THE LORD’S UNCHANGING DOMINION AND PROMISE OF ULTIMATE RESTORATION SHOULD GIVE HOPE EVEN IN THE MIDST OF DESOLATION AS WE CONTINUE TO APPEAL TO HIS MERCY
Deliverance and restoration have not yet arrived. The prophet continues to be burdened with the reality of the pain and suffering he witnesses. The hand of the Lord’s discipline has been heavy. It seems like the Lord needs to be awakened to action. The litany of indignities seems unbearable. Ultimately it is the Lord’s name that is at stake. He needs to respond to the pleas of His repentant people. Each verse in this chapter must be looked at as a separate unit with parallelism in thought between the two different members.
Barnes: This final chapter (Lamentations 5) consists of the same number of verses as there are letters in the Hebrew alphabet, but they no longer begin with the letters in regular order. Strict care is shown in the form and arrangement of the poem, each verse being compressed into a very brief compass, consisting of two members which answer to one another both in idea and expression.
Constable: This poem, like the one in chapter 3, contains verses of only two lines each. It is the only non-acrostic chapter in the book, though like chapters 1, 2, and 4, it consists of 22 verses. The doleful qinah meter is also absent in this chapter giving it a somewhat more positive tone. However, 45 words end in u (in all verses except 19), which gives the chapter a rather mournful tone when read aloud in Hebrew.
I. (:1) THE WAKEUP CALL – REMEMBER . . . LOOK . . . SEE
“Remember, O Lord, what has befallen us;
Look, and see our reproach!”
Constable: Jeremiah called on Yahweh to remember the calamity that had befallen His people and to consider the reproach in which they now lived (cf. 3:34-36). The humbled condition of the Judahites reflected poorly on the Lord because the pagans would have concluded that He was unable to keep His people strong and free. Jeremiah implied that if Yahweh remembered His people He would act to deliver them (cf. Exod. 2:24-25; 3:7-8).
II. (:2-18) THE LITANY OF 14 INDIGNITIES (major section of this chapter)
[In studying this list, take the opposite positive blessing and meditate on all of the riches we enjoy in union with and fellowship with our Lord Jesus Christ.]
A. (:2) Bankrupt – Possessions Appropriated by Foreigners
“Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers,
Our houses to aliens.”
Concept of the land and the inheritance very crucial to Israelites.
[Eph. 1:11 – we have obtained an inheritance in Christ; riches in Christ]
Steven Smith: Verse 2 is the song in summary. The thrust of the lament is that other people have God’s chosen people’s inheritance. The theme of inheritance is a huge theme in Scripture. These people were God’s inheritance. This is God’s lot, meaning what God really wanted out of this relationship was them. He wanted their hearts turned back to him. Because God did not have his inheritance, the land, the inheritance of the people, was turned over to pagan people and their so-called gods.
B. (:3) Destitute Like Orphans and Widows
“We have become orphans without a father,
Our mothers are like widows.”
[1 John 3:1 – privilege of being children of God]
C. (:4) Held Hostage for Basic Necessities
“We have to pay for our drinking water,
Our wood comes to us at a price.”
Barnes: The bitterness of the complaint lies in this, that it was their own property which they had to buy.
[Matt. 6:25-34 — your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things]
D. (:5) Worn Out
“Our pursuers are at our necks;
We are worn out, there is no rest for us.”
[Matt. 11:28-30 – Jesus will give us rest]
E. (:6) Enslaved
“We have submitted to Egypt and Assyria to get enough bread.”
[Gal. 5:1 – We have been set free by Christ]
(:7) Refrain of Confession – Emphasis on the Sins of the Fathers
“Our fathers sinned, and are no more;
It is we who have borne their iniquities.”
F. (:8) Oppressed
“Slaves rule over us;
There is no one to deliver us from their hand.”
[2 Tim. 2:12 – we will reign with Christ]
G. (:9) At Risk
“We get our bread at the risk of our lives
Because of the sword in the wilderness.”
Dyer: The severe conditions and scarcity of food prompted the people to take desperate means for survival. Probably the sword they had to brave was carried by the bands of roving desert nomads through whose area the people of Judah had to travel in order to buy bread.
[John 6:35 – Jesus is the bread of life]
H. (:10) Starved
“Our skin has become as hot as an oven,
Because of the burning heat of famine.”
