Read Lamentations Five
For our final week of study we are embarking on the final chapter in the book of Lamentations. This final chapter isn’t going to offer us the tidy ending we may have hoped it would. Remembering that the book of Lamentations is an acrostic poem, we are going to see today a reflection of what we saw previously in the book.
Recalling the acrostic nature of this passage (meaning that the entire poem creates an “X” in its literary structure), what did we find reflected in chapter four?
What should we expect to find reflected in chapter one?
Look back at chapter one. What similarities do you see between Lamentations one and five?
Who is speaking in chapter five?
Verses 1-18 can be broken into three primary categories of loss or national experience. Read through each and summarize them in your own words:
Chapter five opens with the community of faith having joined the poet in his closing words of lament. And here, we see a litany of the atrocities the people are experiencing. There is death and destruction. The people are struggling to survive (1-10). Shame is their new communal experience (11-14). The joy of their nation – namely the temple – is obliterated (15-18).
And why do the people believe this has happened? (16)
The nation finally confesses with the people saying, “….we have sinned.” All of this – all of this destruction – is because they walked away from God. They rejected His rule by breaking His Law and rejected His reign by following fallen kings. They sinned against God and while prophet after prophet warned them that they would be carried into exile for their sin, they stopped up their ears and would not repent. Now, they see the full fruit of their lawlessness — total devastation.
It’s important for us to remember two vital exegetical and theological truths at this point in the study. First, we must remember that this is a book about repentance. If this was a book primarily about grief, we could come to the book to find a remedy for our sorrow. And we won’t find that here. If this were a book primarily about loss, we would come to the book to find the cause of our loss. And we don’t find that here, either. The loss that the people of Israel are experiencing is exactly the kind of pain and suffering that God promised would come their way if they broke His commands. The devastation described in the book of Lamentations is descriptive, not prescriptive. It describes the experience of Israel after they had sinned, but it does not teach us that the reason for similar suffering in our own lives is necessarily sin. Original sin affects each and every one of us as we live our lives in this fallen world; however, if you find yourself grieving the loss of a home, in need of food, having experienced rape, or being oppressed in some way, this text is not telling you that it is the result of your own sin. Truly, all suffering is the result of the fall, but not necessarily the result of individual, willful sin. Let’s make that distinction very, very clear.
Is there suffering in your life that you can identify as the result of original sin – the fact that we live in a fallen world? How can you entrust this suffering to God, letting Him set you free from unnecessary guilt in your own life in relation to that suffering?
Has God called you to repent of any particular sin throughout this study? How can you distinguish between the conviction of the Spirit and unnecessary guilt? How do you know when to repent and when to simply grieve?
Secondly, it’s important that we remember that while God allowed Israel to fall into exile as a result of their sin (and warned them that they would), it is not within God’s perfect will that they experience death and devastation. Here, we must again grapple with the paradoxical reality of God’s sovereignty and our suffering. In God’s good and faithful and kind way of ruling His people, His Law arranged their fallen world in such a way that they would experience the blessing of God and push back the darkness of the Fall. As the people lived under God’s good Law, yielding to His Kingship alone, they could joyfully live under His protection from their enemies. But they stepped outside of that protection – willfully, intentionally, deliberately choosing to distance themselves from God. And the result is that they were captured by another nation, just as God promised they would be. And that nation, not living according to God’s laws but ruled by the sin of the fall, inflicted unimaginable atrocities on God’s people. Certainly this was not within God’s good pleasure, yet He allowed it to be the fruit of Israel’s choices.
What about this reality is difficult for you? How do you struggle to understand or grapple with God’s sovereignty?
Over the next two days we are going to dive into some of the nation’s reflections on exile and on their God. We are going to see God’s lordship over ever aspect of creation – including His reign during their exile. But for today, here’s a truth we can hold onto: God is good. We have full assurance that He is kind and generous and good and sovereign. Though our minds can’t comprehend it, though our limited perspectives cannot maintain it, God is perfectly good. And we can trust Him, even when we don’t understand.
PRAY & REFLECT
Confess to God the ways in which understanding His sovereignty is difficult for you. Ask Him to help you to trust Him even when you don’t understand. Ask Him to, by His Spirit, teach you the difference between the conviction of His Spirit and unnecessary guilt. Ask Him to show you when you need to repent and when you simply need to grieve.