Read Lamentations Five
There’s something important that is happening in chapter five that we must address. To do so, we need to zoom out of our verse-by-verse study for just a moment and take note of the overall tone of the poem.
When you read Lamentations five, does anything seem different in tone from the other four chapters?
In what direction is this poem being written?
How would you classify chapter five as a result?
Chapter five, we would be remiss not to notice, is a prayer. The entire chapter is directed towards God. It is a form of corporate prayer as the entire nation joins in with the poet leading them. Each and every word is directed towards God. Not in accusation, but in prayer.
Why do you think this is significant?
What do you think this chapter teaches us about the honesty and realism permitted (and even required) in prayer?
How could understanding chapter five as a prayer change your reflections on your own prayer?
How could understanding chapter five as a prayer change your reflections on the author’s conclusion of the book of Lamentations?
There is one particular turning point in chapter five – a break in the language and in the overall flow. Can you identify it?
Verse 19 starts with a startling “but.” It is a pivotal word and a vital inclusion. This “but” stops the train of thought of the poet. As he recites the devastation all around him, he halts. Looks up, and says:
“BUT You, O Lord, reign forever;
Your throne endures to all generations.” (caps mine)
The name for God used here by the poet is Yahweh, in Hebrew יְהֹוִה (“yaw-way”). It is the most special name for God in the Old Testament. God originally gave this name to Moses as He called him to lead the nation of Israel out of bondage in Egypt. God tells Moses: I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “I AM has sent me to you.”
God tells Moses, “I AM WHO I AM,” and uses the Hebrew verb הָיָה (“haw-yaw”), which simply means “to be,” “to exist,” or, as we see it in the text, “I am.” But God uses this simple Hebrew verb twice when giving His name to Moses – He is saying that He exists simply because He exists. When the two verbs are put right next to each other, they read: אֶֽהְיֶ֑ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה (“haw-yah ah-ser haw-yah” – go ahead and read it out loud). When Hebrew contracts or shortens verbs, it reads יְהֹוִה (yah-weh). This is similar to what happens when, in English, we turn “do not” into “don’t” or “will not” into “won’t.”
And this contraction can only happen with God’s name because there is no one else of whom it can be said that they exist of their own existence! There is no one else in all of the universe who is Self-Existing! God alone is who He is, and is because He is.
Why do you think it’s significant that this is the name used in Lamentations 5:19?
Even though Israel’s situation has changed dramatically throughout their national history, their God has not changed. He’s the same God He was before time began, and when each and every person experiencing the exile in the current moment has passed from this world, God will continue to be exactly who He has been. God alone does not grow or change. God does not cease to exist. God will never, ever cease to be exactly who He is. He is and will always be Yahweh.
We, along with Israel, can have hope in the midst of experiencing the consequences of our sin because God is still exactly who He is. He is still Himself. He is still ruling in the universe. He is still on the throne. Our sin, to our great joy and relief, does not de-throne God. When we have ceased to walk with Him, He does not cease to be His good and sovereign self. We may choose to worship other gods, but He will not cease to be God; we may choose to bow to other kings, but it does not cause Him to stop being King of all kings.
When we face the dire consequences of our sin, it is easy to feel as if the whole world has fallen. When we’ve run from God and to our ruin – when we have exchanged covenant blessings for covenant curses – we can feel as though the entire order of the universe is reversed. When the overwhelming nature of our sin tempts us to believe that God cannot be found or cannot save us from our situation, we can rest assured: our sin is not that powerful.
PRAY & REFLECT
Praise God for being Self-Existent. Praise Him that He is on the throne even when He is not on the throne of your life. Ask Him to reorient you to this reality. Ask Him to draw you close to Himself through repentance.