The presence of the LORD has scattered them; He regards them no more. The priests are shown no honor; the elders find no favor.
There is a somewhat obscure reference in this passage to some incidents which took place during and after the siege of Jerusalem. The book of Jeremiah's prophecies casts some light upon the language of his lamentations. It is evident that the offices of priest and prophet were vilely abused at this period of Judah's degradation, that the prophets prophesied in false and flattering words, that the priests burned incense to idols, that both professions were debased to selfish ends, and that both were accountable to a very large extent for the calamities of the nation. No wonder that prophets and priests became the objects of national detestation, that Jew and alien alike shunned and hated them.
I. THE NOBLEST OFFICES, WHEN MISUSED, BECOME THE GREATEST CURSE. The priests were "holy unto Jehovah;" the prophets were the commissioned ministers of the All-wise, and they spake his words to men. But when they retained their name, but lost the spirit and the moral authority attaching to their position, they misled and oppressed their countrymen. Alas for the nation whose leaders in Church and state are selfish and corrupt! they who should be an honour and a blessing become then a disgrace and a curse. Let the great and the consecrated take warning, and watch and pray.
II. WHEN SPIRITUAL AND INTELLECTUAL LEADERS ARE DEBASED THEIR INFLUENCE UPON A NATION IS MOST DELETERIOUS AND DISASTROUS. "Like priest, like people," says the old proverb. In modern communities it is observable that the journalists and the clergy have amazing power in giving a tone to public life. Where these are corrupt the very spring of a nation's life are poisoned; all classes are affected by the influences which are potent for harm as they had otherwise been for highest good.
III. THE UNFAITHFULNESS OF THE LEADERS BRINGS PENALTIES AND CALAMITIES UPON THE PEOPLE. The constitution of human society is such that one must needs suffer for another. As the sins of the prophets and the iniquities of the priests had no small share in bringing about the ruin of Jerusalem, so a corrupt literature and a selfish clergy will bring any nation, however powerful, into misery and contempt. - T.
For the sins of her prophets. 1.
When the teachers of the people are wicked, it is a sign that the general number of the whole people is grown far from the right way.(1) Very shame keepeth teachers from many sins, until they be grown into custom among the people.(2) Such teachers are usually sent of God among a people, as a special punishment for their grievous sins against the Lord.
2. The promise of God's presence was never tied to any Church or order of ministry, further than as they walked in His obedience.
3. Foul spots and gross sins may be in the face and principal members of a true visible Church.
4. When the corruptions of a Church do grow so far that the maintainers thereof proceed to shed the blood of them that withstand the same, there can nothing be looked for but desolation and ruin.
They have wandered as blind men in the streets1.
Those that are not rightly instructed in the true knowledge of God, are as blind in matters of religion as the blind man in seeing what is before him in the way (1 Corinthians 2:14
; Matthew 24:29
2. An unconscionable ministry begetteth ignorance and all ungodliness in the people.(1) Such are usually sent in God's judgment to lead them to believe lies (2 Thessalonians 2:10).(2) The people are naturally inclined easily to follow that teacher who leads unto evil.
3. The ignorance of the true knowledge of God is the ready way to all iniquity.(1) We cannot know what is sin but by the knowledge of the law of God (Romans 7:7).(2) Where there is no knowledge, there is no consciousness of sin.
4. They that are ignorant of God's Word, and live among an ungodly people, cannot but be defiled with their sins.
Depart ye; it is unclean.1. The professors of the truth, when God giveth them over unto themselves, become so odiously sinful, that their enemies shall cry out at them for it.(1) They have no power to restrain from evil, but only from the Lord.(2) God giveth the wicked to see and exclaim against the sins of professors, though they be blind in their own.
2. When we regard not to walk in the truth, God will give us over to do we know not what, and wander we cannot tell whither.(1) It is a branch of His judgment threatened (Romans 1:28).(2) He will let men see in their own experience, what a miserable way they walk in that have not Him for their guide.
3. We are easily brought to flatter ourselves, and to promise ourselves much felicity.(1) We do not rightly weigh the weight of God's anger, and the desert of our sins.(2) Our affections labour to be persuaded of that they desire to enjoy.
4. It is a great fault for him that professeth to make conscience of his word, to report that which he hath no ground for.(1) It is a mark of a busybody to employ himself where there is no need.(2) It argueth the heart to be most light and vain that setteth the tongue on work with such uncertain things.(3) It is the cause that many untruths be reported, and consequently of many sins.
