If Lamentations chapter two were a modern blog post of lament, if it was to be written and uploaded and published online in our day and age, it would come with a host of trigger warnings. This section of the poem of grief is full of vivid pictures of the nation of Israel’s loss – not only corporately, but personally. There is a sense in this chapter that everything has been destroyed – buildings and roads and homes, but also family members and community leaders and children.
We knew coming into this study that this was a study of lament. Perhaps we were even prepared for some of the graphic images. But I’ll admit, nothing prepared me to study chapter two. Even after years of theological and Bible study, I don’t know that I have really taken notice of the content of Lamentations chapter two. Since it is our way in this study, we are going to break the chapter down verse-by-verse. I want to give you the heads up, however, that it could be painful, particularly for women who have lost children. The poet is visceral, intently passionate about voicing his grief and the nation’s situation. And, as the orator of Israel, he is representing their situation colorfully before God.
Read Lamentations Two
Chapter two is broken down into three main movements or sections. Poetry is often like this, moving from one concept to the next somewhat seamlessly.
Read Lamentations chapter 2 one more time. Try to identify the three main sections in the chapter.
What is each section about?
The first section (to which we will give our attention today) is found in verses on through ten. In this section the poet is describing Israel’s situation. It’s vivid and shocking. Israel’s situation is bleak, to say the least.
One thing that would surprise us if we were to study earlier Hebrew poetry is the number of verbs that are used in these short ten verses. It was not common for poetry to be filled with so many action words, but these verses are full of action words.
Read Lamentations 2:1-10. On your print-out, mark every active verb you find. (Verbs, as a refresher, are the action words in each sentence. Verse one verbs: set, cast, [not] remembered)
What do these verbs imply about Israel’s situation?
The nation’s situation has been done to her. Each of the verbs – robust in meaning and action – are things that have been done to Israel. She has been cut down, she has been burned, she has been laid waste. Israel, it seems, in the eyes of the author, has been brutally destroyed by another power.
We know contextually what is in view here. From our Book Overview Study we know that Babylon and Assyria have attacked Israel. Her temple and city have been destroyed, the people have been captured or have fled into exile, and they are desolate and far from home.
Look at each verb you underlined again. Who is the subject of each? (Subjects, as a refresher, are the words that tell us who is performing the action of the verb. Example: Amy studied Lamentations – Amy is the subject of the verb “studied”.)
Are you as surprises as I was to notice the subject of each verb? Where we would expect to see Babylon as the subject, we find a much more accusatory subject: God. The author of Lamentations is making it clear that all of this destruction was brought about by God’s hand. God is the author of Israel’s situation. It is not lost on the nation that Babylon might have marched into the city, but God was the one who made it happen.
Most poignant in this vein is verse eight:
The Lord determined to lay in ruins
the wall of the daughter of Zion;
he stretched out the measuring line;
he did not restrain his hand from destroying;
he caused rampart and wall to lament;
they languished together.
Here, the Lord is envisioned as a surveyor, stretching out His divine measuring tape, and marking the walls that should be torn down on His demolition day. And the walls that He marks? His own temple! His own holy city, Jerusalem! His own people’s homes! Israel is sitting in the dust, and God the author is adamant: God has brought her here.
Consider areas of lament in your own life. How has God been the author of your own loss as well?
We contextually and theologically that Israel’s current situation in the book of Lamentations is the result of their own willful rebellion. In your life, how has God used loss to bring you back from rebellion?* Has grief ever driven you to repentance?
We will continue looking at these verses tomorrow, but for today, we need to hear this: The God who stretched out His hand against Israel, stretches His hand out to us today, asking for us to turn from our sin and toward Him. No sin no matter how dear or precious to us compares to the glory and of being in a right relationship with God.
PRAY & REFLECT
Prayerfully reflect on God’s power, as displayed in destructive terms in Lamentations 2. Praise God for His authority and power. Confess any areas of sin in your life to God. Praise Him that He does not deal lightly with sin. Praise Him that He always calls you back to Himself.
*Please hear me well: not all loss is the result of personal sin. In the context of Lamentations, Israel has willfully disobeyed God, turned away from Him, and is now reaping the consequences of her rebellion. This passage and this study are not teaching that all personal loss is the result of such sin. Capital “S” Sin that resulted from the Fall courses through our every-day lives, effecting every area of our lives and every one we love. So, while all suffering and loss is the result of the Fall, what is in view here is personal, willful sin.