The city of Jerusalem, which the people of Judah had always believed was a special, holy place and the centre of the created order, had been ransacked by her enemies. Former allies had turned against her. Many of her citizens had been deported to do hard labour. The Temple was a ruin and no one came to the City on pilgrimage any more. Her leaders were in hiding or had been brought to bay, but the prophet believed that the suffering of Jerusalem was well deserved. People had been complacent and disobedient.
What message does this passage have for us? Sheffield was once a mighty engine of the industrial revolution. Now large tracts of its former industrial heartland are desolate where once they were full of people. But Sheffield has also experienced a revival and many parts of the City never lost their prosperity . It wouldn't be true to say that her gates are in ruins, or that no one comes to visit Sheffield any more. On the contrary, there are ambitious plans to create new and more impressive gateways to the City - striking buildings which will impress the visitors and commuters who stream in each day, and the City has a large region of influence around it. What a pity then that there is still a widening gap between the most prosperous and the most disadvantaged parts of the City. Some of the residents of Sheffield still have cause to mourn, and this should be put right.