()We do not know whether the poet is here describing actual events, or whether this is an imaginary picture designed to express his own feelings with regard to the persons concerned. The situation is perfectly natural, and what is narrated may very well have happened just as it is described. But if it is not history it is still a revelation of character, a representation of what the writer knows to be the conduct of the moral lepers, and their deserts; and as such it is most suggestive. In the first place there is much significance in the fact that the overthrow of Jerusalem is unhesitatingly charged to the account of the sins of her prophets and priests. The accusation is of the very gravest character. These religious leaders are charged with murder. The crimes were aggravated by the fact that the victims selected were the "righteous," perhaps men of the Jeremiah party, who had been persecuted by the officials of the State religion. The sin of these religious leaders of Israel consists essentially in betraying a sacred trust. The priest is in charge of the Torah — traditional or written; he must have been unfaithful to his law or he could not have led his people astray. If a man who has been set in a place of trust prostitutes his privileges simply to win admiration for his oratory, or at most in order to avoid the discomfort of unpopularity or the disappointment of neglect, his sin is unpardonable. The one form of unfaithfulness on the part of these religious leaders of Israel of which we are specially informed is their refusal to warn their reckless fellow citizens of the approach of danger, or to bring home to their hearers' consciences the guilt of the sin for which the impending doom was the just punishment. Our age is far from being optimistic; and yet the same temptation threatens to smother religion today. In an aristocratic age the sycophant flatters the great; in a democratic age he flatters the people — who are then in fact the great. The peculiar danger of our own day is that the preacher should simply echo popular cries, and voice the demands of the majority irrespective of the question of their justice. In the hour of their exposure these wretched prophets and priests lose all sense of dignity, even lose their self-possession, and stumble about like blind men, helpless and bewildered. The discovery of the true character of these men was the signal for a yell of execration on the part of the people by flattering whom they had obtained their livelihood, or at least all that they most valued in life. This, too, must have been another shock of surprise to them. Had they believed in the essential fickleness of popular favour, they would never have built their hopes upon so precarious a foundation, for they might as well have set up their dwelling on the strand that would be flooded at the next turn of the tide. The Jews show their disgust and horror for their former leaders by pelting them with the leper call. According to the law the leper must go with rent clothes and flowing hair, and his face partly covered, crying, "Unclean, unclean." It is evident that the poet has this familiar mournful cry in his mind when he describes the treatment of the prophets and priests. But if the religious leader is slow to confess or even perceive his guilt, the world is keen to detect it and swift to cast it in his teeth. There is nothing that excites so much loathing; and justly so, for there is nothing that does so much harm. Such conduct is the chief provocative of practical scepticism. Religion suffers more from the hypocrisy of some of her avowed champions than from the attacks of all the hosts of her pronounced foes. Accordingly a righteous indignation assails those who work such deadly mischief. Their action appears to show that they had some idea that even at the eleventh hour the city might be spared if it were rid of this plague of the blood-stained prophets and priests. And yet however various and questionable the motives of the assailants may have been, there is no escape from the conclusion that the wickedness they denounced so eagerly richly deserved the most severe condemnation. Wherever we meet with it, this is the leprosy of society. Disguised for a time, a secret canker in the breast of unsuspected men, it is certain to break out at length; and when it is discovered it merits a measure of indignation proportionate to the previous deception.
PlacesEdom, Jerusalem, Sodom, Uz, Zion
TopicsAdd, Aged, Anger, Behold, Care, Continue, Didn't, Directions, Divided, Elders, Face, Favor, Favored, Favoured, Gracious, Honor, Honour, Lifted, Longer, Persons, Presence, Priests, Regard, Respect, Respected, Scattered, Shown, Watches
Outline1. Zion bewails her pitiful estate
13. She confesses her sins
21. Edom is threatened and Zion comforted.
Dictionary of Bible ThemesLamentations 4:16
6026 sin, judgment on
7520 dispersion, the
8795 persecution, nature of
LibraryA Message from God for Thee
Our two messages we will try to deliver in their order; we shall then want your attention and patience for a minute while we answer the question--Why the difference? and then we will press upon each character the force of the message, that each may be led to believe what is addressed to him. I. Our FIRST MESSAGE IS ONE OF COMFORT. "The punishment of thine iniquity is accomplished, O daughter of Zion; he will no more carry thee away into captivity." 1. We find, at the outset, a joyous fact. Read it …
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 8: 1863
1875-1877. Mrs. Way's Sewing --Class for Jewesses --Bible Flower Mission --George Clarice --Incidents in Home Work --The Lord's Day --Diary at Sea -- Letters of Cheer
Mrs. Way's sewing--class for Jewesses--Bible Flower Mission--George Clarice--Incidents in home work--The Lord's Day--Diary at sea-- Letters of cheer from Canada. The Home of Industry has been already likened to the Pool of Bethesda with its fine porches. Many sights there have been peculiar to itself, and in no instance has this in past years been more remarkable, than in the meeting for Jewesses, which has been carried on ever since the year 1870. From fifty to seventy daughters of Israel are gathered …
Clara M. S. Lowe—God's Answers
The Children of the Poor.
