Learning from Lamentations
1:1-22 - Jerusalem had fallen into hard times - ‘she who once was great among the nations... has now become a slave’ (1). The explanation for this sad situation was not hard to find - ‘Jerusalem has sinned greatly and so has become unclean...’ (8-9). Could things be turned around? Could there once again be blessing? There was a way back to God - the way of being honest before Him. They needed to look seriously at their way of life and think seriously about their attitude towards the Lord. They were not to adopt an arrogant attitude - ‘There’s really nothing wrong with us. We’re doing all right’. They were to come to God with a real confession of sin: ‘The Lord is righteous, yet I rebelled against His command... O Lord,... I have been most rebellious’ (18,20). God’s blessing will begin again when we confess our sin.
2:1-22 - Jerusalem’s fall into hard times was not ‘just one of those things that happens’. God’s people brought it on themselves. They did not take God seriously - but God continued to take them seriously. They ignored God - but God did not ignore their disobedience to Him. They sinned against God - and He was angry with them: ‘How the Lord in His anger has set the daughter of Zion under a cloud!’ (1). This was not just a case of glibly saying, ‘The good times will come again’. They needed to recognize why the bad times had come: ‘The Lord has... carried out His threat’ (17). The Lord had warned His sinful people. Judgment was on its way - if they refused to listen to Him. Now, in the time of His judgment, God is still calling us back to Himself: ‘Cry aloud to the Lord!...’ (18-19). Will we return to Him?
3:1-24 - There are times when it seems nothing is going right for us: ‘I am the man who has seen affliction...’ (1-3). In such times, we must remember this: ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end’. When we find ourselves in circumstances of great distress, we must learn to look beyond the things that are happening to us. We must learn to look to the Lord and say, ‘Great is Your faithfulness’. It will not be easy to see God at work in our lives when everything seems to be going wrong. We must be patient as we wait for the blessing of the Lord to return to our lives. We must put all our hope in the Lord, trusting in His precious promise: ‘The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul that seeks Him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord’ (22-26).
3:25-42 - In our ‘grief’, we must not forget the ‘compassion’ of God (32). He understands us. He cares for us. How do we know that God loves us? ‘Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8). This is the greatest demonstration of God’s love for us. How can we doubt God’s love for us when we think of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, dying on the Cross for us as our Saviour? When we think of God’s love for us, we must remember that He calls us to love Him. We are not to take God’s love for granted - ‘God loves me. I can do what I like’. We are to appreciate God’s love - ‘God loves me. I will love Him’. God loves us. Christ died for us. How can we say, ‘I’ll do what I like’? How can we refuse to be changed by His love? ‘Let us examine our ways and turn back to the Lord. Let us open our hearts to God’ (40-41).
3:43-66 - ‘You came near when I called You... O Lord... You redeemed my life’ (57-58). We wonder, ‘Will God answer my prayer for salvation?’. Yes! At the Cross of Christ, we learn that God loves us and answers our prayer. ‘You did not wait for me to draw near to You, but You clothed yourself in frail humanity. You did not wait for me to cry out to You, but You let me hear Your voice calling me. And I’m forever grateful to You, I’m forever grateful for the Cross; I’m forever grateful to You that You came to seek and save the lost’. ‘Thank You for the Cross, the price You paid for us, how You gave Yourself so completely, precious Lord, precious Lord. Now our sins are gone, all forgiven, covered by Your blood, all forgotten, thank You Lord, thank You Lord’ (Songs of Fellowship, 631; Mission Praise, 632).
4:1-22 - No human king can even begin to compare with our Lord Jesus Christ, ‘the King of kings’ (Revelation 19:16). The people of Jerusalem were full of confidence. They ‘trusted their king to protect them from every invader’. They thought Jerusalem was invincible: ‘No one anywhere, not even rulers of foreign nations, believed that any invader could enter Jerusalem’s gates’. They were wrong. They thought it would never happen - but it did! The unthinkable happened! ‘They captured the source of our life, the king the Lord had chosen’. Why did it happen? God’s Word gives us the reason: ‘It happened because of the sins of her prophets and... priests’. The king - ‘the Lord’s anointed’ - was unable to prevent Jerusalem’s defeat (12-13,20). Praise God - We have a greater King: our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ!
5:1-22 - ‘You, O Lord, reign for ever; Your throne endures from generation to generation’. We must remember this when we feel like we have been ‘forgotten’ by God. When we feel like God has ‘abandoned’ us, we must remember this: ‘You, O Lord, are King for ever, and will rule to the end of time’ (19-20). We are not only to pay lip-service to the Lord our King. We are to crown Him as King of our heart and life. How are we to do this? We must pray, ‘Bring us back to You, Lord!’ (21). God is looking for a real return to Him and a real difference in our lives. ‘In your hearts enthrone Him. There let Him subdue all that is not holy, all that is not true...’; ‘So let us learn how to serve and in our lives enthrone Him, each other’s needs to prefer, for it is Christ we’re serving’ (Church Hymnary, 300; Mission Praise, 162).