How the Lord has covered Daughter Zion with the cloud of his anger ! He has hurled down the splendor of Israel from heaven to earth; he has not remembered his footstool in the day of his anger. Without pity the Lord has swallowed up all the dwellings of Jacob; in his wrath he has torn down the strongholds of Daughter Judah. He has brought her kingdom and its princes down to the ground in dishonor. In fierce anger he has cut off every horn of Israel. He has withdrawn his right hand at the approach of the enemy. He has burned in Jacob like a flaming fire that consumes everything around it. Like an enemy he has strung his bow; his right hand is ready. Like a foe he has slain all who were pleasing to the eye; he has poured out his wrath like fire on the tent of Daughter Zion – Lamentations 2:1-4
This passage has been difficult to digest. The metaphors are somewhat confusing and I am still not sure I understand the complex mix of emotions expressed here.
The passage starts with a word picture of God’s anger covering “Daughter Zion” like a cloud. This is a murky metaphor to be sure. It mixes two very very different things, a seemingly human emotion, anger, and an elemental form of water, a cloud. Let’s take these apart and see if they make any more sense.
First the human emotion, anger. Humans get angry for a variety of reasons and to differing degrees. What is anger? I guess I really never thought deeply about anger. When people are angry they seem to have exceeded some emotional, spiritual, or physical threshold after which something happens. The expression of anger could be an explosive verbal outburst, physical violence, internal conflict, or veiled passive aggressive behaviors. We often use language like “they are blowing off steam” or “they blew their top” in describing those who have gotten angry. There is a sense that the anger is due to a build up of “pressure” and the resolution requires some outlet for this anger so that the angry individual can “cool off”.
Getting angry to me implies some loss of control. Perhaps that view is influenced by my own temperament, which tends to be pretty even-keeled. This passage is saying that God is angry with “Daughter Zion”. This view of God being angry (i.e. losing control) does not fit well with my picture of an all-powerful and loving God. How could God lose control? Perhaps the language used here is a result of the way that the people view God rather than something that is truly a part of His nature. Maybe what is seen as anger from an earthly perspective is in fact the inevitable consequences of previous choices made by the people of Israel and Judah.
So now let’s explore the cloud metaphor. Clouds form as a result of atmospheric conditions, moisture content, temperature, and pressure. There is a really no decision on the part of a cloud to form, it just does so in response to conditions. Now I am not implying that God is simply responding to “conditions”, but I think there is sense that He is bound by the spiritual reality He created. The spiritual realm has a certain order and and the people of Israel seem to have been working against this order with their choices. So when God covers the “Daughter of Zion” like a cloud perhaps He is in fact merely allowing correction through a series of what appear to them as very painful rebukes.
So rather than God “tearing down” the “strongholds of Daughter Judah” God is really allowing them to collapse under the weight of their own decisions. Although I am willing to grant that to the people on the receiving end of this “anger” might have difficulty seeing it this way. This passage contains deep water to be sure and I am pretty sure there is more to it than I have been able to plumb.
Prayer: God help us to see Your corrections in the context of our own choices.