How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! how is she become as a widow! she that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary! — Lamentations 1:1
It was just before lunch time on a day that seemed like any other. The townspeople went about their normal activities. Some were preparing food in their villas; others were in the marketplace. Trading companies were open for business, and visitors filled the inns. Merchants arranged their wares, and laborers worked on the aqueducts which supplied the fountains and private baths around the busy port city.
Suddenly there was a stir in the earth and then . . . chaos! The sky grew dark. Within minutes the streets and the buildings were meters deep in ash. Where moments before there had been laughter, now there was ominous silence. Instead of the bustle of a thriving town’s activity, now there was only stillness. Mount Vesuvius had exploded in the famous eruption of 79 A.D. and the city of Pompeii was no more.
More than six hundred years prior to the tragedy of Pompeii, the Prophet Jeremiah mourned over another solitary city that had been full of people but had become “as a widow.” The city of Jerusalem, too, had once been a thriving metropolis and had a name among the nations. However, as the prophet wrote the anguished words of our text, the city was empty, desolate, and its people in captivity. Our focus verse begins Jeremiah’s song of sorrow for Jerusalem’s destruction.
While the devastation of Pompeii was a natural disaster, the reason for the terrible calamity that befell Jerusalem is recorded in verse 8: “Jerusalem hath grievously sinned.” Verse 14 proclaims that “the LORD hath delivered me into their hands, from whom I am not able to rise up.” Jerusalem’s destruction was caused by her neglect and rebellion against God, and divine retribution had fallen.
What a warning for our day! Throughout God’s Word we find that the ultimate consequence of sin is eternal destruction. Just as judgment fell upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, judgment will one day fall upon this world because of those who defy God. The Bible foretells this, and we know it is going to come to pass.
Today, are we listening to God’s Word? Are we heeding the warnings in it? Are we obeying Him? While we cannot prevent judgment from falling upon this world, we can make sure of our personal relationship with God. Listening, heeding, and obeying brings God’s blessing into our lives — and provides escape from the divine judgment that is sure to fall if we do not follow His instructions!
The armies of Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar had invaded Jerusalem, razed the city, destroyed the Temple, and taken the people captive. Jeremiah’s Lamentations, beginning with today’s text, is a series of funeral dirges. In them, the Prophet Jeremiah deeply grieved the decimation of the once-great city of Jerusalem. Chapter 1 describes the devastation of the city, reiterates the reason for the destruction, and portrays the sorrow and agony of the inhabitants. It closes with a prayer against the enemies of Judah, petitioning God to bring the same misfortune upon them as had befallen Jerusalem.
This chapter, as well as the three chapters which follow, was written in acrostic or alphabetical form. The first verse starts with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet (Aleph), and each succeeding verse starts with the succeeding letter, ending in Taw, the last letter of the alphabet.
In verse 1, Jerusalem is referred to as a “widow.” In Biblical prose, cities are often characterized as the “mother” of their inhabitants. Kings are referred to as “husbands,” and the princes as “children.” When these have been taken away, the cities are alluded to as childless widows.
Verses 2 and 19 describe how those countries from whom Jerusalem had sought help, her “lovers” and “friends,” had betrayed her. Nations who had once sought for her friendship were now her enemies.
In verses 12 through 22 Jeremiah personified the destruction of Jerusalem, describing the outpouring of God’s wrath as though it had happened to him personally. He keenly felt the anguish and heartbreak of Jerusalem’s demise.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I. The devastation and sorrow of Jerusalem (1:1-22)
A. The lament of Jeremiah (1:1-11)
1. The fact: Jerusalem’s desolation (1:1-7)
2. The reason: Jerusalem’s sin (1:8-11)
B. The lament of Jerusalem (1:12-22)
1. The judgment of God (1:12-15)
2. The confession of Jerusalem (1:16-22)
If we obey God, we will be blessed. If we disobey, we will be judged. Let us heed the warning and make sure that we live to please Him.