THE CHILDREN OF THE POOR. The young children ask bread, and no man breaketh it unto them.--LAMENTATIONS iv., 4. The writer of these words bewailed a state of War and Captivity--a state of things in which the great relations of human life are broken up and desecrated. But it is strange to find that the most flourishing forms of civilization involve conditions very similar to this. For, if any man will push beyond the circle of his daily associations, and enter the regions of the abject poor, he will …
E. H. Chapin—Humanity in the City
It Will be Attempted to Give a Complete List of his Writings In
chronological order; those included in this volume will be marked with an asterisk and enumerated in this place without remark. The figures prefixed indicate the probable date. (1) 318: *Two books contra Gentes,' viz. c. Gent. and De Incarn. (2) 321-2: *Depositio Arii (on its authorship, see Introd.) (3) 328-373: *Festal Letters. (4) 328-335? *Ecthesis or Expositio Fidei. (5) Id.? *In Illud Omnia, etc. (6) 339: *Encyclica ad Episcopos ecclesiæ catholicæ. (7) 343: *Sardican Letters (46, …
Athanasius—Select Works and Letters or Athanasius
Sermons of St. Bernard on the Passing of Malachy
Sermon I (November 2, 1148.) 1. A certain abundant blessing, dearly beloved, has been sent by the counsel of heaven to you this day; and if it were not faithfully divided, you would suffer loss, and I, to whom of a surety this office seems to have been committed, would incur danger. I fear therefore your loss, I fear my own damnation, if perchance it be said, The young children ask bread, and no man offereth it unto them. For I know how necessary for you is the consolation which …
H. J. Lawlor—St. Bernard of Clairvaux's Life of St. Malachy of Armagh
The Great Shepherd
He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. I t is not easy for those, whose habits of life are insensibly formed by the customs of modern times, to conceive any adequate idea of the pastoral life, as obtained in the eastern countries, before that simplicity of manners, which characterized the early ages, was corrupted, by the artificial and false refinements of luxury. Wealth, in those …
John Newton—Messiah Vol. 1
The Holy Spirit and the Incarnation of the Word. ...
The Holy Spirit and the Incarnation of the Word. We have seen how Justin declared that it was not permissible to regard "the Spirit" and "the Power" that came upon the Virgin as any other than the Word of God Himself. And we also noted in passing that Theophilus of Antioch spoke of the Word as being "Spirit of God" and "Power of the Highest," the second of which designations comes from Luke i. 35. We have now to ask whether the language of Irenæus corresponds with this interpretation and makes …
Irenæus—The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching
That the Ruler Relax not his Care for the Things that are Within in his Occupation among the Things that are Without, nor Neglect to Provide
The ruler should not relax his care for the things that are within in his occupation among the things that are without, nor neglect to provide for the things that are without in his solicitude for the things that are within; lest either, given up to the things that are without, he fall away from his inmost concerns, or, occupied only with the things that are within bestow not on his neighbours outside himself what he owes them. For it is often the case that some, as if forgetting that they have …
Leo the Great—Writings of Leo the Great
What Messiah did the Jews Expect?
1. The most important point here is to keep in mind the organic unity of the Old Testament. Its predictions are not isolated, but features of one grand prophetic picture; its ritual and institutions parts of one great system; its history, not loosely connected events, but an organic development tending towards a definite end. Viewed in its innermost substance, the history of the Old Testament is not different from its typical institutions, nor yet these two from its predictions. The idea, underlying …
Alfred Edersheim—The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
The Upbringing of Jewish Children
The tenderness of the bond which united Jewish parents to their children appears even in the multiplicity and pictorialness of the expressions by which the various stages of child-life are designated in the Hebrew. Besides such general words as "ben" and "bath"--"son" and "daughter"--we find no fewer than nine different terms, each depicting a fresh stage of life. The first of these simply designates the babe as the newly--"born"--the "jeled," or, in the feminine, "jaldah"--as in Exodus 2:3, 6, 8. …
Alfred Edersheim—Sketches of Jewish Social Life
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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