Jehovah’s Word Is Alive
Highlights From the Book of Lamentations
THE prophet Jeremiah sees the fulfillment of the judgment message that he has been uttering for 40 years. How does the prophet feel when he personally witnesses the destruction of his beloved city? “Jeremiah sat down weeping and lamented with this lamentation over Jerusalem,” says the Greek Septuagint in its introduction to the book of Lamentations. Composed in 607 B.C.E. while the memory of the 18-month-long siege followed by the burning of Jerusalem is still fresh in the prophet’s mind, the book of Lamentations vividly expresses Jeremiah’s heartfelt anguish. (Jeremiah 52:3-5, 12-14) No other city in history has been lamented in expressions so touching and heartrending.
The book of Lamentations is a collection of five lyrical poems. The first four are laments, or dirges; the fifth is a petition, or prayer. The first four songs are acrostics, successive verses beginning with a different letter in the order of the 22-character Hebrew alphabet. Although the fifth song has 22 verses to correspond to the number of letters of the Hebrew alphabet, it is not arranged alphabetically.
‘MY EYES HAVE COME TO THEIR END IN TEARS’
“O how she has come to sit solitary, the city that was abundant with people! How she has become like a widow, she that was populous among the nations! How she that was a princess among the jurisdictional districts has come to be for forced labor!” Thus begin the lamentations of the prophet Jeremiah regarding Jerusalem. Giving the reason for this calamity, the prophet says: “Jehovah himself has brought grief to her on account of the abundance of her transgressions.”
Personified as a widow bereaved of husband and children, Jerusalem asks: “Does there exist any pain like my pain?” Concerning her enemies, she prays to God: “May all their badness come before you, and deal severely with them, just as you have dealt severely with me on account of all my transgressions. For my sighs are many, and my heart is ill.”
Deeply distressed, Jeremiah says: “In the heat of anger [Jehovah] has cut down every horn of Israel. He has turned his right hand back from before the enemy; and in Jacob he keeps burning like a flaming fire that has devoured all around.” Depicting his profound sorrow, the prophet laments: “My eyes have come to their end in sheer tears. My intestines are in a ferment. My liver has been poured out to the very earth.” Even those passing by have expressed amazement, saying: “Is this the city of which they used to say, ‘It is the perfection of prettiness, an exultation for all the earth’?”
Scriptural Questions Answered:
Lessons for Us:
1:1-9. Jerusalem weeps profusely during the night, and her tears are upon her cheeks. Her gates lie desolate, and her priests are sighing. Her virgins are grief-stricken, and she herself has bitterness. Why? Because Jerusalem has committed outright sin. Her uncleanness is in her skirts. The fruitage of transgression is not joy; it is tears, sighing, grief, and bitterness.
1:18. In punishing transgressors, Jehovah is always just and righteous.
2:20. The Israelites were warned that if they did not listen to the voice of Jehovah, they would experience maledictions, which included eating ‘the flesh of their sons and daughters.’ (Deuteronomy 28:15, 45, 53) How unwise to choose a course of disobedience to God!
“DO NOT HIDE YOUR EAR TO MY RELIEF”
In Lamentations chapter 3, the nation of Israel is spoken of as “the able-bodied man.” Despite experiencing adversity, this man sings: “Good is Jehovah to the one hoping in him, to the soul that keeps seeking for him.” In prayer to the true God, he requests: “My voice you must hear. Do not hide your ear to my relief, to my cry for help.” Asking Jehovah to give attention to the reproach of the enemy, he says: “You will give back to them a treatment, O Jehovah, according to the work of their hands.”
Jeremiah pours out his feelings over the terrible effects of the 18-month siege of Jerusalem and laments: “The punishment for the error of the daughter of my people also becomes greater than the punishment for the sin of Sodom, which was overthrown as in a moment, and to which no hands turned helpfully.” Jeremiah continues: “Better have those slain with the sword proved to be than those slain by famine, because these pine away, pierced through for lack of the produce of the open field.”
The fifth poem portrays the inhabitants of Jerusalem as speaking. They say: “Remember, O Jehovah, what has happened to us. Do look and see our reproach.” As they recount their afflictions, they petition: “O Jehovah, to time indefinite you will sit. Your throne is for generation after generation. Bring us back, O Jehovah, to yourself, and we shall readily come back. Bring new days for us as in the long ago.”
Scriptural Questions Answered:
Lessons for Us:
3:8, 43, 44. During the calamity that befell Jerusalem, Jehovah refused to listen to the cry for help of the city’s inhabitants. Why? Because the people had been disobedient, and they remained unrepentant. If we want Jehovah to answer our prayers, we must obey him.
3:20. Jehovah, “the Most High over all the earth,” is so exalted that he condescends in order “to look on heaven and earth.” (Psalm 83:18; 113:6) Yet, Jeremiah was well-aware of the Almighty’s willingness to bow low over the people, that is, to come down to their level in order to encourage them. How glad we can be that the true God is not only all-powerful and all-wise but also humble!
3:21-26, 28-33. How can we endure even intense suffering? Jeremiah tells us. We should not forget that Jehovah is abundant in acts of loving-kindness and that many are his mercies. We should also remember that our being alive is reason enough not to give up hope and that we need to be patient and wait silently, without complaining, upon Jehovah for salvation. Moreover, we should “put [our] mouth in the very dust,” that is, humbly submit to trials, recognizing that what God allows to happen is permitted for good reason.
3:27. Facing up to tests of faith during youth may mean enduring hardship and ridicule. But it is ‘good for an able-bodied man to carry the yoke during his youth.’ Why? Because learning to bear a yoke of suffering while young prepares a person to deal with challenges in his later years.
3:39-42. ‘Indulging in complaints’ when suffering for our sins is not wise. Rather than complain about reaping the consequences of wrongdoing, “let us search out our ways and explore them, and do let us return clear to Jehovah.” We are wise to repent and correct our ways.
Make Jehovah Your Confidence
The Bible book of Lamentations reveals how Jehovah viewed Jerusalem and the land of Judah after the Babylonians burned the city and laid the land desolate. The expressions of acknowledgment of sin recorded therein make it clear that from Jehovah’s standpoint, the reason for the calamity was the error of the people. This book’s inspired songs also contain lyrics that express hope in Jehovah and the desire to turn to the right course. While these were not the sentiments of most people in Jeremiah’s day, they represented those of Jeremiah and the repentant remnant.
Jehovah’s evaluation of Jerusalem’s situation as expressed in the book of Lamentations teaches us two vital lessons. First, Jerusalem’s destruction and the desolation of Judah urge obedience to Jehovah and serve as a warning not to ignore the divine will. (1 Corinthians 10:11) The second lesson is from Jeremiah’s example. (Romans 15:4) Even in a seemingly hopeless situation, the deeply grieved prophet looked to Jehovah for salvation. How vital that we place our complete trust in Jehovah and his Word and make him our confidence!
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The prophet Jeremiah saw the fulfillment of his judgment message
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The faith of these Korean Witnesses was tested for their stand on the issue of Christian neutrality