Scripture reading – Lamentations 1

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Though only five chapters, the book recording “The Lamentations of Jeremiah” is powerful, poetic, and a devastating portrait of the consequences of sin. As its name suggests, Lamentations records Jeremiah’s laments, cries, and groanings.

As he gazed upon the rubble of King David’s once beautiful and renowned city, Jeremiah was overwhelmed with sorrow for the afflictions that befell his stubborn people. The prophet had faithfully served the LORD through the reigns of the last five kings of Judah. He discharged his sacred duty as God’s prophet and warned the people what would become of that nation if they did not repent.

Yet, the kings of Judah despised and persecuted Jeremiah, and the people broke their covenant with the LORD. They rejected His Laws and Commandments. Therefore, Jerusalem was destroyed, and the people were moved to Babylon. Following the destruction of Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar left behind a few poor Jews who worked the land and served Babylon (Jeremiah 52:16). Among them was the prophet, Jeremiah.

Lamentations 1

Jerusalem’s Sorrows (Lamentations 1:1-7)

The opening verses of Lamentations 1 painted a dismal picture of what happened to a bustling city once filled with people. Jerusalem was described as a bereaved widow, a tributary (slave) to Babylon, and a mere shadow of what she once was “among the nations” (Lamentations 1:1). Jerusalem’s friends and allies became her enemies (1:2)

Jerusalem’s Sorrows

The people of Judah were no longer a free people who enjoyed the blessings of their covenant with the LORD. That nation became like Israel before her (i.e., the ten northern tribes taken away by Assyria). The Jews were a people in bondage (Lamentations 1:3-4). None made their pilgrimage to Zion, where they once celebrated the feasts, nor did they enter the Temple gates to worship the LORD (Lamentations 1:4).

In the words of an adage, “The chickens have come home to roost.” The consequences of Jerusalem’s wickedness were summed up in this: “For the Lord hath afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions: Her children are gone into captivity before the enemy” (Lamentations 1:5).

Imagine the tragic landscape before Jeremiah when he looked upon a once beautiful city whose Temple was seen by pilgrims glistening in the sunlight from a great distance. Describing Jerusalem as “the daughter of Zion,” Jeremiah declared that “all her beauty is departed: Her princes are become like harts that find no pasture, And they are gone without strength before the pursuer” (Lamentations 1:6).

Tragically, only in captivity did the people remember the blessings they took for granted (Lamentations 1:7a). They remembered: “all her pleasant things that she [Jerusalem] had in the days of old (their families, homes, and lands). Yet, their adversaries looked upon them and “did mock at her sabbaths” (Lamentations 1:7b).

The LORD fulfilled His covenant promise. Because the Jews failed to honor His Sabbath years (occurring every seven years when the land was to lie dormant), therefore they would remain in captivity for seventy years (a year for each year the Jews failed to keep the Sabbath year, Leviticus 26:34-35).

Jerusalem’s Shame

Jerusalem’s Shame (Lamentations 1:8-12) 

The cause for Jerusalem’s demise was summed up in this: “Jerusalem hath grievously sinned; therefore, she is removed” (Lamentations 1:8a). The city of David was renowned for its beauty in the ancient world, but those who honored her had come to “despise her, because they [had] seen her nakedness” (Lamentations 1:8b). The people were backslidden (Lamentations 1:8b) and found “no comforter” (Lamentations 1:9).

Their possessions became spoils for their enemy (Lamentations 1:10), and the heathen entered the sanctuary of the LORD and defiled it (Lamentations 1:10). Suffering famine, the people were impoverished (Lamentations 1:11), and the ruins of the city remained as a testimony to the wrath of God’s judgment (Lamentations 1:12).

Jerusalem’s Suffering (Lamentations 1:13-17)

Let’s briefly consider the consequences of Jerusalem’s wickedness. We find the city’s distress described figuratively as a consuming fire and a snare (Lamentations 1:13). The city’s sins were a heavy yoke that wrapped them like a wreath after the LORD delivered them to their Babylonian masters (Lamentations 1:14). 

Jerusalem was a defenseless city, for her army had fallen. The young men were crushed (Lamentations 1:15). The joy of music and dance was silenced by sorrow and perpetual tears (Lamentations 1:16). Though the people spread their hands toward heaven and called upon the LORD, there was “none to comfort her” (Lamentations 1:17a). To her enemies, Jerusalem was like a “menstruous,” unclean woman (Lamentations 1:17).


Jeremiah’s Appeal to the LORD (Lamentations 1:18-22)

Acknowledging that the LORD is righteous (Lamentations 1:18), Jeremiah confessed that Jerusalem had “rebelled” against the LORD’s commandment (Lamentations 1:18b). He confessed that the sorrows they suffered and the captivity and death they endured were because they provoked God’s judgment (Lamentations 1:20). Jeremiah asked the LORD to see his distress and sorrow, and have compassion.

Closing thoughts

Jeremiah’s prayer concluded with an imprecatory petition (Lamentations 1:22). He called upon the LORD to exercise vengeance upon Babylon. He prayed, “Let all their wickedness come before thee; And do unto them, as thou hast done unto me for all my transgressions: For my sighs are many, and my heart is faint” (Lamentations 1:22).

* A closing note for those who might want to “dig a little deeper;” notice that Lamentations chapters 1, 2, 3, and 5 are each twenty-two verses long.  There are twenty-two letters in the Hebrew alphabet, and each of the verses in chapters 1, 2, 3, and 5 begins with a word using the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet (in other words, like our A-Z in English).  Lamentations 4 is sixty-six verses long and the Hebrew alphabet in that chapter begins couplets that are three verses each.

Copyright © 2024 – Travis D. Smith 

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