Lamentations 5:12
Princes have been hung up by their hands; elders receive no respect.
Sermons
God's People May Apprehend Themselves Stripped of All Cause of JoyD. Swift.Lamentations 5:12-18
Man's Fall from Love into SelfishnessDean Alford.Lamentations 5:12-18
The Seat of Justice OverthrownJ. Udall.Lamentations 5:12-18


Bitterness was added to the misery of the Jews when Chaldean slaves - advanced to eminence and power on account of their ability - were placed in authority over them. But there was no choice; resistance was impossible and deliverer there was none, In this respect the condition of the inhabitants of Jerusalem may represent that of sinful, helpless men.

I. A CRUEL BONDAGE. Sinners have yielded themselves up to obey the enemy of their souls, the foe of God. This is

(1) a usurper, who has no right to rule over men;

(2) a tyrant, who with unjust and unreasonable exercise of authority oppresses those beneath his power;

(3) a cruel master, whose service is slavery, whose stripes are many, whose wages are death and destruction.

II. A SEEMINGLY INEVITABLE FATE. The conquered Judaeans had looked hither and thither, in the crisis of their fate, for some friend and helper, but they had looked in vain. Similarly the captive of sin can find no earthly deliverer; his fellow men are his fellow sinners and fellow captives; there is no eye to pity and no hand to save.

III. A SOLITARY BUT SUFFICIENT CONSOLATION AND REFUGE. The restless waves answer their purpose when they toss the imperilled mariner towards the haven of refuge. Affliction and adversity, chains and dungeons, oppressors and torturers, may make the one only Deliverer welcome. The Lord God has revealed himself to us as the Saviour of all men. There is no prison from which he cannot set the captive free; there are no gyves and fetters he cannot strike off; there are no foes from whose hands he cannot rescue and deliver. - T.









The elders have ceased from the gate.
1. It is a grievous plague unto a people when the seat of justice is overthrown from among them.(1) Reasons.

(a)It bringeth in all confusion and disorder.

(b)No man can enjoy anything as his own.

(c)Every one lieth open to the violence of spoilers, and hath no succour nor redress.(2) Uses.

(a)Better have tyrants govern us, than be void of all government.

(b)Pray unto God for the government under which we live, that in the prosperity thereof we may have peace.

(c)Acknowledge all lawful magistrates to be the special ordinances of God, appointed for our good, and therefore to be obeyed and reverenced.

2. The overthrow of magistracy among a people taketh all occasions of rejoicing from all sorts of people. "The young men from their music."(1) Reasons.

(a)Many great blessings are lost, and many griefs come upon them which will make the heart heavy.

(b)They have no safety, but have cause every one to fear another, and to stand upon his own guard, as though he were in the midst of his enemies.(2) Use. Pray to God that He would never leave us without those heads and governors that may take care to protect us in peace; for if He do, our life will be more bitter than death itself.

3. Honest recreations and delights are to be esteemed among the good blessings that God giveth His people in this life.(1) It is here accounted by the Holy Ghost a grievous thing that they are deprived of them.(2) Neither body nor mind can continue able and apt to their duties without some intermission, but it is never lawful to be idle.

(J. Udall.)

The joy of our heart is ceased, our dance is turned into mourning.
This is the condition of these distressed creatures in the land of Babylon; whilst they were in Judea, they used to rejoice in their harvest, and to shout at their vintage (Isaiah 16:10). They had the mirth of tabrets and their harps melodiously sounding in their streets (Isaiah 24:8). But now there is a crying for wine in all quarters, their joy is darkened, and the mirth of the land is gone (Isaiah 24:11). All causes of joy are sometimes taken from God's: precious saints; thus it fared with Israel upon the pursuit of Pharaoh, when she was passing out of Egypt into the land of Canaan (Exodus 14:10). Neither was it better with Job in the time of his affliction (Job 30:17, 18, 31). Do but look upon the sweet singer of Israel, and you shall find him in as bad a condition; for the sorrows of death encompassed him, the pains of hell got hold upon him, and he found nothing but trouble and sorrow (Psalm 116). The Lord takes away all cause of rejoicing from, that He may the more deeply humble them for the evil of their ways. Great afflictions effect the like submissions, with strong cries to the God of heaven (Judges 6:6; Judges 10:13-15). God's great design in thus dealing with them, is to purge them from their dross (Isaiah 27:9), to make them cast off the sin of their souls; you know gold, that it may be refined, must as it were be encompassed with flames (Zechariah 13:8, 9). The best are prone to rest upon the reeds of Egypt, to rely too much upon worldly vanities, therefore God makes the joy of their hearts to cease, that He may take them off from dependency upon creature comforts (Jeremiah 3:22, 23; Hosea 14:2, 3). Beware of sin, it will cause both sad looks and heavy hearts (Genesis 4:7; Amos 8:8-10). Keep your eye upon heaven (2 Chronicles 20:12), it is only a ray of His favour that can cheer your hearts (Psalm 9:9, 10). Disclaim help from others, trust not to yourselves (Isaiah 30:1-3; Isaiah 31:1; Psalm 20:7; 2 Corinthians 1:9). Created substances are but vanities.

