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The Agora
The Lamentations of Jeremiah

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Recurring Lessons

Several lessons recur often throughout this book. The most obvious is this: That we may see, in the plight of Jeremiah and Judah, both the sufferings of Christ and the persecutions and trials of the saints in this Gentile world. We are the saints, the people or nation whom God has separated to bear His Name, and ultimately to bear His glory -- if we are worthy. But we have not been separated to a life of ease or luxury. Instead we have committed ourselves to the loss of worldly possessions and honours and to chastisement at the hand of our Father in Heaven --

"Remember, O Lord, what is come upon us:
consider, and behold our reproach!" (5:1)
We well know that--

"No chastening for the present seemeth joyous, but grievous" (Heb 12:11).
Therefore, may we have the wisdom and foresight to realize our weakness and to lean on the mercy of God --

"Arise, cry out in the night:
in the beginning of the watches
pour out thine heart like water
before the face of the Lord" (2:19).
And we learn at last that nothing can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ (Rom 8:38). We must accept chastisement in order to be true sons; Paul tells us that God chastises us for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness (Heb 12:10):

"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us afar more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2Co 4:17).
Another point amply demonstrated is that all nations and their affairs are controlled by God (Dan 2:21; 4:17, 25) according to His purpose with Israel. Israel--both natural and spiritual -- may "give the hand" to the Egyptians and Assyrians at the present time (5:6). She may be trodden down by "Edom" for now (4:21). But when God has waited long enough, the respective fortunes of Jew and Gentile will change quite drastically, and God will elevate His people and render unto the others--

"A recompense... sorrow of heart, and thy curse..." (3:64-65).
Paul told the brethren at Corinth that--

"ALL THINGS are for your sakes" (2Co 4:15).
Jesus told his listeners of certain times being shortened--

"For the elect's sake."
If we would only let this truth sink into our hearts, never could we become discouraged or feel neglected!

*****

Finally, the principle of responsibility to God is emphasized throughout Lamentations. The practical and Scriptural belief is that the sorest punishment is visited upon those who are most responsible -- that is, those who have the most knowledge. To whom much is given, much will be required in the day of God's visitation. The nation of Judah was more responsible to God than were the other nations of their time--

"You only have I known of all the families of the earth:
therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities" (Amos 3:2).
This sense of being known of God is explained in Psa 147--

"He sheweth His Word unto Jacob,
His statutes and His judgments unto Israel.
He hath not dealt so with any (other) nation:
and as for His judgments, they have not known them" (vv 19-20).
The Jews who refused to heed God's messengers, and who followed their own evil inclinations -- neglecting His testimony -- received the sorer punishment befitting their status --

"For the punishment of the iniquity of the daughter of My people is greater than the punishment of the sin of Sodom, that was overthrown as in a moment, and no hands stayed on her" (4:6).
Sodom had been exceedingly wicked, but her punishment was swift, and therefore less painful than that of Judah--whose final sufferings were intense and drawn-out (4:8-10).

"If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Rom 8:31)
This can be a wonderful assurance, but the solemn, sobering truth is that the God Who fights for us may very well come to fight against us -- as He fought against Jerusalem (2:5-7). It is for us to ponder this carefully, and to put ourselves in the place of Judah--

"Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples (Gr. 'types'); and they are written for our admonition..." (1Co 10:11).

"How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?" (Heb 2:3).
The central thought of Lamentations is found precisely in the center of the book. The proper climax is 3:19-36. Of these verses 31-33 must be singled out particularly--

"For the Lord will not cast off forever:
But though He cause grief
yet will He have compassion
according to the multitude of His mercies.
For He doth not afflict willingly
nor grieve the children of men."
The book progresses from an early feeling of shame and bewilderment to a growing awareness and appreciation of God's presence and His hand in man's affairs -- both to chasten and to save. What man finds difficult to remember is that disobedience inevitably brings chastisement. The non-repentant will suffer the judgments, woes and desolations brought by God. The faithful remnant are repentant, accepting chastisement as a necessity for building character, knowing that –

"God will not forget in need
the man that trusts in Him indeed."
Zion, who mourns her desolation and weeps sorely in the night (1:2), is in the end comforted by the birth of new sons, whose days are renewed as of old (5:21).

Patience, endurance and godliness are characteristics of the true Israelite. The true Israelite offers a confident prayer of deliverance from the oppressor and a longing prayer for justification and glorification. Sorrow gives way to a new hope--

"Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning" (Psa 30:5).
In the analysis, note the emphasis on "affliction", and the progression: Jerusalem's affliction (Lam 1) is brought by God (Lam 2) and is necessary (Lam 3) because of her persistent apostasy (Lam 4), but she will at last be delivered from affliction (Lam 5). Note also the succession of prayers at the ends of the chapters, growing in length and intensity until culminating in the extended prayer, filling all of Lam 5 (see notes on structure).
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