Her gates have sunk into the ground; He has destroyed and shattered their bars. Her king and her princes are exiled among the nations, the law is no more, and even her prophets find no vision from the LORD.
Judah was professedly and actually a theocracy. The form of government was a monarchy, but the true Ruler was Jehovah. Spiritual disobedience and rebellion were Judah's offences; and it was the natural outcome of perseverance in these that the Lord should withdraw his favour, and leave his people to eat of the bitter fruit of their own misguided planting. And it was one consequence of the Divine displeasure that the highest privileges Jehovah had bestowed, the most sacred and precious tokens of his presence, should be for a season withdrawn. It is the climax, as Jeremiah conceives it, of Judah's misfortunes, that "the Law is no more; her prophets also find no vision from the Lord."
I. THIS TEMPORARY PRIVATION WAS OF LOCAL AND NATIONAL PRIVILEGES. It was so far as the Law was Jewish, that it ceased to be observed in Jerusalem. When the city was in the possession of heathen troops, when the temple was in ruins, when the priesthood was in disgrace, there was no possibility of observing the ordinances which the Law prescribed. The sacrifices and festivals came to an end. There were none to observe them and none to minister. And it was so far as the prophet was a functionary of the time and place, that he ceased to utter the mind of the Eternal. There were prophets of the Captivity; but Jerusalem, the true home of this noble class of religious teachers, knew their voice no more. For them was no vision which they might see in the ecstasy of inspiration, and depict in glowing colours before the imagination of the attentive multitude.
II. THE ETERNAL LAW OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, THE EVER-LIVING WITNESS OF SPIRITUAL PROPHECY, CAN NEVER CEASE. The words, the commandments and prohibitions, the outward ordinances, might pass away for a season of Divine displeasure, might be absorbed in the fuller revelation of the gospel. But the principles of the moral law, the obligations of unchanging righteousness, can never cease; for they are the expression of the mind and will of him whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. The vision may no longer be granted to the seer of Jerusalem; the city may stone her prophets or the Lord himself remove them. But every purified eye shall through all time behold God's glory, and the ear that is open to truth and love shall not cease to recognize the still, small voice of Heaven. - T.
He hath violently taken away His tabernacle.
Jehovah is here represented as throwing down His own temple, as treating it as if it were a temporary shelter, as disregarding all its glory, and merely throwing it from Him as men might tear down and east away a shed from an orchard, a garden, or a field. Who can set a measure to the wrath of God? Continually does the Lord assert that He will have nothing to do with mere form or ceremony, with mere locality or consecration; He will only accept living obedience, living faithfulness, living sacrifice. He will have no mercy upon polluted temples and polluted altars; nor will His own Book be spared ii men have used it as an idol: He will destroy and utterly drive away everything that once was sacred if it has been perverted to unholy purposes. Let not men say that they will be safe in God's temple from God's wrath, because when law has been violated there is no sanctuary where God will regard man as safe from the visitation of His penal sword. How living and real does all this make the providence of heaven! How near does this bring God to our daily life and conduct!
It is the Lord alone that giveth safety unto His Church, or layeth His people open to spoilers (Isaiah 5:5, 6
; Psalm 80:12, 13
2. No place on earth hath any holiness in it, or promise of a continuance, further than it is holily used.
3. God is angry with His own ordinances, and layeth a curse upon them, for the sins of those that abuse them (Psalm 74:5-7; Isaiah 1:13; Isaiah 6:10).
4. The Church of God on earth is not always visible and apparent to the eyes of men (Revelation 12:14).
5. When God will afflict a people, He will spoil them of the means of their peace and comfort (Isaiah 3:1-5).
6. It is a grievous plague of God for a people to be spoiled of their rulers; and to enjoy them is a great blessing.
7. It is the heaviest judgment that God's Church can have falling upon her in this life, to be deprived of that holy ministry which should build her up in true religion (Psalm 74:9; Micah 2:6).
The Lord hath cast off His altar1. It is the duty of God's people to labour their affections, that they may be rightly touched with the loss of the outward exercises of religion.
2. When God is angry with His people, He will take from them the outward signs of His favour.
3. When God's people grow obstinate in their sins, He spoileth them of all those things wherein they trust.
4. when the Church is spoiled, the commonwealth cannot go free.
