Sunday, September 11, 2011
Scripture Sunday: The Book of Lamentations
This book comes right after Jeremiah, and is written by Jeremiah the prophet. As you'd expect, it's a book full of lamenting. It's like a funeral song, written for the entire city of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is given a female persona, and the speaker is mourning over everything that has happened to "her". This book is written in a poetic acrostic style in Hebrew (a bit of the poetry does come through in English), and it could almost be subtitled "Weeping Through the Alphabet", because it comes up with detailed and complex ways to mourn over everything that has gone wrong with Jerusalem.
In chapter 1, we're told that "all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies." So Judah's alliances aren't helping any. Their country has been smashed and wrecked, and everyone has turned against them. Most of Judah's citizens have been carried away into slavery in a foreign country, and the situation could scarcely be more dire. The reason for all this trouble is found in 1:8-"Jerusalem hath grievously sinned; therefore she is removed". I think that might be the saddest thing for Jeremiah--not just seeing this beloved city after its decimation, but knowing that everyone inside was so evil that they deserved this. It's like when someone you love does something truly horrible, and then it hurts you to see them suffering the consequences, but it also hurts to know that they would do such an unthinkable thing in the first place.
The picture of Jerusalem shown in Lamentations is downright scary. 2:5 says, "The Lord was as an enemy: he hath swallowed up Israel, he hath swallowed up all her palaces: he hath destroyed his strong holds, and hath increased in the daughter of Judah mourning and lamentation." That's so heartbreaking. The city that the Lord loved--and even went so far as to have his holy temple there--has become so disgusting that he turns himself against it and acts as Jerusalem's enemy.
Chapter 3 is the most personal of the chapters, with Jeremiah talking about his own individual sorrows, but then at verse 21 and onward, we see a hopeful change in the tone for a while: "This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him." This scripture is where we get the hymn "Great is Thy Faithfulness". Even though Jerusalem has been broken to pieces, God has not consumed the pieces. Jerusalem will be shown mercy in the future, and this utter rejection will not last forever.