How deserted lies the city, once so full of people! How like a widow is she, who once was great among the nations! She who was queen among the provinces has now become a slave. Bitterly she weeps at night, tears are on her cheeks. Among all her lovers there is no one to comfort her. All her friends have betrayed her; they have become her enemies. After affliction and harsh labor, Judah has gone into exile. She dwells among the nations; she finds no resting place. All who pursue her have overtaken her in the midst of her distress. The roads to Zion mourn, for no one comes to her appointed festivals. All her gateways are desolate, her priests groan, her young women grieve, and she is in bitter anguish. Her foes have become her masters; her enemies are at ease. The Lord has brought her grief because of her many sins. Her children have gone into exile, captive before the foe. All the splendor has departed from Daughter Zion. Her princes are like deer that find no pasture; in weakness they have fled before the pursuer. In the days of her affliction and wandering Jerusalem remembers all the treasures that were hers in days of old. When her people fell into enemy hands, there was no one to help her. Her enemies looked at her and laughed at her destruction. Jerusalem has sinned greatly and so has become unclean. All who honored her despise her, for they have all seen her naked; she herself groans and turns away. Her filthiness clung to her skirts; she did not consider her future. Her fall was astounding; there was none to comfort her. “Look, Lord , on my affliction, for the enemy has triumphed.” – Lamentations 1:1-9
This post marks my first water reference in the book of Lamentations after an extended time away from my daily walk with water in the Bible. The title of the post “no resting place” describes my life for the last couple of months. If previous breaks were akin to “eddying out” for a time the break I am coming off of now was like a side trip down another river branch. Perhaps those who have kayaked a braided or multi-channel river can relate. Sometimes you choose a line or channel that turns into a bramble patch that leads you nowhere. You become separated from the main flow of the river. I feel like that is where I have been for the last couple of months — in the brambles. Time to schlep my boat back upstream to rejoin the main river and start progressing down river again.
The book of Jeremiah was basically about the destruction of Jerusalem and exile of the people of Israel and Judah. It seems the book of Lamentations is lamenting this loss. Authorship is attributed to Jeremiah so one would expect to see some common themes between Lamentations and Jeremiah.
This first passage jumps right into the tone of lamenting a loss. The “city” is apparently Judah or Jerusalem and metaphorically is referring to the nation of Israel, Daughter Zion, God’s people. In that sense the passage applies to all of God’s people who are in “exile”, separated from Him, by choice or by a lack of choosing. I have chewed on what it means to lament a loss for a while and this is what I have come up with, lamenting is a result of: 1) wanting something you cannot have; 2) losing something you really need; 3) regretting the loss of something or someone who you perhaps took for granted. The common thread is loss.
The people of Israel have for some time now wanted something they could not have. They have desired a tangible God that would behave like an earthly king. God has told them numerous times, and in various ways, that the type of relationship they seek is not to be found. The People of Israel lament this loss, but they seem powerless to do anything about it. They view their predicament as a punishment rather than a consequence of their previous choices. They lament the loss of their “treasures” even as God is trying to help them realize the only “treasure” that matters is Him.
The nakedness and shame that the people feel is only remedied by the One who can provide new clothes and take away all shame. God wants to clothe them with Himself, but in the end the people cannot accept this form of comfort any more than many will accept a young man from Nazareth who will come bearing essentially the same message.
Prayer: God you promise new clothes to all who are willing to wear them. Help us to seek these new clothes rather than lament their loss.