Lamentations: “Weep”


Lamentations: [ /lamənˈtāSHəns/ ] noun – the passionate expression of grief or sorrow; weeping. The original name of the book in Hebrew can be translated “Alas!” or “How,” giving the sense of weeping or lamenting over some sad event. Later, it was translated to ‘Lamentations’ for a clearer understanding and application.

The author of the text is not listed. The tradition is that the Prophet Jeremiah wrote Lamentations. This view is highly likely considering the author was a witness of the Babylonians destroying Jerusalem. Not only does the author of the book witness the results of the recent destruction of Jerusalem, he seems to have witnessed the invasion itself (Lamentations 1:13–15). Jeremiah fits this qualification (2 Chronicles 35:25; 36:21-22). The Book of Lamentations was likely written between 586 and 575 B.C., during or soon after Jerusalem’s fall.


The Book of Lamentations is divided into five chapters. Each chapter represents a separate poem. In the original Hebrew, the verses are acrostic, each verse starting with a succeeding letter of the Hebrew alphabet. In the Book of Lamentations, the Prophet Jeremiah understands that the Babylonians were God’s tool for bringing judgment on Jerusalem (Lamentations 1:12-15; 2:1-8; 4:11). Lamentations makes it clear that sin and rebellion were the causes of God’s wrath being poured out (1:8-9; 4:13; 5:16). Lamenting is appropriate in a time of distress, but it should quickly give way to contrition and repentance (Lamentations 3:40-42; 5:21-22). As we read through the text, we cannot help but wonder how many ways Jeremiah could describe the desolation of the once proud city of Jerusalem. Children begged food from their mothers (Lamentations 2:12), young men and women were cut down by swords (2:21), and formerly compassionate mothers used their children for food (4:10). Even the city’s roads mourned over its condition (1:4). Jeremiah could not help but acknowledge the dismal state of this city. Yet even in this seemingly hopeless situation, he somehow found hope in the Lord (3:21–24).


God is a God of hope (Lamentations 3:24-25). No matter how far we have gone from Him, we have the hope that we can return to Him and find Him compassionate and forgiving (1 John 1:9). God’s faithfulness (Lamentations 3:23) and deliverance (Lamentations 3:26) are attributes that give us great hope and comfort. He is not a disinterested, capricious god, but a God who will deliver all those who turn to Him, admit they can do nothing to earn His favor, and call upon the Lord’s mercy so that we will not be consumed (Lamentations 3:22). Despite its inconsolable suffering, Lamentations does offer us hope, first in the text itself and then in the full scope of the Bible. In the center of the book, in Lamentations 3:21-25, clear words of hope are found. The author has hope because he calls to mind the nature of his covenantal God and remembers that he is ultimately a God of love, compassion, and faithfulness. He then resolves to seek the LORD and wait on his salvation even when the LORD is nowhere to be found (seemingly). Yet the ending of Lamentations leaves much to be desired in terms of salvation and redemption. We praise God that these are not the final words of God! We see, in the context of the whole Bible, God who knows of our lost and dead state and came to us on a rescue and redemption mission. This glorious God came in the flesh, fully God and fully man, in Jesus Christ, to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15), to bear our grief and shame (Isaiah 53). Much of what we recoil at in Lamentations—the level of shame, the humiliation, the judgment of God—are little pictures of what Jesus would suffer as he bore the sins of the world. This includes our sin and suffering. That alone is reason enough to read Lamentations. We need to linger over these horrifying images long enough to appreciate the depth of Jesus’ work. Through Jesus, we not only experience salvation within sorrow, but we also have great confidence that one day all our sorrow will be wiped away when Jesus returns to right all wrongs and cause us to walk with God in unbroken fellowship on a fully renewed earth (Revelation 21). This doesn’t mean you should ignore over your pain and grief; it just means there’s always hope. In the living hope we have through Christ, who is alive, we can have joy, for our hope does not put us to shame (Romans 5:1-5).

Next month, we will look closer at the book of Ezekial, the prophet who spoke during the Israelites exile in Babylon. Ezekial’s challenges us to have a life-giving vision of the power of God as we humble ourselves before Him in worship.

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