As we dive into chapter 4 of Lamentations I wanted to do a nice little “introduction” or “overview” to help us through our time. I pray this helps.
We now transition into something a little different as chapter 4 moves from three verses per stanza to two – which makes this somewhat of a shorter poem and lament and yet that doesn’t mean much as this chapter, and shortened style, works well. As you read this chapter and it’s feelings of punishment and missing food (“shortened food supply” if you will) – you almost wonder if Jeremiah correlated that shortened food supply into a shortened lament. It makes you wonder.
The voice we hear are of a narrator who is walking around the city and giving us vivid pictures of their home and all that they are seeing of the suffering around them. His words are dark, painful, and go back and forth on what was and what now is. They are a “survivor” – and yet the pain we hear and feel makes you wonder if “surviving” is really all it’s cracked up to be as numerous times they make reference to dying by one way is better than dying by this current way.
Lamentations 4 is broken up into two sections: vs 1-10 and 11-22 (but for us we’ll break each of those sections into an additional section – so we’ll have 4 total conversations on chapter 4). But here’s what we have to look for as we read chapter 4 of Lamentations:
- Verses 1-10 contain the pains experienced, felt, and seen.
- Verses 11-22 are a reflection of the Lord’s anger upon them.
So – what do we have forward to look for? Well, if you’re holding off to read chapter 4 then you’re in for a bit of a ride as it feels like all the wind has been pulled out of the sail that has been and all the air has been let out of the balloon. The hope and joy and proclamation and “highness” of chapter 3 is no more. We’re once more surrounded by full-on funeral lament. I envision Jeremiah showing us pictures of what once was as they give us a tour of their city. It’s as if they’ve pulled up their smart phone and are showing us their pictures of not only what once was…but the destruction that now is. Their need is to remember the glory of the past while painfully living in the dirge of the present. It’s almost like they are trying to overlap a picture of the glorious days on top of the picture of the nothing, the pain, the grief, and the rubble of his current reality. Again, the words they choose the images they draw out encourage us to see, feel, imagine, and even shrink back from their pain.
I often wonder how much our hope is tethered to the place where we currently are. We find joy and hope and peace in the good things that surround us and when those are taken away we can easily find ourselves feeling that we now have nothing. How often do we, when in these dark places in life, try to hold on to where we were? Living in the past – instead of realizing the truth and hope that we still ARE TODAY, hinders us from living in the present. What happens when we’re so focused on the past is that the past becomes our present reality…which stops us from actually living INTO the present and finding hope. Even Jeremiah proclaims to the exiled people that they are to settle down, build homes, and plant crops. To marry someone and have sons and daughters and find husbands and wives for your children so that they too can marry, build homes, and have more children (Jeremiah 29:5-9). Jeremiah’s words are to not dwell on the past and don’t focus so much on where you were and where you now find yourselves that you begin to lose all hope and waste away! But again – this might be easier said than done as these things around us are things we can see, touch, feel, smell, and taste – and those realities tend to speak loudly to us.
After much sorrow and pain (and there’s some really painful stuff in chapter 4) the author does end on a higher note as they remember that God’s punishment WILL end and this exile will finally close – and with it the punishment upon those who oppose God will begin. So for all the pain we’ll read here there is a ray of hope that we end on.
I hope Lamentations 4 for you is a challenge to not only allow the author to speak of their pain and the punishment that they receive – but I hope it challenges you. How? Well…we’ll get there!