Daily Bible Studies
|Series Theme: Studies in Lametations "Total Anguish" 1/3|
Chs.1 & 2
Introduction to Lamentations
This set of studies will be unlike any other set of studies in the Bible. In times of war sometimes, war-artists go out and paint what they see to try to capture something of the awfulness of the war. Lamentations is the equivalent to that, describing the horror of Jerusalem after it's destruction in 586 BC.
Why Read it?
Some people think it is a depressing book but we'd like to suggest it is a highly educational book. We read of slums in other parts of the world but never appreciate the awfulness of them until we've actually been there. Similarly we can read the historical accounts of the sack of Jerusalem at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar but remain little touched. This book will change that!
The Nature of Lamentations
The book is actually a serious of laments written as poems. Each of its five laments contains 22 verses (except the third, which has 66 verses - 3 x 22), reflecting the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet, the first four being alphabetic acrostics. Thus they were designed with some care. They are nevertheless poetry and poetry appeals to the emotions. This book is incredibly emotional.
This is not a book for the faint-hearted. This book pours out picture upon picture of the awfulness of what has happened and unless you are wanting and willing to enter into the sense of this, in an attempt to understand the seriousness of the judgment of God, don't read it!
To design notes for daily reading is very difficult because apart from the chapter divisions there is no clear breakdown or approach by the writer (who some think was probably Jeremiah). We have simply taken it verse by verse and this has formed 21 studies which we have divided into 7 per page, each page with a contents section at beginning at end, purely for convenience and to make it easier to catch the thread of the writer's direction. Beyond that we have abandoned the usual Recaps normally used in these studies. You may even want to read 2 or 3 studies at a time to shorten the overall reading time.
Chapter: Lam 1
Passage: Lam 1:1-5
A. Find Out:
1. How does the writer personify Jerusalem ? v.1
2. What does he think of her doing and why? v.2
3. What has happened to Judah ? v.3
4. How does he think of the roads to Jerusalem ? v.4
5. What is the reason for all this? v.5
1. What was Jerusalem once like?
2. What is it like now?
3. Why had this happened?
The writer uses constant personification to create a sense of woe about the city. ‘She' is empty, deserted, and desolate. He imagines her as a widow, left all alone. Once she had been like a queen (v.1), surrounded by lovers and friends (v.2), a picture of glorious society. Now all that is gone and she's more like a slave (v.1).
Why a slave? Because she's been taken by an enemy (v.5). All her people have been carried into exile (v.3) and the few who are left groan and grieve (v.4). She's been made a nothing, a nobody! All those who had close relationships with her have abandoned her, have given her up and have even become her enemies (v.2)
The roads to Jerusalem, once busy with pilgrims coming to the regular feasts, are now empty (v.4). In every way there is portrayed this emptiness, this desolation. Why is it like that? Because God has finally brought His judgement upon the sins of this people (v.5) and taken the people off into exile in Babylon . Just a remnant is left to see this terrible picture.
In these ways the writer opens this poem describing the awfulness of what is left of Jerusalem . Without these pictures we will never fully grasp something of the awfulness of what happened in 586BC when Jerusalem fell and was burnt and the people taken. This is a most terrible event in the history of Israel , possibly the worst.
1. God does bring judgement on constant sins.
2. That judgement only comes after continual warnings.
Chapter: Lam 1
Passage: Lam 1:6-11
A. Find Out:
1. What happened to the royalty of Jerusalem ? v.6
2. What does Jerusalem remember & what had happened? v.7
3. What had Jerusalem done, and what is her state now? v.8
4. Why was she surprised? v.9
5. Who had done what? v.10
6. What's now the state of the remaining people? v.11
1. Of what has Jerusalem been stripped?
2. What is therefore her present state?
3. And why has that all happened?
The earlier verses focus on the emptiness of the city and that is now expanded upon in the form of considering how she has been stripped. The writer continues to use personification and speaks of Jerusalem as ‘her'. Let's consider what has been stripped away.
First there are the rulers (v.6) and the splendour that goes with them. Long gone are the days of the rulers who knew God's blessing that came in the form of great riches and splendour.
Second, there are her treasures (v.7). As we just said, the days of riches and affluence are long gone. The enemy came and there was no one to withstand him. It is all gone.
