Have you ever read the book of Lamentations? It’s not exactly a popular one, and that’s understandable. It’s five chapters of an unnamed author poetically whining about how awful life is for the people of Judah during their exile. Who wants to read that for morning devotions? And what pastor would preach this bummer of a book to a congregation who’d probably find it distasteful and largely irrelevant to their “spiritual lives”? Think about it: You couldn’t have a historically or theologically complete Bible without Genesis or Samuel or Isaiah or Matthew or Romans, but is Lamentations really that important to read and know?
Well, that’s a stupid question. If you approach the Bible with an attitude that looks to distinguish the “important” parts of Scripture from the “less important” parts, then you’re going to miss out on a lot of great stuff. And by great, I mean “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” And if that doesn’t interest you, then honestly, the “important” parts probably aren’t going to do you much good either.
In the last couple days, I’ve read Lamentations several times, and though I’m still in the process of receiving it, so far I have concluded with certainty that you need to read this book. Yes, you need to. Listen, we are among the most pampered and insulated groups to ever be called God’s people. In the day-to-day happenings of our personal lives, few of us have run into situations like this:
20 “Look, O LORD, and consider:
Whom have you ever treated like this?
Should women eat their offspring,
the children they have cared for?
Should priest and prophet be killed
in the sanctuary of the Lord?
21 “Young and old lie together
in the dust of the streets;
my young men and maidens
have fallen by the sword.
You have slain them in the day of your anger;
you have slaughtered them without pity.
22 “As you summon to a feast day,
so you summoned against me terrors on every side.
In the day of the LORD’s anger
no one escaped or survived;
those I cared for and reared,
my enemy has destroyed.”
Ladies and gentlemen, this is the God we worship. He did that. To his own people. Instead of a “sloppy wet kiss,” this time heaven met earth like a Louisville Slugger, and the fact that we rarely experience tragedy of this magnitude does not diminish our responsibility to reckon with the reality of God’s active, causative sovereignty over our suffering.
As I continue to read and meditate on Lamentations, my understanding of the book’s timeless significance for all God’s people is beginning to take shape. I hope to be back here in a few days to share what I have found. In the meantime, I encourage you to read this book. Read it all the way through in one sitting. Out loud. And then again the next day, and for several days afterward, so that the Lord may use it to shape and reshape your knowledge of His ways and draw you to worship. Trust Him in this way, step out in faith, and the Spirit will use Lamentations to transform you. I have no doubt. You may even find that tucked away within this little poem is the bold and crazy truth that Jesus loves you. Go on, prove me wrong. You won’t.
See you in a few.