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).
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.
- 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.
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]