The Book of Lamentations is often skipped over. But it reveals a lot about God’s love and faithfulness. The following was adapted from the Lutheran Bible Companion, Volume 1: Introduction and Old Testament.
Summary of Lamentations
Jeremiah describes the terrible conditions in Jerusalem after it fell to the Babylonians and its leading citizens were taken captive. Contrasted with the wealth and beauty of its former days, the ruins lie as a testimony to God’s just response against persistent sin and rebellion.
By the Lord’s hand, Babylon has destroyed Jerusalem and razed its temple. The consequences of sin have left people slaughtered and the remaining citizens exiled to Babylon. God has turned His back on His people for turning their back on Him. Their worship of false gods violated the covenant dating back to the exodus from Egypt. Their sin has now born hideous fruit.
Jeremiah personally describes the great suffering of God’s people at the hand of the invading Babylonians. He makes no excuse for their sin, but he encourages them (and us today) with God’s great compassion and unfailing love. The people have been crushed but not utterly destroyed—their hope must be in the Lord and His great love for them.
Jeremiah contrasts the wealth of Jerusalem’s past with the poverty of its residents after the Babylonian conquest. The sins of the religious leaders come into focus as the cause for the destruction of the city. A note of hope appears at the end with a veiled reference to the eventual return of the exiles from Babylon (v 22).
Jeremiah points out that the sins of all the people lie at the very root of their current suffering (cf v 16). Because of their unfaithfulness, they struggle just to get enough to eat; they find themselves subjected to abuse and humiliation. Lamenting in anguish, God’s people appeal to the Lord for forgiveness and restoration.
Application of Lamentations
Jeremiah describes the terrible conditions in Jerusalem after it fell to the Babylonians. The foundation of sin and rebellion is unbelief, a refusal to trust God and follow Him. Even in the face of His people’s faithlessness, God proves Himself faithful to His promise of a Savior by preserving a remnant that will return to Jerusalem.
God has turned His back on His people for turning their back on Him. Despite the apostasy of God’s people, He still loves them and will bring them back from their captivity to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. From these people, God shall raise up a Savior for all nations.
The people have been crushed but not utterly destroyed—their hope must be in the Lord and His great love for them. We are often our own worst enemies, responsible for our suffering through our own choices. No matter how bad things get, our hope is always in the Lord because He loves us in Jesus Christ and never abandons us.
The sins of the religious leaders come into focus. Spiritual leaders carry a great responsibility for the welfare of God’s people (cf James 3:1). God sustained His people, and through their descendants raised up a Savior for all, Christ the Lord.
Because of their unfaithfulness, the people of Jerusalem struggle just to get enough to eat; they find themselves subjected to abuse and humiliation. In our own lives, we easily forget God and our calling as His people at times when it seems that everything is going our way. God stands ready to forgive penitent sinners by restoring His blessing to us through the blood of Jesus Christ.
Blog post adapted from Lutheran Bible Companion, Volume 1: Introduction and Old Testament, pages 786–787, 789–790, copyright © 2014 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Read more in the Jeremiah and Lamentations Commentary.