The Book of Lamentations Summary

Main Idea

Having witnessed the invasion and destruction of the great city of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, Jeremiah commemorates the sad and needless occasion by composing this lament.

Explanation of Main Idea

Because of their sin, the people of Judah now faced their long overdue punishment (Lam. 1:5) at the hand of their enemies, the Babylonians. Their treasures were taken (Lam. 1:10), the city’s “splendor (had) departed” (Lam. 1:6), and their suffering was unmistakable (Lam. 1:12). This all could have been prevented had they repented and turned to the Lord.

Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, is overcome with tears because of this (Lam. 1:16). He knows that the Lord is like an enemy to His people (Lam. 2:4-5). Nonetheless, He knows that the “Lord is good to those whose hope is in him” (Lam. 3:25) and encourages the exiles to “return to the Lord (and) lift up (their) hearts and…hands to God in heaven and say, ‘We have sinned and rebelled…'” (Lam. 3:40). Ultimately, Jeremiah offers hope as he cries out, “Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may return” (Lam. 5:21).

Purpose

The purpose of the book of Lamentations is to commemorate the sad occasion of the destruction of Jerusalem, while also presenting “God’s faithfulness and compassion as a basis for future hope.”[1]  The people of Judah had fallen to such a great depth that it is truly remarkable that God would even think about offering any hope of restoration whatsoever. Yet he does. The bright ray of God’s faithfulness shines in Lam. 3:22, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Leading Themes

1. Judgment

What had been warned about was finally upon them! God is faithful to punish sin. Time and time again repentance had been offered. There comes a time, though, we it is too late, and God decrees appropriate judgment.

2. Lamenting

It is a good thing to express grief in appropriate ways. Jeremiah teaches us, indirectly, that lamenting is good for the soul. There will come situations into life that will bring sadness. These seasons should not get suppressed.

3. Hope

Beyond hell, there is always hope. The people of Judah had rebelled against the Lord, committed idolatry, and done horrible things. Yet even in judgment, God offered hope.

How Does This Relate To Us?

We don’t know how far away the next crisis is. No person is exempt from suffering. When these seasons come into our lives, we can lament. We can look for appropriate ways to express our frustration, hurt, and pain. Perhaps we can write a lament similar to the book of Lamentations!

Lamentations also can help us understand that when others are going through seasons of sadness, we can listen; we can enter into their grief by listening intensely and weeping with them.

Hope lives in Lamentations and hope lives in every trial. God’s mercies are new every morning; this reminds us that the season of lamenting will one day draw to a close and because of the difficulty that has been experienced, we will have a greater and richer understanding of God’s love and compassion.

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Study Questions

Textual Questions

  1. In Lamentations 1:1, Jeremiah describes the destroyed city as a widow. Why is this a fitting image?

2. Lamentations 1:8 correlates the fall of Jerusalem with sin. Do you think this happens today, a city or nation suffers greatly because of their sin?

3. Jeremiah calls the Lord “good to those whose hope is in him” (Lam. 3:25). How can you reconcile God’s goodness with his judgment?

4. What is the answer to the question in Lamentations 3:39?

Life Application Questions

  1. How does Lamentations 3:22-24 encourage you?

2. Do you have anything going on in your life right now that would be a sufficient reason to lament?

3. Look at Lamentations 5:21. Was there anything about your “days of old”, your early years of walking with Jesus, that you’d like to regain?

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