Lamentations 5:1-18 A Prayer of Remembrance

First off, please read our text today, which is Lamentations 5: 1-18 – and if you haven’t had an opportunity to look at the “introduction” of Chapter 5 – then I’d suggest taking a few mins to read it so you can understand the text, the focus of it, and the way it’s written. You can find that here.

What we have in these first 18 verses is a staccato bullet-point declaration of the pain, suffering, and feeling that they have. That while we have a short glimpse of WHY (verse 7) there still is quite a bit they are not admitting to as they say it’s their ancestors who were the ones who sinned and WE bear their punishment. But as we read these bullet declarations we realize that all of this has already been pronounced, declared, and poured out by the woman in chapter 1. The difference? No longer is there a desire for someone else to come to them and be present. The plea by the poet in chapter 2 and 3 for God to remember his covenant and be faithful to it has circled back around. And the hope from chapter 4 for a restoration is now laid before God. Remember your covenant, your word, your faithfulness, and your people. And while you remember that look down upon us and see the pain we are in. 

What pain? Well…

  • Remember what happened to us. (1)
  • Look at our disgrace. (1)
  • See that our inheritance is not only gone but given to strangers (2)
  • See that we have no fathers or mothers (3)
  • See that our mothers are widowed (3)
  • Look at how we have to buy water and wood (4)
  • Look and see that we have no rest from those who attack us (5)
  • Look at how we’ve had to submit to the worst of the worst, the Egyptians and Assyrians, to get food. (6)  
  • Remember that it was our ancestors, and not us, who sinned (7)
  • Remember how we ruled over others? Now see how those very people are ruling over us and there is no end in sight. (8)
  • See how we cannot even gather food? Not only because there is none here in our community – but even if we try to leave to find food we are attacked (9)
  • See how we are blistering and wasting away from hunger. (10)  
  • Do you see, Lord, how our women are being violated? (11)
  • Do you see, Lord, how our princes and elders are tossed aside? (12)
  • Look Lord. Do you see how our young men are abused and forced into slave labor with inhumane conditions? (13)   
  • Remember Lord how we used to dance and sing to you? Lord do you see anyone playing or dancing or singing? (14-15)
  • Remember how you made us your children, your chosen people? Do you remember how you crowned us as your own? Lord…do you see that crown anywhere…because we do not. (16)

Do not forget us. Do not abandon us. Do not forsake us. Restore us so that we may return to you. Remember who we are. And not only who we are but WHOSE we are!

“Remembering” is a big thing, and theme, throughout scripture. God remembered Noah and all the wild animals that were on the ark (Genesis 8:1). God remembered Abraham after destruction and desolation (Genesis 19:29). God remembers Rachel (Genesis 30:22), and God remembered his people…time and time again. We see “remembering” numerous times as challenges towards people with one another as they use God and his remembering as a way to seal the deal between two people (we see that in Genesis 31:50). But more than anything – remembering has to do with God holding to his word…his covenantal promise.  

So let’s pause for a minute as it’s imperative for us to understand “covenant” and what it means. Covenant is simply a promise and yet it’s more than a promise as it’s a binding word. When we marry someone we make a “covenant” with them as we exchange vows. When we sign a legal contract with someone we are making a “covenant” to be held to whatever that legal form states and the repercussions therein…and we see that in scripture too. Covenants are made between two people as they agree to live near one another, or have their daughter/son marry one another, or any other numerous covenants. And in these cases the covenant is between two people who will act accordingly. I will do ______ and you will do _______. And if one of us breaks it the covenant itself is broken. But covenants in scripture are even more than this as we expand our knowledge and realize that all of scripture speaks of a covenants – and with/from God we have a few (some based on both God and us doing things together (“conditional”) and some solely placed in his lap and his word/promise (“unconditional)).

  • Edenic Covenant (Genesis 2:17-18; Genesis 3)
    • This is “conditional” as Adam and Eve had to obey the command of God to stay away from the fruit of the forbidden tree. But Adam and Eve broke this promise and you and I still fall under their failure and its curse (Romans 5:12; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22).
  • Noahic Covenant (Gen 9:1-17)
    • This is an “unconditional” promise as God declared that he would never flood the earth and destroy like he did before and it’s based only on Him and his word.
  • Abrahamic Covenant (Gen 12:2-3)
    • This is an “unconditional” covenant of grace where God promised that he, Abraham, and his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. That he will bless all those whom Abraham blesses and curse those whom he curses.
  • Mosaic Covenant (Exodus 19-24)
    • This is a “conditional” covenant as it was based upon God and his people and their walk with each other. Both parties agreed to this and God gave his people the Law which guided them (more or less) on how to be the people of God. They failed…time and time and time and time again.
  • Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 17)
    • This is an “unconditional” covenant that was based off of God promising that David’s line (his offspring) would be established on the throne forever.

