By Jay T. Robertson, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, University of Mobile
Lamentations was written shortly after the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. A skillful and emotional poet describes the devastation of the city of Jerusalem brought about by the Babylonians but ultimately caused by the Lord’s anger against His people. Lamentations consists of five laments or funeral songs that all relate to the destruction of Jerusalem.
From Despair to Hope (19–24)
As Jeremiah focused on the devastation of Jerusalem, he became depressed. By asking God to remember him, he was asking God to show him compassion in the midst of his despair and rid him of his suffering. At the moment of his deepest despair and as he recalled his bitter affliction, his hopelessness turned to hope as he remembered the Lord.
The unbroken mood of despair was displaced by a beautiful affirmation of hope in spite of suffering. The basis for renewed hope was the Lord’s “faithful love.” The Hebrew word “hesed” can also be translated as “covenant love” or “loyal love.”
This precious word means loyalty or faithfulness, especially as related to the covenant initiated by God. It also involves obligations to family, friends and the community.
The writers of the Old Testament most often used this word to describe the Lord’s kindness, loving disposition and faithfulness to His covenant people.
Another basis for hope was Jeremiah’s remembrance that God’s “mercies never end.” God’s mercies are new every morning, and He is good to those who wait on Him.
The Hebrew word translated “mercies” is related to the womb. It describes the tender, caring love of a mother for her child and God’s willingness to forgive the sins of his people. Jeremiah acknowledges in verse 24 that all he truly needs is the Lord. There is hope because God is faithful!
From Waiting to Seeing (25–30)
In verses 25–27, each verse begins with the word “good” in the Hebrew text. The word “good” can refer to someone or something useful, acceptable or beneficial. It can also refer to beauty, moral uprightness or something desirable.
In the midst of his despair, Jeremiah remembered that God is good in every way. We are to wait on the Lord and accept His discipline because He is good and always knows and does what is right.
Paradoxically, we are to wait on the Lord by seeking Him. We are to set our mind’s attention and heart’s affection on Him. We must read and study the Bible if we want the faith to trust God (Rom. 10:17).
Christians who suffer do more than suffer. They also wait. This is an active resting in the goodness of God with the hopeful expectation that someday the trials will come to an end.
These verses, in which Jeremiah praises God for His faithful mercies and surrenders to His timetable for salvation, form the climax of the Book of Lamentations.
In Hebrew poetry, the most important truths are contained in the center of the work. In these verses, we see that Jeremiah reaches a place of comfort and hope that marks a turning point for him.
From Rejection to Compassion (31–33)
These verses teach us how we can accept life’s trials and tribulations with quiet confidence. Affliction can be borne more easily when we understand that God’s rejection and alienation and the suffering that results do not last forever.
God lovingly disciplines His children for a time for the sake of their spiritual well-being.