The Agora
The Lamentations of Jeremiah

Previous Index Next

Chapter 5 - Prayer For Deliverance From Affliction

"Behold our reproach."
Again, as in the earlier chapters, Jeremiah dwells at length upon the details of the siege and the captivity. There is by now no doubt to the Jews that God is behind this whole affair; neither is there any doubt as to His reason (v 16). Indeed, the whole chapter is a sustained prayer to God -- in every verse acknowledging His authority and power -- and calling upon Him to intervene on behalf of His people. This is the elegy which traditionally closes every Hebrew lamentation (see the introduction).

Verses 1-15: "See Our Reproach" -- Disgrace

After considering the terrible condition of the city and realising the cause of this great tribulation, the remnant is depicted as coming before God in PRAYER. "Behold our reproach, O Lord." What condition had they been left in! The land which "they" had tilled, the homes "they" had built, the cattle "they" had acquired were no longer theirs. The water and the wood which were once free had to be bought. The number of their valiant men had diminished. Everything "they" had, had been given to them by God -- and now He had taken it away. Their women were violated, the men of power were abased, the yoke of bondage was once more borne upon Israel. The people were helpless, unable to stop the fulfilment of the captor's desires. The city that once had seen David dance in the streets because God was there, now takes up a song of mourning because He has departed. Because they had turned from God in their wantonness. God had turned from them.

As we witness these judgments, we still want to keep in mind God's preservation of a faithful remnant, who endured these tribulations and grew by them, through the acknowledgment that they were totally and completely helpless without God.

"Remember" (v 1) -- compare 1:20; 2:20; 3:19. Yahweh will remember the sufferings of the Jews. He will also remember the sufferings of the saints -- as He did those of Christ:

"Remember, LORD, the reproach of Thy servants;
how I do bear in my bosom the reproach of all the mighty people;
wherewith Thine enemies have reproached, O LORD;
wherewith they have reproached the footsteps of Thine anointed" (Psa 89:50,51).
As James says, "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16). The prayer of Hezekiah, when Jerusalem was threatened by the Northern Host, is a prime example (Isa 37:14-20). We are commanded to pray, in the same way, for the peace of Jerusalem (Psa 122:6), to "remember the Lord afar off, and let Jerusalem come into our minds" (Jer 51:50).

"Behold our reproach" -- our shame, disgrace. The word "reproach" is from a root meaning "autumn" or "ripeness" -- signifying the fulness of iniquity, reaping what has been sown (v 7). Jeremiah, true to his feeling for the "hope of Israel", places himself among those who have grievously sinned.

"Our fathers have sinned, and are not" (v 7). The nation has at last recognized the reason for God's heavy hand upon them, the same hand which fell upon their fathers. Compare the words of Zechariah, spoken 70 years later:

"Your fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live for ever? But My words and My statues, which I commanded My servants the prophets, did they not take hold of your fathers? and they returned and said, Like as the LORD of Hosts thought to do unto us, according to our ways, and according to our doings, so hath He dealt with us" (Zec 1:5,6).
"We have borne their iniquities." The Jews, similarly, had in Christ's time, filled up the measure of their fathers (Mat 23:32). Although it is a Scriptural principle that every man bears the responsibility for his own deeds, it is still true that national sins are often unpunished for a time, and judgment is stored up until a later date, when it all falls at once (Gen 15:13-16; 1Ki 21:26). Such was the case with the kingdom of Judah: the iniquities of the past -- as well as their own -- finally were laid upon the one generation of Jeremiah's time.

"We gat our bread with the peril of our lives because of the sword of the wilderness" (v 9). Contrast this with the fortunes of the Jews who spent 40 years in the wilderness, where they gathered bread every day as they found it as the dew upon the ground. They had "no lack". Also, the famine of bread in Jeremiah's time was only the type of the far worse famine -- the famine of God's word (Amos 8:11,12). There were still prophets to speak to Israel, but most refused to hear -- and thus suffered the hardships of a "famine" upon themselves while the bread of life lay on the table before them!

Verses 16-18: "The Crown is Fallen"--

In the first verses of this chapter, the disgrace of the Jews was the principal subject. In this section is stressed the fall of the nation, and its degradation during the long period of Gentile dominion:

"And they shall fall by the edge of the sword,
and shall be led away captive into all nations:
and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles,
until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled" (Luke 21:24).
In two senses the "crown" had fallen (v 16)--

  1. The crown is a symbol of royalty -- which was fallen (Ezek 21:26; Psa 89:39; Hos 3:4) because Israel had rejected God to rule over them (as in 1Sa 8:7).
  2. The crown symbolises obedience to the Truth (Rev 2:10;3:11), dedication and priesthood (Exo 28:36-38) -- which were grievously lacking.

Verses 19-22: The Everlasting Throne: A Hope Of Renewal

The previous section dealt with the overthrow of the Jewish throne. That is contrasted in this section with the sureness of God's throne and God's crown. This final chapter is a prayer in itself, a fitting conclusion to Lamentations. These last verses are a prayer within the prayer -- a final summation of thought, a climactic entreaty to God -- for all times and for all peoples who have experienced affliction at His hand:

"Turn thou us unto Thee... renew our days as of old."
Oh, How is Zion's glory gone!
And vengeance, like a flood,
Hath quenched her power, and not a stone
Marks where her temple stood.

How are thy streets, Jerusalem,
By careless strangers trod!
And crush'd thy once bright diadem,
Before the wrath of God!

O Lord, look down with pitying eye
Upon Thy ancient race;
And bring Thy promised mercy nigh
And show Thy saving grace.

Oh, bring Thy scatter'd sheep again,
And feed them as of old;
Let Christ o'er all his people reign,
One Shepherd and one fold.
Previous Index Next