I could go chapter by chapter through Lamentations, but I think I’ll take it as a whole. The major themes are pretty consistent throughout (at least to me), and I see no need to get too repetitive going through this book chapter by chapter, verse by verse.
Jeremiah is generally recognized as the author of this book, and he probably wrote this shortly after the destruction of Jerusalem. And you can see the pain of Jeremiah very clearly in this book.
In chapter 1, he compares Jerusalem to a great queen who has not only lost her husband and been cast down, but has been taken into captivity. As she lies in her prison, she weeps bitterly throughout the night, and all the lovers she had courted while she was queen, and all her “friends” have either betrayed or abandoned her.
Throughout the rest of the book, we catch glimpses as to how bad the situation was in Jerusalem. The beautiful temple Solomon had built, the pride of the nation, was now looted and burned. All the leaders were slain or exiled. Those who had been rich were reduced to poverty, and all the people were starving. Children were dying in their mothers’ arms, and mothers were eating their own children. Death permeated throughout the city and Jeremiah lamented that it would have been better to die by the sword than to die of starvation.
As a result of all this, the people no longer knew any joy in their lives. Instead they all lived in hopelessness and despair.
In chapter 2, Jeremiah talks about what to him is even worse. That the Lord himself had abandoned the city. He had rejected the altar and his sanctuary there. Not only that, he had fought against Jerusalem tearing down the city in his anger.
Why did he do all this? We talked about this earlier, but Jeremiah reiterates it here.
The Lord has brought her grief because of her many sins. (1:5)
And because of all this, they were now being ridiculed by the nations around them for how low they had fallen.
Yet in the midst of all this, in the midst of all the destruction and suffering, we do find an oasis of hope in Jeremiah’s heart.
In chapter 3, he talks about the state of Jerusalem, comparing it perhaps to his time of imprisonment in the pit under the reign of Zedekiah. Forced to dwell in darkness, in bitterness of heart, with no means of escape. Weighed down by his chains. Crying out to God, but feeling like God was not hearing. Being made the laughingstock of all the people around him.
But then he said,
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (3:21-23)
Where did Jeremiah find his hope? In the love and compassion of God. That though God brought judgment on his people, he had not completely abandoned them. Though broken and exiled, yet they still lived. Jeremiah continued,
For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men. (31-33)
And so Jeremiah told the people. Don’t just weep in self-pity. Rather mourn unto repentance. He said,
Arise, cry out in the night, as the watches of the night begin; pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord. (2:19)
Why should any living man complain when punished for his sins? Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord. Let us lift up our hearts and our hands to God in heaven, and say: “We have sinned and rebelled and you have not forgiven.” (3:39-42)
God says the same to us. Perhaps you are feeling broken by your sins. Your life is a mess, and you think there’s no hope. And as long as you’re mourning in self-pity, there is no hope. But when we turn to God in repentance, he will show us his compassion once again, and will forgive and restore us.
Paul put it this way,
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. (II Corinthians 7:10)
Jeremiah ends the book by saying,
Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may return; renew our days as of old unless you have utterly rejected us and are angry with us beyond measure. (5:21-22)
God will not utterly reject you nor be angry beyond measure if you’ll only do one thing. Repent.
So let us not wallow in the sorrow that leads to death. But let us instead embrace the godly sorrow that leads to forgiveness and life.