When King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians overthrew Jerusalem in 589-587 BC, the exile of Judah began. Jeremiah’s lamentations of this time are recorded, and we see the fall of a great nation. I wonder as I read, could this also happen on an individual level?
1 How deserted lies the city,
once so full of people!
How like a widow is she,
who once was great among the nations!
She who was queen among the provinces
has now become a slave.
14 “My sins have been bound into a yoke;
by his hands they were woven together.
They have been hung on my neck,
and the Lord has sapped my strength.
He has given me into the hands
of those I cannot withstand.
22 “Let all their wickedness come before you;
deal with them
as you have dealt with me
because of all my sins.
My groans are many
and my heart is faint.”
Lamentations 1:1, 14, 22
Some would wonder if this fall and exile could happen to the USA as a nation, because they have a belief that God has been with the USA in making it a great nation. Many would disagree that America is anywhere close to being the apple of God’s eye that Israel was/is according to the Scriptures. On a personal level, however, we can see how our own lives may crumble and how God might be the one who pushes us over. Really?
In Hebrews 12:7 we hear of God’s discipline to us, as a Father to children, in which we endure hardship. The preachers of positivity never share this part of the story. When we follow God we only go up in esteem, opportunity, and fortune, right? Good luck with that. I have had too many people crying in my own home over their stories of woe to believe that faith is the key which unlocks unbridled happiness in life.
One reality, however, is that our behaviour can lead to a yoke made up of our own sin. “My sins have been bound into a yoke; by his hands they were woven together. They have been hung on my neck, and the Lord has sapped my strength. He has given me into the hands of those I cannot withstand.” We own it, yet God in his wisdom and will ties it together for us to wear.
Why would God do this? If you read Kings and Chronicles, which tell the stories of the nation and kings who followed God and who did not, you will see a pattern of inconsistent devotion in Israel. Our lives often parallel that inconsistency. It is not the wholehearted devotion and a willing mind which Solomon encourages in 1Chronicles 28:9.
And so God disciplines those he loves. Through hardship. Through pain. So that we will turn to him and away from ourselves. It took Israel more than 60 years of exile before God provided for their return to Jerusalem. May our exile not be required and if it is may it be short.
May we listen to God and return to him on our knees, so that he can remove the yoke of our making and return us to the flock of humble sheep…