Lamentations 3-5
August 23rd

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

Remember, Lord, what has happened to us;
    look, and see our disgrace.

- Lamentations 5:1 (NIV)

Summary of Chapters

These three chapters conclude the little book of Lamentations with a continuation of laments regarding the siege and suffering of Jerusalem. For instance, in the beginning of chapter 3, Jeremiah describes the anguish of Jerusalem as if it were happening to him individually.

    Like a bear lying in wait, like a lion in hiding, he dragged me from the path and mangled me and left me without help.

    - Lamentations 3:11 (NIV)

Jeremiah portrays the physical and emotional suffering that resulted from the siege and then reminds himself that the LORD ultimately offers compassion: “The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him (Lam 3:25 - NIV).”

The advice from Jeremiah to one who seeks the LORD is to wait quietly, suffer patiently, show humility and “offer his cheek to one who would strike him (Jer 3:30 - NIV).” He also once again acknowledges the sins of the nation, and suggests that everyone confess to the LORD and ask him to hear their prayers once more. With a bit of boldness, Jeremiah then asks the LORD once gain to pay back their enemies for what they have done.

In chapter 4, Jeremiah reviews the ways in which the lives of the people of Jerusalem have drastically changed. Fortunes have vanished and the mothers are so destitute that they can’t nurse their young or otherwise satisfy their thirst.

Jeremiah notes that the elongated period of suffering is worse than what the people of Sodom experienced, as they had no warning and were quickly terminated. The people of Jerusalem, by contrast, are suffering a slow and anguishing death. The royal family and others who once were so clean and healthy are now dressed in soot. The defeat of Jerusalem came as a surprise to the rest of the world, explains Jeremiah, as they had considered it impregnable.

Unfortunately, the people of Jerusalem gave up their protection and were misled by the official prophets. The LORD is not coming to help, and neither are any of their former allies.

In the close of the chapter Jeremiah tells Edom to enjoy life while they can, because they too will soon face a similar fate.

In the final chapter, Jeremiah makes an ultimate and brief call to the LORD. He asks the LORD to remember what has happened, and then provides what we might call a bullet list of some of the extreme suffering and humiliation that they have experienced, such as the following:

  • “Our inheritance has been turned over to aliens (5:2 -NIV).”
  • “Slaves rule over us (5:8 - NIV).”
  • “Our skin is hot as an oven, feverish from hunger (5:10 - NIV).”
  • “Mount Zion…lies desolate, with jackals prowling on it (5:18 - NIV).”

Jeremiah ends the book by declaring that the LORD reigns eternally, but asks why he has forsaken his people. Jeremiah asks for restoration, “unless you have utterly rejected us and are angry beyond means (5:22 - NIV).”

Reflection and Application

The destruction of Sodom was described in Genesis 19. God was going to destroy all of the people, but Abraham had pleaded with him to spare the city if he found sufficient righteous people. Only Lot and his daughters were ultimately spared from the burning sulfur that rained down and destroyed the city instantly. Lot’s wife had been given the opportunity to be saved, but ignored the warning not to look back and was turned into a pillar of salt.

Jeremiah implies that the people might have preferred that consequence or death by the sword instead of a long and drawn out period of suffering. But this was the LORD’s plan. Apparently the example of Sodom was not sufficient for the human race, so he needed a different type of example of the cost of turning from the LORD. We can’t choose the punishment that the LORD defines for us, so we are better off doing our best to follow him.

The neighboring nations were surprised because they thought they knew how Israel’s God worked – but they underestimated him again. We often think we know exactly how the LORD might respond, but we must be careful to not be to presumptive or arrogant about it, as the LORD is not beholden to any past patterns of behavior. Any day can be uncharted territory for him, but he knows where he is going.

How do we avoid unexpected punishment from the LORD? We can follow Jeremiah’s advice from 3:30 – wait quietly, suffer patiently, show humility, and turn the other cheek. Many might think that the turning of the cheek was introduced by Jesus in the New Testament command, but one can find its roots here in the Books of the Prophets.

How do we know if the LORD will save us? Jeremiah, in the last verse of this book, says that he expects the LORD to provide restoration, unless he has totally rejected us. Jeremiah’s wording may have been a way of circling back to his earlier statements that made clear that the LORD has plans for us to prosper. Therefore, for those who had been listening, they would know that indeed, the LORD has not utterly rejected us.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What is one of the worst sun burns that you ever had?
    2. What do you think went through the minds of the people of Jerusalem during the siege?
    3. How do we develop the patience to wait quietly, suffer patiently, show humility, and turn the other cheek?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we know that you bring judgment in your own way and time. Help us to listen to you so we can accept your mercy and grace.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    People waiting patiently for the LORD

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Ezekiel 1-3 (Ezekiel Saw the Wheel)

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