The Agora
The Lamentations of Jeremiah

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Other Perspectives:
Christ In The Lamentations

In an introductory section we briefly dealt with Jeremiah as a type of Christ. Insofar as the Lamentations portray Jeremiah as a suffering servant, "called" to his mission even from his mother's womb (Jer 1:5, 9), a "lamb brought to the slaughter" (11:5, 9), who yet prays for his nation and weeps at their sorrows (9:1)... insofar as this, at least, Lamentations is also a prophecy of the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Also (and especially in the long poem -- Lam 3) the book does what the Psalms do: it presents a "biography" of Christ centered on his thoughts rather than his deeds.

In the panorama of Jeremiah's poetic vision, certain verses stand out as "cameos", or "vignettes", of Christ. There is not so much a progressive development (indeed, Lamentations scarcely yields itself to this in any case) as there are delicate glimpses, here and there, of "the man who hath seen affliction" (Lam 3:1). Any one such, by itself, may not seem significant; but set them beside one another as so many strokes on a canvas, and finally a poignant picture emerges.

1:12: "Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?"

Heedlessly the world passes by, on roads bound for nowhere. They pause only to jeer or to shrug. Almost never are any arrested and convicted by the spectacle of one whose sorrow exceeds the sorrow of all others. Has God indeed afflicted him? Is he suffering the wrath of God?

"And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors (citing Isa 53:12). And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the Temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself, and come down from the cross" (Mark 15:28-30).

Is it nothing to us, to see such a man? Does the thought of his sufferings arrest us in our headlong flights through this "vanity fair"? Do we examine ourselves? Do we repent? Do we rededicate ourselves? Or do we instead take the bread and the wine with a practical air, a ritual completed, a minor appointment kept and then forgotten until next week? Is it nothing to us?

1:16: "For these things I weep; mine eye, mine eye runneth down with water."

(Compare 2:11, 18; 3:48). Here was a man who was never far from tears, a man who went often to the "house of mourning", and laid to heart what he learned there (Eccl 7:2). He wept at the tomb of a friend (John 11:35). And he wept over a city grown hard and calloused, a city soon to echo with the cries, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" (Mat 23:37). Can we "weep" with this man? Can we find the wisdom he found in sorrow? Can we, like him, submit our characters to the perfecting process of suffering (Heb 5:7-9)? Can we, as he asked, take up our "crosses" and follow him? Let us spurn forever the false gaiety, and the foolish laughter that masks an empty heart. And let us learn more of this man of sorrow. If we do, then out of our sorrow there will come at last a blessed and lasting joy:

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, "That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy" (John 16:20).
1:17, 18: "His adversaries" are "round about him"... and yet "the LORD is righteous".

Jesus was not being punished for his own sins, but in his sufferings God was demonstrating that the "flesh of sin" deserves only death. In the death of His sinless Son, God was declaring Himself righteous (Rom 3:25). And He was showing us what we, as sinners, deserve!

Consider the awesome character of this man. His adversaries gather round him, to laugh and mock. He is enclosed by darkness, almost as though forsaken by his Father. And yet this righteous man responds only with a profound and absolute faith. In the wide swirling ocean of dark temptation, the Saviour stands as a rock and a beacon. "Not my will but Thine be done." "Thou art holy." "The Lord is righteous."

1:21: "All mine enemies have heard of my trouble; they are glad that Thou hast done it: Thou wilt bring the day that Thou hast called, and they shall be like unto me."

It was starkly and tragically true. Forty years later, the hills surrounding Jerusalem were covered with Roman crosses, and on each one hung a Jew who had rejected his crucified Messiah!

2:22: "Thou didst invite as to the day of an appointed feast my terrors on every side" (RSV).

The "appointed feast" was no doubt the Passover. The time of the Passover came, and the guests arrived at the feast. But, in an enormous irony, the "guests" were "terrors on every side" -- bulls and lions and fierce dogs (Psa 22:12,13,16), snarling and tearing and devouring the Passover "lamb"! And Jesus was the "feast", the "lamb"! "This bread is my body; this cup is my blood." "For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us."

3:1: "I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of His wrath."

"Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted" (Isa 53:4).

3:5: "He hath... compassed me with gall and travail" Psa 69:21; Mat 27:34.

3:6: "He hath set me in dark places."

And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour (Lk. 23:44).

3:7: "He hath hedged me about"... with thorns?

Jesus was the "ram" caught in the thicket, the sacrifice provided by Yahweh (Gen 22:13, 14), hedged about by a crown of thorns.

3:8: "Also when I cry and shout, He shutteth out my prayer." "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" (Psa 22:1; Mat 27:46; Mark 15:34).

3:9: "He hath enclosed my ways with hewn stone."

"And he bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock; and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulchre" (Mark 15:46).
3:12, 13: "He hath bent his bow, and set me as a mark for the arrow. He hath caused the arrows of his quiver to enter into my reins." "They pierced my hands and my feet" (Psa 22:16).

3:14: "I was a derision to all my people; and their song all the day."

3:27: "It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth."

The yoke that Jesus bore from his youth was a lifetime of perfect obedience to the will of God. "Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do Thy will, O my God: yea, Thy law is within my heart" (Psa 40:7, 8; Heb 10:7-9). This is why Jesus could say that his yoke was easy, and his burden was light (Mat 11:28, 29)! This is why he could offer it to us to share with him! Because it was a pure delight to do the Father's will! Is it so with us?

3:28: "He sitteth alone and keepeth silence."

The perfect man, Jesus Christ, walking not in the way of sinners (Psa 1), who was separate from sinners, holy, harmless, and undefiled (Heb 7:26, 27).

3:29: "He putteth his mouth in the dust."

Jesus was led away to Golgotha, bearing on his beaten and bloody shoulders the stake on which he as "serpent" would be lifted up (Num 21:9; John 3:14; 12:32). He bore also, in his sorrow, the burden of our sins. He was exhausted, more exhausted than words could tell, and he stumbled and fell. The rough, heavy wooden beam was too much for him. He lay there in the dust. And the words of the curse were emblazoned across the scene:

"Thou art cursed... upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat..." (Gen 3:14).
3:30: "He giveth his cheek to him that smiteth him: he is filled with reproach."

Compare Isa 50:6; Mat 5:39.

3:31-33: Here, "buried" in an obscure corner of the Old Testament, is God's reason for the atonement! He does not willingly afflict His children. Although He must cause grief -- even to His beloved Son -- there is a surpassing and eternal purpose. God causes grief so that He, the Righteous One, might then righteously have compassion on sinners! Who could ask for anything more? Praise be to God!

3:40-42: A righteous man is afflicted, chastened, smitten, and then crucified. Is it nothing to us? What is the result? What should be the result?

"Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD... We have transgressed, and have rebelled."
A righteous man is crucified, and sinners repent! A righteous man dies, and sinners are born again! "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Gal 2:20).

3:52-57: Here is death, and burial (v 53). But, as with Abel, the "blood" of the righteous calls out of the earth (vv 55, 56) -- not this time for vengeance, but for redemption. Let us make that cry ours:

"Thou drewest near in the day that I called upon Thee:
Thou saidst, Fear not."
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