Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Images of Famine -Hope in Christ


Jeremiah's Lament
1 How the gold has grown dim, how the pure gold is changed! The holy stones lie scattered at the head of every street. 2 The precious sons of Zion, worth their weight in fine gold, how they are regarded as earthen pots, the work of a potter’s hands! 3 Even jackals offer the breast; they nurse their young, but the daughter of my people has become cruel, like the ostriches in the wilderness. 4 The tongue of the nursing infant sticks to the roof of its mouth for thirst; the children beg for food, but no one gives to them. Lamentations 4:1-4 (ESV)

To some this may seem to be an enigmatic passage. But I assure you, just as Jeremiah the “Weeping Prophet” penned it under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, it is as meaningful today as it was when he first delivered it. Let me interpret:


The times:
Siege of Jerusalem 587 B.C.
The passage cited above reflects upon the aftermath of the Babylonian invasion of Judah and Jerusalem—the exile of its inhabitants followed in 587 B.C. Although Jeremiah had survived the captivity by the grace of God, he nonetheless lamented the aftermath of what he saw. Nebuchadnezzar’s armies had left the landscape of Judah and Jerusalem in ruins. Stone upon stone lay scattered across the desolate land. The golden glory of what was the Temple of God lay in ruinous heaps smoldering in the ashes. The gold that once adorned the Temple was now a thing of the past—it would shine no more. The chosen of God were destroyed and those who were considered to be worth their weight in gold were now relegated to the weight of pottery shards shattered by the potter. Like the Ostrich, which is known to leave its nest out in the open for predators to destroy, the leaders of Judah had left her heritage and sought out the gods of foreigners, thus leaving her offspring exposed to the enemy, who in the appointed time, carried her away as slaves. Although the children needed the nourishment and protection of the Lord God the diet they had been fed, consisting of the instruction of false prophets and the gods of stone, would not and could not supply her need. The Scripture is quite clear:

12 Take heed to yourself, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land where you are going, lest it be a snare in your midst. 13 But you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images 14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), 15 lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they play the harlot with their gods and make sacrifice to their gods, and one of them invites you and you eat of his sacrifice, 16 and you take of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters play the harlot with their gods and make your sons play the harlot with their gods. 17 You shall make no molded gods for yourselves. Exodus 34:12-17 (NKJV)

A study of the fall of Jerusalem would show that the city had been under siege for at least two years. No food in and no food out. Because of this, physical famine was ensured but it was not physical famine that destroyed Judah. It was a famine for the Word of the Lord. Judah had become so entrenched with the religions of its neighbors that she forgot the Lord. The end came swiftly and she lied down in ruins.

How could this have happened?
God had worked feverishly since the fall of mankind in Eden to embolden a line of men and women—messengers of holiness—to take His immeasurable message of hope and love into the world. Sin had entered into planet earth and an envious Satan had been the reason:

12 "How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations! 13 For you have said in your heart: 'I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north; 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.' Isaiah 14:12-14 (NKJV)

In his quest to be like God, and having been cast out of heaven to earth for his rebellion, the next several millennia would find him trying desperately to thwart and destroy all of God’s blessed work in the lives of humanity. He started in Eden but was crushed at the flood. He rekindled his desire at Babel but was foiled in the separation of the nations and tongues. He began again in Canaan but was defeated in the days of Joshua. He infiltrated the Kingly lines of Israel, even causing the nation to split into two Kingdoms till they became scattered across the known world for their unfaithfulness to God. Even though God brought Judah back home, the Northern Kingdom remained abroad. Yet in all of his attempts he could not destroy the Redemptive thread that led to Christ. His attempt to stop Jesus at his birth through wicked King Herod’s decree to kill all the boys age two and under may have succeeded in leaving “Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they are no more,” (cp. Mt. 2:16-18) but it failed miserably. In the wilderness of temptation the Word of God struck him down and his attempts to destroy Jesus’ credibility through the accusations of the religious leaders and scribes in Judah fell quickly into the dust. He then forced his followers to send Jesus to the cross—the place of torture, where he thought for sure he would finally destroy this Jesus and His band of followers. But the giver of life was Himself raised from that dark grave into the glory that He once had prior to coming in the likeness of man, John. 17:5. If you are a Christian then take heed, for today he is after you.

