How lonely lies the city, once so full of people! She who was great among the nations has become like a widow. The princess of the provinces has become a slave.
The keynote of this strain of sorrow, this poetical and pathetic dirge, is struck in the opening words of the composition. The heart of the prophet laments over the captured and ruined city. How natural that the present should recall the past! Jerusalem, now in the hands of the Chaldeans, was once, in the days of David and of Solomon, the scene of glory and the seat of empire, the joy of the whole earth. So much the sadder is the contrast, the deeper the fall, the bitterer the cup of woe..
I. THE ONCE POPULOUS CITY IS SOLITARY. Not the walls, the streets, the palaces, the temples, but the inhabitants, are the true strength and glory of a city. Formerly Jerusalem was thronged with citizens who took pride in her majesty, of sojourners who came to gaze with wonder and admiration upon her splendours. Now her population has been reduced by famine, by exile, by war; and silence is in her streets.
II. THE CITY ONCE A PRINCESS IS TRIBUTARY. The time was when other cities acknowledged her sway, paid her their tribute, sent her of their produce and of the labour of their sons. Now she is reduced to subjection, yields her treasure to the foe, and the toil of her children is for the profit of the alien.
III. THE CITY THAT ONCE WAS JOYFUL WEEPS. Mirth and music have given place to mourning, lamentation, and woe. No longer are the sound of the viol and the harp, the voice of the bridegroom and the bride, heard in her dwellings. They resound with the cries of grief and anguish. She weepeth in the night, and her tears are on her cheek.
IV. THE CITY ONCE THE SPOUSE OF THE LORD IS WIDOWED. To Jerusalem it had been said, "Thy Maker is thy Husband!" But because of her unfaithfulness and apostasy the Lord has forsaken her; she is become as a widow, unprotected, deserted, solitary, and comfortless.
V. THE CITY ONCE RICH IN ALLIES AND HELPERS IS UNFRIENDED. Not only is she feeble within, she is friendless without. In prosperous days neighbouring nations sought her good will and alliance, and were forward with their offers of friendship and of help. All this is of the past; those who vowed faithfulness have proved treacherous, and have became the enemies of Judaea in the extremity of her desolation, forsaking, and woe. - T.
That was fall of people!
The picture in this verse is strong by contrasts: solitary, and full of people; a widow, once a queen great among the nations; a princess receiving homage, now stooping in the act of paying tribute to a higher power. No nest is built so high that God's lightning may not strike it. To human vision, it certainly does appear impossible that certain estates can ever be turned to desolation; the owners are so full of health and high spirits, and they apparently have so much reason to congratulate them. selves upon the exercise of their own sagacity and strength, that it would really appear as if no bolt could shatter the castle of their greatness. Yet that castle we have teen torn down, until there was not one stone left upon another. We are only strong in proportion as we spend our strength for others, and only rich in proportion as we invest our gold in the cause of human beneficence. The ruins of history ought to be monitors and guides to those who take a large view of human life. Is not the whole of human history a succession of ruins? Where is Greece? Rome? proud Babylon? the Seven Churches of Asia? We do not despair when we look at the ruins which strew antiquity; we rather reason that certain institutions have served their day, and what was good in them has been transferred into surviving activities. In the text, however, we have no question of ruin that comes by the mere lapse of time. Such ruin as is here depicted expresses a great moral catastrophe. Judah did not go into captivity because of her excellency or faithfulness; she was driven into servitude because of her disobedience to her Lord. What was true of Judah will be true of every man amongst us. No man can sin, and prosper.
God often alters the outward estate of His Church in this world.(1) That He may daily declare Himself the disposer and governor of all things.(2) To take from us all occasions of promising ourselves any certainty here. Therefore let us prepare ourselves to all conditions (Philippians 4:11, 12
); settle our affections on heaven and the things that lead thereto.
2. It is our duty to strive with ourselves to be affected with the miseries of God's people (2 Chronicles 11:28, 29). For we are fellow members of one body, whereof Christ is the Head (1 Corinthians 12:25, 26).(1) This reproves those who seek only their own good.(2) It teaches us to put on tender compassion and labour to profit the whole Church and every member thereof.
3. God sometimes giveth His Church an outward estate that flourisheth both in wealth and peace.(1) That He may give His people's taste even of all kinds of earthly blessings (Deuteronomy 28:2; Psalm 84:11).(2) That they may have all opportunity to serve Him, and every kind of encouragement thereto.
4. The outward flourishing state of God's Church lasts not always, but is often changed into affliction and adversity.
5. God often changes the condition of His servants in this life from one extreme to another. Joseph; Job; Israel
(1)That His mighty power may appear to all
(2)That we may learn to ascribe all to Him.
6. It is a great blessing of God for a nation to be populous (Genesis 12:2).
7. God often makes His people in their prosperity most admired of all.
(1)That He may show Him, self to love His servants.
(2)That the godly may know that godliness is not without reward.
(3)That the wicked may have all excuse taken from them, in that they are not allured by such notable spectacles of God's love to them that fear Him.
8. God often humbles His servants under all His foes and their adversaries, because of their disobedience to His word (Deuteronomy 28:36).
(1)This shows us how great God's anger is for sin.
(2)This teaches us not to measure the favour of God towards ourselves or others by the blessings or adversities of this life.
How is she become as a widow!
It would not be just to read into the image of widowhood ideas collected from utterances of the prophets about the wedded union of Israel and her Lord; we have no hint of anything of the sort here. Apparently the image is selected in order to express the more vividly the utter lonesomeness of the city. It is clear that the attribute "solitary" has no bearing on the external relations of Jerusalem — her isolation among the Syrian hills, or the desertion of her allies, mentioned a little later (ver. 2); it points to a more ghostly solitude, streets without traffic, tenantless houses. The widow is solitary because she has been robbed of her children. And in this, her desolation, "she sits." The attitude, so simple and natural and easy under ordinary circumstances, here suggests a settled continuance of wretchedness; it is helpless and hopeless. The first wild agony of the severance of the closest natural ties has passed, and with it the stimulus of conflict; now there has supervened the dull monotony of despair. It is a fearful thing simply to sit in sorrow. The mourner sits "in the night," while the world around lies in the peace of sleep. The darkness has fallen, yet she does not stir, for day and night are alike to her — both dark. In this dread night of misery her one occupation is weeping. The mourner knows how the hidden fountains of tears which have been sealed to the world for the day will break out in the silent solitude of night; then the bravest will "wet his couch with his tears." The forlorn woman "weepeth sore"; to use the expressive Hebraism, "weeping she weepeth." "Her tears are on her cheeks"; they are continually flowing; she has no thought of drying them; there is no One else to wipe them away. This is not the frantic torrent of youthful tears, soon to be forgotten in sudden sunshine, like a spring shower; it is the dreary winter rain, falling more silently, but from leaden clouds that never break. The woe of Jerusalem is intensified by reason of its contrast with the previous splendour of the proud city. This thought of a tremendous fall gives the greatest force to the portrait. It is Rembrandtesque; the black shadows on the foreground are the deeper because they stand sharply out against the brilliant radiance that streams in from the sunset of the past. The pitiableness of the comfortless present lies in this, that there had been lovers whose consolations would now have been a solace; the bitterness of the enmity now experienced is its having been distilled from the dregs of poisoned friendship. Against the protests of her faithful prophets Jerusalem had courted alliance with her heathen neighbours only to be cruelly deserted in her hour of need. It is the old story of friendship with the world, keenly accentuated in the life of Israel because this favoured people had already seen glimpses of a rich, rare privilege, the friendship of heaven. This is the irony of the situation; it is the tragic irony of all Hebrew history.
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