Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.
Romans 13:11-12 ESV
Usually, I don’t just start reading my Bible wherever I plop it open. The other day I did.
I had read the book of Jeremiah last year and decided I wanted to read it again. When I opened my Bible to turn to Jeremiah, I landed on Lamentations. I am not one ordinarily given to signs, but considering what’s happening in America with the COVID-19 pandemic, the racial unrest, the economic crisis and the political strife as well as the decades-long moral and spiritual decline, I took it as a sign, so I started reading — out loud.
I wanted the words to wash over me and feel their impact — to feel some of what Jeremiah felt, although I knew there was scant chance of that considering he was lamenting over the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonian army in 586 BC.
The Alexandrian form of the Greek Septuagint (the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament) has these words preceding Lamentations 1:1: “And it came to pass, after Israel had been carried away captive, and Jerusalem became desolate, that Jeremiah sat weeping, and lamented with this lamentation over Jerusalem.” The Latin Vulgate (a Latin translation of the Bible) adds the phrase: “and with a sorrowful mind, sighing and moaning, he said.”
As I slowly read through the first chapter, a number of verses jumped out at me, but two in particular.
Jerusalem has sinned grievously; therefore, she has become an object of scorn. All who honored her now despise her, for they have seen her nakedness. She herself groans and turns away. Her uncleanness stains her skirts. She never considered her end. Her downfall was astonishing; there was no one to comfort her. Lord, look on my affliction, for the enemy boasts. Lamentations 1:8-9 Christian Standard Bible (CSB)
When I read those words, I thought about a Revive Our Hearts (ROH) radio broadcast with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth I had listened to more than a decade ago. It was the start of a series titled “Call for the Wailing Women.” So, I went out and found a transcript of the program. At the beginning Wolgemuth said this:
“What grieves me is not so much that the world is partying, but that the church is partying, that we are unaware of the impending danger and threat of God’s judgment. Somehow, we do not see the connection between our sinful choices — and I mean our sinful choices — and the consequences that we will surely reap.”
If the words of Galatians 6:7 don’t readily come to mind, then they should: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” ESV
The ROH broadcast series took its title from Jeremiah 9:17-22:
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies told me to say to this people: “Take note of what I say. Call for the women who mourn for the dead! Summon those who are the most skilled at it!”
I said, “Indeed, let them come quickly and sing a song of mourning for us. Let them wail loudly until tears stream from our own eyes and our eyelids overflow with water. For the sound of wailing is soon to be heard in Zion, ‘We are utterly ruined! We are completely disgraced! For we have left our land, for our houses have been torn down!’”
I said, “So now, you wailing women, listen to the Lord’s message. Open your ears to the message from his mouth. Teach your daughters this mournful song, and let every woman teach her neighbor this lament.
‘Death has climbed in through our windows. It has entered into our fortified houses. It has taken away our children who play in the streets. It has taken away our young men who gather in the city squares.’
Tell your daughters and neighbors, ‘The Lord says: “The dead bodies of people will lie scattered everywhere like manure scattered on a field. They will lie scattered on the ground like grain that has been cut down but has not been gathered.”’” NET Bible
I know Jeremiah was speaking to God’s covenant people, Israel, in particular those in the Southern Kingdom, Judah. I also recognize that America doesn’t have a covenant with God, but people within America do, those who have been called out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).
But we are affected by what’s going on around us. And these Old Testament scriptures are God’s word to us.
These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age. 1 Corinthians 10:11 NLT
This calls for us to humble ourselves before God.
Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and make your hearts pure, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn, and weep. Turn your laughter into mourning and your joy into despair. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you. James 4:8-10
Thus says the Lord: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word. Isaiah 66:1-2 ESV
Therefore, take heed or as 1 Corinthians 10:12 (NLT) says, If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall.
We too should be calling for the wailing women as we watch America crumble, and as believers, we should thank God for our living hope.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he gave us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, that is, into an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is reserved in heaven for you, who by God’s power are protected through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5 NET Bible
Prayer: Father God, as your children, we above all should lament what is going on around us because we understand what shalom looks like because we have read about it in your word at the beginning of Genesis and at the end of Revelation, before sin came into the world and after it is no more. All of creation is groaning, Lord, so we cry aloud to you about what’s happening in our church, in our community, in our city, in our state, in our country and in our world, praying for those who do not know you that they will come to Jesus, whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light, and that we, our great God and King, will cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light, longing for the day when the whole earth will be filled with the knowledge of your glory as the water covers the sea. In Jesus’ Mighty Name, Amen!
Suggested hymns: Kyrie Eleison (As We Come Before You); Come Ye Sinners.