Third, specifically the treasures of the temple have gone (v.10) as the enemy came in without fear and plundered the temple. The immense riches of the past are gone. It is empty.
Fourth, supplies are gone (v.11). The economy is non-existent and there is virtually no food available.
The result of all this is that the people groan (v.8,11), they look back and wonder how it had all happened so quickly (v.9). They had been committing spiritual adultery (v.8,9) and felt secure in it, but suddenly it is all gone. This is the fifth and perhaps most important thing that has been stripped away, at the heart of God's activity here!
1. Affluence breeds complacency and carelessness and sin.
Chapter: Lam 1
Passage: Lam 1:12-17
A. Find Out:
1. Who does ‘ Jerusalem ' appeal to? v.12a
2. What had the Lord done? v.12b,13
3. What happened to her sins? v.14
4. What happened to her warriors? v.15
5. So what is the state of her children now? v.16
6. What is her own state and why? v.17
1. What had the Lord done physically?
2. What had He done spiritually?
3. What is the end result?
The plea of Jerusalem , coming through the prophet-writer, is first of all to those travellers who pass by Jerusalem and who seem not to care. He says, take note of this, because you'll not find anything like this anywhere else! It's brought about by God, very specifically by God!
God, he goes on, sent fire to burn up the city (v.13a). God intervened in my life like a hunter with a net bringing down its prey (v.13b). The sins that Jerusalem (v.14) had been committing were taken by the Lord, put all together and dumped as one big load on Jerusalem bringing her to a place of weakness where she was vulnerable and easily taken by the enemy. The strength of Jerusalem , her army (v.15), was easily crushed.
What is the result? ‘She' is left in a state of mourning, in tears (v.16) yet there is no one to comfort her as is normally the case where there is mourning. She is left in a place of destitution, and this is particularly observed in respect of her children, the younger generation who have nothing, no future, and no present. They are destitute.
She stretches out her hands in supplication like a needy beggar but there is no one to respond. Even her neighbours have turned on her. She is utterly destitute, with nothing left and no one to help. This is the terrible extent of the Lord's work!
1. When the Lord disciplines, it IS painful (Heb 12:11)
Chapter: Lam 1
Passage: Lam 1:18-22
A. Find Out:
1. What had Jerusalem done and what had happened? v.18
2. Who betrayed her and who died how? v.19
3. What is she left feeling? v.20
4. How do people respond to her now? v.21a,b
5. What does she want to happen? v.21c
6. How does she more fully express that? v.22
1. How does she acknowledge her sin?
2. What specific things that happened are mentioned?
3. What does she now want?
In the last part of this chapter, ‘ Jerusalem ' continues ‘her' lament with three things standing out.
First there is the acknowledgement of her sin. She has rebelled against God (v.18,20). That is the reason that these things have happened to her. This is no “poor old me” lament. When a prophet speaks out he speaks truth and acknowledges sin. Again and again the Lord had called to Jerusalem and again and again they had turned their backs on Him. The fact that He is their King means this is rebellion!
Second, there are continuing descriptions of what has happened to her. The young men and women, who would have been her future hope, have been taken away, carried off into exile in Babylon (v.18). The very people of authority, the priests and elders (v.19), died of starvation before the final destruction. In those final hours, anyone outside was killed by the sword while inside they were dying from starvation (v.20).
Finally there is a call to God for justice. Other nations look on and do nothing. Their enemies gloat over what had happened, yet they are also unrighteous and so there will come a day of accounting for them as well (21c,22). This is all accompanied by emotional distress (v.20-22) in the terrible awareness of both her folly and what has happened.
1. Ongoing Sin brings a day of accounting. We need a saviour.
2. Confessing the Sin is the first step to coming back to God.
Chapter: Lam 2
Passage: Lam 2:1-5
A. Find Out:
1. What 3 things has the Lord done? v.1
2. What 4 things has he destroyed? v.2
3. What 2 ways of destruction are given? v.3
4. What 2 further ways of destruction are mentioned? v.4
5. What further analogy is given for the destruction? v.5
1. How was the Lord's activity both negative and positive?
2. How does the prophet convey the Lord's destruction?
3. What feeling are you left with?
When we read Scripture, especially the historical narrative, it is so easy just to take in the bare facts but without any sense of the awfulness of what was happening. The destruction of Jerusalem was perhaps the classic example of this. It is only when we get the insight of the prophet, left at Jerusalem after the destruction has taken place, that we begin to catch anything thing of how terrible this was.
