Read Lamentations Four
The people of Israel have voiced towards God a hint at repentance. They have acknowledged the nations they trusted, rather than God. They have confessed that they preferred to live in the shadow of their kings rather than dwelling under the shadow of the Almighty. Their corporate voice gives words to something that sounds like repentance. Weak and frail as it is, the nation confesses that they have been wrong.
Read Lamentations 4:21-22. What surprises you about these verses?
Who is being told to rejoice?
The command to rejoice comes as quite a surprise to us as modern readers. It seems to break with the overall lamenting tone of the chapter … until we understand who this “daughter of Edom” is.
Do you know anything about Edom in the Bible? If so, name a few things that you know.
Whenever we see the phrase “daughter of ….” associated with a geographical location, we’re to understand it as a personification of the city or nation being named. For example, throughout the Psalms, David exhorts the “daughters of Zion” to rejoice because God is sending a Savior. This is David’s way of telling all of those who are in Zion – the city of God – to rejoice! The people of God can rejoice because God is going to send the Messiah.
In the same way, the “daughter of Edom” is being used by the poet to personify all those who dwell in Edom. Let’s do a quick word study to understand who or where Edom is:
Look up the following passages. What insights do they give you regarding Edom?
1 Kings 11:1
Edom was the nation that resulted from the line of Esau. You’ll remember Esau – the twin brother of Jacob who sold his birthright to his trickster brother for a bowl of stew when he was hungry. Just as God promised their mother, Jacob, the younger brother, was the son of promise. Though tradition held that the oldest son would receive the family blessing and carry on the family line, from their fetal state the Lord said that the younger son was the one who would live under his blessing. This is why God is called the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, rather than Esau.
Edom was a neighboring nation to Israel. They were a small nation, and it makes sense to us that they would live nearby since they were, in genealogical history, family to Israel. As such, Edom owed Israel their loyalty. When Israel was in distress, Edom should have responded. In modern terms, this could be akin to having your nephew attend college in the town in which you live. While he is far from his family of origin (your sister’s or brother’s family), if he was in danger your siblings would expect you to help him out of respect for family loyalty. If he went to the hospital for an emergency surgery, you would be rightly expected to show up since his family cannot support or aid him. Similarly, when Israel was under siege to the Babylonians, Edom should have come to the aid of their extended family. This was the right and noble thing to do, and Israel would not overlook this.
With this in mind, reread verses 21-22. What does the poet tell Edom to rejoice in? Why?
Edom can ironically rejoice because they didn’t have to lift a finger, but their punishment is yet to come. The poet knows that God will judge Edom for failing to aid Israel, even if their punishment is yet unseen.
What do you think the phrase “the cup shall pass” means? Where have you seen this language before?
Look up the following references to this phrase. Make a note of how each passage builds out your understanding of this word “cup”:
The “cup” represents God’s wrath. Like wine, those who receive the cup of God’s wrath are caused to be overcome by it, exposing their sin and shame. Israel takes comfort that the wrath of God is reserved for those who did wrong, those who did not seek to do right by them. Even though the siege was ultimately used by God as punishment for Israel’s sin, God will also not overlook the failures of neighbors who failed to protect those under attack.
We are going to look at what this “cup” of God’s wrath means for Israel in verse 22 tomorrow, but for today, we can sit and savor this truth: When God is dealing with our sin, we can have confidence that He will deal with the sin of others. When we’ve been wronged – as Israel was – it is our natural, sinful, human instinct to take judgment into our own hands. How easy it would have been for Israel to respond with vengefulness: “Just you wait, Edom! When we’re out of this mess, we’re coming for you!” Instead, Israel lets the cup of judgment rest with God. God is dealing with her sin, and they rest in confidence that He will deal with the sin of those who have wronged her as well.
Is there someone in your life who has wronged you? How do you need to trust God to punish his/her sin, rather than taking it into your own hands?
How does Lamentations 4:21 convict you to let God deal with your sin and with the sin of others?
PRAY & REFLECT
Confess to God anyone that you are harboring bitterness towards. Tell Him that you will trust Him to convict others of their sin, allowing them to reap the consequences of their sin as HE sees fit, and lead them into repentance. Ask God to help you focus on the work He is doing in your heart through repentance, rather than on the sins of others.