From Lamentations 1.1-3.36
The book of Lamentations is made up of five poems, each an expression of grief over the fall of Jerusalem. Like a eulogy at a funeral, these laments are intended to mourn a loss—in this case, the loss of a nation. The latter half of chapter 3 implies that the purpose behind the book’s graphic depictions of sorrow and suffering was to produce hope in the God whose compassion is “new every morning” (v. 23) and whose faithfulness is great even to a people who have been condemned for their own unfaithfulness. The author, while not identified in the book itself, may have been the prophet Jeremiah, who was said to have “uttered a lament for Josiah” (2 Chron. 35:25). Lamentations was probably written shortly after Jerusalem’s fall in 586 B.C. (The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (La). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.)
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
Jerusalem and its people have been punished by the LORD for their sins and sent into exile. In Lamentations the city of Jerusalem is frequently personified as a woman.
1 How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she who was great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces has become a slave.
2 She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears 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. (Lam 1.1-2)
Jerusalem is a widow. She used to be great, now she has become a slave. Her friends, the nations Jerusalem sought for help, have abandoned her.
Lamentations is clearly well named. It is a lament describing the humbled state of Judah.
4 The roads to Zion mourn, for none come to the festival; all her gates are desolate; her priests groan; her virgins have been afflicted, and she herself suffers bitterly. (Lam 1.3-4)
Judah has been taken into exile by the Babylonians. She dwells with the nations, no more with the LORD. Her people mourn.
5 Her foes have become the head; her enemies prosper, because the LORD has afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions; her children have gone away, captives before the foe.
6 From the daughter of Zion all her majesty has departed. Her princes have become like deer that find no pasture; they fled without strength before the pursuer. (Lam 1.5-6)
Her enemies now stand over her in triumph.
7 Jerusalem remembers in the days of her affliction and wandering all the precious things that were hers from days of old. When her people fell into the hand of the foe, and there was none to help her, her foes gloated over her; they mocked at her downfall.
8 Jerusalem sinned grievously; therefore she became filthy; all who honored her despise her, for they have seen her nakedness; she herself groans and turns her face away.
9 Her uncleanness was in her skirts; she took no thought of her future; therefore her fall is terrible; she has no comforter. “O LORD, behold my affliction, for the enemy has triumphed!” (Lam 1.7-9)
They remember the old days when things were better and they had much wealth. The memory further serves to highlight their current deplorable state.
Jerusalem sinned grievously and became filthy. She has no comforter.
10 The enemy has stretched out his hands over all her precious things; for she has seen the nations enter her sanctuary, those whom you forbade to enter your congregation.
11 All her people groan as they search for bread; they trade their treasures for food to revive their strength. “Look, O LORD, and see, for I am despised.” (Lam 1.10-11)
Our passage finishes with a cry to the LORD to look upon the despised state of the widow. He cannot help but respond in pity and compassion.
“Unintentionally and perhaps unconsciously, the inspired poet uses an illustration to describe the desolate condition of Jerusalem, which may serve as a hint of her deeper distress.
“She is become as a widow.”
Who had been her husband? The favoured city used to be regarded as the mystic bride of the Eternal. She had often been accused of unfaithfulness to her marriage vows. Now the faithless wife is punished by becoming the miserable widow. Jerusalem loses the presence and favour of God.” (Spence-Jones, H.D.M. ed., 1909. Lamentations, London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.)
The final verse of our passage is a cry out to the LORD to have him look at the widows despised state. In the gospel Jesus has compassion on widows. He turns their circumstances around.
11 Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. 12 As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her.
13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.”
14 Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.
16 Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” 17 And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country. (Lk 7.11-17)
God has come in the person of Jesus, he looks at the widow and has compassion on her.
As he will to all who come to him in humility.
Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2016. All Rights Reserved.