Without a doubt, Lamentations is one of the most heartbreaking books of the Bible to read. It’s only five chapters long and doesn’t take more than 20 minutes to read the whole thing. Lamentations isn’t a book we turn to very often for times of reflection, devotion, or inspiration. That kind of “feel good” walk with the Lord comes from Psalms. The name Psalms even sounds nice. Lamentations? That sounds bad from the get go. Who wants to read a downer book for their daily pick-me-up with a name that is synonymous with crying? This book is full of anger, wrath, desolation, and despair. So, beware if you decide to read it, because it isn’t pretty.
Jeremiah pours out all his emotions as he writes about the destruction of Jerusalem. Judgment had finally come to the people of Israel. They had long since abandoned the covenant of grace and love for a lifestyle of idolatry and selfish pursuit. One word could describe their state – wicked. And for this wickedness, God lifted His and of protection and brought in the invading hordes to carry out His judgment against the nation of Judah and the city of Jerusalem. The people would experience crushing defeat at the hands of a brutal enemy. Cities would be sacked and burned. People would be slaughtered by a bloodthirsty army. Whole communities would be carried off and enslaved. Women raped. Such privation would ensue that starving parents would eat their own children.
This judgment hadn’t come without warning. The Lord sent prophet after prophet appealing to the people to return to the covenant and find grace and life. However, the Israelites ignored God’s warnings and pleas. In some cases, they persecuted and killed the prophets that carried the Lord’s message of repentance and return. The prophet Isaiah is a perfect example. Through Isaiah, the Lord called His people to stop sinning and return to a place of grace. Isaiah 1:18 reads, “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.” For this call to repent, Isaiah was put in a hollow log and sawn in half.
We delude ourselves if we think that God is not displeased with sin and will not judge it. Lamentations makes it plain that wrath and anger will be poured out when judgment comes – and it inevitably does. However, in the middle of this book comes one of the great passages of encouragement and consolation. Lamentations 3:21-23 says,
“This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.”
Even in the midst of judgment, God’s lovingkindness and compassion is revealed. It is ready for us fresh and new every morning. This “hard” book reveals the great balance of God. As was stated earlier, this book carries the evident warning of judgment on sin. Yet, God is not just a big ball of anger waiting to bust us on the head. Judgment comes to point the way back to the Lord’s favor. The intention of judgment is to return us to right standing in Him. For that reason, in the midst of judgment, there is a promise that every morning His love and compassion is renewed. There is an opportunity, every day, to find out how faithful the Lord is. So be encouraged, even when we walk under judgment, God is open-armed waiting for us to return to Him.
Copyright © 2012 John P. King
Verses from the NASB