This chapter is a prophetic poem of lamentation about Israel. A lamentation is an expression of deep sorrow. We are meant to learn from the suffering God allows us. We should grieve when we miss the chance to embrace the suffering and grow, transform, and glorify God.
God compared Israel to a lioness and her princes as lion cubs. A lioness is all about survival for her and for her cubs. She raises her cubs not to be noble but to be vicious. Lions must constantly fight in order to subsist. In the wild, they rarely live longer than ten years, about half what they live in captivity. There is normally one lead male, several related female, her offspring, and a few males in a pride.
Israel had once been special, separate from other nations, but now the royal family was as tyrannical as the royalty of other nations. The kings of Israel no longer followed God as their true king but sought to conquer, become rich, and rule with the sovereignty meant for the Lord. Verses 1-4 read,
“What was your mother? A lioness!
Among lions she crouched;
in the midst of young lions
she reared her cubs.
3 And she brought up one of her cubs;
he became a young lion,
and he learned to catch prey;
he devoured men.
4 The nations heard about him;
he was caught in their pit,
and they brought him with hooks
to the land of Egypt.”
God allowed the king to be taken. Instead of learning or seeking God through the tragedy Israel raised up another king. This one was worse than the one before him. He too was taken away. Israel remained stubborn. She refused to see her wars, exile, and captivity as an opportunity to depend on and glorify the Lord. Instead she kept doing things her own way. The Lord removed one king, she replaced him with a worse one.
Do we do that? The Lord removes something from our lives and rather than thank the Lord and lean on Him through the struggle, we replace it. The Lord closes a door and we go looking for a window, when instead we could examine the place we find ourselves learn from the experience. We seek to end our pain as quickly as possible instead of grow from it. We choose to ignore the sins and bad choices we made and then make more bad choices to change our situation instead of lamenting those choices and repenting.
The Lord compared Israel to a vine planted by Him in a fertile vineyard. Verse 10-11 read,
“Your mother was like a vine in a vineyard
planted by the water,
fruitful and full of branches
by reason of abundant water.
11 Its strong stems became
it towered aloft
among the thick boughs;
it was seen in its height
with the mass of its branches.”
Can you imagine that vine, how beautiful it was? But it became so strong and large that it forgot it was God who planted it, and God who provided the rich soil, plentiful water, sunlight, and breeze which allowed it to grow. It took credit for its own height, beauty, strength and fruit.
How many of us have been guilty of the same crime? God gave me a beautiful smile. People used to tell me all the time. Even when I was nearly 400 pounds, people told me my smile was beautiful enough to make me beautiful. I took pride in it. I depended on it. But God took it away from me, so that I could depend on Him again. He didn’t allow me to let my smile work for me. I had to let His strength and beauty shine through me. I had to do the works He gave me with a repulsively ugly mouth of rotten and missing teeth. So rather than let people thank me, be charmed by me, and exalt me, they could see God’s loveliness instead of mine.
Israel had become a great vine but forgot the Lord the vinedresser had everything to do with their success. So the Lord plucked it up out of its vineyard. Verses 12-14 read,
“But the vine was plucked up in fury,
cast down to the ground;
the east wind dried up its fruit;
they were stripped off and withered.
As for its strong stem,
fire consumed it.
13 Now it is planted in the wilderness,
in a dry and thirsty land.
14 And fire has gone out from the stem of its shoots,
has consumed its fruit,
so that there remains in it no strong stem,
no scepter for ruling.
This is a lamentation and has become a lamentation.”
We need God. Without God our gifts are worthless, the fruit we produce has no purpose, and the growth we experience is in the wrong direction. (A vine in the desert would grow across the floor rather than up toward the sky). Whatever gifts, talents, and attributes we have are because the Lord gave them to us. He gave them to us for a good reason. Not so we could exalt ourselves, but so we could exalt Him. Our gifts and works are not so you can be saved since we are saved by grace, but so that others can be saved as they see Jesus emulated in us.
Ephesians 2:8-10 says,
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”