Read Lamentations 4:1-22
Jeremiah’s graphic, acrostic description of the conditions in Jerusalem continues into this, the fourth chapter of Lamentations. The detail of the written account here makes me glad that we don’t have video archives. I find it difficult enough to read the lines of infants starving and children begging. It is no wonder that Jeremiah, as an eyewitness, spends these five Old Testament chapters lamenting the realities of what he had seen.
But nestled in these 22 verses of desolation are some lines that deserve a closer examination:
“The kings of the earth did not believe, nor did any of the peoples of the world, that enemies and foes could enter the gates of Jerusalem.” (v. 12)
“’Go away! You are unclean!’ people cry to them. ‘Away! Away! Don’t touch us!’ When they flee and wander about, people among the nations say, ‘They can stay here no longer.’” (v. 15)
The surrounding nations and their leaders were amazed at what they observed. They were shocked at what had happened to Jerusalem. They were surprised that the Babylonians were able to enter the city. They were dumbfounded over the destruction this enemy nation had brought. In the past, God had so carefully protected the city of Jerusalem that they esteemed it to be impenetrable.
But the nations were not only surprised at the status of Judah’s capital city, they also held in disdain the people of Judah themselves. They did not allow them near. They told them to keep moving.
You see, the sin of God’s people had a direct impact on them, and it also affected their witness among the nations. They had lost any alluring appeal they may have once had. Through their sin, they had jettisoned any favor they had with the community of nations around them.
Jesus put it like this in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
But, if the tribes of Judah are any indication, the opposite is also true. If we live lives of compromising idolatry, we can destroy our witness and, indirectly, drive people from the Lord.
Chew on that thought in prayer today.