Some Tips on How To Read the Book of Lamentations
Destruction and devastation
These are 2 words to describe Jerusalem when you read through the book of Lamentations. In the writing, Jerusalem is personified as a woman who was once known as a queen. Many of us might not fully grasp the full feeling of the people of God for most of us have not gone through wars that destruct our nation. Jerusalem was taken captive by the Babylonian. The city was destroyed, the temple has broken down, some faced death. Nothing else was left and some hopes for God were nearly dead. In this setting, Lamentations was written.
As we examine the writing of Lamentations, it’s amazing to see the highly structured and emotionally powerful poems that lament the destruction of Jerusalem. All the chapters were written acrostics based on the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet except Chapter 5 not in acrostics arrangement. The writer has skillfully expressed the feeling to give us the entry point to their experience.
As we read Lamentations, remember that this book is written as a poem, expressing the emotion of the people of God during the exile period. Capture the feeling. We can read this book in one sitting, picking out the feeling of the people of God. When we done it, take a second reading and at this reading, capture the God of exile highlighted by the writer. May we begin to feeling like to the people of Jerusalem and to see the God of the exile.
It’s interesting how the writer end the book of Lamentations with questions to God. When we have finished reading, why not consider re-writing the questions to God base on our own lives situation. We might be surprised by this God, the people of Jerusalem have placed their hope in!
“The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words” recorded in Lamentations chapter 3 verse 19 reflects the condition of the people of God during the exile period. Jerusalem once considered as the queen of the nations but now suffers as slave. Once filled with crowds for celebration but silent. All their inheritance has been taken by strangers and their homes by the foreigners. Children have been taken captive and the temple has broken down. They grieved, mourned, sob, tears, wept bitterly, silent, starved and many faced with death. The joy of their heart has ended and their dancing has turned into mourning. Everything they hope for from the Lord has all vanished. No wonder the enemies were happy and laughed at their trouble. The enemies have triumphed. No one has come to help them.
The people have sins against God. They defiled themselves with immorality without fear of punishment. The prophets have spoken falsely. Jerusalem is degraded to be known as filthy rags.
As I read Lamentations, it’s full of sad story of the people of God. His anger was upon the people and they were thrown out of the promise land. Even the temple that symbolizes God’s presence was destroyed. But right at the centre of the book, the writer dares to hope. It’s amazing to see how the writer never disregards this difficult moment but acknowledge it because of their sins. More than that, he placed his hope in the unfailing love of the Lord that never ends. It was by God’s mercies they were not completely destroyed. His mercies begin afresh each day and he put his hope in Him.
What is stopping us to place our hope in this God during our darkest hour?