Bible Studies
Written by Jim Jordal   
Thursday, 14 March 2013


By Jim Jordal

 How is the gold become dim! [how] is the most pure gold changed….The precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold, How are they esteemed as earthen pitchers, the work of the hands of the potter! Even the jackals draw out the breast, they give suck to their young ones wilderness…. The young children ask bread, and no man breaks it to them. Those who did feed delicately are desolate in the streets: Those who were brought up in scarlet embrace dunghills.

Lamentations 4:1-5, WEB, (editing and emphasis mine)

This passage is a portion of the prophet Jeremiah’s sad lament over the troubling plight of his people. He sees moral and spiritual decline triumphant in the land as the "pure gold" sons of God turn from righteousness to debauchery. He suffers as the former values of justice and mercy turn into worthless dross. He says that even animals care for their young better than his people do. And he describes the people of God who were brought up in scarlet as now "embracing dunghills."

That’s a pretty shocking description, but it’s even worse when you consider that much the same situation exists in America today. We are now very close to the same position as Israel was then---rich in money and things, but poor in what really matters, the health of our souls and spirits. We are probably the richest large nation on earth, and most likely the sickest in soul and spirit. What a national tragedy!

And how has this situation come to exist? The prophet Ezekiel perhaps said it best when he chronicled the sins of Jerusalem as allowing rulers and powerful leaders to use their power to shed blood, make light of family values, oppress the vulnerable, and despise my holy things (see Ezekiel 22). Later in the same chapter he likens their leaders to wolves preying upon the people for dishonest gain while protected and given legitimacy by prophets and the religious establishment. It’s a pretty damning indictment, but it contains much truth, then and now.

It’s especially troubling because neither political party seems able to grasp the truth that moral and ethical sickness is far worse than economic malaise because economic problems cannot be effectively or permanently solved in the absence of moral values. Right now the suggested cures are worse than the disease because they promise to have the effect of further crushing the most vulnerable among us. If we reject the higher moral values of justice and mercy in favor of the crass, selfish values of protecting the rich at the expense of everyone else, we will be threatened with a period of national decline, not only moral and ethical, but also economic, financial and political.

"Embracing dunghills" is not a misplaced metaphor. If you consider what is often called the common culture you see the embracing of dunghills everywhere. It’s in much of the entertainment you view on TV. It’s in our use of violence and sex to advertise goods and services. It’s in our political contests with their continuing attack ads and refusals to face real issues of justice and mercy. And sadly it’s evident in much of our religious activity that appears to be aimed more at pleasing people and raising money than at following God’s word.

Where is the American character that most of us grew up with? Where is the justice of living wages for workers? Where is truth in politics? Where is fairness in advertising? Where is clean family entertainment? Where is honesty in big business? And where is the concept that people are more important than money?

The good news is that these foundations of the national ethos are still there. They reside everywhere, peeking up at the most unpredictable times. They appear in times of national tragedy as people rise up to help their neighbors. They appear on national TV as news broadcasts briefly feature something other than violence and disaster. And they appear any place where mercy and justice still thrive.

The bad news is that we don’t know about most such instances. It’s happening all around us, but we are so caught up in making money and seeking pleasure that we don’t have time for what really gives the most pleasure and meaning to life: helping others and honoring family and spiritual relationships.