Restore Us to Yourself That We May Be Restored

Most Christians know that sin is bad. But, how bad is it, really?

Sin is a tornado, and the final chapter of Lamentations helps us see the extent of the damage. The consequences of breaking covenant with the Lord are dire. And yet, there is still hope for restoration.

See Our Disgrace

The first verse in this chapter frames much of what follows.

Remember, O Lord, what has befallen us;
look, and see our disgrace! (Lamentations 5:1)

The author is asking God to remember, to bring to mind for the purpose of action. Asking God to see and remember is a key part of all lament; those who lament are pleading that God would not forget them in their circumstances.

However, this is an unnatural request, that God would see or notice our disgrace. We usually like to hide those qualities and circumstances that are shameful. But in this situation, those embarrassments are exactly the reason for the lament!

Verses 2–18 provide a list of many disgraces of the people still living in Jerusalem. These disgraces range from the horrifying (deaths of fathers in Lam 5:3, rape of women in Lam 5:11) to the seemingly mundane (the people now have to pay for water and wood, Lam 5:4). To be sure, far more disgraces fall in the first category than the second, but the mingling of the two makes a profound point: Sin has brought judgment which has overturned every aspect of life. Even the loss of music and dancing (Lam 5:14–15) can be considered a tragedy.

One other disgrace is worth mentioning. In Lam 5:16, we read: “The crown has fallen from our head; woe to us, for we have sinned!” This is both a confession of sin and a lament about Judah’s inability to rule themselves. They are now in the hands of Babylon. This confession about leadership also sets the stage for verse 19 (see below).

On the whole, this first portion of Lamentations 5 (verses 1–18) shows us that the consequences of sin are real and heartbreaking. There is a direct line between the rebellion of the people and the desolation of Zion, and the present grief and loss are a result of earlier decisions to turn away from God.

Renew Our Days

The chapter takes a bit of a turn in verse 19: “But you, O Lord, reign forever; your throne endures to all generations.” Judah may no longer have a king ruling in Jerusalem, but that is not true on a larger scale.

In the midst of lament, acknowledging the sovereignty of God is vital. His rule is not negated by suffering. Pain and sorrow are not in charge—God is. Because grief and sadness feel so immediate and enveloping, God’s people must remind each other of this truth. The Lord reigns now and forever.

Verse 20 takes us into the deep questions of an honest lament. Lord, if you reign, “why do forget us forever?” If you’ve heard that asking “why” questions is forbidden in prayer, think again. God’s people should not accuse him of wrongdoing or blame him for evil, but laments are filled with “why” and “how” questions. (See Psalm 10:1, 35:17, 42:9, and 43:2 among many examples.)

The author of Lamentations then asks the boldest prayer in the entire book.

Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored!
Renew our days as of old— (Lamentations 5:21)

The people want Jerusalem to be the way it was, they want to be restored. But they confess that restoration with the Lord must happen first. Jerusalem is in ruins because the people turned away from God, so a vibrant renewal of that covenant relationship is needed before any of the physical blessings can be enjoyed.

There is a good reminder here for modern Christians. When we see brokenness and rebellion in ourselves and others, we should think about the need for repentance and restoration to the Lord. A wayward heart is driving the train which is producing those acts of unrighteousness.

This chapter ends in a way that many Christians through the ages have found unsatisfying. (Apparently, some scribes have recopied verse 21 after verse 22, presumably to prevent the book from ending on a down note!) But tension is inherent in lament, and we need to learn how to embrace that tension if we are to be followers of Jesus who both rejoice and weep (Romans 12:15).

Here is the ending of Lamentations.

unless you have utterly rejected us,
and you remain exceedingly angry with us. (Lamentations 5:22)

The people know God has promised to bring them back from exile (Lam 4:22). And yet they do not know exactly when. God’s righteous anger may mean that this generation will not see the restoration they desire.

This tension—restore us, unless you remain angry with us—is a bit unsettling. But it also serves one of the purposes of lament, to keep us turning back to the Lord again and again. Our prayers may not be answered immediately; our sorrows may remain; we may feel seasick in heart through our years on this groaning earth.

Rejected No More

But God is always ready to receive our lament. He reigns forever, he is wise, and he is loving. For this reason, we can trust him with our pain and grief.

