Our first reading today gives us a sample of Jeremiah’s lament over the devastated Jerusalem after its young people had been carried off as captives. In our first readings we have been getting little snippets from the story of the destruction of Jerusalem, but we haven’t been given enough for us to really follow it.. Let me summarize.
In 597 B.C. the army of Babylon conquered Jerusalem, taking many influential people like Ezekiel off as captives. Their King Nebuchadnezzar allowed the city to survive as his ally against Egypt. But ten year later, after Jerusalem had fallen into sinful ways, they secretly sided with Egypt against Babylon. Aware of that betrayal, Nebuchadnezzar brought his army to surround Jerusalem and finish its destruction.
At that, the Israelis who had scoffed at Jeremiah, begged him for help from God to save the city. They asked, “Is there anything we can do to recover God’s favor?”
Jeremiah came back with God’s answer. “Of all the hateful things this people does, the worst is that they make slaves of their own relatives when they fall into debt.”
Following Jeremiah’s advise Jerusalem’s citizens released all their slaves. Then, as if by magic, the army of Babylon turned to fight elsewhere. The wealthy of Jerusalem, seeing that they were saved, went out and rounded up their poor relatives, once again enslaving them.
After that there was no hope for the city. The army of Babylon returned, flattening the city, and carrying off the inhabitants as slaves.
There is a line of Scripture that says, “God will not be mocked.” It means that if we persist in defying him, he will let the forces of evil treat us the way they treated Jerusalem.