The Lord has done what he planned; he has fulfilled his word, which he decreed long ago. He has overthrown you without pity, he has let the enemy gloat over you, he has exalted the horn of your foes. The hearts of the people cry out to the Lord. You walls of Daughter Zion, let your tears flow like a river day and night; give yourself no relief, your eyes no rest. Arise, cry out in the night, as the watches of the night begin; pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord. Lift up your hands to him for the lives of your children, who faint from hunger at every street corner. “Look, Lord , and consider: Whom have you ever treated like this? Should women eat their offspring, the children they have cared for? Should priest and prophet be killed in the sanctuary of the Lord? – Lamentations 2:17-20
This passage is full of raw emotion and heartache. The people are bearing their souls to God in this lament — “the hearts of the people cry out to the Lord”. “Daughter Zion” is allowing their “tears to flow like a river”. What does it mean for tears to flow like the flow in a river? Rivers flow differently depending on their geographic location and the climate that dominates their watershed, i.e. their source of water. So this metaphor would seem to be saying that the ability of the people to express their heartfelt emotions through tears depends on their location and water source.
In a spiritual sense God wants our “water source” to be Him and only Him. Our very souls should be connected to the spring of living water that is God. He should be the headwaters of our souls. Interestingly, I recently visited the headwaters of the Missouri River in Montana. This very historic location was the goal of the Lewis and Clark Expedition back in 1805 as they traversed North America in search of a “northwest passage” to the orient. Instead of finding a passage to the orient they found instead that the “headwaters” were in fact the merging of three great rivers converging to become one and that the path west was barred by mountains. They did not find the easy water route to the Pacific Ocean they were seeking.
The people of “Daughter Zion” are also struggling to find their spiritual “headwaters”. They have been on an “expedition” of sorts to find these spiritual headwaters pretty much since they left the garden of Eden where “A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters.” Their searching and seeking has led them into the desert, across the red sea, and now into bondage and exile. They must be feeling a bit like Lewis and Clark when they arrive at the “headwaters” and found only what appeared to them to be impassible mountains blocking the path to their destination. The “passage” or path forward was much more difficult than they had envisioned. I think the people of Israel are realizing this too.
The people of “Daughter Zion” must have felt like they had come upon “impassible mountains” as their leaders, people, and priests were killed and captured; their temples were sacked; and their God seemed to be looking on and allowing it to happen. The “headwaters” they were seeking was not the headwaters they found. The “headwaters” they actually stumbled upon was actually a God who loved them but looked very different than they anticipated, or perhaps desired. The God they found wants to direct their hearts and souls like a river so that ultimately they can merge with Him. Along the path to Him their are mountains rather than an easy passage.
Some thousands of years later the people of this region, and many like myself who would follow, encountered another “headwaters” — the merging of three great rivers into a man named Jesus. Jesus was, is, and will be the confluence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit into the One River that is to be the water source for all. Even though a huge gap in time, as we experience it, exists between these two events I think they are actually intimately linked. The same “Lion” that seems to be allowing the tearing apart of “Daughter Zion” in this passage will become the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.
Prayer: God you are the only Headwaters that matters and the true source of our souls. Help us to seek out You as our water source.