Lamentations: Desolation & Hope

Read the Bible in 2011 ◊ Week 23: Friday

“How lonely sits the city
That was full of people!
She has become like a widow
Who was once great among the nations!
She who was a princess among the provinces
Has become a forced laborer!

“She weeps bitterly in the night
And her tears are on her cheeks;
She has none to comfort her
Among all her lovers.
All her friends have dealt treacherously with her;
They have become her enemies.”
Lamentations 1:1–2

Friday’s Bible reading is Lamentations. This short book of only five chapters is a poetic lament over the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the consequences of God’s devastating judgment on Judah. The words are touchingly beautiful in their melancholy and grief as Judah’s sin and God’s judgment are described. Gleason Archer writes:

“. . . the first four chapters are written in the acrostic form. Chapters 1, 2, and 4 are therefore twenty-two verses long, each verse beginning with the succes- sive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Chapter 3, however, contains sixty-six verses, since three successive verses are allotted to each letter of the alphabet.

“The book does not expressly state who the author was, yet there was an early and consistent tradition that Jeremiah composed it. This tradition is reflected in the title of the book in the LXX [Septuagint] as well as by the Aramaic Targum of Jonathan. The early church Fathers, such as Origen and Jerome, understood Jeremiah to be the author without any question….If Jeremiah was not the composer, whoever wrote it must have been a contem-porary of his and witnessed the same pitiless destruction meted out in Zion by its Chaldean conquerors.”1

In the midst of this wrenching bereavement, chapter three contains incredible words of hope. As you read this, remember it was written in the midst of the ruin of all that the writer held dear.

My soul has been rejected from peace;
I have forgotten happiness.
So I say, “My strength has perished,
And so has my hope from the LORD.”
Remember my affliction and my wandering,
the wormwood and bitterness.
Surely my soul remembers
And is bowed down within me.
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.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I have hope in Him.”
The LORD is good to those who wait for Him,
To the person who seeks Him.
Lamentations 3:17–26

The word remember occurs in verses 19 and 20, and recall is used in verse 21. In verses 19 and 20 Jeremiah remembers the horrible things he has experienced and seen, his rejection and suffering at the hands of his people who refused to repent and turn back to God—and his soul is bowed down within him. Charles Spurgeon writes in his evening devotional for May 28th:

“Memory is frequently the bond slave of despondency. Despairing minds call to remembrance every dark foreboding in the past, and dilate upon every gloomy feature in the present; thus memory, clothed in sackcloth, presents to the mind a cup of mingled gall and wormwood.”2

But then in verse 21, the word recall is used as Jeremiah recalls something to mind that gives him hope. This is a different Hebrew word than the word for remember that is used in verses 19 and 20. This word means “to turn back”3 or to “re(turn)4. In the midst of his remembrance of grief, Jeremiah turns back—he recalls to mind—and he has hope.

What does he turn back to in his mind?

“The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease”

This truth is seen over and over again in Jeremiah. Despite their sin and defiant rebellion against God, God speaks of His mercy and love for His people, bringing Judah back to the land—and looking further into the future, His promise of the coming of a new covenant when He will put His law within His people and write it on their heart. A new covenant in which the Gentiles will also be brought in as members of God’s household.

Jeremiah recalls:

“For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;”

God’s compassions never fail. When you go to sleep at night, He hasn’t used up all of His compassions for you at the end of that day. When you wake up the next morning, He is there and His compassions for you are there—they are new every morning.

Jeremiah returns to the truth that he knows about God’s character:

“Great is Your faithfulness.”

God’s faithfulness is great. God does not change. He is our rock. Paul wrote to Timothy:

“If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.”
2 Timothy 2:13

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow—there is no shadow of turning with Him. If you’re familiar with the hymn, Great Is Thy Faithfulness, you recognize that last phrase; it’s from James 1:17 and is included in the lyrics. Jeremiah concludes:

“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I have hope in Him.”

And he gives us this witness:

“The LORD is good to those who wait for Him,
To the person who seeks Him.”

In the midst of his desolation, the words of Jeremiah speak to us in the midst of our desolation.

“This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.”


_________
Isaiah 42 Photograph: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
1Gleason L. Archer, Jr., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, pp. 365–366.
2Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings, Evening, May 28.
3Strong’s Concordance, Hebrew Dictionary, #7725.
4R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., Bruce K. Waltke, eds., Theological Wordbook of the Old
Testament, 1980, vol. II, 909.
Cry of prophet Jeremiah on the Ruins of Jerusalem, Ilya Yefimovich Repin: Public Domain.

Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter

One Response to Lamentations: Desolation & Hope

  1. INC says:

    Here are more verses from the Bible about God’s faithfulness:

    Psalm 33

    1 Corinthians 1:9
    God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

    1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
    Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.”

    2 Thessalonians 3:3
    But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.”

    Hebrews 2:17–18
    Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.”

    Hebrews 10:23
    Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;”

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