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Last month, we learned about the book of Lamentations. It is a song of lament by the prophet Jeremiah over the destruction of Jerusalem. Witnessing the destruction of Jerusalem, he was devastated by grief. The song, or poem, is skillfully arranged in the order of the Hebrew alphabet. While it is a song of grief, it is also about repenting from sin and returning to God. This is emphasized by the way the song ends with that prayer in chapter 5 that says, “Restore us to yourself, Lord.” 2 Corinthians 7:10 says, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” As we read this lament, may we be able to reflect on the past and humble ourselves in repentance, as well as see God’s grace in our lives.
Besides being a lament, this song is also a prayer to God. Even today, Jewish people mourn the destruction of their Temple every year in the month of Av, which is in July or August. Every year they read and pray this book of Lamentations. May we, like the Jewish people, examine our inner selves, live in repentance, and be gracious towards others.
As modern Christians, we do not lament the destruction of the Temple. We believe ourselves to be citizens of heaven. As Philippians 3:20 says, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” And yet we live on this earth. Here we experience hardships, troubles, and persecution. In these times, we may find the book of Lamentations to be our prayer as well.
Before we get into the text of Lamentations 5, let us first think about the subject of hardships and trials.
First, let’s read 1 Corinthians 10:13. It says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” When we are faced with temptations or trials, God will provide a way out so that we can endure them.
Second, what is the purpose of trials? James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” God can use these trials for a purpose. God allows us to experience them so we can grow. So that we gain perseverance. So that we will mature. Trials enable us to grow. For that reason, when we see through eyes of faith, we can face even our trials with joy.
Furthermore, 1 Peter 1:7 says, “These [trials] have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” Refining by fire does the work of purifying us. And not only are we refined, but trials can also bring glory to God.
And now, we will read Lamentations 5. The first half of Lamentations 5 depicts the land of Judah that has been destroyed by Babylon. The people of Judah lost everything they used to take for granted and were carried away as captives. During this time, they had an opportunity to examine their hearts. After offering their lament, they turned their hearts towards God, as described in verse 19.
At the beginning, in verse 1, Jeremiah prays, “Remember, Lord, what has happened to us; look, and see our disgrace.” By the hand of God, Babylon destroyed Judah. As verse 2 says, the people lost the land that should be their inheritance; it was given away to foreigners. Verse 3 says: We have become fatherless. Verse 4: Even water and wood now come at a price. Verse 5: We are burdened with a yoke, driven, weary, and without rest. As they confessed in verse 16: We are suffering for our sins.
Sins are confessed and sufferings remembered one by one before God in prayer. Every year, Jews read this lament. All that happened was part of God’s great plan, I believe. God’s plan was for his people to become a holy nation, a kingdom of priests, but in order for that to happen they had to confess and repent. It is the same with us. Let us bring each of our sufferings to God and lament over them. God listens to our sincere prayers.
From chapter 5 verse 19, Jeremiah turns his eyes to God and prays, “You, Lord, reign forever; your throne endures from generation to generation.” The Lord sits on his throne eternally. Christ Jesus, who hears our prayers of repentance, is seated on the throne of God. In verse 20 Jeremiah prays, “Why do you always forget us? Why do you forsake us so long?” He is referring to their life as exiles in Babylon.
And so verse 21 says, “Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return; renew our days as of old.” The people yearn to return to the Lord. We can feel their earnest desire in these words that they pray with heart, soul, and body. The “days of old” mentioned here probably refer to the glorious age of King David and Solomon. They yearn for peace and prosperity again. They yearn for freedom. As Christians we can find peace and freedom in our relationship with God. But like Jeremiah, we too pray to be renewed in our relationship with Him.
Easter comes next Sunday. But before the resurrection, we must remember the suffering of Christ. Christ loved us and carried the penalty for our sin. He humbly bore the sins of humanity. And the punishment for our sins. So let us spend this week specially remembering the suffering of Christ. We are already saved by faith in him. Let us give thanks again for the grace that pardons us, while praying, “Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return.” Even in the silence of your own heart, come to the Lord and look to him with hope.
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