The chapters of Lamentations thus far have followed the acrostic pattern where each verse begins with the next letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Chapter three of this book gives three verses per letter, resulting in 66 verses instead of 22.
It begins with the laments from a perspective of a man who feels utterly cast out and forgotten by God, left to waste away dwelling in darkness. “He has made my flesh and my skin waste away; he has broken my bones,” (v.4). The first third of this chapter continues as such, trying to express the utter chaos and loss and pain around him as the Lord brings judgement on the sin and wickedness in Jerusalem.
The middle third changes tone and remembers the faithfulness of the Lord, saying “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.”” (v.22-24). The chapter closes it’s last third with more complaint, but with declarations of hope in God’s promise interwoven.
Horatio G. Spafford was well acquainted with sorrow. He had five children with his wife, Anna, the youngest of whom died of pneumonia in 1871. In the same year, their business burnt down in the Great Chicago Fire. In 1873, his wife and four remaining children were crossing the Atlantic along with 313 other passengers on their way to France when the ship collided with another vessel. It slipped into the frigid ocean water carrying 226 of its passengers with it, including all four of the Spafford’s children. Anna was pulled from some floating wreckage and taken to Wales where she telegrammed her husband “saved alone, what shall I do?”
Horatio booked the next ship out to Wales to be with his grieving wife. The captain of the ship called Horatio to his cabin and said they were over the place where his children had gone down. It was on this journey that Spafford wrote the famous hymn “It Is Well With My Soul.”
The flower is most lovely in a desolate place, the candle most comforting in darkest night, and worship most powerful from a grieving heart.
There is something profound in verses 22-24 of this chapter (quoted above), the more so for its surroundings. There is an acknowledgement of God’s profound goodness here even while the author is bearing His wrath and seeing His judgement at hand. He sees that, even while living through such a terrible and awesome thing as the judgement of the Lord for the sins of His people, He is being true to His word, which comforts the author.
For if He did not keep His word to judge the transgressor, who is to say that He would keep His word to never abandon His people? If God were able to betray His own character and commandments concerning justice, who is to say He would not also walk back His other promises? Therefore the author is comforted, even by the justice of the Lord. It is in here that the author draws strength, confidently remembering the goodness of his God, saying “For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though He causes grief, He will have compassion according to the abundance of His steadfast love; for He does not afflict from His heart or grieve the children of men,” (v.31-33). This chapter provides some very real hope in a book named, and rightly so, Lamentations.
Trusting the Lord is easy when there is nothing particularly significant happening in our lives – no huge change, stress, accident, or tragedy. It is here that we are most likely to ask that Jesus give us the wheel and maybe take a snooze in the back seat until, sure enough, we hit a rough patch and realize our utter lack of control. To put it parabolically, when the skies are clear and storms far off, we tend to abandon the hard work of building our homes on the Solid Rock and move into that shack on the beach where things are easier and more relaxing. But the storms always come.
Trust in Jesus is an action, but it is also a way of life. It involves getting to know Him personally and deeply, to make Him our first reaction when we’re up against the things of this world whether big or small. The author(s) in Lamentations did not forgo telling their woes and complaints to the Lord and neither should we, but like the author of chapter three we must learn to stand on the bedrock of the promises of God. We must learn to anchor ourselves in the Word of God so firmly that though we are tossed side to side, we never actually move. We must make scripture and prayer our top priorities, to hear from and speak to God that we may truly know Him. It is from this place that we can truly say “it is well with my soul.”
What are your actions and practical steps to get to know God? How do you spend your time in Scripture? Do you have a time of prayer set aside?
Thank you, Father God, for your unchanging goodness and mercy. Thank you for holding fast to each soul you have called to you, and for guiding and teaching us in your word. I pray that as we continue to go through your word this year, you might bring us further into relationship with you and cast off those things that hold us in complacency. Give us strength and courage to trust you and follow you wherever you lead. Amen!
Song: It Is Well - Shane & Shane
Text: Lamentations 1-2
Jerusalem is compared to woman who has been humiliated from her position of a queen in splendor, to that of a shamed and lonely widow. The lamenting poems describe the resulting anguish and lack of rest (1:3) of grief and loss. The author of Lamentations repeats their understanding that this destruction is all a result of Judah’s sin and rebellion (1:5, 8, 14, 18, 20, 22). Chapter 2 describes the Lord as the enemy of Judah and describes how he exercised his wrath on Israel. Listen to the phrases describing destruction by God’s actions; He:
“hurled down” (2:1),
“swallowed up” and “tore down” (2:2, 5, 8),
“cut off”, “withdrew his right hand”, “burned” (2:3),
“strung his bow”, “slain”, “poured out his wrath” (2:4),
“destroyed”, “multiplied mourning and lamentation” (2:5,8),
“laid waste” (2:6)
“rejected”, “abandoned”, “handed over” (2:7)
“he has broken and destroyed”(2:9)
In response to all this desolation:
The elders are silent in dust and sackcloth (2:10).
The young women bow their heads to the ground (2:11).
The author is in torment and weeping (2:11).
The children and infants faint in the streets (2:11).
Then come the questions:
“Where is bread and wine?” (2:12)
“What can I say?” (2:13)
“How can I comfort you?” (2:13)
“Who can heal you?” (2:13)
“Whom has God ever treated like this?” (2:20)
“Should women eat their offspring, the children they have cared for?” (2:20)
“Should priest and prophet be killed in the sanctuary of the Lord?” (2:20)
The absolute desperation of the people of fallen Judah is clear in these chapters that portray utter grief and despair. While the people are bent low in the posture of lament and sorrow, the children are fainting and dying of hunger and the mothers are so desperately hungry they turn to cannibalism. The men who should have facilitated covenant relationship between God and His people are dead in the place where once God’s glory dwelled with His people. All this--the level of humiliation and disgrace that it took for Judah to finally acknowledge her sins and rebellion against the Lord. Is this too harsh a measure? Let’s not forget the words we just read in Isaiah and Jeremiah and the minor prophets: God warned the people about this over and over and over again. Here in their suffering, finally, they know their God is holy and demands justice. In Proverbs too, we read: “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” Proverbs 3:11
Have you ever experienced God’s destruction in your life? We see through Scripture that God sometimes resorts to tearing things down in order to bring us back into right relationship of complete reliance on Him. If we prosper and grow comfortable, we can be prone to pride, thinking that we don’t need God because we have life handled. Or if we don’t align ourselves with God’s will and make important decisions without Him, we may find ourselves in our own created mess. Sometimes restoration can only come after complete destruction—the removal of a job or a relationship—or a chaotic situation where you find yourself again desperately in need of Him. A hard principle of life is that it is often in our humbling, our sorrow, in our questions and confusion that we recognize our true status as sinners in need of a Saviour.
And let’s not forget, on this side of the New Covenant, the ultimate example of Jesus and his beautiful gift to us. He took God’s destruction upon himself in order that we may be restored to God:
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:5-6
Jesus longs for us to re-evaluate our lives and priorities when we are not living in His will and Way. He wants us to find Him and turn to Him for restoration. We are wise not to resent the discipline of God for sometimes it is the last resort for Him to restore us back into right relationship with Him.
Though it is not easy, Lord, thank you for tearing down the things in my life that get in the way of a right relationship with you. Help me to be humble so that I can quickly re-align my life to your way and purpose when I recognize your divine hand removing so as to restore. Amen.
Song: Canvas and Clay by Pat Barrett
Bible Blog 2022
This year the blogs are focused on the Psalms and are posted on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.