The title phrase of this article is a quote from the prophet Jeremiah in the Lamentations. He is bemoaning the levels of destruction in Judah brought about by the judgment of God. Notice the statements made by the prophet, “The Lord hath swallowed up all the habitations of Jacob, and hath not pitied: he hath thrown down in his wrath the strong holds of the daughter of Judah; he hath brought them down to the ground: he hath polluted the kingdom and the princes thereof. He hath cut off in his fierce anger all the horn of Israel: he hath drawn back his right hand from before the enemy, and he burned against Jacob like a flaming fire, which devoureth round about. He hath bent his bow like an enemy: he stood with his right hand as an adversary, and slew all that were pleasant to the eye in the tabernacle of the daughter of Zion: he poured out his fury like fire. The Lord was as an enemy: he hath swallowed up Israel, he hath swallowed up all her palaces: he hath destroyed his strong holds, and hath increased in the daughter of Judah mourning and lamentation” (Lam. 2:2-5).
However, Jeremiah’s anguish is not directed in anger toward God, or in resentment of his judgment. Instead it is focused on the people of the land and their continuous refusal to accept God’s Word. However, this leads one to a troubling question: why would God do such a thing? Was this done without warning or with cause?
The answer is plain when looking at some of the prior writings of the very same prophet. In Jeremiah 8 God will announce to the people of Judah the reasons for his coming judgment. The reasons the nation of Judah will fall should serve as a word of warning to all nations and people. Consider his words:
Judah received God’s judgment because they would not repent. In Jeremiah 8:5-6 God said, “Why then is this people of Jerusalem slidden back by a perpetual backsliding? they hold fast deceit, they refuse to return. I hearkened and heard, but they spake not aright: no man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? every one turned to his course, as the horse rusheth into the battle.” God had spoken many times to his people through the prophets, yet they adamantly refused to repent and acquiesce to his will. As a nation they were perpetual backsliders, refusing to return to righteousness.
Judah received God’s judgment because they did not recognize the laws of God. God continued his indictment by stating, “Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the Lord” (Jer. 8:7). This is not to say that they had never heard or did not understand the laws of God, but rather, that the Israelites refused to acknowledge God’s Law as authoritative in their lives, deciding instead that the laws of the king and popular opinion were superior.
Judah received God’s judgment because of covetousness. Yet another aspect of God’s judgment is the greed of the people. He argues, “For every one from the least even unto the greatest is given to covetousness, from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely” (Jer. 8:10b). The people of Judah were more worried about getting what their neighbor had than anything else. Nobody was content with their own possessions, lands, positions, etc.; but they all wanted more, preferably at the loss of another.
Judah received God’s judgment because she cried out “peace” when there was none. This is the classic “head stuck in the sand” case. God says, “For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.” There were those in that day who wanted to call for peace at any cost. They would stand for nothing, hold nothing as absolute, and try to pretend the problems did not exist as long as they could cry out for peace. At a time when God was judging a nation, people were claiming there wasn’t really anything wrong and they could each take their own path and everything would be fine.
Judah received God’s judgment because she could no longer blush. The sins and abominations in Judah had become so overwhelming the people could not even blush at them anymore. God relates, “Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore shall they fall among them that fall: in the time of their visitation they shall be cast down, saith the Lord” (Jer. 8:12). The people of Judah did not recognize, nor were they bothered by, sin any longer. It had become so accepted in their society it was no longer a shameful thing.
Judah was destroyed and sent into captivity by God because of their wickedness. They serve as an example for all nations of the demise that will follow those that take their path, and throughout history nation after nation has evinced the truth of this fact. As we look around our country, it is not difficult to see each point of the Lord’s indictment against Judah clearly present in our supposedly “God blessed” society. While we love and cherish our country and the freedoms it affords, we need to also be thoughtful and careful to recognize how God sees our country. Maybe instead of asking God to bless America, we should instead be praying that God would bless America as America turns to God. For there is no doubt one will not occur without the other.