This book is about pain, but with hope in God. Jeremiah’s grief ran deep and was called the “Weeping prophet.”
Lamentations describes the funeral of a city. In a five-poem dirge, Jeremiah exposes his emotions. A death has occurred; Jerusalem lies barren. In the face of death and destruction, with life seemingly coming apart, Jeremiah turns tragedy into a triumph of faith because God never failed him in the past. God had promised to remain faithful in the future. In the light of the God he knows and loves, Jeremiah finds hope and comfort.
Author: The author of Lamentations is unnamed in the book, but internal and external evidence is consistently in favor of Jeremiah. Jeremiah probably wrote theses five elegies before he was taken captive to Egypt by his disobedient countrymen not long after the destruction of Judah.
The Desolation of Jerusalem
Verse 1 – How long sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow is she, who was great among the nations! The princes among the provinces has become a slave!
Each year this book was read aloud to remind all Jews that their great city fell because of their stubborn sinfulness.
Verse 2 – She weeps bitterly in the night, her tears are on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has none to comfort her. All her friends have dealt treacherously with her; they have become her enemies.
The term lovers refers to nations such as Egypt, to whom Judah kept turning to for help. As the Babylonians closed in on Jerusalem, the nation of Judah turned away from God and sought help and protection from other nations instead.
Verse 3 – Judah has gone into captivity, under affliction and hard servitude; she dwells among the nations, she finds no rest; all her persecutors overtake her in dire straits.
Verse 4 – The roads to Zion mourn because no one comes to the set feasts. All her gates are desolate; her priests sigh, her virgins are afflicted and she is in bitterness.
The tragedy that had overtaken the nation had now overtaken the center of their religious life-Zion. Gone was all their festivals, the temple and everything was deserted.
Verse 5 – Her adversaries have become the master, her enemies prosper; for the Lord has afflicted her because of the multitude of her transgressions. Her children have gone into captivity before the enemy.
Verse 6 – And from the daughter of Zion all her splendor has departed. Her princes have become like deer that find no pasture, that flee without strength before the pursuer.
Like deer running away from hunters leaving no one to defend the herd, so Judah’s leaders had abandoned the nation. Zedekiah and his men of war had fled during the night, hoping to escape.
Verse 7 – In the days of her affliction and roaming, Jerusalem remembers all her pleasant things that she had in the days of old. When her people fell into the hand of the enemy, with no one to help her, the adversaries saw her and mocked at her downfall.
The Cause of Jerusalem’s Destruction
Verse 8 – Jerusalem has sinned grievously, therefore she has become vile. All who honored her despised her because they have seen her nakedness; yes, she sighs and turns away.
Verse 9 – Her uncleanness is in her skirts; she did not consider her destiny; therefore her collapse was awesome; she had no comforter. “O Lord, behold my affliction, for the enemy has magnified himself!”
Jerusalem foolishly took a chance and lost, refusing to believe immoral living wouldn’t bring God’s punishment. Jerusalem never thought that God would actually do what He had been warning them through Jeremiah’s messages. The people were in shock when it began to happen.
Verse 10 – The adversary has spread his hand over all her pleasant things; for she has seen the nations enter her sanctuary, those whom You commanded not to enter Your congregation.
Judah had lost one of its most glorious possessions-the temple of God. Only the appointed high priest could enter the Holy of Holy section of the temple, but now it had been trampled on by these pagan worshiping men.
Verse 11 – All her people sigh, they seek bread; they have given their valuables for food to restore life. “See, O Lord, and consider, for I am scorned.”
Verse 12 – “Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Behold and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow, which has been brought to me, which the Lord has inflicted on me in the day of His fierce anger.
Verse 13 – “From above He has sent fire into my bones, and it overpowered them; He has spread a net for my feet and turned me back; He has made me desolate and faint all the day.
Verse 14 – “The yoke of my transgressions was bound; they were woven together by His hands, and thrust upon my neck. He made my strength fail; the Lord delivered me into the hands of those whom I am not able to withstand.
At first, sin seems to offer freedom. But the liberty to do anything we want gradually becomes a desire to do everything, and that’s when we become captive to sin – bound. Strange as it may sound to some, freedom comes in being obedient to God. We follow His guidance because He only wants the best for us.
Verse 15 – “The Lord has trampled underfoot all my mighty men in my midst; He has called an assembly against me to crush my young men; the Lord trampled as in a wine-press the virgin daughter of Judah.
Verse 16 – “For these things I weep; my eye, my eye overflows with water; because the comforter, who should restore my life, is far from me. My children are desolate because the enemy prevailed.”
Because of the peoples sin, God had become their judge instead of their comforter. This fact was breaking Jeremiah’s heart.
Verse 17 – Zion spreads out her hands, but there is no one to comfort her; the Lord has commanded concerning Jacob that those around him become his adversaries; Jerusalem has become an unclean thing among them.
Verse 18 – “The Lord is righteous, for I rebelled against His commandment. Hear now, all peoples, and behold my sorrow; my virgins and my young men have gone into captivity.
Verse 19 – “I called for my lovers (other gods), but they deceived me; my priests and my elders breathed their last in the city while they sought food to restore their life.
Jerusalem’s allies couldn’t help, because like Jerusalem, they failed to seek God. When we seek wisdom, surround yourself with other believing Christians, not people who think as the world does.
Verse 20 – “See, O Lord, that I am in distress; my soul is troubled; my heart is overturned within me, for I have been very rebellious. Outside the sword bereaves, at home it is like death.
Verse 21 – “They have heard that I sigh, with no one to comfort me. All my enemies have heard of my trouble; they are glad that You have done it. Bring on the day that You have announced, that they may become like me.
Verse 22 – “Let all their wickedness come before You, and do to them as You have done to me for all my transgressions; for my sighs are many, and my heart is faint.”
Yes, Jesus said we are to love and pray for our enemies, however, there are those who persist in seeing harm to those who follow God. Those are the ones we turn over to God for His sentencing and judgment.