Ages ago, I said I was going to do a Lamentations series. After the first post, I never really followed through and it died. So here’s the second attempt at it! Note: I lost the first one I did so I kinda have to start again…
How lonely sits the city that was full of people!
How like a widow has she become, she who was great among the nations!
She who was a princess among the provinces has become a slave.
Verse 1 gets straight to the point. This is going be a sad song. The question is: how sad?
Imagine vibrant and action packed city like Sydney and Melbourne and one day it all stops. The people disappear. All the shops close. All the restaurants vanish. All gone. How sad would that be?
Now, place yourself in the shoes of a married couple. Many married folk would agree that even if married life can be hard, imagining life without their dearly beloved. I’m not married but it sure does sound pretty sad.
Now imagine someone with so much power and adored by many, maybe the Queen, but suddenly forced to become a slave and doing the worst of jobs by their masters.
She weeps bitterly in the night,
with tears on her cheeks;
among all her lovers
she has none to comfort her;
all her friends have dealt treacherously with her;
they have become her enemies.
The writer takes us to the life of the princess. Imagine a beautiful princess, who should usually be bright and glorious, weeping every night. All of her friends have betray her, which is the reason why she is now like a slave, and have turned on her.
How do you think you would feel if all your closest friends became your enemies? It would be devastating and it is something that would consume you and cause some sleepless nights.
Judah has gone into exile because of affliction
and hard servitude;
she dwells now among the nations,
but finds no resting place;
her pursuers have all overtaken her
in the midst of her distress.
Now we can all see. This song is about the nation of Judah. The remaining tribe of Israel that is in exile. God, who had saved them so many times, has now punished Judah for turning their back on their Lord. The northern tribes had been annihilated by Assyria already, and the once proud people of God will be now be relegated as a has-been nation.
This will be the tone of Lamentations. It is not a proud national anthem or a defiant song, like so many well known anthems. Instead, it is a cry of desperation and a mournful prayer for God to turn His eye on His people.
The last verses of Lamentations (chapter 5, verse 21-22) read:
Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored!
Renew our days as of old—
unless you have utterly rejected us,
and you remain exceedingly angry with us.
When things are down and not quite right, it can be helpful to try and look for the positive things and focus on that. We are taught to always look at the bright side of life. However, we can sometimes take this far and forget that it’s okay to mourn and cry out for help.
The book of Lamentations remind us that it is okay to be angry, sad and more importantly, ask for help. We live in the world where we are told that we are and need to be commanders of our destiny and that we can only rely on our own strength and intellect make things better. This is far from true. In the real world, we have whole hosts of people in our lives that we rely on and turn to for help in the right situations
But there is only one who is eternally and perfectly dependable. The writer of Lamentations wasn’t crying out to an earthly king or power. The writer was crying out to God Almighty who had the power to save Judah and the people of God. Only the maker of the universe could restore Israel. Only the one who gave man breath and life could raise a nation out of the ashes.
We are much closer to the reality of the writer of Lamentations. Like in the world of the writer, humanity sits in the ruin of its own sin and wickedness. 2015 was another year of real joy and hope, but also another year to remind us how wicked we can be. The punishment for this wickedness is death. I will write more about whether death is as scary punishment later down the track, but I can assure you that it is serious.
However, we have a great advantage in that we live in the world post Christ. Jesus Christ was born in a manager, lived the life of a blameless man, died on the cross for the sins of humanity and rose from the dead, declared the Son of God. In the person of Jesus Christ, we can see the cry from Lamentations answered when humanity is given hope beyond death.
As I continue to read Lamentations, I hope to see more about the character of God and the great hope we can see in Christ!