Hope Born Out of Despair

Key Verse: “It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.”
—Lamentations 3:22,23

Selected Scripture:
Lamentations 1:12-16; 3:22-24, 31-33

IN THE SEPTUAGINT VERSION of the Bible, the book of Lamentations is introduced with the words: “It came to pass, after Israel was taken captive, and Jerusalem made desolate, that Jeremias sat weeping, and lamented with this lamentation over Jerusalem.” Each of its five poetic chapters largely laments over the calamities which had come upon Israel when taken captive to Babylon. He recognized that the nation was merely experiencing its just punishment for sins. The prophet maintained his trust in the Lord, recognizing that in him was the only source of hope. He thus expressed his confidence that deliverance would eventually come to Israel.

The first lament (ch. 1) expresses Jeremiah’s sorrow over the condition of the city of Jerusalem, suffering for its great sin and resultant tragic course of events. At one time the city was a place looked up to, bustling with life, served by surrounding nations. Now, the city is like a widow left alone and rejected. (vs. 1) The suffering has come because of “the multitude of her transgressions.” (vs. 5) Jerusalem has sinned so horribly and she is now despised by those who once honored her. The people search for food and barter for it to keep alive.—vs. 11

Jerusalem, personified, takes up her own lament, asking, “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?” (vs. 12) She says, for all these things I’m weeping and tears run down my cheeks. Her comforter, the one who alone could help her is far away. (vs. 16) She said, the Lord is right, we rebelled and are now deserted by all. I begged my allies for their help, but they betrayed me. I then asked the Lord to punish my enemies as he has punished his own people.—vss. 18-22

The third lamentation begins with the prophet Jeremiah recounting the many ways in which God had brought punishment upon him personally during the terrible experience of national and personal destruction. He says, “I … [have] seen affliction by the rod of his wrath. … he turneth his hand against me … he hath broken my bones. … Also when I cry and shout, he shutteth out my prayer.” (Lam. 3:1-8) He remembers the hope he still has in the Lord. “Remembering mine affliction and my misery, … My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me. This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.” (vss. 19-21) Then Jeremiah was reminded of the prophecy he spoke to Jacob when the Lord said to him, “I am with thee, saith the Lord, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee: but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished.” (Jer. 30:11) So he writes, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.”—vss. 22-26

Dawn Bible Students Association
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