Summary: This sermon finds a connection with the current condition of the United States with the condition of Jeremiah’s Judah. It also teache sus to respond with lament and hope as Jeremiah did for his people and nation.
A Lament of Our Own
Scripture: Lamentations 3:18-26
Before we get into this scripture and how it applies to our lives today it might be good to identify the author of Lamentations and learn a little about his background. Knowing these details will help us better understand what the writer is sharing with us today.
Lamentations was written by Jeremiah who is well known in theological circles as the weeping prophet. A lament is a funeral song or poem recited for someone who had just passed away. In the song it usually emphasized the good qualities of the departed and the tragedy or loss felt by those mourning their death. Lamentations is Jeremiah’s sorrowful songs and poems over the tragic “death” of the city of Jerusalem and the nation of Judah. He was weeping over what used to be, to what now is. It was the painful results of the nation and city’s demise which was being experienced by the people that he writes about. Jeremiah uses the form of this funeral lament to also convey the feeling of sadness and loss being experienced by the survivors of the invasion. An invasion that Jeremiah had warned the people concerning saying, “If you don’t change your ways, God is going to let your enemies come and destroy you.”
In a burst of vivid images the prophet gives us a description of his afflictions. He was mocked and laughed at by his fellow countrymen. They didn’t believe him. This filled him with bitterness. This is why he mentions bitter herbs and gall, the most bitter-tasting plant in Judah. He felt trampled underfoot, deprived of “peace and prosperity,” and he felt led to despair.
Jeremiah’s condition paralleled that of Judah. His outward affliction and inward turmoil pushed him toward despair. This is why he says, “My soul is downcast.” One thought he called to mind crowded out the hopelessness that threatened to overwhelm him. He said, “Because of the Lord‘s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.” He was down, but not out. Judah was down, but not out. God was punishing Judah for her sin, but he had not utterly rejected her as His covenant people. The word for God’s “great love” in the Hebrew is ḥeseḏ, which has the idea of a zealously loyal love.
God was sticking by the people He had chosen. The covenant made with Israel had not been forsaken. In fact God’s zealous and loyal love could be seen in His faithfulness in carrying out the curses He had promised, while at the same time preserving a remnant of people who returned “hesed” to God with their own loyal and faithful love. The judgment itself was a witness to the fact that God had not abandoned His people.
God’s “compassions,” a word that comes from the Hebrew word reḥem, “womb,” is spoken in the plural “wombs” and is meant to explain to the reader that it is an intense compassion. This reveals His gentle, but strong, feelings of concern for the people who belonged to Him.
When we think of a baby in a womb we think of a child growing, being nurtured and protected by the very flesh and lifeblood of the mother. We get the sense of God’s viewpoint of His relationship with His people.