Lamentations is historically attributed to Jeremiah, who artfully used the letters of the Hebrew alphabet to introduce sections of his Abstract about what happened to Israel as a result of their ignoring his prophesies over long periods of time.
Large sections of Lamentations are summaries of the judgments rained down on Israel by a wrathful and offended God. But almost hidden among the judgments are treasures of the Cycle.
The first step in the Cycle is commands, and we think of the Ten Commandments and, yet to come, the commands of Jesus. But Lamentations adds a dimension that is surprising:
“Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come” (3:37-38, ESV)?
When we think of commands, we then think of temptation not to obey, disobedience when we choose to disobey, and disunity from God as a result. We think further when our disunity leads to warnings and judgment. Then, hopefully, we continue on to repentance, never-ending love of God, unity with God, and at last, restoration – hence the Cycle.
But until I saw the above verses, I never thought about the fact that when God ordains judgment on his children, it is his command! Thus when he speaks, depending on our behavior, either good or bad can come from his mouth – that is, good or bad for us, depending on our behavior.
When Jeremiah talks about Israel’s disunity from God, it is very hard to read. It is guttural and nearly sub-human:
“Jerusalem sinned grievously; therefore she became filthy…she took no thought of her future; therefore her fall is terrible; she has no comforter” (1:8-9).
And isn’t it right that when judgment comes from disunity, we are hardly surprised, if we are brutally honest?
“The Lord is right, for I have rebelled against his word; but hear, all you peoples, and see my suffering…” (1:18).
Here is the gem of the Cycle: being honest and recognizing that we are experiencing judgment is our path to repentance and the never-ending love of God!
Just as Israel was given many chances to repent, we should not grovel in our misery when we have sinned; but rather, we should stand up, acknowledge, and invoke that never-ending love with sincere repentance:
“I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit; you heard my plea…You came near when I called on you; you said, ‘Do not fear’” (3:55-57).
The God that has spoken “bad” to you has done it for good. Like a father pacing the floor late at night awaiting the return of a recalcitrant teenager, he pines for your return, not just once, but every day. And when your return is sincere and heart-broken, he will complete the Cycle and you will shout:
“You have taken up my cause, O Lord; you have redeemed my life” (3:58)!
What awaits is the ultimate hope of the Risen Lord: perfect unity with him and each other.
Please take time right now – all of five minutes – and read Lamentations 3:19-32 and claim it once again for yourself.
The Cycle can only be completed through faith in Jesus Christ, who already paid the price for our disunity, but we must sincerely repent to eliminate it from our lives.