He hath cut off in his fierce anger all the horn of Israel: he hath drawn back his right hand from before the enemy, and he burned against Jacob like a flaming fire, which devoureth round about. — Lamentations 2:3
One spark on a hot August afternoon in 1933 forever changed people’s lives, the landscape, and the future of what is known today as the Tillamook State Forest. On August 14, a steel cable dragging a fallen Douglas fir rubbed against the dry bark of a wind-fallen snag. The snag burst into flame, and the wildfire that grew from it burned 240,000 acres, transforming the original forest into a virtual wasteland. It destroyed almost twelve billion board feet of timber, enough lumber to build more than a million five-room houses. Subsequent fires in nearby areas over the next eighteen years, also included in the title “Tillamook Burn,” resulted in a combined total of 354,936 acres of destruction.(1)
I remember driving through the decimated area as a child. Though much of the Tillamook Burn on the Coastal Range between Portland and the Pacific Coast had been reforested by that time, the blackened spars of charred trees still stood starkly against the skyline in some areas. I had never seen a forest fire, but in my childish mind, I would picture the blaze leaping from tree to tree, roaring with power, and devouring everything in its path.
Fire is a dangerous and consuming element of nature. Many of the great forests of the world have been impacted by wildfires. Sometimes old growth forests are burned down. Yet, destructive as these blazes are, they also play a beneficial and purging role in the ecological process. Just a short time after fire decimates an area, new vegetation begins to grow from the burned remains. Today it is generally accepted that wildfires are a natural part of the ecosystem of numerous wildlands. Smoke and charred wood have been found to stimulate the germination of seeds.
Our focus verse says that God burned against Jacob like a flaming fire which devoureth round about. In our text, we find that God saw a need to purge His people because of their rebellion against Him and, like a forest fire of our day, destruction ensued. God burned with anger against a nation that had forgotten Him.
Many times in the Bible, God’s wrath and judgment is compared to fire. When we consider the physical effects of a great fire, we get a picture of the terrible power of God’s wrath. However, just as occurs after a tremendous physical blaze, life can emerge after devastation. In fact, the very blaze itself may purge out impurities and stimulate new growth.
The blazing forth of God’s wrath against the people of Jerusalem should be both a warning and a hope to us. What care we should take to obey God and not to resist and rebel against Him! When we experience God’s forgiveness for our sins, there is life and blessing — a new spiritual start — even though our life prior to salvation seemed to be one of devastation and ruin. Yes, God is a God of wrath and judgment. But today, He is also a God of mercy and restoration!
In His anger at a disobedient nation, God had poured out judgment upon Jerusalem. Chapter 2 continues the general theme of the prophet, presenting the second of his funeral dirges for the fallen city. However, this chapter broadens the description given in chapter 1 to present a detailed account of God’s wrath upon His people and the results of His anger, giving approximately forty aspects of divine retribution. It also calls for God’s people to turn to Him in repentance if they want to receive mercy from Him.
The “tabernacle” referred to in verse 6 is King Solomon’s Temple at Jerusalem. As the central place of worship, it represented God’s presence with His people. Thus, its destruction and the fact that all of the spiritual activities had been taken away was an indication that God had removed His presence from a people who had rejected Him.
The four symbols mentioned in verse 9 reveal that God’s wrath was also poured out on the political and spiritual structures of that day. The “gates” of the city symbolize its protection, so the fact that they were “sunk into the ground” indicates that the security the people had relied upon had been taken away. “Her king and her princes,” symbolizing the monarchy and the city’s political leadership, were in exile. The “law” of the land that had been constituted by God himself, was destroyed. The “prophets,” symbolic of God’s spiritual leadership, were without vision — that revelation from God which was essential in order for them to lead the people spiritually.
This chapter also gives a picture of the prophet as a man torn emotionally, mentally, and spiritually because of the people’s sins. Verse 11 gives insight into Jeremiah’s feelings — he had cried until no more tears would come. His tears were not selfish tears resulting from personal trauma or loss; the prophet wept for the pain and humiliation of the people, and because God had rejected the people for their stubborn rebellion against Him. His heart was broken when he witnessed the effects of sin — a city that had been devastated and left in ruins, and a people scattered. The phrase “my liver is poured upon the earth” symbolizes how torn asunder the prophet was emotionally. In that culture and era, the liver was associated with the emotional aspect of one’s life.
Verse 15 reveals the extent of God’s anger. The people were brought so low that when other people and nations looked upon them, they were ridiculed.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
III. The destruction of Jehovah on Jerusalem (2:1-22)
A. The wrath of God (2:1-10)
B. The devastation of the city (2:11-19)
1. The destruction of famine (2:11-13)
2. The empty hope of false prophets (2:14)
3. The derision of the enemies (2:15-16)
4. The fulfillment of Jehovah’s plan (2:17)
5. The lament of Jerusalem (2:18-19)
C. The prayer of the city (2:20-22)
There is restoration and blessing when new life in Christ begins.
1. Doug Decker, “Tillamook Burn,” Oregon Historial Society: Oregon Encyclopedia, Last updated March 11, 2022, https://www.oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/tillamook_burn.