Lamentations 5 A Prayer For Restoration.

Lamentations 5 A Prayer For Restoration.

There is a strong indication, well worth a thorough study, that the word here translated as ‘remember’, is a call from a covenantal servant to the LORD. In any case, it would appear to have come after the devastation of the exile and captivity had set in. It is borne out by the appeal to the ‘LORD’, at the loss of their ‘inheritance’ (vv. 1-3). The rest that they were to receive as part of the covenantal promise, escaped them (vv. 4-6). Without a doubt, they knew that they were in this condition because of the sin of their fathers, but then ask why it is they who have to suffer, living like vagabonds (vv. 7-9). Famine, rape, assassinations, oppressive slavery, and the lack of any autonomous government was their lot, much less joy or dancing (vv. 10-15). However, they finally admit that they are actually suffering for their own sins as well (vv. 16-18). Finally, they also confess that it is not the LORD who has changed, but them, and on this basis appeal once again, for him to not forsake his people of the covenant (vv. 19-20). In fact, as strange as it might seem, they ask that the LORD would grant them repentance, which obviously means that they recognized that even this was a gift from the LORD (vv. 21-22).

Lamentations 4 From Gold To Clay-Hope Among The Ashes.

Lamentations 4 From Gold To Clay-Hope Among The Ashes.

Gold, from the dawn of creation, has always been a precious metal (Gen. 2:12). It was also used in a redemptive and worship context, as the mercy seat was made of pure gold (Ex. 25:16). When Moses delivered the word of the LORD, one the principles that must govern Kings, was that they were not to accumulate silver and gold, but rather to treasure the law (Dt. 17:17-18). Job understood that his hope and confidence was not to reside in fine gold (31:24), but with the Psalmist, it must rest in the law of the LORD (Ps. 19:7-11). “A word fitly spoken is like apples of God in settings of silver.” (Pr. 25:11) When Haggai spoke during the rebuilding of the temple in 520 B.C, he recorded the words spoken by the LORD. “The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine” (2:8). However, with the exile, the gold became dim, that is, most of it was gone, taken by Nebuchadnezzar.

The gold was also ‘dim’ because the temple had been burnt to the ground, so that it was covered with soot and ashes. The heat may even have melted it, as its stones were scattered or poured out “at the head of every street” (v. 1). However, as valuable as gold is, especially fine gold, the sons of God were far more precious to the LORD (v. 2a). But now they were “regarded as clay pots, the work of the hands of the potter” (v. 2b)! They were once set apart or holy, now they were just common, the dust and ashes of death. They had become like wild cruel animals, depriving their own children of life (vv. 3-4). They went from being blessed, to being cursed (v. 5). They were being punished for their iniquity, which was greater than the sin of Sodom (v. 6).* The Nazarites, referred to here, were like rubies, men or women set apart to the LORD (Nu. 6:1-21).

“Now their appearance is blacker than soot…their skin clings to their bones.” (v. 8) They were all dried up. It was better to die by the sword, than to starve to death (v. 9). Mothers cooked and ate their own children, which also happened with the destruction in 70 A.D (v. 10). This execution of God’s wrath was hard to believe (vv. 11-12). Their chief sin, and the root of all that followed, was because of the sins and iniquities of his servants of the word, “who shed in her midst the blood of the just” (v. 13), and the majority of the people wanted it this way (Jer. 5:31). They didn’t want a true servant of the word (Jer. 2:20; 26:8-9). Ezekiel gave the same message (22:26-28), as did Zephaniah, those who did “violence to the law” (3:4). Jeremiah laments that they were literally blind, and wanted nothing to do with the people (vv. 14-15).

“The face of the LORD scattered them; He no longer regards them. The people do not respect the priests nor show favor to the elders.” (v. 16) The people also looked in vain for any help from men (v. 17), but the only ones were their own apostates, and their enemies to come (vv. 18-19). It is into this context that their only hope for life was in the LORD’s Anointed, the Messiah, or the Christ, whom their enemies would capture in their pit, the One of whom they said, “Under his shadow we shall live among the nations” (v. 20). Yes, this was fulfilled in the greater destruction of 70 AD! His people would experience a full deliverance, and his and their enemies would be under their feet (vv. 21-22). Their earthly king would be gone (Cf. Jer. 52:9; Ez. 12:13), but their true Messiah would come (Cf. Is. 40:10-11; Jer. 33:7-8).

