This post originally appeared on the Calvary website.
This past Sunday we continued on our journey through the weighty, dark, somber, and serious writings of the Prophets of the Exile, focusing our study on Jeremiah’s epilogue to his large book, an extended treatment of his grief over Jerusalem and Judah, the five poems of Lamentations.
In the past, when I’ve come to Lamentations, I’ve understood it as this extended explosion of grief and pain and sorrow from the prophet Jeremiah. It is the fullness of the mere taste we had seen multiple times in the book that bears his name.
But now I see I was wrong. It is not an explosion, as if a fire hydrant has been knocked off its moorings, spraying water everywhere. Rather, this is a controlled, ordered, structured cataloging of pain. He has taken his time. He has thought this through.
Of the five poems/prayers that are each of the chapters, the first four are Hebrew acrostics, meaning the word that begins each line begins with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. That takes intention, planning, and time.
That kind of creativity and artistry tells us something about this book. “The lamentations are not simply cries from the heart…they are an attempt to reflect on the meaning of human suffering…these poems are a theodicy, and attempt to explain the ways of God to humanity. [Jeremiah] wants to do something more than vent his feelings. He also seeks to gain perspective on suffering, and to share that perspective with his fellow sufferers…these poems are [Jeremiah’s] attempt to interpret the meaning of the catastrophe (Ryken)” that had happened to God’s people.
To enter into the powerful theodicy and insightful, poetic interpretations of Jeremiah on suffering, grief, and pain, I invite you to watch or listen to the sermon on Lamentations. And if you’d like to study it further, I commend the Lamentations page over at the Bible Project.