time of Moses (Deuteronomy 28:49-59). It was a covenant of blessing for obedience and cursing for disobedience. The LORD was faithful to both parts of the covenant. For Jerusalem, today is the dreadful fulfillment of the curses for disobedience. Even through the grief of these times, however, there is hope because God will never forget His people.

If any of us have gone through terrible experiences because of our sins, it does not mean God is unfaithful and there is no hope. If you are a Christian, the LORD will never forget you. There is always hope for those who turn from their sins back to Him. Unfortunately, even those who are innocent sometimes suffer for the sinful actions of others. Jeremiah suffered and so might some of us.

Imagine the reaction of the Jews in Babylon when they hear of their beloved city. They are not allowed to cry publicly, but they groan in their spirits and weep privately for their city and her people. They lost their relatives, their city, and their temple. Will they cease to exist as a nation? Will they ever return to their land? Return to what—rubble and charred remains? Is there no hope? Yes, there is hope for her future. In seventy years, as impossible as it seems, they will return to rebuild the temple of Jerusalem and its walls. The LORD is Sovereign. And, in the distant future they will have an even better hope.

A Jewish song writer expresses this hope.

For the LORD will rebuild Zion and appear in his glory. He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea. Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the LORD: ‘The LORD looked down from his sanctuary on high, from heaven he viewed the earth, to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death.’ So the name of the LORD will be declared in Zion and his praise in Jerusalem” (Psalm 102:16-21, NIV).

Future deliverance will come!

The few people in Judah and the exiles are in distress. They live as captives. Their bodies and souls waste away, yet Jeremiah offers this hope:

Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD….

For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men. To crush underfoot all prisoners in the land, to deny a man his rights before the Most High, to deprive a man of justice-- would not the Lord see such things?

Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come? Why should any living man complain when punished for his sins? Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the LORD (Lamentations 3:22-26, 33-40, NIV).

With the LORD there is mercy and salvation (more...). He can bring restoration and hope, even though we may experience terrible loss.

Lessons to Live By

  • Sin must be punished because God is righteous and good.
  • Continual unrepentant sin can destroy us, leaving us weeping, wailing, and wasted.
  • The LORD is merciful and will restore those who truly repent (more...). We need to learn the lessons of our punishment and wait on His mercy. He does not despise a repentant heart; He heals and forgives, and He favors those who walk in the fear of the LORD.

Focus Verse

Lamentations 3:31-33 (NIV) “For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.”

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A Look Ahead: Although their beloved city, Jerusalem, is destroyed, God allows the few Jewish residents and scattered people grace to live in their land. But that Grace is Forfeited. Join us for our Next Lesson and learn what can happen if we do the same.

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