We are now in the book of Lamentations. It is a unique book, as it consists of 5 poems. These poems are acrostics, which means that each line begins with a new letter of the Greek alphabet (which has 22 letters). The third poem goes through the Greek alphabet 3 times, so it is the longest of the five. The last poem uses the letters, but not in a sequential order as the first 4 poems do. We will see why this may be intentional when we discuss poem 5. The word Lament means to cry out in grief or sorrow with passion. So the 5 poems are a crying out to God. Do you think God minds if we cry out to him when we are sad or angry, or hurt? No, and just the fact that this book is in the Bible proves that. Crying out to God is a prayer. It is a prayer of despair. The book of Psalms is filled with David's many laments. God wants us to come to him in good times and in bad. James 5:13 Sad-pray, glad-pray, and everything in between-pray.
CHAPTER1 In the first poem of lament, Jerusalem is depicted as a lonely old widow. Now we have to realize that these 5 poems were written about 580 B.C. after Jerusalem was taken over by Babylon and most of the Jews were captured and/or scattered. So the lonely old widow has lost her husband, and she has no one to turn to. She finally calls out to Lord to notice what she is going through; She is grieving and all alone. Through her, the writer of Lamentations who is anonymous by the way, although most Biblical scholars agree that it was probably Jeremiah (the weeping prophet), cries out to God, and the only way to tell Him how she feels, is that it feels like when someone you love dies.
CHAPTER 2 This chapter focuses on the fact that the sin of the Jews brought on God's wrath and led to their fall. Sometimes we think about God's wrath as Him exploding in anger and tossing fireballs onto the earth. God's wrath in biblical terms is actually His justice. When sin requires discipline, God's wrath is the justice that follows. Psalm 103 says that God is kind and merciful, slow to anger. His wrath is not spontaneous. So the author agrees with God. The Jews broke their covenant by worshipping other gods. But he asks God to show compassion on them once more.
CHAPTER 3 This chapter is the longest. It basically tells of an old man crying out on behalf of all of Israel. He is grief-stricken. He uses some of the same language that Job used when he cried out to God after he lost everything, including his children. So this is a very passionate plea to God Himself. Just like in chapter 2, he realizes that God had carried out the justice that Israel deserved because they broke their covenant. The writer focuses on the covenant and uses the covenant and God's faithfulness to write these words of hope: Because of the Lord's covenant faithfulness, we do not perish. His mercies never fail: they are new every morning. How great is your faithfulness o God. You are my inheritance, so I will put my hope in you. He was standing on the promises of God! He knew that God promised justice, but He also promised to show mercy and kindness. We can stand on the promises of God too! The Bible is filled with thousands of God's promises. He is faithful. We can trust Him. The more we know what God's word says, the more we can hold His promises near. We can pray to God and remind Him of His promises. Not because He forgot, but so that we can be encouraged through Him and His word.
CHAPTER 4 This chapter is a vivid comparison of how Jerusalem used to be before the siege, and how it is now. He goes through several examples like: The children used to laugh and play in the streets. Now they walk the streets begging for food. The rich people used to enjoy extravagant meals, now the look through the dirt and in the dump just for a bite to eat. The king used to rule, now he is a prisoner in Babylon. The writer is pretty much crying out to God, "We want things back to the way they used to be!" We do that sometimes, but we can't live in the past. Isaiah 43:18 says leave it behind and do not dwell on the past. The more we live in the past, the less time we have for the present. How can we give God our best, if we are living in the past?
CHAPTER 5 As we said earlier, this poem is a little different, It still uses each letter of the alphabet, but the order and structure has been tossed out the window. It's like "OK God, I can't take it any more". The poet shows the chaos of grief and pain by jumbling up the alphabet. This chapter is another cry for God's mercy. It comes from the people as a whole, and not from an individual who portrays a group of people. The people cry out on behalf of all their fellow Jews who have been suffering in silence. God encourages them to come to Him in their pain, suffering, confusion, anger, and grief. He does the same for us. This book ends in kind of a statement and a desperate question: God is the king of the universe, but it feels like He is nowhere to be found. The last line in the book leaves us hanging. It questions, Unless you've totally rejected us?
One of God's promises in the Bible is that He will will never leave or forsake us. Hebrews 13:5. That is a wonderful promise to keep close to our hearts. Sometimes it feels like He has, but we must stand on the truth of His word and promises and not our fickle feelings.