Jeremiah ends on a dour note as the few remaining Jews are forced by Nebuchadnezzar into a wandering exile. Thought the forty years in the desert with Moses were bad? Try seventy with no real promise that it will end.
With the exception of two passages concerning women who cannibalize their children (2:20 and 4:10), Lamentations is a straightforward and shock-less book of poetry characterizing the exile of God’s people. I had no recollection of the subject matter or content of this book prior to this reading of it – who wants to read something with a title synonymous with “Cries of Anguish?” Not that this is a literary review or anything, but I found it to be much more tolerable to digest than Jeremiah. The viewpoint of the condemned rather than the condemner is inherently less alienating.
This passage struck me:
The visions of your prophets
were false and worthless;
they did not expose your sin
to ward off your captivity.
The prophecies they gave you
were false and misleading.
Lamentations 2:14 (NIV)
Religions and livable philosophies tend to fall at either end of the absolute spectrum; they either discredit the possibility for other theologies or allow for it. Any good Christian, Muslim, Hindu will tell you that a belief in their religion disallows any lingering stake in the “competition;” Buddhists, Quakers, and Universalists will say otherwise. I can only speak for Christianity (and a very specific division of it therein), but the concept of salvation drives much of the black-and-white view many have on the standards laid out in the Bible. Our writer above calls that out. They did not expose your sin/to ward off your captivity. That’s a damning… damnation.
I could not help reading a Christian viewpoint into the conflict presented at the core of Jeremiah and Lamentations. In those books, a prophet warns of a coming downfall based upon the sins of many, and no one really wants to hear about it. Then, the prophets words come to pass as true, resulting in the death and destruction of many (like Zedekiah, who had his sons murdered, his eyes gouged out, and withered away in a prison while shackled). The analogy to today’s culture is obvious. We are progressively becoming more and more liberal – allowing banned behaviors, enriching forbidden habits and lifestyles – all while hellfire orators expose our collective sins. And when the tribulation comes to pass, then we too will suffer. And we’ll have good reason to lament then as well.
So will we all have our heads bowed on judgment day?
Or will we be laughing all the way to our heavenly gay orgy parties?
And when that day comes, if the former is true, will God hear our cries?
Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return;
renew our days as of old
unless you have utterly rejected us
and are angry with us beyond measure.(5:22)
If only there was a way to know for sure. But that would take all the fun anxiety out of it.