*“The prophets often use Sodom as an archetype of divine judgment on sin (Deut. 29:23; Is. 1:10; Jer. 23:14; Ezek. 16:46; Hos. 11:8; Amos 4:11; Luke 17:28-30). The comparison with Sodom holds good for both the sins of the city and the dreadful judgment that fell upon it.” (NGSB. 1252)

Lamentations 3 There Is Hope.

Lamentations 3 There Is Hope.

The bible is real. Sometimes we are forced see affliction, and walk in the darkness, which is a condition wherein there is the absence of light (vv. 1-2). Throughout the day, and after many days, we age, as our bodies speak to us (vv. 3-4). Dark places are too often places of bitterness and woe, weariness and death (vv. 5-6). Life itself is like a heavy chain keeping us as prisoners of our own thoughts (v. 7). Sometimes it seems that not even our prayers can pierce the darkness, no matter how hard or loud we speak (vv. 8; 43-45). If that weren’t bad enough, we sometimes find the straight ways we have known are blocked, and we find ourselves traveling crooked paths (v. 9). We fear that an enemy waits for us, but it is the LORD who is the bear or lion waiting to ambush (v. 10). Maybe our ways have not been good, because he turns us from them that he might tear us to pieces, in the desolation that is our self, he aims his arrows at us, like a shot to the kidneys (vv. 11-13).

Jeremiah had become the ridicule of the people, but when one stands alone with the word it is not hard to be filled with bitterness (vv. 14-15). The bear or lion breaks us and covers us with ashes (v. 16). “You have moved my soul far from peace; I have forgotten prosperity. And I said, ‘my strength and my hope have perished from the LORD.’” (vv. 17-18). How does one find hope in the darkness? Jeremiah turned to the covenant LORD, asking him to remember his affliction and roaming, “the wormwood and the gall.” Yes, we have roamed in the darkness of our own ways, but if we humble ourselves, we might also remember him (vv. 19-21). “Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.” (vv. 22-23) His faithfulness speaks to his commitment to the covenantal bond, therefore he is our portion, and our hope (v. 24). “The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the soul who seeks Him.” (v. 25)

Sometimes the best decision is to stop and wait on the LORD, but sometimes we also have to seek him out. It may not have all the clinical definitions one might find elsewhere, but this is sometimes the way of repentance, and sometimes it is simply the way of wisdom. “It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.” (v. 26) Sometimes it is preferable to bear the yoke in one’s youth (v. 27). Jeremiah knew all about this, as he literally bore a yoke to be a visual demonstration that accompanied his words of exile. He remains for us an example that when find ourselves alone and silent, it is possible to find hope (vv. 28-29). A “soul far from peace,” can find the LORD himself to be one’s hope (vv. 17-18). Sometimes it feels like we are getting hit in the chops, but the LORD will not cast us off forever (vv. 30-31). “Though He causes grief, yet He will show compassion according to the multitude of His mercies.” (v. 32)

Like any parent, the LORD “does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.” (v. 33) God’s anger is not like that of man in sin. He will afflict when justice is subverted (vv. 34-36 Cf. 22:3; Job 8:3). Only the Lord can predict the future, in part because he is the sovereign LORD of it (v. 37). “Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that woe and well-being proceed? Why should a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?” (vv. 38-39) We need to examine our ways, and if there is rebellion in our hearts we need to repent (vv. 40-42). Desolation and destruction bring tears (vv. 46-51). It is a bitter pill to swallow, when one, like Jeremiah, is condemned without cause (vv. 52-54). Sometimes we just need to keep calling on the covenant LORD, who has promised to draw near, so that we need not fear (vv. 56-57). In the court of judgment, the Lord pleads our case, and redeems our live (vv. 58-59). The reprobate seek vengeance, but the saints leave this to the LORD (vv. 60-66).

Lamentations 2 Covenantal Cursing.

Lamentations 2 Covenantal Cursing.

