Lessons From the Scriptures: Lamentations 1:1–5:22
Jehovah Gives Hope Amid Sorrow
JEHOVAH is “the God who gives hope,” even amid sorrow. (Romans 15:13) This is a point made clear in the book of Lamentations, completed by Jehovah’s prophet and witness Jeremiah in 607 B.C.E. But let us highlight some of the lessons it contains.
Sin brings no joy. Look! Sinful Jerusalem, once Judah’s teeming capital, sits solitary. Judah herself is like a weeping, widowed princess because she has been devastated. Such “lovers” as Egypt did not save her from Babylonian conquest in 607 B.C.E. People no longer stream to Zion for festivals. Her children are captives, and foes laugh over her collapse. Unclean foreigners have desecrated the temple, and her people have had to give valuables for food. All of this because of sin!—1:1-11.
Jehovah is righteous in punishing wrongdoers. This is admitted as Jerusalem herself speaks. She asks if there is any sorrow like the pain that God has caused her. He sent fire that desolated the temple. The city’s sins became a yoke, and blood flowed like juice as God tread her “winepress.” Zion spread out hands in sorrow and entreaty but found no comforter, and Jehovah was righteous in punishing rebellious Jerusalem. May he deal as severely with her exulting enemies.—1:12-22.
“The Wrath of Jehovah”
Responsible ones bear guilt if they do not condemn sin. God cast Jerusalem “from heaven to earth,” allowing her destruction and that of his “footstool,” the temple. (Psalm 132:7) He thus “profaned the kingdom” of Judah. As a mere booth, the temple was destroyed by foes whose triumphant shouts were like festal cries. Dying children begged their mothers for food. But who chiefly bore guilt? False prophets who made misleading pronouncements instead of condemning Jerusalem’s sin. (Jeremiah 14:13) Prayer is fitting, for so many have died in this ‘day of Jehovah’s wrath’!—2:1-22.
Jehovah’s Mercy Endures
We should patiently hope in Jehovah. Jeremiah makes this point as he speaks representatively for the afflicted people. God hampers his prayer, and he has become the theme of his enemies’ derisive song. His hope, or “expectation from Jehovah,” seems to have perished. But he will have “a waiting attitude” because “good is Jehovah to the one hoping in him.”—3:1-27.
True repentance brings divine mercy. Convinced of this, Jeremiah urges: “Do let us return clear to Jehovah.” As with a cloud mass of anger, God has blocked approach in prayer because of the people’s sins. But Jeremiah prays: “I have called out your name, O Jehovah. . . . Do not hide your ear to my relief.” Of course, unrepentant foes will be annihilated.—3:28-66.
“Bring Us Back”
We can bring destruction upon ourselves through willful sin. Because of Judah’s sin, “precious sons of Zion” were viewed as worthless broken pottery. In the siege, those slain by the sword were better off than others dying slowly of hunger. God had, indeed, “poured out his burning anger.” Polluted prophets and priests were wandering blindly, and King Zedekiah—“the anointed one of Jehovah”—had been captured. Now God would turn his attention to sinful Edom.—4:1-22.
Jehovah alone gives true hope amid sorrow. Jeremiah realized this, for he pleaded: “Remember, O Jehovah, what has happened to us.” ‘Foreigners occupy our houses. We bear the consequences of our forefathers’ error, and mere boys carry firewood in forced labor.’ Yet, Jeremiah hopes for mercy, praying: “Bring us back, O Jehovah, to yourself, and we shall readily come back.”—5:1-22.
Reflect, then, on these lessons taught in Lamentations: Sin does not bring joy, God is righteous in punishing sinners, and responsible ones are guilty if they do not condemn wrongdoing. We should patiently hope in Jehovah, confident that divine mercy comes because of true repentance, whereas we can bring destruction upon ourselves through willful sin. This inspired book also convinces us that Jehovah alone gives true hope amid sorrow.
[Box on page 27]
BIBLE TEXTS EXAMINED
□ 1:15—‘Jehovah had trodden the very winepress belonging to the virgin daughter of Judah’ because he had decreed and allowed what happened. “The virgin daughter of Judah” was Jerusalem, thought to be like an inviolate woman. When the Babylonians destroyed that capital city of Judah in 607 B.C.E., there was great bloodshed, comparable to the squeezing of juice from grapes in a winepress. Jehovah will see to it that Christendom, antitypical Jerusalem, is similarly crushed.
□ 2:6—God’s “booth” was the temple in Jerusalem. When that sanctuary was devastated by the Babylonians, he was allowing it to be ‘treated violently,’ like a mere hut in a garden. Such a temporary shelter from the hot sun is torn down.
□ 3:16—One calamity that Jehovah allowed to come upon unfaithful Jerusalem as a consequence of the city’s fall to the Babylonians is described in the words, “With gravel he makes my teeth get broken.” Apparently, when the Israelites were on their way into exile, they had to bake bread in pits dug in the ground. Therefore, the bread came to contain grit, and a person eating such bread could break off part of his teeth.
□ 4:3—The cruelty of mothers toward their children is here contrasted with the maternal care provided by jackals. Though jackals may be considered savage beasts, even they ‘present the udder and suckle their cubs.’ Because of great food shortages in besieged Jerusalem, famished Jewish women became cruel in that they had no milk to give their offspring and actually ate their own children to stay alive. (Lamentations 2:20) Thus, the women also became like ostriches that lay their eggs and abandon them.
□ 5:7—The Jews of Jeremiah’s day had to bear the errors of their forefathers, but this does not mean that Jehovah directly punishes children for the sins of their parents. Actually, the bad consequences of wrongdoing are felt by later generations. (Jeremiah 31:29, 30) We therefore do well to remember that we must personally render an account to God.—Romans 14:12.