The Israelites wondered whether God had rejected them. We may wonder the same. But in Jesus we have an emphatic, definitive answer. No. Because Jesus bore our sin, we are no longer subject to that same awful judgment that he suffered. “Jesus is the answer to the cause of every pain” (Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy, Mark Vroegop, page 150).

Though we groan, we can look to Jesus, the Man of Sorrows. Because of him, our true, final restoration is secure.

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Links for the Weekend (8/20/2021)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Reflections from Week One of an Empty Nest

Jared Wilson writes about the next stage of life and ministry as he drops his youngest off at college.

One thing I keep coming back to in the midst of my nostalgia about my kids’ youth — and, admittedly, in my niggling fears about things I did wrong or at the least could have done better — is that watching your kids grow up and leave the nest is kind of the point of parenting. Sending them out was the goal all along. I do hope of course that our kids remain close to us relationally throughout adulthood. But our job as parents was not to coddle them into codependence with us, but to raise them to love Jesus and neighbor, to train them to be mature grownups. All of the raising in the home and the church was training for their followship of the Lord outside. That was the whole point. It’s silly to run the race to the best of your ability and then begrudge the finish line when it approaches.

Does the Book of Proverbs Over-Promise?

How should we think about those proverbs which don’t seem true in our experience? Are the Proverbs just probabilities, or is there something more going on?

We will partially see these promises in this life—that is, unless God calls us to a higher form of blessing. But, in Jesus, we will see them fully in the next. No one has ever lived the conditions for these promises more perfectly than Jesus Christ, yet God called him to something higher than mere earthly prosperity.

Six Dangers of Podcasts

John Piper offers some potential dangers associated with listening to podcasts. (Of course, the dangers are offered on a podcast, so there’s that.)


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (8/13/2021)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out. Note: Just two links today!

I Need You to Read Your Bible

I really appreciated this meditation from Glenna Marshall. We so often think our spiritual practices affect only us, but here is a helpful story of how God used one woman’s devotional life to bless another.

I need my own spiritual disciplines of study, reading, and prayer for my personal growth, knowledge, and affection for Christ. I want the believers in my life to do the same for their own edification and growth. But I also need the believers in my life to pursue their spiritual disciplines because I am desperate for them to do so. I want the spiritual food God has been feeding you. I don’t need worldly or even pseudo-Christian encouragement when I’m discouraged or doubting or worried. I need what is true and biblical and dependable.

Taste God’s Goodness in the Sweetness of Honey

Andrew Wilson writes about God’s good gift of honey, and in this writing he models how we can delight in God as we delight in his gifts.

We are called not just to learn about God but to experience him. We are invited to taste his sweetness and allow his golden richness—beautifully expressed in his rescue, his Word, and his grace—to brighten our eyes and refresh our souls. “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Ps. 34:8).

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article written by Erica Goehring called Broken, Yet Assured of God’s Plan. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Broken, Yet Assured of God’s Plan

In one of my earliest memories, I follow my grandma up the hill of my backyard. She has a tiny pine tree in her hands, the roots wrapped in plastic. We kneel on the mossy ground together as Grandma digs into the dirt at the edge of my parents’ property. This baby tree joins a line of mature pines that create a natural boundary—a curtain of green that provides privacy and a bit of protection from the dust of the country road. I am about four years old, and I help by patting the earth and pouring water at the tree’s base. The tree is mine.

∞∞∞

This brief, clear memory opens up into years of playing with my sister in front of that young tree. We watched it grow. We stood next to it, marveling at both its growth and our own. It became a backdrop for our play. It stood watch as we acted out imaginary scenarios, had picnics, put up Dad’s old tent, and pumped our legs on the big swing set. As we surged up into the air, we could look over the roof of our house and see the beautiful Allegheny River below. This was the place where imaginations soared—the epitome of childhood.

Broken but Growing

I have another memory on that hill that is just as clear as planting with Grandma. One afternoon, I stood near my tree, talking to a boy. We were both around eleven or twelve years old. This boy was a classmate and the closest thing we had to a neighbor in our very rural spot in Armstrong County. He wasn’t being malicious when he wrapped his hand around the thin trunk and twisted my young pine. He was talking casually, absently fiddling with whatever happened to be near. But when he pulled and my little tree snapped, my heart dropped. By this time, the tree had grown to be a bit taller than me, probably around five feet, and suddenly, it lost its perky top to the hands of a middle schooler. I yelped! He apologized, but I knew he didn’t understand why I was upset about a little broken tree.

