About the author
Lola Alli is an aspiring Development Economist whose broad research interests include: the political economy of Nigeria and India; the economics of globalisation; global poverty and politics; innovation in agricultural commodity chains in Nigeria and India; and Yoruba gender mythologies.
Economics and Politics undergraduate at Newcastle University ’15; Development Economics postgraduate at University of Cambridge ’16.
Check out her blog over here.
Authors Disclaimer: I wouldn’t advice a ‘new’ Christian or anyone with very minimal biblical knowledge to read this conversation
Lola Ali: “Just a little background before I ask my question, …. when they (the Israelites) demanded for a king during Samuel’s time, God said he would provide (King Saul) but He warned that the kings would destroy the land and enslave the people … This prophecy became reality after (I believe) King Solomon – The sins of the last kings of Judah, and the Israelites in this region are what led to the war between Judah (including Jerusalem) and Babylon. And from our previous bible study in Daniel, we already know that God delivered Judah into the Babylonians. This happened sometime between the book of Jeremiah and his second book, Lamentations. I cannot understand Lamentations without studying Jeremiah so I went through a few chapters. God specifically created Jeremiah to warn His people to return k to Him (Jeremiah 1-3) so they can avoid what happened next. So I’ve got an idea of the kind of oppression that the Israelites went through using Jeremiah’s writings in the Book of Lamentations 1&2
But what I’m currently meditating on is the nature of God in these chapters. 2 Timothy 3:16 says that all scripture is God-breathed …etc. 1 Cor 13 says Love is patient … ; somewhere else says God’s true nature is revealed in Jesus dying on the cross and so on .. and then there is ‘if you’ve seen me (Jesus) you’ve seen Him (God)’. I was just thinking that hmmm Lamentations 1&2 depicts the opposite of these interpretations of God: love and patience. So I’m trying to understand why God appears so ‘violent’ in this book.
Jeremiah 13:14 says ‘I will smash them (the Israelites) one against the other, fathers and sons alike, declares the Lord. I will allow no pity or mercy or compassion to keep me from destroying them’. I can go on and on but …
Why is this question important:
1. The verses I included imply that this portrait of God is somehow consistent with the God we see on the cross – Jesus;
2. This is one of the main reasons why atheists do not believe in God – how can one worship the same God that is ‘smashing’ His children or allowing them to be smashed but still shows love and forgiveness by making us righteous through accepting Christ.”
T: “So I can kind of explain it a bit. We must remember that God sent Jesus because he didn’t want the law to go on forever where he punishes us for our sins literally. If you look at Deuteronomy 28 it explains the curses that came with disobeying the laws and then the latter part declares the blessings. When God realised that man could just not keep up with His Law, He sent Jesus to come and experience it, which is why he now become our intercessor because he saw it all, experienced it all! Hence the provision of grace and mercy to mankind….”
L: “I understand that – no doubt about what you said. The law wasn’t/isn’t efficient. But what I’m trying to understand is how can I reflect on Christ on the cross and Christ in Lamentations. How is the same God commanding genocide and war, but shows love on the cross? Is this perhaps the shadow of Christ? The negative contrast of Christ? The portrait of God pre-purposed in the law such that He becomes a shadow without light? And then the ‘real’ God is what we see on the cross. Am I making sense? Linking this to Job and Psalms, we see these representations of God again. But how do they reflect Christ and the God we know today. God of love, kindness and patience. Not necessarily the conditions for the coming of Christ as you explained”
T: “And that’s why even David although a man after God’s own heart was still punished. And Psalms 119:71 – David said it is good for me that I was afflicted that I may keep your statues. The suffering is only necessary because if everything went smoothly we would not respect him. He becomes more of a robot”
L: “Unless the law was needed to drive man to Christ, to show our need for Christ hence Lamentations.”
B: “What is the law? … so He (God) was punishing them (in Lamentations) for not obeying Him or rather trying to teach them a lesson of life without Him”
M: “….. The law includes the Mosaic law, and more. They were political and religious”
Lola: “Okay so this is my understanding of Lamentations. In the Old Testament the Israelites had to live Godly lives by following a set of laws. Obedience of the law was needed for blessings and forgiveness. I’m not sure what exactly the law was but it was more than just the book of Moses – the 10 commandments. I’m assuming it included some sort of political constitution as well – hence the role of the Pharisees perhaps? -Studying ‘The Law’. The religious Law, however, was included because of the sins of the people, and to escape punishment from God. But it didn’t work ….. by the ‘Lamentations-era’, the Israelites were known for worshipping other idols and committing other sins because of the Kings of Judah, and their foreign wives.
But hey! God did not actually destroy Israel by Himself. Instead, He let Babylon do so because His presence wasn’t there. It was His shadow – He was waiting for them to see the light –to see how life is different without the cross, without Christ and ultimately, without God. The Israelites went through the shadow of the cross, the non-presence of God, in order to understand that the law wasn’t inefficient. They had to realise that they needed Christ in order to have a better relationship with God.”
T: “Hence Galatians 3:13.”
Lola: “ YES! So in essence, we see what life was like without Christ and just The Law. This makes me appreciate Christ on the cross – the true nature of God, which is LOVE. So God wasn’t wicked during Lamentations, he was making a point about life – life without God is chaotic. When there is no God, there is no peace! There is Lamentations 1&2.”
Gnovembers add: This asks the age old question of how does a loving God sit by and watch while evil acts happen to His beloved children/ How does he actually punish His Children? God is a Holy God and he abhors sin because it is a stain before his presence. Because He loves us, He has sent His son to die on the cross that we may be reconciled to Him, when we accept this, we reap eternal life. If we don’t, the consequence of sin is death i.e eternal separation from His presence. Not wholly easy to accept but the moment we begin with the being of God then we can accept it somewhat better.