Read Lamentations Four *
*Trigger warning: Chapter four has some graphic imagery in it, particularly as it deals with mothers and children. I firmly believe in studying every inch of Scripture, but if you’ve recently lost a child or were abused by a parent when you were young, this passage of Scripture could have several trigger points in it. Prayerfully ask the Lord how He would have you proceed.
This week, we’re venturing out of chapter three into chapter four. Our entire week of study will be devoted to chapter four. Before we dive in, remind yourself of where chapter four fits in the overall literary structure of the book? (look back at week six if needed).
Where does chapter four fall in the overall literary structure of the book?
Given it’s place in the literary structure of the book, what should we expect to find in chapter four?
You’ll likely remember that the book of Lamentations is an acrostic poem. As such, the meat of the meaning is in the center, or chapter three. As we step out into chapter four we should expect to find something similar to what we find in chapter two, given the way the entire book rests (like an X) on chapter three.
Read Lamentations chapter 4. In what ways does this mirror chapter two?
The lament has continued. I don’t know about you, but I sighed a big sigh when I read chapter four at the beginning of this week. I’m reminded of all the heaviness we’ve read in the book thus far, and I’m a little daunted at the heaviness that is sure to lie ahead. But, I can tell you from the other side of this study, take heart! There are great riches in the exegetical work that lies ahead.
Chapter four opens with a familiar Hebrew word: Alas! the poet cries. Just like he did at the very beginning of chapter two, the poet opens this Hebrew poetic stanza with a cry of lament.
What is the poet lamenting in verses 1-10?
Does this remind you chapter two?
The poet is lamenting his people’s situation once again. There is great injustice to be found all around him, and he intentionally points out the many ways in which the world is the opposite of how it should be.
Look at these verses again. What things does the poet mention that are the opposite of how things should be?
Children who are begging for bread are rejected. Those who used to lead the people – who enjoyed the wealth of the nations as their leaders – are now walking the streets, they’re so dirty that people hardly recognize them. The poet laments that it is so bad for his people as they are being taken into exile, in fact, that it was better for those who died in battle than for those who were captured and carried off. Women who should be feeding their children are eating them instead. Everything – absolutely everything – is not as it should be.
But the biggest reversal that we find is in verse two:
The precious sons of Zion …
Are regarded as earthen pots,
the work of a potter’s hands!
The “opposite” in view here, of course, is that they sons of Israel are being viewed as worthless pots rather than as the fine jewels their reputation would have caused them to be compared to. But this phrase reminds us of God’s own relationship with the people of Israel. This was one of the ways God described His covenant relationship with HIs people:
Yet you, Lord, are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
We are all the work of your hand.
Though the prophet penning the book of Lamentations may not have intended to replicate another prophet’s words, we are reminded of one of the core themes in the book: all of this has been allowed in God’s sovereignty.
Even now, Israel is being shaped by God. They are being pulled and molded and shaped back into God’s image – the image against which they have rebelled. They are being shaped into vessels that will give glory to God. When nothing seems to be as it should be, Israel can rest in this: God is doing His shaping work in them. Though they feel humbled and brought low like clay, it’s that pliable position that will wake them to their need for repentance, and lead their feet back to God.
How can you allow yourself to be clay in the potters hands today?
How does God seem to be shaping you these days? Over the last year? Over the last five years?
How might God call you to repentance as a part of how He wants to shape you in this season of life?
PRAY & REFLECT
Thank God that He is a good potter, shaping His people into His image for their good and His glory. Ask Him to make you pliable in His hands. Ask Him to shape you more into His image, even today.