5. The wicked could never prevail against the godly, but that God giveth them into their hands.
6. God giveth the wicked (for the sins of His people) occasion to blaspheme His name and to deride His holy ordinances.
The Lord hath purposed to destroy the wall...of Zion.1. No privilege can free the impenitent sinners from the plague that God meaneth to bring upon them, though they persuade themselves otherwise (Jeremiah 7:4).
2. The ruins of kingdoms and strong cities come to pass only by the immutable decree of God; and not by fortune, man's power, or any other thing (Daniel 4:22; 1 Samuel 15:26, 28).
3. The Lord doth both decree HIS judgments and also determine the measure of them (Daniel 4:29).
4. The dumb and senseless creatures do mourn according to their kind when we are punished in them for our sins (Romans 8:22).
5. The sin of men bringeth strongest things to nothing when God calleth them to an account (Isaiah 13:19, 20).
6. God's hand prevaileth as easily against the strongest and most as the weakest and fewest.
Her gates are sunk into the ground1. When God punisheth His people, He will especially destroy those things wherein they put most confidence.
2. When God meaneth thoroughly to afflict a people, He will spoil them of the means of their peace and comfort.
3. When God by punishments showeth His anger against a people, He especially plagueth their princes and rulers,
4. It is a grievous punishment unto the godly to live with or to serve them that are wicked (Psalm 120:4, 5).
5. It is a fearful judgment to have the ministry of the Word that heretofore we enjoyed, taken away from us (Psalm 74:9; Mark 6:10, 11).
()I. THE PRESENT DESOLATE AND MISERABLE STATE OF THE HEBREW NATION. No people, since the creation, are in so anomalous a state as the Jews — without a country or a city, a temple or a service, a priest or a sacrifice, worthy of the name. Enter a Jewish synagogue, and you will see "Ichabod is written on its walls" — "the glory has departed": it is no longer the "house of God" or "of prayer," but "a house of merchandise," if not worse.
II. FOR SUCH STUPENDOUS EVILS "IS THERE NOT A CAUSE"? If the heinousness of sin he in proportion to the favours which the sinner has received, or to the light against which it has been committed, no ingratitude seems to be so great as that of the Jewish nation.
III. THE ONLY REMEDY. God, by the prophet Hosea, after charging Israel with complicated guilt, gives a gleam of hope and a ray of mercy. "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in Me is thy help." This is the burden of my message today, that "with God there is mercy, yea, plenteous redemption"; and that, though others can neither profit nor deliver, He can and shall "redeem Israel from all his sins."
IV. ANSWER OBJECTIONS. One says, "This is not the time." But who, I ask, is God's time keeper? Times and events are in God's hands; and it is neither in our power, nor would it be for our good, to know them. Who, then, can say what is not, when he confessedly knows not what is the time? Again I ask, "For what is it not the time?" For reaping? — for triumph? We never led you to expect it was; but, for breaking up the ground it is always opportune. Again, "we shall probably never live to see any fruits of our labours." This we cannot know for certain; and if we could, it is as selfish and ungenerous, as it is unwise, to use such an argument. We may set up the hoard, or erect the scaffolding, or lay the foundation: another generation may carry up the walls; and a third may put the finishing stroke with shoutings, songs, and triumphs. "After all," says another, "you will do no real good you may make hypocrites of your converts, and those only of the poorest, but you will not make Christians: the prejudices of the Jew are too deeply rooted to be removed by a tract, or even by the New Testament; your labour will therefore be in vain." Formidable as this objection is, it is as flimsy as it is false. We make Christians! We make no such pretensions: it is not in us: this is God's work — His high and exclusive prerogative. Believers "are God's husbandry, and God's building." "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" is a key which will open any lock which unbelief shall place in its way. One class of objectors, of all others the most to be lamented and feared, is that who say, respecting the Jews, "Let them alone: do not meddle with them: they will not attend to your instructions, nor have they any wish to change their religion; besides, what need? one religion is as good as another, if a man does but act up to that he has, and does as well as he can! Bigotry and intolerance will do them more harm than good." To this specious reasoning I reply, It is criminal indifference, and cruel inhumanity, to let men live and die in sin. True charity will make an effort to save those it loves. We know, from bitter experience, in our own cases, that, if left to themselves, the Israelites will not attend to us but God, who commanded, has promised HIS blessing on our labours. Sinners must not be left to themselves.
