Harps on the willows
The LORD said, “I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins. Jackals will make their home there. I will destroy the towns of Judah so that no one will be able to live in them.” Jeremiah 9:11
Jeremiah 26:18 This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: “Mount Zion will be plowed like an open field; Jerusalem will be reduced to ruins! A thicket will grow on the heights where the Temple now stands.”
1 Beside the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept as we thought of Jerusalem.
2 On the willows there we hung up our harps.
3 For our captors demanded a song from us. Our tormentors insisted on a joyful hymn: “Sing us one of those songs of Jerusalem!”
4 How can we sing the LORD’s song in a foreign land?
The most bitter of all sorrows are the sorrows that we bring on ourselves. Truly we reap what we sow. We are left chapfallen. Laughter and joy have turned to tears. As these sad Hebrews hung up their harps on the willows and could sing no more, we too “Hang it up.”
“This is the bitterest of all, to know that suffering need not have been; that it resulted from indiscretion and inconsistency; that it is the harvest of one’s own sowing; that the vulture which feeds on the vitals is a nestling of one’s own rearing. Ah me! This is pain!”
“There is an inevitable Nemesis in life. The laws of the heart and home, of the soul and human life, cannot be violated with impunity. Sin may be forgiven; the fire of penalty may be changed into the fire of trial: the love of God may seem nearer and dearer than ever and yet there is the awful pressure of pain; the trembling heart; the failing of eyes and pining of soul; the harp on the willows; the refusal of the lip to sing the Lord’s song” (F. B. Meyer).
7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.
8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
Hosea 8:7 For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.
For almost 800 years, the Jewish people lived the land of Israel. They were divided into two groups: the northern 10 tribes were called Israel and the 2 southern tribes were called Judah. Because of the Father’s Word through Moses they believed that they were unique, special, and chosen.
Deuteronomy 7:6 For you are a holy people, who belong to the LORD your God. Of all the people on earth, the LORD your God has chosen you to be his own special treasure.
This gave the people a sense of invincibility and entitlement. They figured that no matter how bad and rebellious they lived their lives, they were always just a little bit better than all of the pagan tribes and nations around them. The Father would always protect them. Jerusalem was the city of David, a man after God’s own heart. Jerusalem was the holy city. Furthermore, the Jewish temple was there. The glory of God resided in the temple in the holy of holies. They thought to themselves, surely, they were safe no matter what.
Indeed they were chosen and special, they were in a unique covenant relationship with the living God. It was as though they had signed a contract with the Father Himself. But there was a catch. It was clearly stipulated that the contract had many terms and conditions. If they obeyed the Father’s laws, wonderful things would happen, they would be blessed. But if they broke His laws, awful things would happen, and they would be cursed. They signed the contract.
18 The LORD has declared today that you are his people, his own special treasure, just as he promised, and that you must obey all his commands.
19 And if you do, he will set you high above all the other nations he has made. Then you will receive praise, honor, and renown. You will be a nation that is holy to the LORD your God, just as he promised.
During the 800 years, there were good times and bad times. There were good kings and awful kings. But more often than not, the people defied the Father and did not keep His commandments.
Repeatedly, prophets were sent to warn them. Many of the books of the Old Testament bear their names: Isaiah, Micah, Joel, Amos, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. Sometimes the people repented, at least for a while. But most the time they played the fool and refused to keep their part of the contract.
Finally, in 722 B.C. the 10 northern tribes were defeated and taken into captivity by the Assyrians. Between 605 and 586 B.C. the Babylonians invaded three times. They overran Jerusalem. They took thousands of Jews captive. And brought them to the land of Babylon. Eventually Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed. The Father lived up to His part of the contract when they failed to live up to theirs.
REFLECT & PRAY
Having a false sense of entitlement often does not work out too well for those who have one.
Father in the difficult times, allow me to see past the darkness and gloom. Your loving kindness never ceases, your compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness.
Jeremiah was there when Jerusalem was destroyed, what great sorrow and anguish filled his soul. He was totally dejected and clinically depressed. When we find ourselves in tragic, seemingly impossible situations, our personal sentiments undoubtedly echo those of Jeremiah (Lamentations 3:1-20). His world had gone dark. His way was blocked at every turn. He was filled with bitterness and his prayers seem to just bounce off the ceiling.
But he recalls that sowing and reaping are a two-way street. He remembers that his hope was in the Father. He remembers the Father’s loyal-love. A new day would dawn. Restoration would come. The sorrow and suffering would last for 70 years, as he himself prophesied (Jeremiah 25:11-12). But then it would come to an end. Restoration would follow. His mourning and sorrow are transformed into renewed faith and hope.
21 This I recall to my mind; therefore I have hope.
22 The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.
24 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.”
25 The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.
What could possibly be worse? All that he loved and cherished was lost. And it was Jeremiah’s own prophecies along with those of Ezekiel that had predicted exactly that this would happen. But no one listened.
Jeremiah’s faith and hope were renewed because he remembered what the Father was like. Because of the Father’s promises and loyal-love, things would be made right and that people would sing again.
So can we! Grab your harp and let the Lord’s song once again fill your heart.