Today, we will consider the book of Lamentations, which was likely written by Jeremiah the prophet after the fall of Judah to Babylon. There are five poems that make up the book. The first is a lament over the destroyed city of Jerusalem. Jeremiah compares her to a princess who has been widowed and enslaved (1:1). She is utterly alone, forsaken by all (vv. 2-3). In verse 4, even the spiritual people of God are suffering. The “days of old” in verse 7 point us back to God’s salvation of Israel. Jeremiah knows this punishment was deserved (vv. 8-9).
In verse 10, those whom God forbade (Gentiles) have entered the sanctuary. This was physical Babylon taking the valuable vessels from the Temple (see Jer 52:17-20) and burning the Temple (Jer 52:13). But spiritually speaking, with the forsaking of physical Judah, the nations (the spiritual remnant) is now allowed in the sanctuary (God’s presence). In verses 12-22 Jeremiah speaks in the first person on behalf of Jerusalem. She recognizes her sin (v. 18, 20, 22). She realizes she is forsaken (v. 21).
Chapter 2 begins with recognition that the spiritual remnant suffers along with the physical people (2:1). God’s footstool is the Temple, where heaven meets earth. God has not only forsaken Judah, but turned against her (vv. 2-6). He destroyed the Temple Himself (v. 7), and all of Jerusalem (vv. 8-9). The spiritual people have repented for the sin of Judah (v. 10) and should not cease to do so (vv. 18-19). This destruction was the will of God (v. 17). Verse 20 speaks of the horrors that took place during the siege (see Jer 19:9, Deut 28:53).
Chapter 3 speaks of hope in the midst of suffering. Jeremiah describes what God has done as judgment against Judah (3:1-18). Yet, Jeremiah recalls God’s faithfulness in the past and has hope of restoration (vv. 19-21) because of God’s hesed love and mercy (v. 22). God is faithful, even through suffering, so Jeremiah’s hope is in Him (vv. 23-24). Jeremiah can bear the suffering and wait on God to reveal His salvation (vv. 25-27). If the people of God repent (vv. 28-30), and they do justice and righteousness (vv. 34-36), God will restore them (vv. 31-33).
Verses 37-38 speak of the sovereignty of God over good and bad (see Isa 45:7). Verse 39 speaks of man’s responsibility for himself. In light of this, Jeremiah calls for repentance (vv. 40-42). Even in light of the judgment of God (vv. 43-54), Jeremiah knows He will hear the earnest prayer of His people (vv. 55-57); His true, spiritual people (vv. 58-59). And He will act on their behalf (vv. 64-66 – see Rev 6:9-11).
Chapter 4 speaks of the suffering of the spiritual people of God. They are gold that is regarded as clay (4:2); royalty reduced to ashes (v. 5). Verse 7 refers to the purity of God’s spiritual people, even though they suffer with the wicked (v. 11). Being a Christian is no guarantee that God will not allow great suffering (v. 15). Verses 20-21 speaks to the expansion of God’s kingdom. There will be those of all nations saved (v. 20), and those of all nations judged (v. 21). Ultimately, God will save His people and judge the wicked (v. 22).
Chapter 5 is a prayer to God for restoration. God’s people suffer in this world (5:1-18). But God is sovereign King (v. 19). He will not forget His people (v. 20). He will restore the spiritual remnant (v. 21). The “days as of old” refer back to the salvation of Israel at the Exodus (see 1:7). Jeremiah is praying for the new Exodus. God has not rejected His true people (v. 22).