This is a pretty fast book, and today we’re in the fifth and final chapter of Lamentations. This chapter is basically a prayer to God about all of the terrible things that the people of Judah were going through. It afflicted everyone from men to women, young to old and rich to poor. Everyone was suffering as a result of captivity, and here is now Jeremiah ended his prayer.
Lam 5:19 Thou, O LORD, remainest for ever; thy throne from generation to generation.
Lam 5:20 Wherefore dost thou forget us for ever, and forsake us so long time?
Lam 5:21 Turn thou us unto thee, O LORD, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old.
Lam 5:22 But thou hast utterly rejected us; thou art very wroth against us.
I wanted to point this out because it never says that God was not just. Of course, Jeremiah would prefer that the people come back to God and that the relationship be repaired. However, at the same time, he recognized that God was angry at the people for continually violating His law for a long time. Jeremiah never said that God was wrong for being angry.
This can be difficult one for all of us today. We get mad at God for bringing consequences. We say that God isn’t just, and we want something different to be happening. There are two separate issues here though. Asking God that something different happens is perfectly acceptable. Coming back to God and asking for forgiveness can be the first step in asking God to help us handle difficult situations.
However, it is a different thing to say that God is not just. Jeremiah understood that this was not the problem here. The people deserved the punishment because they had violated the law, and when people violate the law, there are consequences. That is the entire point of our justice system. I entirely understand that the courts are a human system and are occasionally faulty, but the ideal intent of the justice system is that people who break the law and receive appropriate punishment.
Why would we expect anything different of a perfect judge? God knows everything, so He can appropriately adjudicate cases. God’s justice system is certainly capable of bringing punishment when people have violated it, and that is what Jeremiah recognized.
I think that is why we never see Jeremiah say it wasn’t fair. While he certainly seemed to want things to be different, he never once said that God was not fair.
In Lamentations 4, Jeremiah talks about the perception of other nations in regards to this downfall that was happening in Judah.
Lam 4:11 The LORD hath accomplished his fury; he hath poured out his fierce anger, and hath kindled a fire in Zion, and it hath devoured the foundations thereof.
Lam 4:12 The kings of the earth, and all the inhabitants of the world, would not have believed that the adversary and the enemy should have entered into the gates of Jerusalem.
God’s people had been blessed for years. They were given many miraculous victories. In the not-too-distant past, David and then Solomon sat on the throne. They ruled a large kingdom through the grace of God. David was obviously a man after God’s own heart, and Solomon had been blessed with wisdom from God. Solomon had built the temple to glorify God. This was not that far in the past, but when you look at the way that the people of Judah were acting, you would have thought that that was ancient history. They had come so far from where they had been.
As a result, God was angry. God brought the consequences that He always said would come when the people drifted too far away from where God told them to be. Think about the end of Deuteronomy where Moses is talking about the blessings of following God or the curses of not following God.
It is interesting in verse 12 that the other people of the world would not believe that that the people of God had fallen. Again, given that miraculous history, it seemed impossible that there would finally be time where they failed. However, they did not fail because God failed to protect them; they failed because they lost touch with God and were exposed to the consequences of their actions.
I think that we have to be careful about this kind of thing in our everyday lives. God has blessed us in so many ways, but if we start to drift from God, He does not always take away the consequences of our actions. If we do drift, all I can say is that we do so at our own risk and need to recognize that.
Lamentations 3 would have to be one of the most encouraging chapters in the Bible. Jeremiah was clearly in an incredibly dark place. As we just read in the book of Jeremiah, nothing really ever went right for him. He was following God, and he continually did what God told him to do, but I think that his testimony alone destroys the prosperity gospel where it stands.
The first 20 verses of this chapter talk about how abandoned Jeremiah felt. He basically felt as if God had become his enemy. However, he also understood that God was perfectly good. The next 20 verses talk about how even despite all of the trouble that he had gone through, God was still good. God was still in control, and even if situations were difficult, that did not change his convictions.
Lam 3:40 Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD.
Lam 3:41 Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.