Years later, when I was a new college student home for the weekend, I noticed that the trunk seemed to bend around its wound and grow straight upward. The bend was visible, but the growth beyond that point was straight and strong. On a recent visit to see my parents, twenty years since college, I walked up the hill to where my tree is planted. The big swing set has been replaced by a small hammock swing, and from that perch, I could still see the Allegheny running by the property. I was shocked by the size of my tree. It towered over me, and there is no longer any sign of where the trunk was once twisted and snapped. A spot that was undeniably damaged years ago became strong again. The rough and bent scar is smooth and straight.

Hard Decisions

I had a conversation recently with a fellow Christian. We were talking about the gravity of big decisions and the common fear of possibly ruining one’s life by making the wrong choice. College or not? Marriage or not? This job versus that job? Say yes to the date? No to the cross-country move? These choices can feel dire. It sounds dramatic, but I have experienced that feeling of potential doom as I contemplated a life-altering decision. In childhood and in our teen years, we are often taught the big consequences of our choices, and we can be paralyzed by the potential effects. While wisdom and discernment are vital in making good decisions, when we bring fear as a major component of our decision-making process, we attempt to remove God’s sovereignty and create an idol out of our idea of a perfect future. As I chatted with my friend, I commented light-heartedly that God isn’t going to simply leave us behind because we picked the “wrong” college or turned down the “right” job. 

The Bible assures us that we can be confident in God’s plan. Job asserts in Job 42:2, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” This is reassuring! The Lord has plans that will not be interrupted by our failures and inadequacies. His will is not dependent upon us making perfect choices. We can find assurance in his infallible wisdom and strength. God’s plans are bigger than the life decisions and career goals about which we make long lists and agonize to friends. Consider Ephesians 1:7–11:

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 

God’s view of the future is a picture of eternity. His will covers forever, not merely the next step. We can be bent and broken like my tree and still grow steadily in God’s will. God’s plan is bigger than a single tragic moment or a seemingly pivotal decision. The things of earth and things of heaven work together toward the fulfillment of God’s perfect plan.

God’s Intended Path

At first, I thought my tree would die. The inner wood looked white and ragged, different from the smooth gray trunk. The trauma left a very clear mark, and the tree was forced to grow differently. It made a detour, and as time passed and the tree grew well beyond the point of its trauma, its health was stronger than the moment of its wound.

We come to the Lord broken. Sometimes our hurts come from our own actions; we take paths he never intended for us. Our sin is apparent and central. Sometimes we encounter pain, tragedy, and difficulties that leave us with profound wounds. But as we walk with the Lord, seeking his plans and calling out to him, he leads us along his intended path. Our wounds may be tender and obvious, rough and ragged, but he guides us around and through those places where we are torn. Some of our broken places will be completely healed. Some will leave permanent scars. Yet we can always find assurance in God’s plan and his purpose.

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Links for the Weekend (8/6/2021)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

The Purpose of Sunday is the Re-evangelization of the People of God

Here’s a short, insightful article from Jared Wilson on the purpose of preaching on Sunday morning. It always comes back to our need for the gospel.

The sinner’s need for the gospel doesn’t end when he is converted. While the fullness of eternal life is bestowed upon the vilest sinner at that point, he still needs the good news to grow him, mature him, sanctify him. And when we stand before Christ our Judge at the last day, we will be standing on nothing more than the gospel for our acceptance even then.

Body Shaming Demeans Others and Insults God

This article is an excerpt from a book by Sam Allberry about our physical bodies. In this post, he writes about some of the ways we experience shame related to our bodies and how the Bible addresses this shame.

We’re now, it seems, hardwired to feel a sense of vulnerability when it comes to our body. We fear not just literal nakedness but a more general sense of being uncovered. We don’t want to be seen. We fear the shame it could bring. This being so, we need to be careful not to make our own words the cause of someone else’s physical shame.

5 Foundations That Lead to Compromise on Sexual Ethics

This article is a little long, but it’s a helpful diagnosis of the weaknesses of some strains of Christianity when it comes to standing firm on biblical sexual ethics.

