Friday, May 2, 2014

CCLXI – Lamentations

The very word “Lamentations” comes from the word “lament” which means to mourn or grieve.  Unfortunately, grief is a part of life.  Only a very few escape grief throughout their entire lives.  In fact I would say that only those whose lives have been shortened would be able to avoid this awful emotion we call grief.  This book is devoted entirely to grief and ways to express it.  The cause of the grief expressed in Lamentations is the fall of the once great nation of Judah and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.  Added to that is the captivity, at which time almost all the citizens of Judah were taken off to be slaves in the far-away land of Babylon.

Traditional among theologians is the acceptance of Jeremiah as having authored the entire book.  It makes sense that this “weeping prophet” would have had the mindset to express such thoughts on paper.  Also, we know that Jeremiah lived through the captivity and the sad events leading up to it.  Only an eye witness to all of these events would be able to document them with such detail and emotion.

I have mentioned before that I’m not “wired” in such a way to be a lover of poetry.  However, I understand its value.  The book of Lamentations is one of the more lengthy poems in the Bible.  It is unique in that it is written entirely in poetry form.  We have discussed back in the Book of Psalms what an acrostic poem is.  {It’s a poem using all of the letters in the Hebrew alphabet in proper sequence.}  The Hebrew alphabet has twenty-two letters, therefore each chapter contains twenty-two verses (except chapter 3, which contains twenty-six verses.  I cannot explain that).  Lamentations was written around 600 BC.  During this particular time period, the acrostic poetry form of writing was used to express completeness which is why all letters of the alphabet was used.  Also, using this form of poetry, the content was easier to memorize.

This is not a long book and it is interesting (howbeit somewhat depressing) to read in one sitting.  Not many sermons are preached out of this book, although perhaps there should be, considering my opening paragraph.

Chapter 1  -  Jerusalem

When Jeremiah was first called as God’s spokesman about forty years ago, Jerusalem was a thriving city, full of life.  It was during Josiah’s reign and Josiah was instituting reform in Judah which brought the city to an even livelier place.  And, just like all Judeans, Jeremiah was aware of what Jerusalem was during Solomon’s reign, when it was the jewel of the entire world.  In the first chapter Jeremiah is asking “How can this happen?”  He couldn’t express just how amazing such a transformation was as he was describing the desolation he was witnessing.  He was very good at describing it in this chapter, giving us as the readers a vivid picture of what it looked like.  He reflects frequently of the “old days”, referring to festivals and commerce.  There were no signs of those things any more.

Chapter 2  -  The Explanation

This chapter continues on about the desolation of Jerusalem, then tries to explain why.  We see that God was upset with Jerusalem and has cast upon it exactly what it deserved.  Again mentioning in verse 14 that even after their captivity the citizens did not think they had ever done anything wrong.  It also speaks of neighboring nations ridiculing Jerusalem (vss 15-16).  This speaks of Jerusalem being a witness to the world for God, but in the negative, rather than the positive sense.

Chapter 3  -  Jeremiah Weeps

This chapter is the longest poem in whole book.  It dedicated three verses for each Hebrew letter.  In this poem Jeremiah seems to be thinking out loud and talking mostly about himself and how he has personally been affected.  He even mentions again about that particularly fearful time in his life when he was threatened with being put to death (vs 25>).

Chapter 4 – Religious Leaders

This chapter seems to concentrate on the Priests and Prophets of the two latest generations of Judeans.  They were clearly at fault for being silent about the apostasy and the iniquitous lifestyle that they actually seemed to encourage.

Chapter 5  -  Jeremiah’s Prayer

Take a moment and read this final chapter in this book.  Jeremiah is praying.  You can tell how knowledgeable he is about God and How God thinks.  He is simply making an appeal to God for Him to cool His anger.  But I find it interesting that Jeremiah is stating his prayer in such a way that he is less than confident that it will make much difference.  {Remember, Jeremiah knows that God has already sentenced Israel to seventy years of captivity.

This singe post begins and concludes our study of Lamentations.  I like Jeremiah and have enjoyed learning a bit more about him.  In the next post we will begin the Book of Ezekiel.

1 comment:

  1. Can you elaborate on verses 22 and 23 in chapter 3?