Read Lamentations Four
Chapter four opens with the poetic prophet’s lament for his people’s situation. He is lamenting that their city has been destroyed, their nation defeated, and now their people carried off into exile. And he recognizes this all as the result of their communal sin – their corporate rebellion against God.
But, in verse 11, his tone changes. He’s no longer talking about corporate, shared sin, but narrowing in on something specific.
Read Lamentations 4:1-10. Summarize the content and tone.
Read Lamentations 4:11-16. Summarize the content and tone.
What has shifted in tone? In content?
There is a transition here in verse eleven – the poet is grieved in the first ten verses, and he is irate in the next seven. His tone shifts from despair to anger. Why? Because while the people sinned corporately, the priests willfully led the people astray. Those who were put in positions of power and spiritual influence used their positions to lead people away from God. They aided them in their rebellion, and they have blood on their hands. (Scholars disagree as to whether or not this is literal blood. Were they guilty of murder? Perhaps, but either way we know their guilt is profound.)
These verses stand as a reminder to us that God takes spiritual misdirection seriously. God does not overlook pastors who abuse or spiritual guides who deceive. Being a priest in the Old Testament was a high calling. One had to be born into the tribe of Levi, set aside from birth, studied in the Law of God, and purified from sin on a regular basis. These men of God had spiritual influence over God’s people, and God would hold them to account because they did not just allow God’s people to stray (which would be spiritual neglect) but intentionally led them away from God.
The consequences are threefold, and they are littered with irony. Identify the three primary ways the spiritual leaders of Israel have been affected:
Those who were “seers” – who looked into the things of God with spiritual insights – are now blind. They cannot see, spiritually or otherwise. Those who were considered holy people are now defiled. Blood on their garments makes them untouchable by God’s Law. And, finally, those who once decided the fate for those with skin diseases (like lepers) are now treated as outcasts as the people shoo them away from the company.
God takes the sin of leaders seriously. As a Bible teacher, this is not lost on me. I feel the weight of these words. They are the kind that keep me up at night, wondering what it means to be called to teach the Word of God and how to keep myself accountable to do it with integrity, excellence, and grace.
We might wonder, then, where there is grace in the passage for fallen leaders among God’s people. Is there no forgiveness? Is there no grace? Surely there is – the entire canon of Scripture teaches us that there is forgiveness for all who repent. But we know from a broader Biblical study that Jeremiah (who may be writing these words) pleaded with the priests and prophets for forty years to turn from their wicked ways. And they would not.
When I consider the weight of these words, it can be overwhelming to know what to do. What do we do with these words today, in our lives and situations? First, if you are in a place of spiritual leadership – whether in the home, in your church, or in peer relationships – pray for a heart that is tender to God’s conviction! Let us be people who hear the words of those calling us to repentance and say, Yes! I was wrong! God is right! I repent! May the Lord give us hearts always ready to turn back to Him. Keep your heart close to the Word of God. Stay relationally close to Jesus. And trust Him to be your guide and give you a soft heart to hear His convicting voice.
Secondly, if you’re not necessarily in a position of spiritual leadership, pray for those in your life who are. Pray for your pastors and preachers and teachers and Bible study leaders. Pray for me, please, to always hear God’s voice of conviction. Pray that we would turn from sin, hate it, and run from it as we run to God in repentance.
Is the Spirit of God convicting you of anything you’ve been ignoring in the past?
Is God calling you to repentance from sin that He wants to set you free from?
How can these verses encourage you to be quick to repent and cling to the grace of God?
PRAY & REFLECT
Thank God that He always offers us forgiveness in Christ. Ask Him to cultivate in you a tender heart that is quick to repent and to turn to God. Ask Him to keep you close to Him and His Word.