One of my mother’s favorite movies was Gone With the Wind. We watched it every year growing up, and I can almost recite the whole four-hour film verbatim. At one point in the movie, Scarlett sees that the one she is smitten with, Ashley, is to marry another. As war breaks out, she marries Mr. Hamilton to make Ashley jealous. This man dies during battle, and the next scene shows Scarlett dressed in black with a dark veil, her mourning clothes. Against her family’s better judgment, she leaves Tara and runs off to Atlanta to support a charity banquet. One event to raise money involved men bidding to dance with fair maidens for the cause.
Rhett Butler pays a pretty penny to have Scarlett dance with him.
“150 dollars in gold for Mrs. Charles Hamilton!”
The crowd is stunned. Mouths gasped open as elderly women fan themselves and grab smelling salts.
Widows don’t dance with men. Widows mourn. They wear dark colors and go about with their heads bowed, but not Katie Scarlett. She is ready to dance a hundred steps.
“She’ll never agree to it,” the auctioneer bellows.
“Oh, yes, I will!” she screams.
To mourn a man Scarlett never loved seemed pointless at her young, vibrant age, and so against her Aunt Pitty Pat’s better judgment, she takes Rhett’s hand and allows him to spin her across the ballroom as she exclaims,
“I am going to dance, and dance! Why I wouldn’t mind dancing with Abe Lincoln himself.”
But a true widow, a woman who loved her husband, and knew him intimately, year after year, becoming more and more one with him, would have found no dance in her feet. No joy or gleam in her eyes. Her sorrow could not be exchanged for gold or dancing with the most handsome man in the room.
Israel, at one point, was that Bride.
“I remember the devotion of your youth,
your love as a bride,
and the way you followed Me in the wilderness,
in a land not sown” (Jeremiah 2:2 TLV).
But what happens when a bride wanders away from her bed and goes off with other lovers? She will be issued a certificate of divorce and sent away.
“If a man divorces his wife and she leaves him to be with another man, will he return to her again? Would not such a land be totally polluted? You are a prostitute with many lovers. Now, are you returning to Me?” (Jeremiah 3:1 TLV).
A wife caught cheating may wash and clean up better than Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, but her husband knows what she is.
“Even though you wash with lye
and use an abundance of soap,
the stain of your iniquity is before Me.”
It is a declaration of the Lord Adonai.
“How can you say, ‘I am not defiled—
I have not gone after the Baalim?
Look at your behavior in the Valley!
. . . All males that pursue her will not tire themselves.
At mating time they will find her” (Jeremiah 2:22-24 TLV).
Jeremiah starts the book of Lamentations with a word that hasn’t left my spirit for days. One word that divulges and uncovers darkness and horror all by itself—WIDOW.
The word widow in Hebrew also means an ’empty house.’ Picture our own spiritual houses void of His presence. A widow was said to have no husband or any male figure to help her–no father, no father-in-law, no brother or son.
Jeremiah compares Jerusalem and God’s people as a widow.
“How lonely sits the city
That was full of people!
She has become LIKE A WIDOW.
Who was once great among the nations!” (Lam. 1:1).
We are used to seeing widows dressed in black, mourning the loss of a husband, but what if the husband is right there watching while he removes his STRONG RIGHT ARM of protection and instead uses it for destruction?
What if the husband sits back while his bride is being destroyed, raped, pillaged, and set on fire with scorching heat? What if her husband strips her of her clothing—her dignity, her silver and gold, and causes her to walk barefoot without her jewels and trinkets?
He leaves her cupboards bare and her heart even emptier? What if he doesn’t care anymore about who respects or honors her or her children?
A Torah scroll draped in black.
“In fierce anger, He has cut off All the strength of Israel; He has drawn back His right hand From before the enemy. He has bent His bow like an enemy; He has set His right hand like an adversary And slain all that were pleasant to the eye; In the tent of the daughter of Zion He has poured out His wrath like fire.” (Lamentation 2:3, 4 NASB)
Abba had sent His prophet to warn.
Yes, years of warning.
Years of crying and weeping and walking through the streets, proclaiming in the temple, but no one listened. No one heard Jeremiah’s cry. They mocked Jeremiah and made up cruel songs about him.
“I have become a laughingstock to all my people,
Their mocking song all the day.
He has filled me with bitterness,
He has made me drunk with wormwood.
He has broken my teeth with gravel;
He has made me cower in the dust.
My soul has been rejected from peace;
I have forgotten happiness” (Lamentations 3:14-17 NASB).
They had Jeremiah thrown in prisons and cisterns and dungeons. He was loathed and rejected. Jeremiah, Moses, and David shared many things in common such as TEARS.
“You have taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your book?” (Psalm 56:8).
Tear catchers or labyrinth bottles are small objects made of colorful blown glass from around the period of 100 C.E. Those who mourned the destruction of the temple placed their tears in these bottles, and according to a myth, it was believed that the Messiah would come when the bottles were filled to the brim.
Jeremiah was called to be a prophet before he was even formed in his mother’s womb. He knew about tears. He knew weeping and mourning. It was his life.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
And before you were born I consecrated you;
I have appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:1 NASB).
Jeremiah would never marry nor have children. Most young girls look forward to the day they can be a bride, and most young men yearn to have a son or a daughter. The Word says that a man who has found a wife has found a good thing. Marrying and having children is a blessing, but what if you received the following message?
“The word of the LORD also came to me saying, “You shall not take a wife for yourself nor have sons or daughters in this place.” For thus says the LORD concerning the sons and daughters born in this place, and concerning their mothers who bear them, and their fathers who beget them in this land: “They will die of deadly diseases, they will not be lamented or buried; they will be as dung on the surface of the ground and come to an end by sword and famine, and their carcasses will become food for the birds of the sky and for the beasts of the earth” (Jeremiah 16:1-4 NASB).
