November 21, 2013

Scripture and Commentary Friday and Saturday after the Twenty-fifth Sunday after Trinity

Friday

Morning – Psalm 106, Lam. 4:10-22, 1 Pt. 5:1-7
Evening – Psalm116, 2 Thess. 3:6

Commentary, Lamentations 4:10-22

Verse 10 refers back to the hunger and starvation in post captivity Jerusalem.  The hunger is so terrible the people have turned to cannibalism.  Even mothers have eaten their own children.

Verses 12-16 return to the religious leaders’ complicity in the sin of Israel, and, therefore, their part in bringing the conquest upon the Jewish people.  Lamentations 2:14 has already indicted the prophets; 4:12-16 also accuses the priests and elders.

Prophets were charged with calling Israel back to the Covenant with God.  Theirs was a ministry of pointing out failure to keep the Covenant, and to urge the people to return.  Nathan illustrates this well in 2 Samuel 12.

Priests led the worship and services of the Tabernacle, which was replaced by the Jerusalem Temple by Solomon.  It was also their job to read and teach the Scriptures to the people, and to be examples of Godliness.

Elders were judges.  At first they were probably wise men, noted for their piety and knowledge of the ways of God, who had no official status but were consulted to settle disputes and give advice on life.  In Exodus 18, Moses made the elder an official position.  Around 1,000 B.C. Israel demanded a king, who took over some of the elders’ tasks, and the elder was moved to a less official status. Still the service of the elder continued more or less intact at the time of the Babylonian Captivity.

Like the prophets, the priests and elders had failed in their tasks.  We know from other books in Scripture that the priests allowed altars and sacrifices to pagan idols into the Temple, and the elders went along with the general trend away from God and into paganism.  God says their failure makes them responsible for the blood of Israel.  This passage is a stern warning to those who serve God, both in official and unofficial capacities.  Those in official capacities must carry out their callings in fear and trembling, for to lead their people astray is to become guilty of their blood and souls.  Those in unofficial capacities are no less responsible to God.  In this era of moral and doctrinal compromise it is especially necessary to attend and support a Church and ministry that remain faithful to the Biblical faith and practice.  To attend or support a false church, or to attend and support no church at all, is to teach others, by example, things contrary to the Bible, and to become guilty of their blood.

Of course, many prophets, priests and elders of Israel remained true to the Faith and Covenant of God.  We think of Isaiah and Jeremiah, for example, who constantly warned Israel of the coming judgment of God, and pleaded with her to seek God and be spared.  Yet the people “respected not” such men (4:16). As much as it is necessary to avoid the unfaithful ministers, it is equally required that we seek and hear faithful and Godly ministers of the Word.  Such men are to be esteemed highly (1 Thess. 5:12) and regarded as servants and ambassadors of Christ (2 Cor. 5:20) who watch over our souls (Heb 13:17).

Verses 17-22 close the chapter with a change to the literary first person point of view.  They say what the Jews should be saying of themselves. The essence of the passage is a recognition that, rather than trusting God, Israel sought to ensure peace through alliances with other nations.  She “watched for a nation that could not save us” (4:17).

The Babylonians hunt the steps of the Jews and are swifter than eagles in chasing them down and capturing them (4:18, 19).  These verses, along with verse 20, also have a particular reference to Zedekiah, the anointed one, meaning, king of Israel at the time of the conquest.  He escaped from the city, but was chased down by the Babylonians near Jericho.  His captors forced him to watch as they killed his family, after which they burned out his eyes with a hot iron rod and took him to Babylon.  The captive Jews would live in Babylon “under his shadow.”

The Gentiles rejoice over the fall of the Jews (4:21).  But their joy will be brief.  God will restore Israel, and will punish the Gentiles who oppose and oppress her (4:22).  In our own time, the Church seems to live under the domination of unbelievers.  The Bible is rejected.  God’s law is called oppressive and hateful.  The Faith is believed to be an obsolete impediment to human progress.  Christian values are replaced by secular ones, and people rejoice to see it happen.  Their joy, too, will be brief.  God is yet working in history, and He will bring all things together under Christ, and the Kingdom of God will be fulfilled in all righteousness.

Saturday

Morning – Psalm 118, Lam. 5, 1 Pt. 5:8
Evening – Psalm 85, 134, Jude

Commentary, Lamentations 5

The closing lament is also an appeal to God for mercy.  The chapter is addressed to God and counts before Him the affliction borne by the people of Israel.  “Our inheritance” in verse 2 refers to the land, which was to be their heritage.  It was considered so dear God forbade selling it.  It could be leased out, but it must be returned to the family in the year of Jubilee.  But now it is in the possession of strangers and aliens.  The Jews even have to buy the water and wood that rightfully belongs to them. They are forced to work for Egyptians and Assyrians to buy wheat raised on their own land (vs.6), and still they are hungry (vss. 9-10).  Their women are raped and their men are tortured (5:11-12).  Their previously free and peaceful lives are now lives of sorrow.  Their “dance is turned into mourning.”


Finally, in verse 16 comes the confession, “woe unto us, that we have sinned.”  Now there is hope, for confession may bring them to repentance, a change in their way of thinking and acting; a change from acting as though God had to take them on their terms, to desiring God on His terms.  That is always the issue faced by people, and most are never able to make the change.  Thus the prayer in verse 21 asks God to change them.  All real change comes from God.  The ability to change comes from God.  And this prayer asks God to move them into a condition and state of heart and mind that accepts God on His terms.  It states very well what the Anglican Book of Common Prayer encourages us to do in Morning and Evening Prayer: “beseech Him to grant us true repentance, and His Holy Spirit, that those things may please Him which we do at this present, and that the rest of our lives hereafter may be pure and holy; so that at the last we may come to His eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord.” May that prayer be our prayer, always.

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