In our last reading, Nehemiah was beside himself wanting his fellow Israelites to get it right this time so they’d avoid God’s discipline. Our first reading in Lamentations opens with a flashback to Jerusalem’s desolate days. Nehemiah’s desperation seems to have real merit in light of this reminder of Jerusalem’s dark days.
The prophet Jeremiah is the believed author of the book of Lamentations. Jeremiah’s five lamentations focus on the fall of Jerusalem which God orchestrated when his people were taken into the bondage of exile. You may recall Jeremiah was alive at the time his prophecies were coming true. Jeremiah’s grief ran deep, and this is a poignant book full of emotion.
As was ancient custom, it was common for prophets and others to sing songs of lament about catastrophes happening around them. Each of these five poems are songs of sorrow from a different point of view. It’s good for us to remember that not only are the people suffering, God’s divine sorrow is immeasurable.
The first viewpoint is from Jerusalem’s vantage point. The land of Judah is personified, and we see deep anguish. The misery of the people is spoken through the voice of the great holy city. If a city could speak, Jeremiah has beautifully crafted this poem to show the many facets of the downfall. Jerusalem herself is taking the blame. “‘The LORD is right,’ Jerusalem says, ‘for I rebelled against him.’”
Why should we read Lamentations today? For one thing, it’s part of the Holy Scriptures. Secondly, it reminds us just how far the people of Judah had strayed from God and the results of God’s discipline. We should never distance ourselves from the mistakes of others but learn from them. Finally, this confirms for us how God’s warnings are certain.
Our world today is full of injustice, poverty, war, and rebellion against God. Do you ever feel sorrow over what is happening in the world around you? I know I sure do. That sorrow draws me closer to God as I look for his guidance to stand firmly on the truth while trying to help others see the truth revealed. As we read Lamentations, we can learn what it means to grieve with God.
Let’s pray. Father, my heart breaks for you for how your people disrespect and ignore you. I pray that I never disappoint you like those Israelites did. I join in your sorrow over how people today continue to avoid you and rebel against your ways. Fill me anew with your Spirit so I can stand strong. Help me to get out of my own way so you can use me for your kingdom purposes. In Jesus’ name. Amen.