The Summer of 586 BC would not be a happy time in the City of David. Having sinned against the Lord, refusing to heed the warnings of the prophets, the swift judgment of God fell heavily upon the people. As the instrument of God’s wrath, the Babylonian army flooded through the broken gates and shattered walls of the city. What a horrifying ordeal indeed! In a futile attempt to hold back the inevitable carnage, the people of Jerusalem, trusting in their own ingenuity and strength, barricaded themselves inside the city attempting to outlast the invaders. But it was to no avail. Babylon would have victory, Jerusalem would be burned, and God’s people would be carried off into foreign lands as slaves.
The writer of Lamentations records the nightmarish reality in serious terms. Consider some of the chilling words found toward the conclusion of chapter two, “the young and the old lie on the ground in the streets: my virgins and my young men are fallen by the sword; thou hast slain them in the day of thine anger; thou hast killed, and not pitied” (Lamentations 2:21). The darkest days possible had fallen on the children of Israel. No earthly hope remained. What’s more, God did not merely permit these tragedies to befall them. Oh no! He orchestrated their destruction! Surely, as the Scripture soberly declares, “thou hast slain them in the day of thine anger!”
But with every night, even nights of seemingly endless deep and all-encompassing darkness, the day must come. God would use this situation – yes THIS situation – the utter destruction of His own people, for their good and for His glory. The Psalmist wrote, “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:5b). The writer of Lamentations took solace in this beautiful reality, taking refuge, not behind the walls of Jerusalem, nor behind the mighty men of Israel. With earthly comforts and shelters torn down and left in shambles, our writer sought and found refuge in the cleft of the Rock, the Lord God of Hosts!
What does he discover as he seeks spiritual refuge in the Lord? He finds his own grateful and thankful heart! He praises God through the pain, through the agony, through the smouldering ash-heap that once was the great city of hope in the promised land. Our writer finds words of thanksgiving to God! He writes, “This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.” His hope, his peace, his stay: the steadfast mercies of God! With a thankful heart, he praises God for showing mercy, knowing full well his own guilty state. He did not thank God for his own self-righteousness. On the contrary, he threw himself as a guilty sinner on the mercies of God, knowing that his only hope of escaping God’s judgment rested solely in the Divine prerogative.
When everything else was taken away, God’s lovingkindness and tender mercies toward His elect people remained. It was to this end that our writer shares with us a beautiful truth to which each and every believer must lay claim: “The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him! (Lamentations 3:24).
Today, so many vainly attempt to find safety and assurance in material things. Finances, houses, and positions of authority and influence are just some of the ways men try to protect themselves from all sorts of calamity. Others search for spiritual assurance and peace by dabbling in the graveyard of works religion. But overflowing bank accounts and lengthy lists of so-called good works shall one day crumble like the walls of Jerusalem at the hands of Babylon! Certainly, there is no peace, no solace, in the corrupt illusions men prop up to deceive their own souls.
Like the writer of Lamentations, we must be taught by the Spirit of the living God, that our only portion, our only hope, rests solely in the mercies of God. Truly, God is the unfailing portion of His elect! O beloved, as we rest in God, in His Christ, we too can say of the Lord, “thou drewest near in the day that I called upon thee: thou saidst, Fear not” (Lamentations 3:57).
Do you trust in the mercies of the Lord alone for all hope of righteousness and peace with God? Or do you remain deceived by your own sense of worth, your own self-righteousness, your own works? Truly your walls will one day come down. Your gates will burn. Judgment is coming. Babylon will soon be at the gates. To where shall you go when that most dreadful hour lays hold of you?
God’s people know exactly where to flee for refuge, true and everlasting refuge! They believe rightly that God “will have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies (Lamentations 3:32a). As was truly declared by the Psalmist, “My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever” (73:26).
May the Lord be pleased to reveal to you the Hope of Glory, Christ the Lord, in the saving Gospel of God’s Sovereign Grace for poor sinners – Amen.
Jason K. Boothe serves as Pastor of Horizons Baptist Church of Piketon, Ohio. For more information concerning the ministries of the church, please visit www.HorizonsBaptist.org.