Her prophets also find no vision from the Lord.In deploring the losses suffered by the daughter of Zion, the elegist bewails the failure of her prophets to obtain a vision from Jehovah. To understand the situation, we must recollect the normal place of prophecy in the social life of Israel. The great prophets whose names and works have come down to us in Scripture were always rare and exceptional men — voices crying in the wilderness. Possibly they were not more scarce at this time than at other periods. This was not an age like the time of Samuel's youth, barren of Divine voices. Yet the idea of the elegist is that the prophets who might be still seen at the site of the city were deprived of visions. These must have been the professional prophets, officials who had been trained in music and dancing to appear as choristers on festive occasions, the equivalent of the modern dervishes; but who were also sought after like the seer of Ramah, to whom young Saul resorted for information about his father's lost asses, as simple soothsayers. Such assistance as these men were expected to give was no longer forthcoming at the request of troubled souls. The low and sordid uses to which everyday prophecy was degraded may incline us to conclude that the cessation of it was no very great calamity, and perhaps to suspect that from first to last the whole business was a mass of superstition affording large opportunities for charlatanry. But it would be rash to adopt this extreme view without a fuller consideration of the subject. The prophets were regarded as the media of communication between heaven and earth. It was because of the low and narrow habits of the people that their gifts were often put to low and narrow uses which savoured rather of superstition than of devotion. The belief that God did not only reveal His will to great persons and on momentous occasions, helped to make Israel a religions nation. That there were humble gifts of prophecy within the reach of the many, and that these gifts were for the helping of men and women in their simplest needs, was one of the articles of the Hebrew faith. When we have succeeded in recovering this Hebrew standpoint, we shall be prepared to recognise that there are worse calamities than bad harvests and seasons of commercial depression; we shall be brought to acknowledge that it is possible to be starved in the midst of plenty, because the greatest abundance of such food as we have lacks the elements requisite for our complete nourishment. As we look across the wide field of history, we must perceive that there have been many dreary periods in which the prophets could find no vision from the Lord. Now what is the explanation of these variations in the distribution of the spirit of prophecy? Why is the fountain of inspiration an intermittent spring, a Bethesda? We cannot trace its failure to any shortness of supply, for this fountain is fed from the infinite ocean of the Divine life. Neither can we attribute caprice to One whose wisdom is infinite, and whose will is constant. It may be right to say that God withholds the vision, withholds it deliberately; but it cannot be correct to assert that this fact is the final explanation of the whole matter. God must be believed to have a reason, a good and sufficient reason, for whatever He does. Can we guess what His reason may be in such a case as this? It may be conjectured that it is necessary for the field to lie fallow for a season in order that it may bring forth a better crop subsequently. Incessant cultivation would exhaust the soil. The eye would be blinded if it had no rest from visions. Until we have obeyed the light that has been given us, it is foolish to complain that we have not more light. Even our present light will wane if it is not followed up in practice. But while such considerations must be attended to, they do not end the controversy, and they scarcely apply at all to the particular illustration of it that is now before us. There is no danger of surfeit in a famine; and it is a famine of the word that we are now confronted with. Moreover, the elegist supplies an explanation that sets all conjectures at rest. The fault was in the prophets themselves. Addressing the daughter of Zion, the poet says: "Thy prophets have seen visions for thee." The visions were suited to the people to whom they were declared — manufactured, shall we say? — with the express purpose of pleasing them. Such a degradation of sacred functions in gross unfaithfulness deserved punishment; and the most natural and reasonable punishment was the withholding for the future of true visions from men who in the past had forged false ones. There is nothing so blinding as the habit of lying. People who do not speak truth ultimately prevent themselves from perceiving truth, the false tongue leading the eye to see falsely. This is the curse and doom of all insincerity. It is useless to inquire for the views of insincere persons; they can have no distinct views, no certain convictions, because their mental vision is blurred by their long-continued habit of confounding true and false. Then, if for once in their lives such people may really desire to find a truth in order to assure themselves in some great emergency, and therefore seek a vision of the Lord, they will have lost the very faculty of receiving it.
