Sorrow and Lamentations











Question: Steve, I am currently reading through the book of Lamentations. How did Jeremiah respond to the destruction of Jerusalem as recorded in the book of Lamentations? 

Answer: The content in the book of Lamentations is based on the events described in Jeremiah 52, in which Jerusalem is invaded, the Temple is destroyed, and the Israelites are exiled out of the Promised Land into Gentile territory. The prophet Jeremiah mourns the destruction of Jerusalem and the consequent plight of the Israelites. The book of Lamentations is therefore a lament genre, a collection of laments by Jeremiah over fallen Judah. The content of the laments encompasses multiple themes, including the sin of Judah, God’s holiness offended, and God’s judgment on His covenant people. Yet in the midst of such tragedy, Jeremiah also expresses hope in God’s compassion, which highlights the preservation theme of the Abrahamic Covenant. The book of Lamentations is predominantly a sad response to the Old Covenant curses that came upon Judah, although the author closes the book by expressing hope in God’s salvation. 

The first and foremost response of Jeremiah to the destruction of Jerusalem was total sorrow. The book of Lamentations opens with a chapter that describes the devastations that came upon Zion and the grief expressed by the people. Jeremiah also grieved, stating, “For these things I weep; My eyes run down with water; because far from me is a comforter, One who restores my soul. My children are desolate because the enemy has prevailed” (1:16). Verse 20 also expresses the depth of Jeremiah’s distress, stating, “My spirit is greatly troubled; my heart is overturned within me, for I have been very rebellious.” The last part of this sentence indicates that part of what caused Jeremiah distressed was his sinfulness against God, which shows that Jeremiah’s expression of grief was also coupled with repentance. Jeremiah repented on behalf of Israel.

Another response of Jeremiah to the destruction of Jerusalem, which comes after the expression of sorrow, is a plea for mercy. This theme is most clearly expressed in chapter 5, in which verses 1-18 describes the nation’s wounds which Jeremiah offered up to the Lord in prayer. The plea for mercy culminates in Jeremiah’s prayer forIsrael’s restoration and salvation. Verse 21 reads, “Restore us to You, O Lord, that we may be restored; renew our days as of old, unless You have utterly rejected us…” This verse calls upon God to remember the covenant that God established with Abraham and David. It is based on this fact that Jeremiah can plea to God, otherwise God would have no reason to forgive and restoreIsrael.

The book of Lamentations is a sad picture of Israel’s mourning following the destruction of Jerusalem. It is serious look into the danger of sin and apostasy. However, it ends with a hopeful note, like most other OT books, that speak of God’s compassion and plan to restore Israel, which serves as a deacon of light despite the dark and depressing overtures of this book.