In the forgone days prior to the Babylonian exile the nation of Israel had been chosen to carry God’s message of faith to the entire world. They were the protectors of the golden treasures of eternal life. The Lord in His grace had given them the message of faith, the land they were dwelling in and provided for their every need just as He promised so many times. Unfortunately, as in times past, they once again forsook Him and chose rather to serve the popular gods of the cultures around them. In doing so their children, by large majority, were never fed the true Words of God. Instead God’s Words were taken half-heartedly as a thing of the past and held only sentimental value in most respects. After all, it was new day—a new era. What possibly could be wrong with fudging a little here and a little there? The neighboring pagan cultures had just as pretty women and they seemed to be even a little more fun loving. They had nice little trinkets and did new things we were not used too. What could mixing in with them hurt, really? Come on, be real, if there really is a God, wouldn’t He love all people?


Amos - Famine is Coming
What the nation forgot or possibly had not learned
What we learn in Scripture is that it was never about the people of the foreign lands or God’s love for them, but it was all about the revealed Word and the holiness of God. In John 1:1 of the New Testament John begins by saying, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Greeks would have immediately understood John as referring to the fount of all reason. The sophists used the term to mean discourse, and Aristotle applied the term to refer to "reasoned discourse" or "the argument" in the field of rhetoric. The Stoic philosophers identified the term with the divine animating principle pervading the Universe.1 In Johns reasoning it was God who was all of these things because things emanated from Him. So for one to know the truth concerning all things, it would be the Lord who would have all of the answers.

When we read the Scripture we often find the warnings from God to His people were along the lines of not intermixing or become one with the surrounding nations because their habits, their culture and their gods would soon overtake the lusts of the people. These things they practiced would quickly consume their hearts. The ensuing attachments would plant the seeds of a pseudo-freedom from accountability to God, which in turn, would lead to a hardening of the heart. This new found freedom, having its roots in the Garden of Eden—Satan being its author—would result in the culture and beliefs of the chosen being tainted; even to the point of being washed away. Soon the Word would no longer be the final source of all truth and God’s redeeming message would be swallowed up into the vortex of confusion and unimportance. Because of this, no true light would remain shining with the beacon of hope that alone is found in the Word, that is, God.

Despite the remnant of believers who stood firm on God’s Word, that is precisely what had happened in ancient Judah. The deliberate snubbing of God’s repeated warnings through the mouth of His prophets resulted in a disciplining judgment that left the land in shambles, tears, famine and death.  The result of Nebuchadnezzar’s militarily induced onslaught is topic of Jeremiah’s Lament. That lament, Lam. 4:1-4, is expressed using idiomatic expressions such as “How the gold has grown dim” or “The precious sons of Zion worth their weight in fine gold” or “Even jackals offer the breast; they nurse their young, but the daughter of my people has become cruel, like the ostriches in the wilderness.” After reading it, we are left asking, “To what does he refer?

Jeremiahs days of bringing God’s warnings and instruction started around 626 B.C., Jer. 1:6, and lasted for around 40 years till the final destruction of Jerusalem, 587-86 B.C. During this time he was subjected to severe persecution for bringing the Word of God to the leaders of the people. Arnold writes, “By FAITH the prophet Jeremiah endured more than one of the trials listed in Hebrews 11:33-38. He experienced “cruel mockings”, “scourgings”, “bonds and imprisonment”. He knew what it was like to be “destitute”, “afflicted” and “tormented”. Yet who was it that inflicted such derision and pain? His own people, those he wished to save. The nation of Judah was “not worthy” of this man.”2

