I was intrigued to read a brief article by Jeff Lucas in the magazine ‘Christianity’ in which he said quite simply that he wanted to be disillusioned. That pulled me up short, because I thought that to become disillusioned was to adopt a pretty poor attitude to life. But as I read on and discovered what was behind this outburst I began to understand what he meant. He wanted to be free of illusions; to be free of that ‘pious shallow niceness’ that fails to see the world and everything around us as it really is. He pleaded for reality, for us to drop the masks behind which we hide our own lives rather than hang on to any illusions about the quality of our own lives or that of the church.
In this rarely read Book of Lamentations we encounter a writer who takes an honest view of life and expresses his feelings about it.
v 1 Jerusalem, once so full of people, is now deserted. She who was once great among the nations now sits alone like a widow. Once the queen of all the earth, she is now a slave.
In the time of Isaiah Jerusalem seemed untouchable. The Assyrians besieged it, and then simply melted away as God allowed a plague to decimate their army. The inhabitants came to believe that no army on earth could capture it as it was God’s city and he would defend it. They lived with that degree of confidence for many years, but as the moral standards in the nation declined, and the hearts of the people fell away from true confidence in God, Jeremiah and others warned of impending destruction.
Then the Babylonians appeared on the scene; their army was powerful and they were determined to subjugate Jerusalem. The Jews laughed it off – ‘God will look after us’ they boasted. Jeremiah tried to explain that the sin in the nation had left them exposed and that God would allow the city to be captured. As he recommended surrender to the invaders he too was laughed at and even persecuted for allowing the morale of the defenders to be threatened.
The inevitable happened as God had said, and the city was captured. As you read this whole chapter, hear and feel the lament of the people. The awfulness of the destruction, the people hauled off to captivity in Babylon, the Temple desecrated, and the city God-forsaken – left to rot because of the inner rottenness of the inhabitants. I find myself reading it faster and faster, almost breathless in the face of over overwhelming disaster.
The Jews had lived with an illusion of security for many years, and then reality hit home.
If only, if only, their illusions had been shattered earlier!