How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she who was great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces has become a slave.
These and the verses following are among the most depressing in the Bible. The mighty city, Jerusalem! Zion, the city of God, the spiritual center of the earth, lies in rubble and ruin, crushed underfoot by the sword of pagan warriors.
What makes this scene truly dark is remembering what led to these circumstances. The people of Israel were the pride of God, his treasured possession. He promised safety and protection if they would follow him and be obedient to his commands. He promised judgment if they turned aside to pagan ways.
The Israelites turned. With much patience and many warnings God called the people to repent and return to faithful living. The people responded by plunging deeper into sin. The end result was judgement and downfall, a picture of desolation beginning with the words of Lamentations 1:1.
But the writer of Lamentations continues to write. As he reflects on the destruction of Jerusalem and the sin of the people he also remembers the mercy and faithfulness of God. In Lamentations 3:22-24 we emerge from the darkness of despair to the light of God’s hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in him.
Sometimes when I remember my past I feel as though I am looking over my shoulder and looking at the rubble I have left behind me. Bad living, bad witness, bad examples, terrible mistakes – I have left a desolate city. Child of God though I am, I have sinned great sins and have often strayed from the way. But God is faithful with his people. He does not excuse or smooth over our sins, he nails them to the cross. He calls us to live in the forgiveness of sin, and to go and sin no more.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. No matter what ruins lie behind you, the Lord’s mercies for you are new every morning. Go and sin no more. From the rubble of your forgiven past God will build an edifice of his glory.