By Irvin Himmel
In about the year 612 B.C., Nabopolassar, king of Babylon assisted by his son, Nebuchadnezzar, broke the power of Assyria by destroying Nineveh. Out of the ruins of the Assyrian empire emerged the Babylonian empire. Nebuchadnezzar launched a series of three major thrusts against Judah, a weak and wicked nation, between 606 and 586 B.C.
The last three kings of Judah were Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin (Coniah), and Zedekiah. It was in the reign of Jehoiakim that Nebuchadnezzar brought Judah under Babylonian rule and succeeded Nabopolassar as Babylon’s king. Nebuchadnezzar carried some of the nobles of Judah into captivity, including the rebellious Jehoiakim. During the reign of Coniah, the city of Jerusalem was besieged, the temple stripped of its valuables, and about 11,000 captives were taken by the Babylonians, and among the captives were the king and his house. In the time of Zedekiah, the temple was burned, Jerusalem destroyed, and most of the remainder of the people taken captive.
Jeremiah the prophet lived during all these historic events. He stayed in Judah with some of the very poor people who were allowed to remain. He saw the once proud city of Jerusalem reduced to ashes. He witnessed the downfall of a nation that forgot God.
In the book of Lamentations, Jeremiah shows deep emotions as he describes the desolation of Jerusalem. “How doth the city sit solitary!” is his opening remark. He compares the city to a widow. “She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks.” He acknowledges that “Jerusalem hath grievously sinned . . . Her filthiness is in her skirts.”
Depicting the sad and empty condition of what had beers Judah’s capital, the prophet laments the total indifference shown by passers-by. The merchants who came near the ruins showed no sympathy. The shepherds whose tents were pitched in that vicinity were calloused toward the barrenness of the site. Jerusalem had fallen because its own inhabitants had been indifferent toward their sins. It is highly probable that many of the Jews did not care that God had brought Judah to its knees.
“Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?” (1:12). The prophet is grieved that others do not share his grief. Sorrow craves sympathy. Is there no concern that Jerusalem is desolate? Is there no warning for others who ignore God’s will? Is there no feeling of emptiness that a once thriving city has been completely emptied?
Jeremiah’s question can be applied appropriately to many things today.
1. The death of Jesus. Our Lord suffered terrible agony on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. He bled and died that we might be reconciled to God. Is this nothing to you, all ye that pass by?
2. The wickedness of the world. Sin abounds. Our modern cities are getting more and more like ancient Sodom and Gomorrah. The moral climate of America is steadily worsening. Immoral people are pushing their filth into the open like someone who dumps his garbage on his neighbor’s lawn. Is this wickedness nothing to you, all ye that pass by?
3. The lost condition of people out of Christ. We are promised no redemption from our sins apart from Jesus Christ. Multiplied thousands of people, old and young alike, have not obeyed the gospel. Many who are Christians make little or no effort to reach the lost with the gospel. Is this wretched condition of the lost nothing to you, all ye that pass by?
4. Digression in the church. Many congregations are no longer walking in the old paths. Brethren are following the denominations rather than the Lord of glory. Liberalism, worldliness, and lack of respect for the authority of the New Testament should make the God-fearing weep. Is all this digression nothing to you, all ye that pass by?
5. Divisions and factions. Some churches of Christ are hindered by schisms and splits. In many cases, preachers are at fault. Sometimes preachers set themselves above all others in the church, including the elders. They will force their way on the brethren or force a division. Is this spirit of factionalism nothing to you, all ye that pass by?
6. Broken homes. We live in an age when the sanctity of marriage is violated. Even among members of the body of Christ, divorces are becoming frequent. Husbands desert their wives; wives cheat on their husbands. Out of these broken homes come frustrated, emotionally disturbed, and confused children Is this breaking up of families nothing to you, all ye that pass by?
7. Indifference among God’s people. Many who say they are Christians are pleased to give the Lord no more than one hour per week of their time. Some are unconcerned about saving their own sons and daughters from worldly influences. Many will not really study the Bible. Some act as if they do not care whether the cause of Christ lives or dies. Is this indifference nothing to you, all ye that pass by?
Let us soberly reflect on the question of Lam. 1:12 and ask ourselves if we may not be rather like the people in Jeremiah’s time. Does this line of thought mean nothing to you, all ye that pass by?
Truth Magazine XXIV: 13, p. 219
March 27, 1980