It’s bad enough having such grief over your nation and people, but to have to suffer alone with no one to hold you at night, take your hand, and pray–it is unthinkable. Jeremiah was built for this. He was formed with all the ingredients he would need to be a weeping prophet. And although the people had the stiffest of necks, he still had to pronounce judgment and warn the people of what was to come if they did not turn from their other lovers, repent, and keep the Commandments.
Lamentations is read every year on the eve of the 9th of Av. There are dates in our minds that we never forget. Some due to great joy, like the birth of a child, and others due to great sorrow, like 9/11.
The 9th of Av is said to be when the spies returned with an evil report except for Caleb and Joshua.
“The First Temple was also destroyed on the 9th of Av (423 BCE). Five centuries later (in 69 CE), as the Romans drew closer to the Second Temple, ready to torch it, the Jews were shocked to realize that their Second Temple was destroyed the same day as the first.”
To include all the tragedies said to have happened on this date would take quite a bit of time. Even World War One occurred on the 9th of Tisha b Av. By the time we get to the gas chambers and Hitler, to collect His people’s tears would have taken bottles that could hold a whole ocean of waters.
Should I mourn and fast in the fifth month (Av), as I have done for so many years?” -Zechariah 7:3
In the fifth month, on the tenth day of the month… came Nebuzaradan … and he burnt the house of the L-RD… – Jeremiah 52:12-13
Mourn like a widow cloaked in black.
“Oh that my head were waters and my eyes a fountain of tears. That I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people” (Jeremiah 9:1 NASB).
Lately, my tears have been backing up and not draining, so I have been carrying tissues or cloth to dab them. When our tear ducts are blocked, our tears back up and spill over our eyelids like a river; it’s as if we are crying continuously. During this time, I was reminded of Jeremiah, the weeping prophet. When I think of this young man’s life and his instructions and obedience, I am amazed. Years and years went by with him sounding the alarm and warning the people to turn from idols. Explaining the cruel destruction that was coming. He was punished for telling the truth because it wasn’t what the people wanted to hear.
It never is.
Who wants to hear that they are not living set apart and holy lives and that destruction is coming and such destruction indeed, that their sacred temple would be burned to the ground? Their enemies would be allowed to enter their gates of the city and destroy everything. Jeremiah saw the whole thing come forth, and he was aching with sorrow for his people.
“I am the man who has seen affliction
Because of the rod of His wrath.
He has driven me and made me walk
In darkness and not in light.
Surely against me, He has turned His hand
Repeatedly all the day.
He has caused my flesh and my skin to waste away,
He has broken my bones.
He has besieged and encompassed me with bitterness and hardship.
In dark places He has made me dwell,
Like those who have long been dead.
He has walled me in so that I cannot go out;
He has made my chain heavy.
Even when I cry out and call for help,
He shuts out my prayer” (Lamentations 3:1-8).
This message was one that he had to get out because it was like fire shut up in his bones. It was a heartbreaking message of alarm to a people fat and happy and sound asleep.
“We are blessed and highly favored,” they roared. You are a negative lying prophet. You are a traitor, and we will have you killed for it!” They continued with their idolatry. They continued dressing in their garments, baking Challah, going to the temple, drinking, eating, and marrying. God will do nothing, they told themselves. Life will go on as it always has.
This reminds me of what is mentioned concerning Yeshua’s return. (2nd Peter 3:4) “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation” NASB.
But He will come! And He will set up His Kingdom.
Lamentations end with hope. By the time we get to the end of Chapter Three, we hear the good news. The Gospel. Jeremiah has a promise for them. After 70 years in Babylon, Abba will give them hope and a future. A day is coming that will be so glorious they will not be able to imagine it. Their hearts will leap like a deer, a young colt, and they will be joyful in the city of Their God. Their husband will call them back. He will again woo them and speak tenderly to them.
I believe we are getting closer to a season of rebuilding. The other day, a friend spoke to me about how she feels the 9th of Av will be a time of restoration and rebuilding our temples. His people, our families! I believe it.
I close with this joyous passage.
“Return, O faithless sons,’ declares the LORD;
‘For I am a master to you,
And I will take you one from a city and two from a family,
And I will bring you to Zion.’
“Then I will give you shepherds after My own heart, who will feed you on knowledge and understanding. “It shall be in those days when you are multiplied and increased in the land,” declares the LORD, “they will no longer say, ‘The ark of the covenant of the LORD.’ And it will not come to mind, nor will they remember it, nor will they miss it, nor will it be made again. “At that time they will call Jerusalem ‘The Throne of the LORD,’ and all the nations will be gathered to it, to Jerusalem, for the name of the LORD; nor will they walk anymore after the stubbornness of their evil heart. “In those days, the house of Judah will walk with the house of Israel, and they will come together from the land of the north to the land that I gave your fathers as an inheritance.
“Then I said,
‘How I would set you among My sons
And give you a pleasant land,
The most beautiful inheritance of the nations!’
And I said, ‘You shall call Me, My Father,
And not turn away from following Me.’
“Surely, as a woman treacherously departs from her lover,
So you have dealt treacherously with Me,
O house of Israel,” declares the LORD.
A voice is heard on the bare heights,
The weeping and the supplications of the sons of Israel;
Because they have perverted their way,
They have forgotten the LORD their God.
“Return, O faithless sons,
I will heal your faithlessness.”
(Lamentations 3:14- NASB).
His mercies are made new each morning! Great is His faithfulness! May He rebuild His House.
Thank you Andrew for your lovely photo!
Photos: Tekoa Manning,