In the landscape of contemporary Western Christianity, most roads away from orthodox faith travel through an increasingly populous pit stop called “LGBTQ+ affirming.” It’s a stop that doesn’t just change the route; it reconfigures the whole map. If we ignore, dismiss, or question what Scripture says about sex and identity, it naturally leads to further and deeper questioning of Scripture’s authority and an ever shakier faith. But more and more Christians—even those steeped in Scripture and raised in the church from a young age—are making this move. Why?


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (7/30/2021)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Even to Your Old Age

At Desiring God, William Farley writes about the opportunities that come with being a grandparent.

Third, besides passion for Christ, humility, and wisdom, grandparenting is an opportunity to exemplify hope. Life is short. Decades of experience have taught you this in ways that your children and grandchildren do not yet understand. They need to see you not living in the past, but looking forward to “a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1).

I Miss My Son Today

Tim Challies continues to grieve the death of his son. I appreciate the way he is letting us see what it might look like to trust God day to day with such a hard providence.

And just so, while God has called me to bear my grief for a lifetime, and to do so faithfully, he has not called me to bear the entire weight of it all at once. As that pile was made up of many bricks, a lifetime is made up of many days. The burden of a whole lifetime’s grief would be far too heavy to bear and the challenge of a whole lifetime’s faithfulness far too daunting to consider. But the God who knows my frailty has broken that assignment into little parts, little days, and has promised grace sufficient for each one of them. My challenge for today is not to bear the grief of a lifetime or to be faithful to the end, but only to carry today’s grief and only to be faithful on this one little day that he has spread out before me.

Back to School Book Deals from Crossway

Crossway+ is a free members program from Crossway. And if you join, you can get 50% off some excellent books until August 4. Some of these books would make great gifts for any college student in your life.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called Solid Bible Promises for Times of Suffering. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Solid Bible Promises for Times of Suffering

Creation groans, and we echo that same mournful tune.

We feel the Curse deep inside. We are broken people in a broken world, and no one avoids some measure of suffering. In my article on Lamentations 4, we saw the author arrive at the end of his lament with nothing but a promise of God. We too, at times, may feel like everything is stripped away. Our anguish seems like the most tangible element of life.

But we also have the promises of God! These are good gifts meant to sustain us and stoke our hope for the future.

Which Promises?

The Bible is stuffed with promises. However, we can’t claim every promise we find.

For example, some Bible promises are conditional. Consider Psalm 37:4: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” We cannot claim that God will meet our every desire unless we are delighting in the Lord.

Further, God made some promises to specific people at specific times (see Joshua 6:2). He made other promises to Israel, and we need to think carefully about whether they carry over to the church and/or individual Christians.

Where does this leave us? We still have many Bible promises that are meant for us. This article focuses on those which are helpful in the midst of suffering.

Promises for Sufferers

I’ve divided these promises into five categories. Learning, digesting, and even memorizing these verses will not eliminate pain or make suffering somehow desirable. But they will help us to trust in the Lord in dark times and to fix our eyes on Jesus.

God is with you

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38–39)

Suffering is often extremely personal and therefore isolating. In those times, we can treasure God’s presence with us. He is near to those in anguish, and he has promised never to leave or forsake his children. Nothing at all—not even this present suffering—will be able to separate us from God’s love for us in Christ.

God will comfort and rescue you

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Corinthians 1:3–4)

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (1 Peter 5:10)

Because God will not abandon us, and because he loves us, he will comfort us in the midst of turmoil and eventually pull us out. Though pain and suffering seem unending, for the children of God, they are not. God will restore and strengthen us, whether on this side of glory or the other.

God will use your suffering for your good

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16–18)

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3–5)

God is in the business of turning bad things to good. Affliction prepares us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, and our sufferings produce endurance, character, and hope. Our sufferings in themselves are not good, but God brings good out of them.

Everything will be made new

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:51–53)

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3–4)

Our groaning bodies will put on immortality. Our new dwelling will be with God himself on a new earth. The mourning and crying and pain we experience now will then only be known as “former things.”

We will be forever with the Lord

Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:17–18)

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” (Revelation 21:3)

The promises of a glorified body and a curse-free earth would be nothing without God’s eternal presence. The suffering we experience will be a distant, faint memory because we will live face-to-face forever with our Creator and Redeemer.

