We’re now entering one of the “lowest” points in the Old Testament story. Because of Judah’s continued idolatry and injustice, God removed his protection from the nation and the Babylonians (sometimes called “Chaldeans”) conquered the nation, destroyed the temple, burned the city down, and stole into captivity thousands of the youngest and most skilled people back to Babylon. Things were bad.
Jeremiah was a prophet who ministered during this time period (about 586BC). He’s sometimes called “the weeping prophet” because he is so distressed and sad about the state of affairs. In addition to the Biblical book of Jeremiah where his words are recorded, another set of songs and poems of Jeremiah are recorded in the book of Lamentations. We talked about Psalms of Lament a few weeks ago. These are sad songs. Songs of frustration, anger, and disappointment about the way things aren’t how they should be.
Jeremiah’s songs of Lament were specifically about the destruction of his home city. The Babylonians had devastated their country in their attack and Jeremiah was broken-hearted that so much suffering could come because people were so wicked. Just days after the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001, Bruce Springsteen wrote this song about the devastation in New York.
Lament can be found throughout the Bible. God’s people have not been afraid to cry out to God with everything in their hearts, not just praise and thanks, but sadness and anger.
One of the prophets who ministered around the time of the Babylonian conquest was Habakkuk. His complaint to God was, “why do the wicket prosper?”
O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not listen?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
and you will not save?
Why do you make me see wrongdoing
and look at trouble?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.
So the law becomes slack
and justice never prevails.
The wicked surround the righteous—
therefore judgment comes forth perverted.
Have you ever wondered why the world is so unfair? So have many biblical writers. Why is life so cruel sometimes? The book of Job is basically 26 chapters straight of complaining. God does not hold our laments against us. It is not wrong to ask God, “why is life unfair?” The Bible never promises people of faith that their faith will make life easy. Unfortunately, life will always include suffering. Scripture doesn’t teach us how to avoid suffering as much as it teaches us to endure it with hope. With God’s help, suffering can point us to something more glorious. Look at God’s reply to Habakkuk:
Then the Lord said to me,
“Write my answer plainly on tablets,
so that a runner can carry the correct message to others.
This vision is for a future time.
It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled.
If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently,
for it will surely take place.
It will not be delayed.
“Look at the proud!
They trust in themselves, and their lives are crooked.
But the righteous will live by their faithfulness to God.”
The answer is that while it is frustrating for us to wait, God has not given up on justice. His justice will come. What wrongdoers don’t understand is that their success is short lived. What the righteous need to understand is that faith is a belief in a better future yet to be seen. At the end of all things, God will set right what is wrong (Isaiah 25:8, Revelation 21:4).