God’s Arrows, Your Kidneys (A Devotional on Lamentations 3:13)

In the book of Lamentations, Jeremiah describes how God’s holiness interacts with Israel’s unfaithfulness. For God, judging Israel is the perfect exercise of His covenant faithfulness. For Israel, receiving God’s judgment for their unfaithfulness is devastating. Jeremiah tries to capture this holy devastation from God in his writings. His hope is to alert Israel to why they are in their current state, lead them to repentance, and help them love God above all else.

Jeremiah’s writings are poetic and figurative. He often refers to all of Israel as singularly himself. This personal touch reveals the depth of sin’s toll. In Israel’s case all but a few have given into loving their sin. And by the time Jeremiah writes Lamentations it seems that everyone understands their tragedy, but still doesn’t get why they are there or how to be relieved. 

In Lamentations 3:13, Jeremiah says, “He [God] pierced my kidneys with shafts from his quiver.” What an oddly specific way of describing God’s warfare on Israel’s sin. God’s arrows have been loosed and have they found Israel’s kidneys.

Why strike there? Two thoughts, one old, one new: First, in that day the kidneys were seen as the core of life, joy, and sorrow. Someone drew up love from their kidneys. Joys and sorrows were stored in the kidneys. Decisions and values were generated in the kidneys. It was seen as the vital nexus of a person’s inner being. Second, the kidneys are physically vital, they filter out toxins from our bodies. In doing so they often contain harmful levels of these toxins. But the average human doesn’t feel the toxin’s caustic bite because it is stored in the kidneys. If those toxins were ever to get out of the kidneys, that person would be in excruciating pain and immediate danger. God looses his arrows at the most inner and vital core of Israel.

This may be an over-analyzation of the passage, but I can’t help but see how this parallels with the human heart and sin. The human heart is vital for it is the core of our love and devotion to God. It filters through our desires, informs our minds, and ultimately produces our actions. At the same time it is filled with sin. Sin that corrupts our desires, thoughts, and actions. We may not even recognize the destructive potency of our heart’s sin. Yet, unlike the kidneys, we are knowledgable about our sin, its destructiveness and offense to God, and we can none-the-less love that sin. We all live with sin harbored in our hearts.

So God pierces our hearts. He strikes us in our most vital center of life. He causes pain to our sin-founded joy. He increases our sin-produced sorrow. He does so to reveal our sin so we would remove it. What does he use to pierce our hearts? His Word. Hebrews 4:12 says that His Word actively pierces the heart and discerns its intentions. The truth of the Bible reveals our sin and that is a painful procedure because it wounds our pride. What then heals our hearts? His Word. The Gospel of John points out that Christ is the Word of God. The wisdom and power of God came and dwelt with humankind. The Word of God died for us sinners. Through the death and resurrection of the Word, we may now have lasting life in His name! God’s Word pierces our hearts with His truth. God’s Word heals our heart with the truth of the gospel.

What sin do you harbor in your heart?

How can you see that sin evidence itself in your desires, plans, thoughts, and actions?

Do you neglect God’s Word – its heart piercing truth and healing work?

Why is it painful to remove sin?

What prevents you from repenting of your sin and turning to God in faith?

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