Sometimes hearing about and helping others through tragic circumstances brings a sense of gratitude to us in a spiritual way because we consider that for a moment all is well with us and we are have more than we thought in our own reserve. God can use our “wellness” to come alongside others who are not well.
We are going to dive into Lamentations together. I’m praying wellness for us as we study the lament after the devastation of the city of Jerusalem. This book of Lamentations, probably written by the prophet Jeremiah, is a dark but beautiful book that reflects the pain of injustice and human loss. It’s filled with crushing emotions: anger, desperation, fear, loneliness, hopelessness. If you are personally wounded when reading Lamentations, you may feel strangely understood and comforted. I know, weird, right?!
Lament is a passionate expression of grief or sorrow. To lament is to also having regret and remorse for past actions that led to tragic consequences. Jeremiah will symbolically express frustration over Jerusalem’s slide from order to chaos.
Lamentations 1, The Message
Worthless, Cheap, Abject!
Oh, oh, oh . . .
How empty the city, once teeming with people.
A widow, this city, once in the front rank of nations,
once queen of the ball, she’s now a drudge in the kitchen.
2 She cries herself to sleep each night, tears soaking her pillow.
No one’s left among her lovers to sit and hold her hand.
Her friends have all dumped her.
3 After years of pain and hard labor, Judah has gone into exile.
She camps out among the nations, never feels at home.
Hunted by all, she’s stuck between a rock and a hard place.
4 Zion’s roads weep, empty of pilgrims headed to the feasts.
All her city gates are deserted, her priests in despair.
Her virgins are sad. How bitter her fate.
5 Her enemies have become her masters. Her foes are living it up
because God laid her low, punishing her repeated rebellions.
Her children, prisoners of the enemy, trudge into exile.
6 All beauty has drained from Daughter Zion’s face.
Her princes are like deer famished for food,
chased to exhaustion by hunters.
7 Jerusalem remembers the day she lost everything,
when her people fell into enemy hands, and not a soul there to help.
Enemies looked on and laughed, laughed at her helpless silence.
8 Jerusalem, who outsinned the whole world, is an outcast.
All who admired her despise her now that they see beneath the surface.
Miserable, she groans and turns away in shame.
9 She played fast and loose with life, she never considered tomorrow,
and now she’s crashed royally, with no one to hold her hand:
“Look at my pain, O God! And how the enemy cruelly struts.”
10 The enemy reached out to take all her favorite things. She watched
as pagans barged into her Sanctuary, those very people for whom
you posted orders: keep out: this assembly off-limits.
11 All the people groaned, so desperate for food, so desperate to stay alive
that they bartered their favorite things for a bit of breakfast:
“O God, look at me! Worthless, cheap, abject!
12 “And you passersby, look at me! Have you ever seen anything like this?
Ever seen pain like my pain, seen what he did to me,
what God did to me in his rage?
13 “He struck me with lightning, skewered me from head to foot,
then he set traps all around so I could hardly move.
He left me with nothing—left me sick, and sick of living.
14 “He wove my sins into a rope
and harnessed me to captivity’s yoke.
I’m goaded by cruel taskmasters.
15 “The Master piled up my best soldiers in a heap,
then called in thugs to break their fine young necks.
The Master crushed the life out of fair virgin Judah.
16 “For all this I weep, weep buckets of tears,
and not a soul within miles around cares for my soul.
My children are wasted, my enemy got his way.”
17 Zion reached out for help, but no one helped.
God ordered Jacob’s enemies to surround him,
and now no one wants anything to do with Jerusalem.
18 “God has right on his side. I’m the one who did wrong.
Listen everybody! Look at what I’m going through!
My fair young women, my fine young men, all herded into exile!
19 “I called to my friends; they betrayed me.
My priests and my leaders only looked after themselves,
trying but failing to save their own skins.
20 “O God, look at the trouble I’m in! My stomach in knots,
my heart wrecked by a life of rebellion.
Massacres in the streets, starvation in the houses.
21 “Oh, listen to my groans. No one listens, no one cares.
When my enemies heard of the trouble you gave me, they cheered.
Bring on Judgment Day! Let them get what I got!
22 “Take a good look at their evil ways and give it to them!
Give them what you gave me for my sins.
Groaning in pain, body and soul, I’ve had all I can take.”
WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?
Jeremiah’s audience are the Jews in Babylonian exile who are lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem. Notice that in the middle of the lament, they finally admit that they were wrong. “God has right on his side. I’m the one who did wrong.
I must ask myself, what does God have to allow to happen in my life until He has my attention so He can help me realize what I am doing wrong—the sins that offend Him?
The NIV Quest Study Bible advises us to look for themes of tragic reversal—despair to hope, repentance to renewal—for individuals, cities and nations. Notice also the book’s careful construction. God is not finished with His people yet. God is not finished with you and me.
The Jewish people were proud of Jerusalem, for it was their capital city and the home of their holy temple. But their hearts had turned away from God. the Jews thought their city was impregnable, particularly because the Lord’s house was there. But God would rather His city and temple be destroyed by pagans than to have His name disgraced by the wicked lives of His people.
Now that they were in trouble, the Jews were turning back to God’s Word. Unfortunately, they didn’t pay attention to that Word earlier to keep the trouble from coming. But regret is seeping into their being with remorse building as they remember their sins against God.
I confess, there are times I brush aside the sin of judgement on those who hurt me. I have unholy thoughts of wanting to fight back, to get even. Then I realize that is not what you want and I move on. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Forgive us our sins. You are the One and Only who forgives our sins and remembers it no more. I rely on your compassions that fail not” and on your eternal love because of Jesus in me. Continue to transform me by correcting me. Do what you must, but be gentle. I have no regrets for coming to you. I want to live with no regrets. No turning back, no turning back…
In Jesus Name, Amen