7/27/2017

Singing The Blues (Lamentations)

Most of us remember where we were and what we're doing on 9/11, 2001. The images and emotions are seared into our memory. This would be much more so for the Jews living in 586 BC, the year Babylon destroyed Jerusalem. The book of Jeremiah closes with a graphic description of siege, famine, terror, plunder, killings, cruelty and public executions. But far more traumatic was the glaring reality that:
  • Jerusalem was destroyed (52:13b-14).
  • The throne of David was empty. The last king of Judah was captured, blinded and improsoned for the rest of his life (52:9-11).
  • The temple of God was in ruins (52:13a).
  • The people of God were deported into exile in Babylon (52:15).
The greatest sufferings in life are not material losses or physical pain but the emotional and spiritual trauma of abandonment and despair. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Psalm 22:1).

Singing the blues. Lamentations (Latin Vulgate translation: lamenta) consists of five laments or lamentations. A lament is a sad, agony-filled cry of mourning, usually in poetic form. There are numerous laments in Psalms with cries to God in pain and suffering. These laments in Psalms almost always end with a strong affirmation that God will indeed provide deliverance or with a vow of praise to God because of his great deliverance. Lamentations, by contrast, has statements of hope, but these are somewhat tentative and faint. In the lament psalms the affirmations of faith in God's deliverance are central, while in Lamentations the cry of pain and suffering is central. In our culture today it may be akin to "funeral dirge" or the American blues music. Thus, Lamentations is about singing the blues.

Central message and purpose. Lamentations is a cry of agony and suffering. But this cry is also a confession that this terrible suffering is very much deserved, a result of repeated disobedience, defiance of God and rejection of his word. It is a graphically horrific first-person testimony to the real consequences of sin.
  1. No Comfort for the Grieving Widow Jerusalem. Rebellion and sin against God result in sorrow, tragedy and pain.
  2. The Anger of God. Even as the anger of God brings judgment, he still listens for the cry of repentance.
  3. The Faithfulness of God in the Midst of Judgment. Because of God's faithful loyal love, there is always hope.
  4. Sin and its Tragic Consequences for Children. The sin of adults can lead to terrible and tragic consequences for children.
  5. Woe to Us, for We Have Sinned. God is always on his throne; thus we should confess our sins and trust him for deliverance.