The suffering of Judah at the time of the exile was not merely spiritual. The bodies of God’s children felt the impact of numerous afflictions. The prophet called upon the Lord to “look and see our disgrace.” Some had become orphans, while others were now widows. They faced the loss of their wealth and were weary from serving their oppressors as slaves.
We read of physical hunger so severe that they could testify, “Our skin is hot as an oven with the burning heat of famine.” Women in their communities had been raped. Once respectable young men were “hung up by their hands.” No honor was given to the leading elders among them, and the music and dancing that had once filled their towns had been replaced by sounds of mourning.
The author remembers not only the trespasses of the fathers who “are no more,” but he also admits the personal responsibility of those who are still alive. “The crown has fallen from our head; woe to us, for we have sinned.”
Their flesh was damaged and their souls were greatly wounded. With broken hearts they considered the holy place on Mount Zion, now destroyed by their enemies. They could only turn to the Almighty for help. “But You, O Lord, reign forever; Your throne endures to all generations.” As they called upon God for the restoration that would eventually come, they still wondered whether Jehovah had “utterly rejected” them. “Why do You forget us forever, why do You forsake us for so many days?”
The faith that we hold to does not deny the many present hardships of our lives. As God gives us strength, we must remember the Lord’s promises and turn to Him with whatever measure of hope He grants to us in our distress. Thankfully we have strong encouragement that comes from the Suffering Servant who bought us with His blood. He has assured us of life beyond bondage and pain with these powerful words: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Father, we face the truth of our affliction with brutal honesty. Food, shelter, safety, life… these are things we need. Celebration is only a bitter memory, yet You are still the Lord. You will reign forever. Restore us, O God. Our confidence is in Your Son, for He was utterly condemned for our transgressions and rose again for our justification.