The Agora
The Lamentations of Jeremiah

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The Book as a Whole

Acts 14:22 is a profound lesson which believers of all ages must learn:

"We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God."
Nowhere is this tribulation more evident than in this book of sorrows: Jeremiah's Lamentations.

"In the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month, which is the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, came Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon, unto Jerusalem: And he burnt the house of the LORD, and the king's house, and all the houses of Jerusalem, and every great man's house burnt he with fire. And all the army of the Chaldees, that were with the captain of the guard, brake down the walls of Jerusalem round about. Now the rest of the people that were left in the city, and the fugitives that fell away to the king of Babylon, with the remnant of the multitude, did Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carry away. But the captain of the guard left of the poor of the land to be vinedressers and husbandmen" (2Ki 25:8-12).
In this excerpt from Kings are presented the facts regarding the captivity and complete overthrow of the "kingdom of God over Israel (Judah)"; in Lamentations we are presented with the significance of these facts. We see not only the extremes of physical anguish and mental frustration, but the spiritual significance of the fall of God's city -- for in a sense, we are presented with cause and effect. The sins of the people, nationally, bring about the fall of the city and the nation. The city itself, once "the perfection of beauty" (Psa 50:2) and "the joy of the whole earth" (Psa 48:2), is fallen -- from being full of people to being solitary; from princess to tributary; from greatness to widowhood. Gone are the walls and towers, symbols of God's protection. Gone are the priests, and with them the festive and solemn worship. Gone are the prophets and with them the visions and the living word of God -- all are in captivity. The land suffers the "sabbath", or cessation, of the glory of God in full Temple manifestation.

The book of Lamentations is the expression of an almost inexpressible grief. It is portrayed in a first person manner, perhaps initially for the benefit of the survivors. Men live on best after a calamity, not by avoiding the circumstance or repressing their shock or grief, but by facing reality, and learning from the experience. This book contains tremendous sadness and grief, but also it offers hope from lessons learned; hope and dependence on Him Who will save; hope in affliction.

In this book we see confession. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1Jo 1:9). Jeremiah does not record excuses for his nation or to evade responsibility for the consequences he witnessed because he is not recording his own feelings but is recording by inspiration what the Spirit wanted. Yahweh had consumed Israel because Israel had turned from Him, disregarding the warnings of those He had sent to turn them from their destructive course.

In the very center of this book is an expression of hope. Not speedy hope; not hope based upon any right of Israel; not encouragement based upon the past -- it is rather a conditional hope. In the central chapter is seen an unnamed individual, a sufferer who has survived. True, it is God who brings about the affliction -- but His motive is a righteous one. God has done this for the ultimate greater good of the individual and of the righteous remnant. The godly survivors understand and appreciate this motive:

"For the Lord will not cast off for ever: 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... Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD" (Lam 3:31-33, 40).
With this in mind let us turn to the book of the "man of affliction."

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