These verses emphasise the Lord's destructive activity. It's like, the prophet starts, an awful cloud of God's anger broke over Jerusalem and hurled down on her destroying everything (rather like massive hailstones would [our analogy]). He didn't holdback because this was His point of contact with the earth, but instead He came and destroyed houses, the army garrison, everything. The kingdom that reigned from here was destroyed and the young princes who might have been the future were carried away. When the enemy came the Lord stood back and gave them full access to Jerusalem. In fact he joined in and fire and destruction reigned down on her. It was as if he stood there and picked off everyone, making sure none were missed, His fire destroying everything in sight. One minute it was all there, the next it was all gone, like it had been swallowed up. All that was left in the ruins was mourning and anguish. How terrible a picture!
1. If God judges He does it thoroughly. No one sneaks away.
Chapter: Lam 2
Passage: Lam 2:6-9
A. Find Out:
1. What had the Lord destroyed? v.6a,7
2. What did this make Jerusalem forget? v.6b
3. What had He also done, and how extensively? v.8
4. What particular places had been destroyed? v.9a
5. So who no longer met there? v.9b
1. Read Jer 7:4,14
2. What unthinkable thing had now happened?
3. Why was this so devastating?
Consider Israel 's history: they were taken out of Egypt miraculously by the Lord, they met Him at Sinai, they were led by Him for forty years in the desert, led by Him to conquer the land, led by Him through the centuries. Their history was one of encounter with the Lord and the focus of that encounter was first the Tabernacle and then the Temple . The Temple had stood there for centuries, the place of meeting with God. Its very presence reminded them of their covenant with the Divine. It was the most stable, lasting feature of their national life. Its possible removal could not be contemplated. It would be their end.
Now it has gone! God has destroyed it. The enemy came into it and plundered it, destroyed the altar and destroyed the building and then went on and destroyed the walls of Jerusalem that surrounded it. If Israel had any doubts up to that point about their future, the destruction of the Temple did away with them. They have no future. The feasts that celebrated their relationship with the Lord were swept away with the removal of the Temple . All signs of their religion have been removed. It is as if the Lord had utterly severed His relationship with them. They have been utterly abandoned by Him. The people have been taken. The gates where the rulers met and prophets prophesied are gone, the leaders are gone, just a remnant remains. This is utter devastation, this is utter desolation. It is the end – or so it seems to them!
1. When God cleans out sin, He does a thorough job.
2. Death to sin is a precursor to new life with God.
A. Find Out:
1. Who sit in dust?v.10a,b
2. Who also bow their heads? v.10c
3. What was happening to infants? v.11b,12
4. What effect did that have on the prophet? v.11a
5. How did he speak of Jerusalem 's wound? v.13
1. How does this section differ from the previous one?
2. What therefore is the focus of anguish here?
Different parts of the chapter express different aspects of what has happened. The first five verses were all about the Lord's anger being expressed. The next verses focused on His having abandoned the Temple, the meeting place with His covenant people, extending to include the destructions of the walls (protection and boundaries delineating extent, distinct from surrounding areas) and the gates (places of authority and government). That had started to include people affected – kings, princes and prophets. This section goes on to speak of the elders, but then continues with the ordinary people, specifically women and children.
It is not clear whether this is what happened before the city fell or after it. The elders, the senior members of ordinary society sit in silence in the dust. There is nothing they can say or do to change this situation. They simply mourn. They are the first group who are usually heard who are silenced. Then there are the young women, another group that are usually heard chattering or giggling around the streets. They too are silenced and just hang their heads in dejection. When it comes to the noisiest group, the children, they are weak from hunger and the young ones were even dying in their mothers' arms. This is indeed a picture of utter desolation and in response the prophet, speaking on behalf of the city weeps in torment and anguish. It seems that the destruction, the wound, is so deep it can never be healed.
1. Catch the seriousness of God's judgement. Never be casual about it.