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In twenty-two verses, corresponding to the number of the letters of the Hebrew Alphabet, the Prophet mourns the desolations of his people, and his beloved city Jerusalem. He confesseth sin, and acknowledgeth the justice of the divine judgments.
How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! how is she become as a widow! she that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary! She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks: among all her lovers she hath none to comfort her: all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies. Judah is gone into captivity because of affliction, and because of great servitude: she dwelleth among the heathen, she findeth no rest: all her persecutors overtook her between the straits. The ways of Zion do mourn, because none come to the solemn feasts: all her gates are desolate: her priests sigh, her virgins are afflicted, and she is in bitterness. Her adversaries are the chief, her enemies prosper; for the LORD hath afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions: her children are gone into captivity before the enemy. And from the daughter of Zion all her beauty is departed: her princes are become like harts that find no pasture, and they are gone without strength before the pursuer. Jerusalem remembered in the days of her affliction and of her miseries all her pleasant things that she had in the days of old, when her people fell into the hand of the enemy, and none did help her: the adversaries saw her, and did mock at her sabbaths.
I pause after reading this last verse, just to remark what a devout vein of real sorrow for sin, as well as a sincere affliction for the miseries which arise out of sin run through this whole scripture. The Holy Ghost hath caused to be recorded several instances of sacred poetry, of the mournful kind, 2 Samuel 1:19 ; Ezekiel 2:10 but here is blended with sorrow a sense of sin and unworthiness. I do not presume decidedly to speak upon the subject, but I confess I rather think, that the whole is not only historical, but typical of the Church, in her real captive state under sin and Satan , , and the Holy ghost's preparing the soul by his gracious corrections of sin for the cordial reception of Jesus. John 16:8-33 .
Jerusalem hath grievously sinned; therefore she is removed: all that honoured her despise her, because they have seen her nakedness: yea, she sigheth, and turneth backward. Her filthiness is in her skirts; she remembereth not her last end; therefore she came down wonderfully: she had no comforter. O LORD, behold my affliction: for the enemy hath magnified himself. The adversary hath spread out his hand upon all her pleasant things: for she hath seen that the heathen entered into her sanctuary, whom thou didst command that they should not enter into thy congregation. All her people sigh, they seek bread; they have given their pleasant things for meat to relieve the soul: see, O LORD, and consider; for I am become vile. Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the LORD hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger.
I again make a pause at the close of this memorable verse, and beg the Reader to judge for himself, whether without violence to the verse, and indeed to the general scope of the whole book of Lamentations, which this verse seems to become a clue to, in explaining, we may. but behold a greater than the mournful Prophet Jeremiah here. When we consider that Christ and his Church are one, and that from
everlasting; and that in all the Church's affliction he was afflicted; surely we may look beyond the Prophet Jeremiah's days, and contemplate Christ as thus speaking, when he stood forth the Church's representative and surety in the days of his flesh. See in testimony to this opinion, Isaiah 53:0 throughout, and the Evangelists on the crucifixion.
From above hath he sent fire into my bones, and it prevaileth against them: he hath spread a net for my feet, he hath turned me back: he hath made me desolate and faint all the day. The yoke of my transgressions is bound by his hand: they are wreathed, and come up upon my neck: he hath made my strength to fall, the Lord hath delivered me into their hands, from whom I am not able to rise up. The Lord hath trodden under foot all my mighty men in the midst of me: he hath called an assembly against me to crush my young men: the Lord hath trodden the virgin, the daughter of Judah, as in a winepress. For these things I weep; mine eye, mine eye runneth down with water, because the comforter that should relieve my soul is far from me: my children are desolate, because the enemy prevailed. Zion spreadeth forth her hands, and there is none to comfort her: the LORD hath commanded concerning Jacob, that his adversaries should be round about him: Jerusalem is as a menstruous woman among them. The LORD is righteous; for I have rebelled against his commandment: hear, I pray you, all people, and behold my sorrow: my virgins and my young men are gone into captivity. I called for my lovers, but they deceived me: my priests and mine elders gave up the ghost in the city, while they sought their meat to relieve their souls. Behold, O LORD; for I am in distress: my bowels are troubled; mine heart is turned within me; for I have grievously rebelled: abroad the sword bereaveth, at home there is as death. They have heard that I sigh: there is none to comfort me: all mine enemies have heard of my trouble; they are glad that thou hast done it: thou wilt bring the day that thou hast called, and they shall be like unto me. Let all their wickedness come before thee; and do unto them, as thou hast done unto me for all my transgressions: for my sighs are many, and my heart is faint.
I forbear to enlarge by way of commentary; the Chapter is too plain to need any, and too sublime to receive benefit from any. I only pray the Reader to look over the several passages, and examine, under the Spirit's teaching, whether in a general sense, as referring to the Church at large, or in a more confined point of view, as directed to individuals, as forming part of the whole, the subject may riot he supposed to have an eye to the state of the gospel dispensation. And if so, I venture to observe, that without any special or particular application of the several parts of it, the Prophet may be supposed to he treating of the sad cause, and effects of sin, and from thence was thus teaching, and preparing the Church for the after corning of the Lord Jesus Christ. In this sense, if the whole be read, and with an eye to Jesus, it will be most blessed indeed.
READER! who can contemplate the dreadful state of the Church at that season, when the Prophet thus mourned, without feeling the most sensible and sorrowful impression? Who that loves Zion, can thus behold Zion, and not take part? And yet, if in the days of Jeremiah there was sad cause for taking up lamentation, surely now there is still greater reason for mourning. It is true indeed, Zion is not gone into national captivity: but what of that, spiritual captivity is an infinitely greater evil. So few are there now seeking the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, that the language of the Prophet will hold good; there is none to guide her, among all the sons whom she hath brought forth: neither is there any that taketh her by the hand of all the sons that she hath brought up. And in a day of such degeneracy in Zion, may we not well suppose, that Jesus is looking on, and feels sensibly for the defections of his people! Lord raise up thy power and come among us. Take to thyself thy great name, and go forth conquering and to conquer, until that thou hast converted the nations to the sceptre of thy grace, and called home thy banished ones to thy glory. Thou wilt arise to have mercy upon Zion, to comfort all that mourn, and to take to thyself a pure people, with one consent to call upon the Lord. Amen.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Lamentations 1". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany