Lamentations 1: Gently Weeps
October 22, 2020
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
This Book of Lamentations appears initially to be little more than a rather lengthy “downer,” but once we start to understand its purpose and point, it becomes uniquely edifying. Probably written by Jeremiah (2 Chronicles 35:25), probably after the fall of Jerusalem, it expresses the instruction that we are given to “mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15), in a particular way and for a particular purpose. The purpose seems to be to put words to genuine repentance, to empathize with the pain of a person attempting to come back to God “from the dark paths of sin,” so that they might find that God’s love is “new every morning” (Lamentations 3:23), the key text of the book.
This chapter is filled with “mourning with those who mourn.” The city is “lonely” (1:1), tragically because it was “full of people.” A sacked city has an eerie loneliness to it. Imagine walking down Upper East Side Manhattan at 2 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon and finding not a person, not a yellow cab, nothing. You can almost imagine the city feeling “lonely.” Where has everyone gone? The city asks itself, Jeremiah imagines, while his “guitar gently weeps,” to put it in terms of a more modern “lamentation.”
More tragically still, by contrast “her enemies prosper” (1:5). It is one thing to be defeated, it is another to see those who defeated you doing well. It is pouring salt into the wound. Part of what makes this worse is actually looking and remembering how good things used to be: “Jerusalem remembers…all the precious things” (1:7). Like a rich man who has fallen into poverty remembers his Rolls-Royce, Jerusalem, again personified, remembers her precious things.
But there are real signs of genuine repentance. Discipline is producing its fruit. “Jerusalem sinned grievously; therefore she became filthy” (1:8). She is calling out to God, if not yet in perfect honesty: “Look, O LORD, and see, for I am despised” (1:11). And she says, “The LORD is in the right, for I have rebelled against his word” (1:18). She realizes how mistaken she was before: “I called to my lovers, but they deceived me” (1:19). “You have dealt with me because of all my transgressions” (1:22). Jerusalem is beginning to realize that she has done wrong against God.
Of course, it is better to repent before things become calamitous. But if you ever find yourself in a ditch, the first thing is stop digging. Look around. Ask yourself what got you into this hole. And start to climb out by looking up to the stars, look up to God himself, turn back to him, acknowledge your fault, and in due course you will find that his mercies are new every morning, and great is his faithfulness (3:22-23).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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