The Book of Lamentations is a collection of five poems addressing the angst of it’s author about the destruction of Jerusalem. This book is in a poetic style, where the first four books have 22 verses and the third has 66 verses; there are 22 verses in the Hebrew alphabet. The book may have been written by the prophet Jeremiah.
The destruction of Jerusalem had been addressed before in the Word, specifically in Jeremiah, who was sent to warn the people of the upcoming destruction. The book is unique in that God does not speak, and the prophet can actually address the restoration of the people of Jerusalem, as it was already destroyed. Lamentations focuses heavily on the realization, by the author, that Jerusalem’s destruction has come because it has turned it’s heart away from God, but there is hope, if Jerusalem turns away from idolatry and worships God.
The interesting thing about these poems is that we can get a clearer sense of the anguish of the people, as it is expressed in a beautiful, poetic form, than we would in any of the other books of the Bible. The intent is to express to the reader the seriousness of a life without God, what it means to backtrack, or regress in one’s relationship with God and to give a clearer understanding of what it truly means to repent. We cannot atone for our sin s, but we can express what is inside of our heart, and God can redeem us.
The first chapter shows us how God has changed all of Jerusalem’s relationships, business, personal, spiritual, against Jerusalem because it has chosen the world in place of God. Pagan nations entered Jerusalem and took from it’s sanctuary, it’s enemies laughed at it’s plight. The second chapter goes further, away from Jerusalem’s standing in the world and details God’s wrath; Zion is covered with the cloud of his anger. That’s like, a storm that you cannot walk through, you cannot drive through you cannot escape it, because this is the Lord’s wrath, and you simply have to deal with it until he has gotten through to you.
In verse seven it says that the Lord abandoned his sanctuary, there is no communion between the Lord and anyone that is speaking in vain, out of repetition. It simply is not good enough anymore, because of the sin that has been committed against God. Then in the third chapter it is personalized, and the suffering is spoken from in the first person, not as the third person speaking about what has happened around him but from the one that is experiencing this and witnessing it first hand.
“He has broken my teeth with gravel; he has trampled me in the dust … I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall”. By the end of the third Chapter the author wants retribution, because he has called on God and God is actually listening to him he wants God to go after his enemies. And in the fourth and final chapters, the author recognizes what Jerusalem did wrong, and wants to Lord to act on his behalf but cannot do so without further reflecting on what has happened. It is as if the author is double minded about what the Lord will do, he knows what God can do, but wants his suffering to be light, he feels as though, just because he is making it right with God, that he can move on. We have to know that, having sinned against God, we come out of the suffering when God is ready for us to, not in our own time, but it builds our character, as we go through the process.
In conclusion, it is a wonder that we even get the benefit of having read through this book. Did Jeremiah give an account of his anguish and wailing out to God after the fact? Why is it that we do not get to see what God said to Jeremiah? Is this an abstraction of Jeremiah’s personification of what it must be like for someone in the Old Testament to call out to God; think of what someone whose primary relationship with God is through the Prophet, in accordance to the law as upheld by the King. Would their communication be elegant, or decent and in order? For some the Book of Lamentations might pose more questions than it answers, but that is a great reason to delve deeper into this book to see what God is saying to you through it.