The Old Testament Presents... Reflections of Christ
by Paul R. Van Gorder
Following the book of Jeremiah lies Lamentations, a poetic work by the ''weeping prophet,'' which is full of instruction but is seldom read or preached. It is intricately composed. The first two chapters have 22 verses each and are an acrostic; that is, starting with aleph, the first word of each verse begins with the subsequent letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The third chapter of Lamentations has 66 verses, and each three-verse segment begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The fourth chapter is arranged like the first two. Chapter 5 also has 22 verses, but is not in acrostic arrangement. The structure of Lamentations is so amazing that the critics have said that Jeremiah could not have been the author, for he didn't have the ability it took to write it. Perhaps he didn't have the ability, but they ignore divine inspiration.

Lamentations is an unveiling of the great loving heart of Jehovah for His people. He chastens them, yet He loves them. God's sorrow and love are demonstrated through the heart expressions of Jeremiah.

If we were to choose a biblical text that captures the theme of the book, it would be either Proverbs 13:15, ''...the way of transgressors is hard,'' or Romans 6:23, ''For the wages of sin is death.'' One writer has said, ''Sin and salvation, like mighty rivers, flow right through the Bible and have come down through the ages together. With the one, or the other, every man is being borne along. The one floats on to the dead sea of eternal darkness, the other carries all who rest on its bosom into the ocean of God's infinite light and love.'' It is the first river, sin, that is seen in all its horror in the book of Lamentations.

This is the prophecy of weeping, the book of tears. The mood is set early in the first chapter when Jeremiah says of Jerusalem, ''She weepeth bitterly in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks'' (v.2).

  1. Tears for the City (ch. 1)
  2. Tears for the Daughter of Zion (2)
  3. Tears for the Man Who Has Seen Affliction (3)
  4. Tears for the Precious Sons of Zion (4)
  5. Tears for the Orphans and Fatherless (5)
Although the lamentations of Jeremiah are directed toward the people of Jerusalem, the great principles of the Bible, expressing both God's hatred for sin and His desire to see the sinner repent are also in view.

The word ''sin'' literally means, ''missing the mark.'' How graphically this is seen in the history of Israel, for no other nation has been so favored as that people! God delivered them by blood and by power from Egypt, brought them across the Red Sea on dry land, fed them for 40 years in the wilderness, and miraculously kept their clothes from wearing out and their sandals from becoming thin. With Joshua in command, they defeated the nations of Canaan. Their capital city, Jerusalem, was blessed by God. Their temple, and particularly the Holy of holies, became the dwelling place of God.

The glory of God filled the place. [However,] this is how Lamentations begins: ''How doth the city sit lonely, that was full of people; how is she become a widow! She that was great among the nations, a princess among the provinces; how is she become a vassal!'' (Lam 1:1). Why was this? The people had ''missed the mark.'' God had asked them to follow Him and to keep His statutes, so that other nations might have the knowledge of the one true God. But Israel had failed and now was suffering the fruit of her sin.

Sin and its results cannot be disassociated; labor that is rendered must receive proper payment. If something is earned, it is unjust to hold back the wages. The condemned sinner can never accuse God of injustice. In Lamentations 1:18 the principle is stated: ''The Lord is righteous; for I have rebelled against His commandment.''

This law is immutable; it will never be changed. Chapter 2 of Lamentations makes no mention of Nebuchadnezzar nor the armies of Babylon [that destroyed Jerusalem and carried its people away as captives]. Why? Because Israel realized that the law of God was at work. The New Testament states it this way: ''Whatever a man soweth, that shall he also reap'' (Galatians 6:7).

You will find it an interesting study to count the number of times the words ''He hath'' are used in chapter 2. God was executing His righteousness by paying the people of Israel the wages they had earned because of their sin.

Lamentations 3 presents another consequence of sin, the suffering of the innocent. Though the prophet delivered God's truth, he was hated, hunted and hounded. He suffered the most. The greater the innocence, the greater the suffering.

We can see a picture of the Lord Jesus in the suffering of Jeremiah, and the people who rejected and persecuted the prophet portray the religious leaders of Israel who rejected their Messiah. In your mind's eye, move some 600 years from Jeremiah's day into the future. If the feelings of Jeremiah, as expressed in chapter 3, are feelings common to every man, then what must have been the feelings of the Son of God! Read again Christ's words of lament for Jerusalem.
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them who are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.
For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth,
till ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.
(Mat 23:37-39)
The Lord Jesus expressed the intensity of His suffering in the words spoken in Gethsemane [Mat 26:36-45]. They serve to reinforce the fact that His holy nature must have recoiled at the thought of bearing the sins of the world, and of dying at the hands of God's chosen race.

As you observe the name ''LORD'' used in Lamentations, remember that this is the name ''Jehovah.'' This name designates the covenant-keeping God, the God of redemption, and therefore is a reflection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Chapter 5 of Lamentations is a prayer. It is a prayer of confession (v.1,7,16), and it is a prayer of hope (v.19). Note what that hope is founded upon: the eternal, never-changing God, the Redeemer. Then too, it is a prayer for future blessing (v.21).

We are reminded of that dark day pictured in John 6. Our Lord had begun to speak of His death and had indicated that the only approach to God the Father was through Him. At the mention of His impending death, the crowds that had followed Him for the loaves and the fish ''went back, and walked no more with Him'' (John 6:66). To the handful of disciples that remained, the Lord Jesus posed this searching question: ''Will ye also go away?'' (John 6:67). The response of Simon Peter was filled with the language of faith as he replied, ''Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God'' (John 6:68,69).

In Jeremiah's day, the prospects were bleak for Jerusalem and the nation of Israel, and the prophet mourned the predicted judgment upon their sin. Even so, he knew that restoration, return, and blessing could be found only in Jehovah, the Redeemer. Likewise, the sinner, no matter how deeply he may have transgressed, how vile his past, how extensive his iniquity, can find cleansing, new life, and future hope in one person-- Jesus Christ. The Jehovah of the Old Testament is the Lord Jesus of the New. The tears of sorrow and suffering are wiped away by the One who cleanses and forgives all who come in faith to Him. [cp. Isaiah 53:4,5]

See the Book Notes on Lamentations. for a verse by verse study of this book.

Return to table of contents for ''The Old Testament Presents... Reflections of Christ,''
written by Paul R. Van Gorder, Copyright 1982 by RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI.
Used by permission [within The Book from].
Further distribution is not allowed without permission from RBC.

For another brief look at this book of the Bible,
see the related chapter in Christ in All the Scriptures, by A.M. Hodgkin.

Go to The Book opening page.