Now there are more covenants that we see and some traditions speak of other ones and not some – but the point of it is to understand that all of scripture declares this continuous theme of promises. That words and vows mean something and while all the “conditional” promises given to us and God were broken – we must remember that they were broken BY US and not God. So why is that important to remember here? Because WE have always failed to remember the relationship we have with God and yet God has NEVER forgotten. And we do not worship and believe in a God who forgets things or is off doing something else or has somehow misplaced the promise (In J.R.R. Tolkiens tale The Lord of the Rings there is a character named  Tom Bombadil whom they wonder if he can take the ring and not have to go to Mordor to destroy it as Tom cannot be mastered by anything…but the problem is that part of the reason he cannot be mastered is he just doesn’t care thus misplacing it and never giving it a second thought!).

So as we read these 18 verses, as Jeremiah or the lady from chapter 1 are declaring all the pain they are living in – they are, in a way, asking God to remember who they are and do something about it. Remove the disgrace, remember that we are not strangers but your children, remember the promises you gave that we would always be your children and yet here we are fatherless, childless, and homeless. Remember that you said we would be free and yet her we are slaves and our lives ebb away in the desert at the hands of our enemies. Remember, God, how you said we would be provided for – and so remember Lord how you provided for our family after you took them out of Egypt…do that for us today! Right now.

Remember us Lord.

Look at us and see the pain and suffering.

See how our lives do not exist.

Remember that we are your children

Remember your covenantal promise.

Once more, I’m struck by this prayer of remembrance. It’s what we do – isn’t it? When all is lost, when nothing makes sense, when we have nothing left in us don’t we just toss it all up there and HOPE that it’s heard? You almost get this feeling that they are throwing out all of their realities unto God but if some of them don’t make it to him, if his ears do not hear any of these at least please hear my plea to remember me. “Please God, don’t forget me!” is their cry.

Now, there is one more covenant that I didn’t mention and it’s the one that all others point to – that all of scripture leads to and all our hope is built upon. It’s the New Covenant that we read about in Matthew 26:28 as well as Galatians 3:16-18. It’s an “unconditional” covenant based off of God and his promise that all those who believe in his Son, Jesus Christ, would be saved by the work of Jesus upon the cross (his death and resurrection). It’s the new covenant sealed in the blood of Jesus Christ. And in truth ALL of the other covenants POINT and LEAD to this one. It’s kind of a big deal and I saved it because it reminds us that God HAS heard our cries, knows our suffering, and stepped into it to remove them. That all along God wasn’t outside of what was taking place amongst the people of God. Remember us? Absolutely! So much so that he sent his One and only son to come, live, and die for us.

But that “remembering” cry from the people of God is still nagging at me and I think it’s because it’s the repetitive voice we’ve heard since the beginning of time. It’s a cry of a people who understand their relationship with God and yet don’t fully understand their relationship with God. I say that because while we have always known about these conditional and unconditional promises of God, of his work and love and sacrifice, our short-term memory is really bad at actually remembering that when we’re in need (or is it really good?). And I wonder how much of our relationship with God and our struggles through our days would be that much easier IF WE SIMPLY REMEMBERED. Remembered who God is and the promises he made. Remember the love he has and the life he gave. Remember the binding word and actions that blackened the day and ripped the veil when Christ breathed his last upon the cross (Mark 15:33-39).

Yes, I think it’s important for us to cry out to God in those times of need and it’s OK for us to ask that he remember us – but never should we actually fear his forgetting us. In truth WE need to remember whose we are and all that was done to make it so. Because long ago that “crown” (vs 16) that was on our head was placed back upon us by the King of kings and Lord of lords. God’s remembering of us is what brings us from mourning to dancing (vs 15) and restoring our hearts that will leap for joy.

No, may we NEVER forget the promises made, given, and established by the word and actions of God himself. Maybe the prayer we need is to ask the Holy Spirit to help US REMEMBER just how much we are loved and cherished by God.

3 Questions for you to think through

  1. What stands out for you in this text? Why?
  2. What other kinds of covenants do we have today?
  3. When in the midst of despair remembering is an awful hard thing to do. How can we better prepare for those seasons of darkness that we KNOW we’ll be in?

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