After all of that introduction regarding how awful life is while simultaneously praising God for how good He is, here is how Jeremiah responds to this situation. Essentially, we need to keep following God. Let’s make sure we are on the right track, turn back to God if we are not and continue worshiping Him.
I mentioned in the introduction that this was an encouraging chapter. It is encouraging because even though we might be in the darkness of depression where we feel like God has abandoned us, that isn’t the case whatsoever. God still has all of the characteristics that He has always had, and as long as we are doing what God wants us to be doing, we are on the right path.
Dark times definitely come to all of us. I can’t think of anyone who has not had some type of difficulty. However, these times don’t mean that we are necessarily failing. Jeremiah did everything God wanted him to do, and the people still didn’t listen. The people ignored him with dire consequences. That must have been heavy on his heart, but essentially, his advice to all of us is exactly how he lived his life.
Regardless of the consequences, continue doing what God has called you to do and continue to worship God with your entire life. The rest of the chapter talks about people who were far away from God, so this is a warning for them, but for people who are walking with God, this is an encouragement that you are actually where you need to be.
Lamentations 2 demonstrate some of what it is like to fall under the judgment of God. I think it is sufficient to say that it is not a place you want to find yourself. God is certainly loving, but He is also a God of justice.
However, there is one thing that stood out to me about this entire chapter. The people of Judah were certainly responsible for their actions. After all, they had the Law, and they could have come back to God, but there was a major problem.
Lam 2:14 Thy prophets have seen vain and foolish things for thee: and they have not discovered thine iniquity, to turn away thy captivity; but have seen for thee false burdens and causes of banishment.
The advice that the leaders of Judah were taking was false. They were listening to people who told them things, but they were not things from God. These advisors were not recognizing the problems that were present because they were not obviously looking at what God had provided.
How often can this happen to any one of us? We need to be very careful about who we are listening to. We need to be careful that the advisors we are listening to actually base their advice on the word of God and not on other purposes. We are not necessarily told here where these advisors were coming from, but they were not pointing out what was going wrong in Judah.
When we are not being told that we are going down the wrong road but are actually being encouraged to continue on that way, we are probably going to find ourselves in a situation like the people of Judah. As has already been established, you don’t want to be on that side of God. The consequences of disobeying God are not pleasant.
The point of this is to be very discerning of who we listen to. Obviously, we are ultimately responsible for our own actions and reactions to advice given by others, but how much better is it to have people who are encouraging you in the right direction? Having brothers and sisters in Christ who are helping you stay on track rather than encouraging you to continue in your sin is a wonderful thing.
Lamentations was also written by Jeremiah, and in chapter 1, it is clear that the book is appropriately named. When we start at the beginning, we really get a summary of what the situation is like now that the city is virtually vacant.
Lam 1:1 How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! how is she become as a widow! she that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary!
Lam 1:2 She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks: among all her lovers she hath none to comfort her: all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies.
Lam 1:3 Judah is gone into captivity because of affliction, and because of great servitude: she dwelleth among the heathen, she findeth no rest: all her persecutors overtook her between the straits.
I find it particularly interesting because the emotion is particularly evident. Even though Jeremiah knew that this was going to come the pass, his emotions are strong. However, that fact alone might have made his reaction even more passionate.
Jeremiah had been preaching to the people for a long time, and virtually nobody listened. He was faithful to what God wanted him to do, so that is obviously the most important thing. However, it is one thing to talk about consequences coming and to warn people are terrible life is going to be if they don’t repent.
However, it is entirely another thing to see those consequences play out. To realize that the people actually did not listen must have been the hardest part for Jeremiah. Until it actually happened, but there is always hope that the people might repent, but at this point, it was finalized.
I spent this introduction on talking about Jeremiah’s sorrow because I think it is important to realize that God will listen to us in times of sorrow. Obviously none of us enjoy being sad or depressed, but it is okay to bring that pain to God as Jeremiah is doing here.
Jesus Himself wept when Lazarus died. Jesus knew that He was going to raise him from the dead, but He still understood what it was like to be human and have these times of difficulty.
Although we might think that God only wants to hear the good news, that idea is entirely false. Bring everything to God. He is our Comforter in any situation.