TopicsBars, Broken, Destroyed, Destruction, Doors, Exiled, Gates, Gentiles, Ground, Instruction, Law, Locks, Longer, Nations, Obtain, Princes, Prophets, Ruined, Sunk, Vision, Visions, Yea, Yes
Outline1. Jeremiah laments the misery of Jerusalem
20. He complains thereof to God
Dictionary of Bible ThemesLamentations 2:9
4824 famine, spiritual
5450 poverty, spiritual
1025 God, anger of
8722 doubt, nature of
7271 Zion, as symbol
"Ye virgin souls, arise! With all the dead awake; Unto salvation wise; Oil in your vessels take: Upstarting at the MIDNIGHT CRY, Behold Your heavenly bridegroom nigh." Two brethren then offered prayer for the Church and the World, that the new year might be clothed with glory by the spread of the knowledge of Jesus.--Then followed the EXPOSITION Psalm 90:1-22 "Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Yea Jehovah, WE, they children, can say that thou hast been our home, our safe …
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 2: 1856
Chel. The Court of the Women.
The Court of the Gentiles compassed the Temple and the courts on every side. The same also did Chel, or the Ante-murale. "That space was ten cubits broad, divided from the Court of the Gentiles by a fence, ten hand-breadths high; in which were thirteen breaches, which the kings of Greece had made: but the Jews had again repaired them, and had appointed thirteen adorations answering to them." Maimonides writes: "Inwards" (from the Court of the Gentiles) "was a fence, that encompassed on every side, …
John Lightfoot—From the Talmud and Hebraica
Appendix ix. List of Old Testament Passages Messianically Applied in Ancient Rabbinic Writings
THE following list contains the passages in the Old Testament applied to the Messiah or to Messianic times in the most ancient Jewish writings. They amount in all to 456, thus distributed: 75 from the Pentateuch, 243 from the Prophets, and 138 from the Hagiorgrapha, and supported by more than 558 separate quotations from Rabbinic writings. Despite all labour care, it can scarcely be hoped that the list is quite complete, although, it is hoped, no important passage has been omitted. The Rabbinic references …
Alfred Edersheim—The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
Departure from Ireland. Death and Burial at Clairvaux.
[Sidenote: 1148, May (?)] 67. (30). Being asked once, in what place, if a choice were given him, he would prefer to spend his last day--for on this subject the brothers used to ask one another what place each would select for himself--he hesitated, and made no reply. But when they insisted, he said, "If I take my departure hence I shall do so nowhere more gladly than whence I may rise together with our Apostle"--he referred to St. Patrick; "but if it behoves me to make a pilgrimage, and …
H. J. Lawlor—St. Bernard of Clairvaux's Life of St. Malachy of Armagh
That the Ruler Should be Discreet in Keeping Silence, Profitable in Speech.
The ruler should be discreet in keeping silence, profitable in speech; lest he either utter what ought to be suppressed or suppress what he ought to utter. For, as incautious speaking leads into error, so indiscreet silence leaves in error those who might have been instructed. For often improvident rulers, fearing to lose human favour, shrink timidly from speaking freely the things that are right; and, according to the voice of the Truth (Joh. x. 12), serve unto the custody of the flock by no means …
Leo the Great—Writings of Leo the Great
Lii. Concerning Hypocrisy, Worldly Anxiety, Watchfulness, and his Approaching Passion.
(Galilee.) ^C Luke XII. 1-59. ^c 1 In the meantime [that is, while these things were occurring in the Pharisee's house], when the many thousands of the multitude were gathered together, insomuch that they trod one upon another [in their eagerness to get near enough to Jesus to see and hear] , he began to say unto his disciples first of all [that is, as the first or most appropriate lesson], Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. [This admonition is the key to the understanding …
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel
The book familiarly known as the Lamentations consists of four elegies (i., ii., iii., iv.) and a prayer (v.). The general theme of the elegies is the sorrow and desolation created by the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.: the last poem (v.) is a prayer for deliverance from the long continued distress. The elegies are all alphabetic, and like most alphabetic poems (cf. Ps. cxix.) are marked by little continuity of thought. The first poem is a lament over Jerusalem, bereft, by the siege, …
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament
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