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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Lamentations Bring Rejoicing

The book of Lamentations is a short book having only 5 chapters written by or, at least attributed  to, the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah is called "the weeping prophet" because of his messages which focus on the sins of Israel and God's judgment on Jerusalem and and the subsequent captivity by Babylon.

The messages are set as poems using an acrostic style in which each verse begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Chapters 1, 2, 4, and 5 all have 22 verses- one verse for each letter of the alphabet, and chapter 3 has 66 verses with each letter getting three verses.

All the chapters describe the destruction of the city called her the "Virgin Daughter Jerusalem." Sometimes the descriptions are personalized and the lament is cast in the first person. Chapter 3 opens with this cry of pain:
I am the man who has seen affliction
    by the rod of the Lord’s wrath.(NIV)

Chapter 2:1 describes God as the avenger:
How the Lord has covered Daughter Zion
    with the cloud of his anger!
He has hurled down the splendor of Israel
    from heaven to earth;
he has not remembered his footstool
    in the day of his anger.(NIV)

The destruction of Jerusalem came from invaders but the punishment is accorded as just punishment for sins committed by Israel with Jerusalem as the errant daughter whose sins have been revealed. The metaphors are graphic and painful.
"Should women eat their offspring
the children they have cared for?"
Jeremiah does not name the attacker as the enemy nations, but only that God has brought this vengeance.
"“Young and old lie together
    in the dust of the streets;
my young men and young women
    have fallen by the sword.
You have slain them in the day of your anger;
    you have slaughtered them without pity.(NIV)

All 5 chapters of Lamentations are filled with the pain and sorrow of the punishment that befell Judah and Jerusalem. It is also a place to review personal sins and failures and view personal punishment not connected with Jerusalem. Righteousness is still God's standard and repentance is still God's requirement.
These verses from Chapter 3 promise God's constant love:
31 For no one is cast off
    by the Lord forever.
32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
    so great is his unfailing love.
33 For he does not willingly bring affliction
    or grief to anyone.