Read Lamentations Three
We’ve experienced the reprieve of a few verses of hope in the midst of this book of lament. In the middle of suffering and wrath – literally, tucked right in the middle – are words that recount God’s unchanging goodness and compassion. This is the central crux of the book, the thing on which everything else hangs (more on this in tomorrow’s study).
Recall the place of chapter three in the overall structure of the book. Look back at Monday’s study if you need to.
With this structure in mind, if we were trying to identify a core verse for the chapter, how do you think we would identify it?
Because the structure of the book, everything hangs on chapter three. This is the crux of the passage. If you and I were to consider the book as a whole, it might look like a giant X with chapter three holding it all together:
Given this structure, if we were to identify the primary theme of chapter three, we would want to identify the central stanza of poetry in the chapter. When we do this, remembering that this chapter is written in stanzas and not in singular lines of poetry, we identify verses 31 through 33 as the central stanza for the entire chapter.
Read verses 31-33. Do these seem to fit as the central theme of the overall chapter? Why or why not?
Chapter three hangs on this truth: the Lord will not cast off forever because He is compassionate. Embedded in these short verses are great truths for historic Israel laid waste in exile and for you and me in our suffering and repentance today. God’s wrath is kindled against sin in a way more severe than you and I could ever fathom. He takes sin more seriously than we would like to think, and we only have to look to the bloodied body of our Savior on the cross to know just how seriously God takes sin. And sin – both willful disobedience and the original sin that courses through the veins of every human and every corner of creation – has consequences. God’s wrath against sin and His desire to bring His people back by all means necessary is a part of His unchanging character.
But so is His compassion and steadfast love.
God’s unchanging character is not solely of wrath and justice, but also of compassion and steadfast love. The word used here for “steadfast love” calls to the mind of every Israelite the covenant faithfulness of Yahweh – His unchanging, unrelenting, never-ending way of pursuing His people to bring them into relationship with Himself.
This chapter and this book hold together for us realities we cannot wrap our minds around: God is perfectly wrathful against sin and endlessly compassionate. God is unchangingly just and eternally loving. Suffering and pain permeate this fallen world and God is a God of endless goodness.
The book of Lamentations offers us a picture of these seemingly dissimilar theological concepts – suffering and evil and God’s divine goodness and compassion – held together in one poet’s dire experience. It gives language to our own suffering as we sit before God holding our hurt and pain – some of which is likely caused by our own sin – and we still worship the God of the universe who is allowing us to walk this road of hardship. It doesn’t give us a how-to guide for processing our grief or a tight theology of suffering, but it gives us something better. It walks alongside us as we sit in the quietness of the question: can evil exist and God still be good? And it quietly knows the answer is yes, and is not anxious after an explanation.
PRAY & REFLECT
Thank God that He is endlessly good. Praise Him that He is eternally compassionate. Worship Him for being perfectly wrathful and just. Thank Him that He is beyond what your mind can fathom.