Several years ago, I met Aaron Boyd, the lead singer of the Irish pop band BLUETREE as they were doing an American tour. They had the best version of their original song "GOD OF THIS CITY" (sorry, Chris Tomlin) and it launched them all over the world. Bluetree had that mysterious and gentle, yet thumping, Irish sound which you hear in the music of U2 and the great Christian singer from Northern Ireland - Robin Mark (Days of Elijah etc.). In fact, Aaron told me that he was once Robin Mark's drummer. What does this have to do with Lamentations 3:16?
Well, the God of This City in a song, is the God of this and every city, where He wishes the hearts of all men, women and children will be open to letting their hearts be open to the Message our Creator wants to give to them. Some of the lyrics of the Bluetree "GOD OF THIS CITY" (2009) are perfect here:
You're God of this city, You're the King of these people
You're the Lord of this nation, You are
You're the light in this darkness, You're the hope to the hopeless
You're the peace to the restless, You are
For there is no one like our God
There is no one like You God.
The people of Jerusalem, God's own city, did not see that, acknowledge that or seem to believe it in their hearts, even while going to their temple (built by Solomon over 400 years earlier) to perform rituals before Him. They are no different than the people in the current city of Jerusalem or just about any city in the world today.
But the God of the City sees. He sees the evil deeds of man and the dark hearts, souls and eyes of everyone who rather bow before an idol than live the simple life of the Believer. He sees and His patience will one day run out. In the days of Noah, He Himself said He regretted making man (in Genesis Chapter 6 and following). He flooded the earth and wiped everything out. He rebooted the earth and saved only those in Noah's Ark. Here thousands of years later, in 586 BC, He destroyed the spiritually filthy city of Jerusalem and the now corrupt temple and used the most brutal army on earth to do it. Less than 600 years later, in 70 AD, He would use the brutal Roman army again- headed up by General Titus, to completely destroy Jerusalem again. There is one more complete do over coming, but this is the last one, before the New Jerusalem descends from Heaven, completely built to divine blueprints and specs.
This 586 BC destruction of Jerusalem was led by the prideful and power-mad king Nebuchadnezzar (who would later become a big Evangelist for Yahweh in Babylon while he was alive). The prophet Jeremiah who had warned and warned and warned kings and princes and priests and others about the coming Judgment, if they did not change their evil ways, witnessed this destruction in absolute horror. He knew what would happen if the people did not listen. It is one thing to know it, preach it and even suffer persecution for it, as Jeremiah did. It is a whole other thing to see the violent and precise Judgment of God right before one's eyes.
After seeing the brutal Babylonians carry out what God had ordered on the object of His Wrath, the prophet wrote the Book of Lamentations. He wept and pour his heart on in this document, because there is nothing good about evil and just as bad, seeing destruction which follows it. Yet, even in this long song of Lament, Jeremiah saw the hope of the Lord.
In this valley of despair and rubble, where he felt like the Lord, through the Babylonian army, had only left dirt and dust for the remnant left behind to eat (re: Lamentations 3:16), Jeremiah still saw the goodness of God, the God of This City.
First of all, this poor man, who was chosen by God just barely out of his teens, to be His mouthpiece against the wickedness in the palaces and the Temple, was spared when Nebuchadnezzar sacked Jerusalem and killed all the royalty, except the king and took the elite of the nation into exile for 70 years. In fact, the Babylonians were made aware by God just who Jeremiah was and literally spared and left him behind to look after the poor remnant whom God wanted to stay behind and not go into exile. Jeremiah then wrote the Famous Letter to the Remnant in Jeremiah 29, which contains one of the most famous bible verses of all times - Jeremiah 29:11. It was a letter which gave hope to the people graciously left behind by God, that He had a plan to rebuild their lives, IF they would trust in Him.
The second thing which Jeremiah saw, even in the lament of this book (Lamentations), when he felt that all that was in his mouth was gravel, dirt and bitter herbs, was God's Love. This is a lesson for all of us who now feel like Jeremiah did, as we go through trial, tribulations and worse. It is a lesson we should observe as true, when we also see our communities, counties and country destroyed by the same evil, sin and the sinful like Jeremiah saw when Yahweh destroyed HIS city in 586 BC.
When we weep for our own cities and towns like the Bible records one great man of God doing in the Book of Lamentations. When we not just weep but look up to the God of this City and Country as our only Hope, we too can fall back on the words found in this same Lamentations 3, and written by Jeremiah himself. These are the Words which should gives us hope in the midst of despair today:
19 Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness.
20 Surely my soul remembers
And is bowed down within me.
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.
26 It is good that he waits silently
For the salvation of the Lord.
27 It is good for a man that he should bear
The yoke in his youth.
28 Let him sit alone and be silent
Since He has laid it on him.
29 Let him put his mouth in the dust,
Perhaps there is hope.
30 Let him give his cheek to the smiter,
Let him be filled with reproach.
31 For the Lord will not reject forever,
32 For if He causes grief,
Then He will have compassion
According to His abundant lovingkindness.