This second lament focuses on the Lord’s wrath on the “daughter of Zion.” It begins with a general judgment on all nations from the Lord, but also includes the destruction not just of the city, but also of the temple in it (vv. 1-7). There is a uniqueness to the destruction of city and temple though, it does merit the covenantal judgment of the LORD (vv. 6-22). The marvel is that he did not withdraw his hand, so to speak, in consideration of city and temple. The LORD would use their enemies for this task (v. 7). As horrible as all this is, Jeremiah focused attention upon the worst judgment of all, the absence of the law-word of the covenant. “The law is no more, and her prophets find no vision from the LORD.”(v. 9a) Therefore, the elders cannot but sit “on the ground and keep silence.” (v. 10a) It was a time of mourning and sorrow (10b-12), without consolation or comfort, because there was no healer (v. 13).

This is what happens when leadership refuses to be subject to the word. They were using deceptive words, rather than uncovering iniquity, which would lead to reconciliation. Instead, they envisioned for the people “false prophecies and delusions (v. 14). They became the subjects of ridicule, not “the perfection of beauty, the joy of the whole earth.” (v. 15). This punishment was the LORD purposing to fulfill the curses of the covenant, “commanded in days of old” (v. 17 Cf. Dt. 28:15ff.). The plea is for them to avail themselves of prayer to the Lord, an invitation open to all (vv. 18-19). However, their request for mercy was to the LORD of the covenant, to at least spare women and children, priest and prophet, no doubt thinking that they needed a mediator for what was happening (vv. 20-22). However, it was largely due to the apostacy of the priests and prophets which led to the absence of a word from the LORD.

Lamentations 1. Affliction Without A Comforter.

Lamentations

Lamentations 1 Affliction Without A Comforter.

The genre of Lamentations is obviously poetry, but there are similarities in expression that we find in Jeremiah. “The idea of Jeremiah as the author may have been encouraged by 2 Chr.. 35:25, where we are told that the prophet composed laments for King Josiah, sometimes seeming to be spoken by an individual (ch. 3) and sometimes by a community (ch. 5), it may be that the poems come from different pens. The setting is clearly Judah, particularly Jerusalem, and almost certainly the period after the fall of the kingdom of Judah to the Babylonians in 586 B.C. and before the restoration of exiles in 538 B.C. The lament concerning the loss of Judah’s king (2:2, 9), in distinction from other devastations of Jerusalem, fixes this occasion for the laments. A setting during the period of the Babylonian exile makes Lamentations a fitting sequel to the Book of Jeremiah. As Jeremiah had foretold the fall of Jerusalem, Lamentations expresses the pain of the event itself.” (NGSB. 1240)

In this first of five laments, the condition of Jerusalem during the exile is depicted as a lonely place. It was once full of people, but now she was like a widow. She was great among the nations, a princess, but was now a slave (v. 1). The church, at various times in her history, has been a lonely remnant, weeping for what once was (v. 2). At times she seems to be in captivity, “under affliction and hard servitude”, finding no rest, all her persecutors overtaking her in dire straits (v. 3). It can also be a bitter condition (v. 4). However, these persecutors are but the means or instruments of the LORD’s affliction (v. 5). “All her splendor has departed,” as she “remembers all her pleasant things.” (vv. 6-7) “Jerusalem has sinned gravely” (v. 8), “she did not consider her destiny.” (v. 9a) There was no comforter (v. 2, 9b). However, her enemies did the unthinkable, they entered the sanctuary (v. 10). When God is angry, and affliction comes, it is a time of sorrow (vv. 11-12).

The prophet himself was lonely, but with fire in his bones sent by the LORD (v. 13). Jeremiah had worn a yoke to show the captivity that was to come, and now he prays as for the city, that it is also their sin that remains as a yoke too much to bear (vv. 14-15). She wept because there was no comforter, she had become an unclean thing (vv. 16-17). As an unclean thing Judah “falsifies her intended role as a witness to the holiness of God (Ex. 195,6).” (NGSB. 1243) In this punishment the LORD showed his righteousness, for they “rebelled against His commandment.” (v. 18a) All nations should take note (v. 18b). Her spiritual adulterers had left her, and her own priests and elders “breathed their last in the city.” (v. 19) Jeremiah gives them the words of a proper repentance, while as yet there is no comforter still (vv. 20-21). He also prays that the LORD might bring on their adversaries the same punishment that they were receiving, for their heart was faint due to their transgressions (v. 22).