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He also stressed the suffering of the Israelites, rather than their sin. Walter Kaiser summarized what he considered to be the eight kinds of suffering in the Old Testament:. This is the kind of suffering that Jeremiah described the people of Jerusalem and Judah undergoing in Lamentations. It is also the kind of suffering that Job's three friends incorrectly concluded that he was experiencing.

Job's friend Elihu erroneously believed that Job was suffering primarily because God wanted to teach Job something Job 32— The Old Testament sacrificial system, for example, involved this kind of suffering. The lack of hope in these laments is due in part to the writer's view of the tragedy as divine punishment.

The Political Economy of Ancient Israel

The destruction had been so great that the people could not see, or had perhaps forgotten, God's promises of a future beyond the conquest. Similarly, Jesus' disciples did not remember the promises of His resurrection because the tragedy of His death so overwhelmed them initially.

Ezekiel |

Nevertheless, the laments are full of prayer ; ; , especially the lament in chapter 5, which is entirely prayer. The writer cried out to God, again like Job, in view of the present tragedy. His prayers sound a note of hope in a situation that would otherwise have been completely devoid of hope.

There are no messianic predictions in Lamentations as such. Nevertheless, what is true of Yahweh is, of course, true of Jesus Christ. Thus, much of the theology of the book is applicable to Christ, if not directly revelatory of Him cf. There is also hope, but it is of minimal significance in the book. In the heart of the book the poet expresses his assurance that God does not abandon those who turn to him for help.

Yet in these days of personal, national, and international crises and disaster the message of this book is a challenge to repent of sins personal, national, and international, and to commit ourselves afresh to God's steadfast love. Though this love is ever present and outgoing, a holy and just God must surely judge unrepentant sinners. Paul House identified the centering themes in the theology of Lamentations as: 1 God and the people of God, 2 God and Jerusalem, 3 God and the nations, and 4 God and prayer.

The church in the early years of the twenty-first century is very similar to Judah at the beginning of the sixth century B. Our times are very similar to Jeremiah's times. We minister in a cultural context that is remarkably like Jeremiah's. Lamentations helps us see the parallels between our culture and Jeremiah's. Francis A. Schaeffer has pointed out many similarities in Death in the City. First, people had abandoned God.

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The Book of Ezekiel - Patterned After a Mesopotamian City Lament (Ph.D. Thesis)

It was not that they ceased to believe that He existed, but they felt He was irrelevant to their lives. This was true of the pagans generally, but it was also true of God's people. Normally in any particular culture, what marks unbelievers also marks believers. Temple worship had become formal and unsatisfying. The religious leaders were catering to the people's desires, rather than confronting them with their disobedience.

Jeremiah was one of only a few exceptions to this trend in his day. Second, the people had departed from God's Word. When people believe that God is irrelevant, they quickly stop paying attention to what He says. Jeremiah's contemporaries had neglected the promises of covenant blessing for obedience, and punishment for disobedience. Most of the people had stopped reading and studying the Mosaic Law. This opened the door to ignorance of God's will and consequent disobedience and punishment. Third, the people transferred their trust from God to inadequate objects of hope, namely: their political allies, and the temple.

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Rather than turning to Yahweh for provisions and protection, they chose to rely on what they could see, and what appeared to be strong. Egypt and Babylon appealed to them especially, but these allies proved to be unreliable and even treacherous. The people also regarded the temple as a fetish.

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They believed that since God had blessed the temple by inhabiting it, and He had promised to remain faithful to them, nothing could happen to the temple. This conclusion was the result of selective listening to God's Word. They believed only what they wanted to believe, not all that God had said about how He would deal with them.

Selective listening to the Word of God is still a temptation. So, Lamentations teaches us that when God's people abandon Him and depart from His Word, tragedy follows inevitably. This is one of the most tragic books in the Bible.

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  • It pictures the results of apostasy: departure from God. Lamentations is quite similar to the Book of Job. Both Lamentations and Job deal with the problem of suffering. Job deals with this problem on the personal level. Job suffered greatly as an individual, and the book that bears his name describes his suffering.

    Lamentations deals with the problem of suffering on the national level. In it we see God's people suffering greatly. This book describes in painful detail the suffering of the nation of Judah and the people of Jerusalem. There are many statements in Lamentations that recall what Job wrote about his sufferings. Too frequently the only place many turn in such circumstances is to medically trained clinicians. This is not to say that a referral to the medical profession is not altogether appropriate at times; but we do maintain that 'grief management,' as the phrase goes these days, is the business of the gospel as well.

    The suffering of God's people is a problem because it pits the love of God against His justice. On the one hand, God loves people and has promised to do what is best to bring about their blessing. But on the other hand, God punishes people for their sins, and this does not seem to be loving. This is the same problem that children have who grow up in homes where their parents tell them they love them—and yet punish them. Careful attention to the Word of God solves this problem, in most cases, because God has explained why He punishes those whom He loves.


    Yet at other times, as in the case of Job, there does not appear to be adequate reason for the judgment. In Jeremiah's day, the people did not understand the reason for their suffering. They only saw the punishment. They had forgotten the reasons for it given in the Mosaic Covenant. This problem was what concerned Habakkuk as well. But this problem of suffering has an even deeper dimension. It eventually boils down to the antinomy between God's sovereignty and human freedom.

    Solving Tomorrows Challenges Today

    If God is sovereign, are human beings genuinely free moral agents? Is not God, rather than man, really responsible for sin? Almost all students of the Scriptures have concluded that the resolution of the biblical teaching of God's sovereignty and man's freedom lies beyond our present power to comprehend. The best that we can do now is to acknowledge that God is indeed sovereign; He is the ultimate authority in the universe. But at the same time, human beings are genuinely responsible for their choices. The Jews in Jeremiah's day struggled to keep these revelations in balance, as anyone does who experiences extreme and apparently unjustified punishment.

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    They denied either the sovereignty of God or their own responsibility. Job, too, struggled with these issues, but in his personal life. A great revelation of Lamentations is the covenant faithfulness of God in spite of the covenant unfaithfulness of His people. God is the central figure in this book, not Jeremiah who goes unnamed in the book , or the Judahites. This book is a revelation of God, as is every book in the Bible.

    The aspect of God's character that shines through the book from beginning to end is His sorrow.