The Exiles Depart
In a literal sense Jeremiah referred to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in its aftermath. He also referred to the literal famine that had left mothers unable to feed their children, and in many cases, abandoning them; thus the statement in Lam. 4:4, “The tongue of the nursing infant sticks to the roof of its mouth for thirst; the children beg for food, but no one gives to them.” But in a symbolic sense Lam. 4:1-4 refers to the nation and its abandonment from God. The gold of the Temple that once reflected the shining rays of the sun—symbolic of God’s presence and power—was now dim and covered in dust or simply non-existent from the looting. The weighty treasure of God’s message of redemption to the world, once housed in fleshly vessels worth their weight in gold, was now shattered and relegated to broken shards of pottery. The nursing infants, symbolic of the children of the land who were to be dependent upon the sure direction that only God can give, were starved of spiritual nourishment and abandoned because of the backsliding of her leaders. As a result, there was no one to give them proper counsel and direction, so they lived as the world around them, following the lusts of their hearts in their new found pseudo-freedoms.

Today, in America and around the world, there is a “Famine” in full swing, Amos 8:11. Just as the nations that surrounded Judah lived according to their own desires and without any boundary of accountability, so the world around us does live. The sure Word of prophecy, the Bible, tells us that without accountability to God and His instruction that the world will suffer the same fate as Judah. Today there are still Jeremiah’s among the ranks of God’s armies. There is still a message being brought forth from remnant pulpits across the land teaching us to live and to obey God. But there are also many pulpits that are flirting with the world and this new found pseudo-freedom of darkness. The degradation of God’s church and His instruction to the world from Scripture is being watered down and touted as simply optional guidelines but not standards. Many Churches are quick now to bring the ways and affections of the world, the surrounding nations, into the church making the message they send confusing and blurred. Polls tell us that the Church has lost the younger generation. The toys the world offers have become more attractive to satisfy sensual pleasure than accountability to God and His treasure of eternal life. The ensuing result is the “Nursing infants” are “thirsty” and the “tongue of their soul is sticking to roof of their mouth.” The “children beg for food but no one gives to them.” What the world does give is not food, it is not nourishment; it is poison—a poison that will result in the eternal damnation of their living soul.

What can be done about this dilemma?
It’s a good question to ponder. It has been asked in many ways throughout the centuries. God’s way of bringing His people to their senses was to bring chastisement, as he did with Judah for the next 70 years. Once they lost all they had you could find them gathered along the river banks in Babylon weeping and lamenting:
What have we done?

1 By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion. 2 We hung our harps upon the willows in the midst of it. 3 For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song, and those who plundered us requested mirth, saying, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!" 4 How shall we sing the LORD'S song in a foreign land? 5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem, Let my right hand forget its skill! 6 If I do not remember you, let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth-- If I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy. Psalm 137:1-6 (NKJV)

Sad isn’t it? To see these people in pain and suffering lamenting all they had lost because in their pseudo-freedom they had forgotten the One who had given them all they had. But this is the message that the Bible brings. We have choices to make in life and they are incumbent upon this one thing, “What are we going to do with this God—this Jesus—this Bible; for it tells us that we are still accountable to God?” Well, simply put and according to its message, the choice we make will eventually result in Famine on earth or Treasure in heaven.

So what really can and needs to be done is to simply realize that we are indeed accountable to God. That His Word has never been invalidated. Those preachers and religious folk that carry the Bible; the ones you believe are hypocrites and prudes, it is they in God’s estimation, that are the ones “worth their weight in gold.” They carry the Word’s of eternal life. They are the ones the Scripture refers to as being, “like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. Psalm 1:3 (ESV) The message they carry is the message of the Word, which speaks of abundance in life and that only to be found in Jesus Christ, the fount of life. He is our Savior and Lord and to Him we all alone are accountable.  No one is exempt. Famine will come to this land if the people of the land fail to heed the precious Word of life. He in His mercy has given us plenty of time to repent, having a change of heart and direction. Through His mercies we are not yet consumed. But one day when the trumpet sounds and the Lord descends the famine will ensue. God will take His chosen vessels home and the reign of evil will begin to intensify to extreme levels.

Whose side do you want to be on?

God Bless!
Bro. Mike


1Wikipedia
2Philip Arnold. “By Faith…” The Testimony 378, (Oct 2004)

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