[Psalm 23 – He leads me beside the still waters and refreshes my soul]
I. (:11) Ravished
“They ravished the women in Zion,
The virgins in the cities of Judah.”
[John 10:28-29 – no one can snatch us out of God’s protective hands; we have eternal security]
J. (:12) Disrespected / Humiliated
“Princes were hung by their hands;
Elders were not respected.”
Barnes: After the princes had been put to death their bodies were hung up by the hand to expose them to public contumely. Old age, again, no more availed to shield men from shameful treatment than the high rank of the princes. Such treatment of conquered enemies was not uncommon in ancient warfare.
[Psalm 3:3 – the glory and the lifter of my head]
K. (:13) Overworked
“Young men worked at the grinding mill,
And youths stumbled under loads of wood.”
[Psalm 55:22 – Cast our burden upon the Lord and He will sustain us]
L. (:14) Leaderless
“Elders are gone from the gate,
Young men from their music.”
Constable: Young men had to grind grain like animals (cf. Judg. 16:21), and small children buckled under the loads of firewood that the enemy forced them to carry. Elders no longer sat at the town gates dispensing wisdom and justice, and young men no longer played music bringing joy and happiness into the people’s lives. These were marks of the disappearance of peaceful and prosperous community living conditions.
[John 10:11 – Jesus is our Good Shepherd — provides pasture and protects His flock; ]
M. (:15) Reduced to Mourning
“The joy of our hearts has ceased;
Our dancing has been turned into mourning.”
[John 17:13 – given joy]
N. (:16A) Fallen from Glory to Derision
“The crown has fallen from our head”
Barnes: Literally, “The crown of our head is fallen,” i.e. what was our chief ornament and dignity is lost; the independence of the nation, and all that gave them rank and honor.
[John 17:22 – given glory]
(:16B) Refrain of Confession – Emphasis on the Sins of All
“Woe to us, for we have sinned!”
III. (:17-18) THE OVERALL IMPACT:
– HOPE ALMOST EXTINGUISHED
– JERUSALEM LIES DESOLATE
A. (:17) Hope Almost Extinguished
“Because of this our heart is faint,
Because of these things our eyes are dim;”
B. (:18) Jerusalem Lies Desolate
“Because of Mount Zion which lies desolate,
Foxes prowl in it.”
Barnes: As these animals live among ruins, and shun the presence of man, it shows that Zion is laid waste and deserted.
IV. (:19-22) THE FINAL APPEAL
A. (:19) Dominating Principle: God is Always in Charge
“You, O Lord, rule forever;
Your throne is from generation to generation.”
John Calvin: When we fix our eyes on present things, we Inevitably vacillate, as there is nothing permanent in this world and when adversities bring a cloud over our eyes, then faith in a manner vanishes; at least we are troubled and stand amazed. Now the remedy is, to raise our eyes to God, for however confounded things may be in the world, yet He remains always the same. His truth may indeed be hidden from us, yet it remains in Him. In short, were the world to change and perish a hundred times, nothing could ever affect the unchangeableness of God.
B. (:20) Perception of Being Forgotten
“Why do You forget us forever?
Why do you forsake us so long?”
Dyer: The knowledge of God’s ability to restore the nation prompted the people to ask two questions. Because of the nature of Hebrew parallelism these two questions should be viewed synonymously.
C. (:21) Plea for Restoration
“Restore us to You, O Lord, that we may be restored;
Renew our days as of old.”
D. (:22) Possibility of Ultimate Rejection
“Unless You have utterly rejected us
And are exceedingly angry with us.”
Prophet does not believe that the Lord would act in this fashion; he has faith in ultimate restoration; but things certainly look bleak at present
Steven Smith: Think about the power of this prayer. First, it assumes that God hears, that Jeremiah is not praying to the air, but that God perceives the situation. Second, this prayer assumes that God cares. There must be compassion in him. Finally, this prayer assumes that God can act. We often hole up in self-pity and self-loathing with worries and concerns that God could easily take care of. Prayer deflects the ultimate responsibility for the resolution of problems and places it on God. There is more to say about prayer here, but at this point it is enough to create distance between complaining and lament:
– Complaining is rooted in self-pity and is self-centered
– Lament prayers are rooted in brokenness and are God focused.