The book of Lamentations isn’t one we often read. Let’s be honest. It seems like a real downer. Jeremiah’s “lamentations” sting like the swat of a paddle. And yet—amazingly—there’s good news for us.
Good news seems good usually because of the bad news that came first.
- The bad news: Because Jerusalem had abandoned the Lord by pursing idols and foreign alliances, God had given over the city to the Babylonians, who disciplined Jerusalem by forcing most of its citizens into exile.
- The good news: God’s divine discipline always comes as an expression both of His faithfulness and His love.
Amazingly, this downer book of Lamentations offers at least 3 reasons we can have hope in life.
1. God’s discipline offers incredible blessing.
God’s kindness to us always comes on the basis of His grace —not His justice. Why? Because God remains under no obligation to forgive our sins (apart from Christ)—only to judge them. If we suffer any hardship at all, it measures little against the weight of justice we deserve for our willful sins.
Why should any living mortal, or any man, offer complaint in view of his sins? Let us examine and probe our ways, and let us return to the Lord. —Lamentations 3:39–40
We should “examine and probe our ways” in order to gain perspective and motivation to change directions. The bitterness of our consequences draws us like a magnet to “return to the Lord.”
2. God is the only solution to our struggles—not people.
Judah had looked to Egypt to save them from the threat of Babylon, but Egypt proved unreliable and ineffective against the calamity God had ordained via Judah’s enemies—a fact Jeremiah had told the king of Judah beforehand (Jeremiah 37:5–10).
Yet our eyes failed, looking for help was useless; in our watching we have watched for a nation that could not save. —Lamentations 4:17
In moments of need, human help often seems preferable to relying on God—especially when:
- People tell us what we want to hear.
- They offer quick solutions as opposed to waiting on God.
- Their advice seems an easy alternative to the hard choices faith demands.
But when God’s clear will points to trusting Him alone, we will always discover that our “looking for help [elsewhere] was useless.”
3. We have hope only because God keeps His promises.
Rising from the fog of despair and lament, Jeremiah recorded Judah’s prayer of hope.
You, O Lord, rule forever; Your throne is from generation to generation. . . . Restore us to You, O Lord, that we may be restored; renew our days as of old. —Lamentations 5:19, 21
The Jews appealed to God’s mercy based on their confidence in His sovereignty.
- If God’s providence had caused Judah’s downfall, then His mighty hand could also act on Judah’s behalf to bring about the nation’s restoration—only as God can restore.
- Because Judah’s repentance was genuine, its citizens rested in the assurance that God would indeed act and not forget them (Leviticus 26:44; Jeremiah 31:31–37).
Lamentations ends with a message of hope based on the character of God and the promises of God—in spite of the sin of His people.
That points to us.
A Smile from Lamentations
The New Testament urges Christians to take comfort that because God has not forsaken His promises to Israel in spite of their sin, neither would He forsake us Christians when we blow it (Romans 8:1, 35–39; 11:1–2).
God offers mercy to the contrite of heart. Our hope for a future of mercy comes for one reason:
The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning. —Lamentations 3:22–23
If we will come to Him, He will begin the process of restoration. We know He will because He said He would, and great is His faithfulness.
Tell me what you think: How has God’s discipline been a blessing in your life? To leave a comment, just click here.
Adapted from Wayne Stiles, “Lamentations,” in Insight’s Bible Application Guide: Isaiah–Malachi (IFL Publishing House, 2015), pages 94-97.