The Hiddenness of God.
Lamentations of Jeremiah 4 – 5.
God, at times, appears to hide from us, but there is no reason for His hiddenness, certainly not in the same mode, as we would hide from Him, or from each other, in our fears or shame. His ‘hiding’ implies His perceptual absence, and His absence towards us is an indication of our sinfulness (Is 59:1-2). God’s judgment, of necessity, speaks of His distancing as He disciplines, and judgment certainly would involve suffering, pain and a loss of human dignity. To imagine that God is devoid of feelings when He disciplines is a fallacy, as is distinctly, poignantly and profoundly illustrated in His Son’s crucifixion (cf., Matt 27:46). The utterly hopeless abandonment felt so despairingly by those left behind after the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem was God’s way of disciplining Judah over the grievousness of her sins against Him. Ironically, to plummet the depth of this judgment is to sense in reverse a fraction of how God would perhaps have felt in generations gone by, as He attempted to caution Judah towards repentance, but to no avail!
Except for its honesty, this depressive fourth acrostic Lamentations dirge is indicative of a recurrently traumatized and chronically depressed ‘patient,’ but for a glimmer of hope at its conclusion (Lam 4:22). The metaphors and images exemplified their shocking situation: where the national sacred distinctiveness and values they possessed were degraded like dull gold; where their basic ideals of humanity towards the defenseless young were discarded like ostriches, in survival mode, abandoning their eggs; where the learned and clerics left behind, looked humiliated and gloomy, resembling withered wood; where even compassionate mothers practiced cannibalism; and where it was preferable to have been killed by the Babylonians than to have survived their onslaught! We may be horrified by this scenario, Judah’s neighbours were certainly aghast at Yahweh’s judgment of His own nation (Lam 4:11-12), but God’s measure of justice and judgment would always prevail, and that standard invariably applies to everyone, irrespective of political or religious affiliations. Inevitably, He pointed the finger at those who led the rebellion against Him: Judah’s prophets, priests and leaders, describing them uncharacteristically as a self-righteous and bloodthirsty lot (Lam 4:13-14). Religious and secular leaders would always be held by God to be responsible for a nation’s descent into moral and ethical decadence; even Edom, who gloated over Judah’s judgment, would not be spared (Lam 4:21-22). Under such abject misery and anguish, you would have thought the survivours would immediately appeal to Yahweh, but instead their blindness turned them to other nations as their saviours (Lam 4:17). How we attribute our circumstances, whether they be unfortunate or otherwise, would undeviatingly determine the focus of our faith!
From the last verses of the preceding poem (Lam 4:20-22) to the end of the final acrostic segment, the scruffy and fatigued survivours finally saw beyond the litany of their clueless situation and condition, and appealed to God for mercy and restoration. The imperative motif of ‘remember, O Lord’ (Lam 5:1) informed us of their urgent and desperate impetus to once again desire Yahweh’s presence at Mount Zion (Lam 5:17-19). The identification they once possessed of God living in their midst is compared to their present demise of His ‘absence’ – for to love God, is to discover this categorical estrangement intolerable. At last, Judah woke up to the realization that their deepest need was to be reunited with their faithful God (Lam 5:19-21). Their uncertainty whether God would ever restore them is normal and mature, as they did not question the centrality of God’s sovereignty over His judgment and choices, as to whom He covenanted with (Lam 5:22).
Not unlike Judah’s journey through Lamentations, it may come as a shock to many of us that God is capable of ‘abandoning’ us, as our love for Him gradually descend into a nominal belief. However, when we do find ourselves in such a predicament, Lamentations is our guide as we cope with suffering and pain, anguish and confusion, but know deep in our hearts that the God who is there, is here with us, and will never leave nor forsake us.