I. The precious sons of Zion may be much discouraged in their sufferings. And when Zion was in affliction, did she not as one in despair cry out, My strength and my hope is perished from the Lord (Lamentations 3:17, 18)?(1) Sudden and boisterous storms sometimes make stout-hearted seamen to give up all for gone (Psalm 88:3-8; Isaiah 54:11; Matthew 27:46).(2) Feeble things are soon thrown down, they want strength, it is weakness of faith that dejects their spirits (Matthew 8:24-26). Give a check to the heaviness, to the sadness of your souls, when you are in afflictions (Psalm 43:5). The apostles carried themselves gallantly with much cheerfulness in the worst of times (Romans 5:3; Acts 21:13).Now that you may come near them in the same spirit, consider —(1) That the sorrows of our Saviour were very dolorous (Matthew 26:38; Luke 22:42).(2) That what befalls you is incident to the best of saints (1 Corinthians 10:13; Song of Solomon 2:2).(3) That death will put a period to all your troubles.(4) That God hath promised to deliver His chosen ones (Psalm 126:5, 6; Job 16:33). Brag not of what spirit you will be when you come to suffer; you have but a little strength in yourselves, your hearts may come to deceive you, to fail you when troubles come with a strong current upon you; thus did Peter, yet denied his Master (Mark 14:29, 31, 68, etc).

2. Keep up your heads, your hearts above the waters of sorrow, let them not sink your spirits, but under the worst of evils, retain your joy, and in patience possess your souls (Lamentations 3:26; Psalm 27:13, 14).

(D. Swift.)

The crown is fallen from our head: woe unto us, that we have sinned!
The secret of man's perfection may be summed up in these short words, Love to God. The secret of man's sin may be stated as shortly, Defect of love to God. As the former implied truth and holiness, and purity of motive, and unity of wilt with His will, so this latter implies the departure of all these graces. But not only this. The heart allows no vacuum: sin is not a negative only, but a positive condition; where love has departed, there the opposite of love enters, namely, selfishness, with all its baneful consequences. And the essence of selfishness is, that a man lives not for and in another, be that other his neighbour, or his God, hut for and in himself. Now notice, that this selfishness, arising out of defect of love to God, and in God to others, is not an act, or a series of acts in man, but a state, out of which spring, as the symptoms out of a disease, those sinful acts of selfishness, which we call sins. Selfishness has turned love into lust, dignity into pride, humility into meanness, zeal into ambition, charity into ostentation; has made the strong man into a tyrant, the womanly into the womanish character, the childlike into the childish; has turned family and friendly love into partisanship, patriotism into faction, religion itself into bigotry. It penetrates into, and infiltrates every thought, every desire, every word, every act; so that whatsoever is of it, and not of faith, is sin. And its seat is in the noblest, the godlike, the immortal and responsible spirit of man. So that it is no longer worthy of that noble title of the Spirit, reminding us of God; but they who are thus, are named in Scripture unspiritual, and their whole state is called "the flesh"; not that it springs from the flesh, but because it sinks them into the flesh. Another degrading consequence results from this usurpation by self of the place of God within us. Man placed under love, though in bond and covenant to God and his neighbour, was really and essentially free; a child of God's family; his will and God's will being one, law became to him liberty. But under selfishness, though he has broken loose from covenant with God and his neighbour, he is to all intents and purposes, a slave; in bondage to his own desires and passions, which he ought to be, and wishes to be, ruling. "The truth," declares our Lord, "shall make you free"; but all sin is a lie, It practically denies God, — whose being, and whose power, and whose love constitute the great truth of this universe: this is the negative side of its falsehood; and it sets up self and other creatures in God's place as lord and guide of man's being: this is its positive side. It apes the perfections and attributes of God, and makes man into a miserable counterfeit, betraying, by that which he wishes to appear, that which he really ought to be. Well then, it now comes before us as a solemn question, seeing that our whole nature, the nature of each man, is thus gone astray, and that every one of us has an abiding tendency to selfishness and to evil — Whence came this tendency? How had it its beginning? This tendency is a departure from God who made us; and cannot therefore have been God's work. And this departure can only have begun by an act of the will of man. God created us free, gave our first parents a command to keep, which very fact implied that they had power to break it. Now there was no reasonable ground for breaking it, but every imaginable reason against such conduct; the departure was not an act of the convinced reason, but an act of that which we know as self-will — a leaning to self in spite of reason and conscience. So that sin had its practical beginning in the will of man. And this beginning we read of in Scripture in the history of the Fall. At once man's personality, the inner soul of his nature, passes into a different relation to God: it is torn out of the covenant of His love; stands over against Him as His enemy; trembles at His approach. All peace, all innocence, is gone. The body, God's beautiful and wonderful work, becomes the seat of shame. Man, knowing that he is naked, flies from God and hides himself. And as the spirit of man has renounced its allegiance to God, so have now the animal soul and the body thrown off their allegiance to the spirit. Anarchy enters into his being, and holds wild misrule. The gravitation of the spiritual world is overthrown, its laws of attraction are suspended; the lower revolts against the higher, the lowest against the lower. And as in man, so in man's world. In a moment the poison spreads, electric, over the kingdom which he should have ruled; the elements disown him, the beasts of the forest glare upon him, the ground is cursed for his sake. The king of nature is self-deposed, — his palace is broken up, his delights are scattered, his sweet fellowship with his helpmate is marred, — and he is driven out a wanderer. Then first sprung forth the bitter fountains of tears, destined to furrow the cheeks of untold generations; then first the hands were clenched, and the brow grasped, and the breast beaten, — and the vastness of inward woe sought relief in outward gesture. Verily, the crown had fallen from his head; woe unto him, that he had sinned.

(Dean Alford.)

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