Day 183 – Thru the Bible
Today we start Lamentations. Here is the overview video.
Video – Read Scripture: Lamentations
How does this video help you understand Lamentations better?
Lamentations 1 – Lamentations consists of five distinct poems, corresponding to the five chapters in our English Bibles. The first four poems (chapters 1–4) are in acrostic form: the verses begin with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Although the unknown writer is close to the situation he describes, and writes with emotional intensity, the acrostic form provides bounds to his expression of grief and expresses the orderly comprehensiveness of his laments. This is suffering “from A to Z” (aleph to tav in Hebrew).
The imagery of a widow, enslaved, comfortless, without dignity, taunted, exiled and desolate, paints a picture that is as bad as it can be. In this humiliation there is no comfort such as that announced in Isaiah 40:1 or by Lamentations’ contemporaries, the prophets Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. What is worse, it is the Lord Himself who has afflicted Zion.
As to judgment, the writer shares the perspective of Deuteronomy 27–28 and 1 Kings 11 to 2 Kings 25. At this point, however, he seems oblivious to the promises of God. There is a lesson in this. It is necessary at times to contemplate the unmitigated horror of being forsaken by God and coming under His wrath. This in turn should bring us, as it would have brought the faithful few of Judah, to reflect on the utter sinfulness of our sin and our desperate need for repentance and rescue.
The metaphors of uncleanness and nakedness portray the radical nature of our moral revolt against God. The terrible reversal of fortune is a warning against ingratitude and against embracing other alliances in idolatry. In the New Testament the notion of idolatry is extended to mean allegiance to anything detrimental to our relationship to Jesus—for example, covetousness (1 Corinthians 5:9–11; Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5; 1 John 5:20–21).
But is there a solution to this sense that God’s promises are fragile and that there is no hope for redemption? Lamentations will point us to it later on. In the meantime, the writer’s grief signifies a necessary stage in coming to embrace the prophetic hope that is fulfilled in Jesus’ suffering on the cross. The purpose of such grief is to lead us to true repentance and faith.
Ultimately, we see the seriousness of our rebellion against God when we see what He had to do in order to remedy the situation. The suffering of Zion foreshadows the suffering of Jesus on our behalf. We cannot fully understand the undeserved suffering of the sinless Son of the Father. But Lamentations shows us something of the horror of separation from God.
Grief, or a sense of spiritual deadness, can rob us of the realization of God’s presence. But Jesus’ disciples’ feeling of disillusionment—“But we had hoped that He was the one to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21)—was replaced by the joy of Jesus’ presence: “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32).
How does recognizing the ugliness of our sin leads us deeper into worshipping Jesus?
Lamentations 2 – The unrelieved horror of this poem centers again on the theme of the reversal of fortune. But this time there is an added terrifying dimension. Whereas God had shown Himself to Israel as the Warrior God who fought for His people to bring salvation and rest (Exodus 15; Deuteronomy 20:4; 31:7–8; Psalm 24:8; Isaiah 59:15b–20), now He has become Judah’s judge, the destroyer of the kingdom. Here is the divine warrior fighting against His own people.
The writer reflects on the downfall of every tangible aspect of God’s presence with His people: the land, the city, the Temple, the nation, and the kingship. Furthermore, the official prophets have been false and have failed to speak God’s word. Even worse, the Lord has stopped revealing Himself to them.
The emphasis on God’s role in the destruction of Judah is seen especially in Lamentations 2:1–8, where He is the subject of almost every verb in this catalog of catastrophes. Similarly, Jesus was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23). In Lamentations 2:11–22, significantly, the writer identifies himself with Zion’s suffering and describes his anguish at what he sees happening. The apostle Paul expresses something of this anguish as he contemplates the mystery of Jewish unbelief in the gospel (Romans 9:1–5; 10:1–4).
The climax of this complaint in Lamentations is that the entire debacle is what God had determined and had revealed in His words of warning to His people. To be sure, the Babylonian was the destroyer, but only as the agent of Yahweh. It is God who alone determines the course of world history. The principle character in the drama of Scripture is God, who “works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11). Our poet longs for his people to turn back to God and, in doing so, he foreshadows the grief of Jesus as He weeps over Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37–39; Luke 23:28). But he sees the day of the Lord only as the day of His anger.
How does this chapter help you see the seriousness of the consequences of our rebellion against God?
What other thoughts or questions does today’s video or reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
Videos produced by www.TheGospelProject.com.
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