Read Lamentations 5
5 Remember, Lord, what has happened to us;
look, and see our disgrace.
2 Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers,
our homes to foreigners.
3 We have become fatherless,
our mothers are widows.
4 We must buy the water we drink;
our wood can be had only at a price.
5 Those who pursue us are at our heels;
we are weary and find no rest.
6 We submitted to Egypt and Assyria
to get enough bread.
7 Our ancestors sinned and are no more,
and we bear their punishment.
8 Slaves rule over us,
and there is no one to free us from their hands.
9 We get our bread at the risk of our lives
because of the sword in the desert.
10 Our skin is hot as an oven,
feverish from hunger.
11 Women have been violated in Zion,
and virgins in the towns of Judah.
12 Princes have been hung up by their hands;
elders are shown no respect.
13 Young men toil at the millstones;
boys stagger under loads of wood.
14 The elders are gone from the city gate;
the young men have stopped their music.
15 Joy is gone from our hearts;
our dancing has turned to mourning.
16 The crown has fallen from our head.
Woe to us, for we have sinned!
17 Because of this our hearts are faint,
because of these things our eyes grow dim
18 for Mount Zion, which lies desolate,
with jackals prowling over it.
19 You, Lord, reign forever;
your throne endures from generation to generation.
20 Why do you always forget us?
Why do you forsake us so long?
21 Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return;
renew our days as of old
22 unless you have utterly rejected us
and are angry with us beyond measure.
“To be continued.” How many of us dreaded those three little words at the end of a television show? Those words often meant waiting a whole week and, possibly, an entire summer to learn what happened next. We dislike unresolved conflict so much we will binge entire seasons of shows at once. Lack of resolution is uncomfortable. We don’t like being uncomfortable.
Chapter 5 closes the Book of Lamentations. It is a communal cry of pain and pleading. This chapter is hard to read. It’s difficult to hear details of human suffering. We want a happy ending. In the absence of that, we will settle for any ending. Where is the next episode? If we’re seeking a conclusion neatly tying Israel’s pain to God’s relief, we are sorely disappointed at the end of the book.
The first four chapters of Lamentations follow a strict structure. The structure infuses order and guidance to the verses like a series of locks and gates controlling a canal. Then Chapter 5 breaks the floodgates open! The writer lists the legacy of Israel’s sins for every member of the community, one after another, without pause or pattern. Lyrical language and descriptive metaphors are thrown aside for cold facts detailing the struggling state of daily life for God’s people. Verses 15 and 16 bring the record of tribulations to end, summarized with “Woe to us, for we have sinned.” We almost hear the writer take a long, slow, sobbing sigh before proceeding.
When we pour out our pain and plead to God, we want a resolution. We dread the “To be continued ….” response. Instead, we want the “binge-watching” version of our lives so we can find out what happens.
So why does God make us wait? Isaiah 30:18 gives us a clue:
“Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you,
And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
How blessed are all those who long for Him.”
God longs to bestow His free and unmerited favor on us through salvation. This is why He waits. We are blessed through the process of waiting. Maybe Lamentations, especially this chapter, is hard to read because we relate to the waiting and it makes us uncomfortable. But, maybe God is blessing us through the waiting.
- Is waiting easy or difficult for you? Why? Do you find yourself looking to accelerate the waiting process at every turn?
- In what difficult seasons or circumstances of life has God made you wait?
- What did you learn through the process of waiting?
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