Thursday, September 27, 2012

Biblical Timeline: Lamentations

God can take great tragedy and use it to ignite great creativity.

I wonder how many works of prose, poetry, photos, paintings, or other passionate endeavors are the result of the author's or artist's anguish and suffering? Perhaps more than we think.

We fear the valleys we encounter along our spiritual journey, but maybe these are the impetus behind masterpieces. Inserted into our reading of the book of Jeremiah is the prophet's other work, the book of Lamentations. Written at a time of great sorrow, the Holy Spirit uses the grief of the "weeping prophet" to artistically compose 5 poems. I suspect this isn't unusual.

The book of Lamentations is not usually recognized by readers as being a collection of acrostic poetry because it does not maintain its alphabetical integrity when translated from Hebrew into other languages. Unlike the segments of Psalm 119 which show each corresponding letter of the Hebrew alphabet (22 of them), Jeremiah's poems do not. Actually, chapter 5 is not an alphabetically ordered acrostic like the other 4 chapters. Also chapter 3 does not end in 22 verses, one verse per letter, but is composed of 66 verses, a trilogy of three verses per letter.

As horrible as the situation was that Jeremiah witnessed, he did not abandon his faith in God. "Great is thy faithfulness" (3:23) is the basis for his own hope and the inspiration for Chisholm's great hymn by the same name.

Also, contrast Jeremiah's reproach in 2:15, "All that pass by clap their hands at thee; they hiss and wag their head at the daughter of Jerusalem, saying, Is this the city that men call The perfection of beauty, The joy of the whole earth?"  with what the psalmist, David, wrote in Psalm 48:

"Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness. Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King. God is known in her palaces for a refuge. For, lo, the kings were assembled, they passed by together. They saw it, and so they marvelled; they were troubled, and hasted away. . . . Let mount Zion rejoice, let the daughter of Judah be glad, because of thy judgments." (verses 1-5, 11)
As you read, remind yourself of the devastation that Jeremiah witnessed. This was war in all of its ugliness. He had been warning the kings of Judah for 40 years that it was coming and he had also privately counseled King Zedekiah how to avoid the razing of the city when that king sought word from the Lord but to no avail. After the city fell, the dead lay in the street, the royal family was abused, the city burned. Jerusalem, the city that Jesus would later stand and cry over, was a vivid illustration that "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23).
The time of the last campaign and final destruction of the city of Jerusalem by Babylon was in July and August 586 B.C.  These mourning poems would most likely have been completed between that time and a few years later when Jeremiah was forced to accompany other exiles into Egypt.
Sources: as always, I have used notes from The Open Bible and The MacArthur Study Bible when preparing this synopsis. This time they were useful for understanding the acrostic poem format of the book. The devotional material and scripture comparisons are my own.

1 comment :

  1. There are definitely some beautiful verses in Lamentations.


Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.
Psalms 19:14 (KJV)