If you get your just deserts, you get what you deserve. The consequence you get could be good or bad, but the phrase usually has a negative connotation. For example, if you did something bad and then something bad happened to you in return, you got what you justly deserved.
In the book of Deuteronomy, God is very specific in what actions He will take for their behaviors. God’s blessings will flow from their heart-felt obedience. Suffering the consequences of disobedience is also described as a curse. God also makes it clear what will happen if His Chosen, those He loves dearly and wants to bless, do not obey what He has laid out as the best way to live for their own good.
Jeremiah’s lament continues in this chapter. He brings together several vivid images to describe the “just desserts” for disobedience with what the people endured in the siege and fall of Jerusalem. When you read Deuteronomy 28-30, we see that these very calamities were announced in the terms of the covenant with God from the beginning, so the Jews should not have been surprised when they got was coming to them for their evil deeds. But, they were…in shock.
Lamentations 4, The Message
Waking Up with Nothing
Oh, oh, oh . . .
How gold is treated like dirt,
the finest gold thrown out with the garbage,
Priceless jewels scattered all over,
jewels loose in the gutters.
2 And the people of Zion, once prized,
far surpassing their weight in gold,
Are now treated like cheap pottery,
like everyday pots and bowls mass-produced by a potter.
3 Even wild jackals nurture their babies,
give them their breasts to suckle.
But my people have turned cruel to their babies,
like an ostrich in the wilderness.
4 Babies have nothing to drink.
Their tongues stick to the roofs of their mouths.
Little children ask for bread
but no one gives them so much as a crust.
5 People used to the finest cuisine
forage for food in the streets.
People used to the latest in fashions
pick through the trash for something to wear.
6 The evil guilt of my dear people
was worse than the sin of Sodom—
The city was destroyed in a flash,
and no one around to help.
7 The splendid and sacred nobles
once glowed with health.
Their bodies were robust and ruddy,
their beards like carved stone.
8 But now they are smeared with soot,
unrecognizable in the street,
Their bones sticking out,
their skin dried out like old leather.
9 Better to have been killed in battle
than killed by starvation.
Better to have died of battle wounds
than to slowly starve to death.
10 Nice and kindly women
boiled their own children for supper.
This was the only food in town
when my dear people were broken.
11 God let all his anger loose, held nothing back.
He poured out his raging wrath.
He set a fire in Zion
that burned it to the ground.
12 The kings of the earth couldn’t believe it.
World rulers were in shock,
Watching old enemies march in big as you please,
right through Jerusalem’s gates.
13 Because of the sins of her prophets
and the evil of her priests,
Who exploited good and trusting people,
robbing them of their lives,
14 These prophets and priests blindly grope their way through the streets,
grimy and stained from their dirty lives,
Wasted by their wasted lives,
shuffling from fatigue, dressed in rags.
15 People yell at them, “Get out of here, dirty old men!
Get lost, don’t touch us, don’t infect us!”
They have to leave town. They wander off.
Nobody wants them to stay here.
Everyone knows, wherever they wander,
that they’ve been kicked out of their own hometown.
16 God himself scattered them.
No longer does he look out for them.
He has nothing to do with the priests;
he cares nothing for the elders.
17 We watched and watched,
wore our eyes out looking for help. And nothing.
We mounted our lookouts and looked
for the help that never showed up.
18 They tracked us down, those hunters.
It wasn’t safe to go out in the street.
Our end was near, our days numbered.
We were doomed.
19 They came after us faster than eagles in flight,
pressed us hard in the mountains, ambushed us in the desert.
20 Our king, our life’s breath, the anointed of God,
was caught in their traps—
Our king under whose protection
we always said we’d live.
21 Celebrate while you can, O Edom!
Live it up in Uz!
For it won’t be long before you drink this cup, too.
You’ll find out what it’s like to drink God’s wrath,
Get drunk on God’s wrath
and wake up with nothing, stripped naked.
22 And that’s it for you, Zion. The punishment’s complete.
You won’t have to go through this exile again.
But Edom, your time is coming:
He’ll punish your evil life, put all your sins on display.
WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND TODAY?
It breaks the heart of God when we turn from Him, all that is good, to live a disobedient way of life. God knew we needed help. He knew we needed a Rescuer who would save us from our own natural propensity to disobey. We can never be good on our own. We need God’s power behind us, His knowledge within us. And for sure, we need help to avoid our “just desserts”. God knew that.
So, God, in His Sovereignty and wisdom, mercy and grace, gave us His Son, to pay for the punishment for our disobedience, our “just desserts” so to speak, for all our sins. Jesus, the One and Only Son who came to earth, the Only Perfect One qualified without sin, sacrificed all He had for all we needed—mercy and grace—and a pardon for our sin. Our “just desserts” for our sins was paid in full.
Mercy is the act of withholding deserved punishment, while grace is the act of endowing and showing unmerited favor. In His mercy, God does not give us punishment we deserve, namely hell; while in His grace, God gives us the gift we do not deserve, namely heaven.
We can now cease our lamenting over our sins by repenting to Jesus and be saved forever, our sins to be remembered no more! We stand in praise to the One and Only who gave us what we do not deserve—forgiveness for all our sin. This is amazing grace and power-filled mercy! How can we walk away from this?
Mercy and grace are two sides of a coin – and the coin is love. In the author’s own words, mercy is a compassionate love to the weak, and grace is a generous love to the unworthy. Humans are weak and unworthy – we all need God’s mercy and grace. Mercy takes us to the path of forgiveness, while grace leads us to reconciliation. Jesus is the Way to True reconciliation with God who gives us eternal Life.
“God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
Believe. Repent. Be saved forever. God’s Holy Spirit will come to live in all who believe and love Him back with power to obey that is beyond human efforts. But when we slip and fall, and we will because we are human, rely on God who picks us right back up with His guiding hand. To be honest with God is to be intimate with Him. We love Him because He first loved us, says John.
Lamenting over what we have done is remembering the pain we caused by our own actions. Rejoicing is being set free by your sacrificial act of love for my sins. I am so grateful for you, dear Jesus, who set us right with God by your mercy and grace. Continue to transform me to be all you created me to be.
In Jesus Name, Amen