(Yes, I have listed Rev 21:3 twice. But it’s jaw-dropping, and we all probably need it twice.)

All By Grace

These promises are ours. But they are ours by grace. Our works deserve God’s wrath, not his blessing. These promises are given to us because we are the children of God, united to Jesus, sealed by the Holy Spirit.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Rom 8:31–32)

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Links for the Weekend (7/23/2021)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Moms and Dads: Show Your Need

Here’s a profound reminder of an important parenting truth: our children will learn much about how much they need Jesus when we show them how much we need Jesus.

If the true north of our parenting is drawing our children to God, there is nothing more powerful at every stage than showing them that we desire God every bit as much as we want them to. If a healthy parent-child relationship is characterized by trust, vulnerability is a must. Few things strengthen trust in any relationship more than entrusting the other with intimate stories of our failure and hurt. A parent-child relationship isn’t exempt from this reality. Discretion is undoubtedly needed. A child should not be asked to wield burdens too heavy for them. And yet, withholding our failures from our children stunts our relationship with them and their relationship with God in profound ways.

Seem or be?

“Do you want to seem holy or be holy?” The question driving this article is a vital one for us to consider as we pursue growth as Christians.

The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill

This podcast series from Christianity Today is ongoing. Its subject is the late Seattle megachurch Mars Hill and its controversial pastor Mark Driscoll. It helps to explain a lot about the modern American church.


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (7/16/2021)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Biblical Literacy: Jen Wilkin on the Importance of Bible Study

Here’s a helpful interview with Jen Wilkin on why we all need to understand the Bible ourselves.

Wilkin flatly rejects the notion that deep knowledge of Scripture is best left to adults and “experts.” “A child who is capable of reading is capable of reading the Bible,” she insists. “Children need early exposure to the Scriptures because they need to see them as a familiar friend. Reading the Scriptures to them—and then, of course, having them read them themselves—are all formative practices. Sometimes we think children should only read (the Bible) if they can understand everything they’re reading,” she says, but “we underestimate their ability.”

The Hard Work of Lifelong Friendships

This is a talk by Christine Hoover at TGC’s 2021 Women’s Conference where she focused on biblical friendships. You may listen to the audio here or read a transcript.

Christians Need More Intergenerational Friendships

Continuing the theme of friendship, Joe Carter has an article about friendship based on a survey of college students conducted by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. The survey revealed that “students need more intergenerational relationships.

If you’re like the average American, you are likely to have few or none. Indeed, many Americans do not have a large number of close friends. Almost half of Americans (49 percent) report having three or fewer, while only about one-third (36 percent) report having between four and nine close friends. Thirteen percent of Americans say they have 10 or more close friends, which is roughly the same proportion of the public that has no close friends (12 percent).

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called When the Promises of God Are All You Have. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!

Thanks to Maggie A for her help in rounding up links this week!


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

When the Promises of God Are All You Have

There are signature moments in our lives, markers between before and after. A big move, the death of a loved one, a marriage, a divorce, the birth of a child, a terrible fire. Occasionally we realize, in the middle, that our world will be different on the other end. Sometimes this is wonderful, and sometimes it is tragic.

What Has Been Lost

In Lamentations 4, we are reading the after of one such moment. A large part of lament is noting how much now is different than it was or should be. In this chapter-long prayer, the author calls out many unremarkable facets of life which are upside-down as a result of Jerusalem’s destruction at the hands of Babylon.

Gold is tarnished and holy stones are scattered (Lam 4:1). The remaining men, though “precious sons,” are regarded as no more than “earthen pots” (Lam 4:2). Infants and children are starving, with nursing mothers treating their children no better than wild jackals (Lam 4:3-4). Even those who were rich are living in refuse and dying (Lam 4:5).

Signs of Judgment

There is a clear reason everything has been overturned. Behind Babylon’s tactics is the wrath of God; it was his hot anger that kindled a fire in the city and consumed it (Lam 4:11).

Jerusalem is receiving a punishment worse than Sodom—shocking, since the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was the most notable destruction of cities in the Old Testament to that point. (This story is in Genesis 18–19.) The punishment is worse because it is drawn out; Sodom was destroyed in a moment, while the residents of Jerusalem are slowly dying of hunger (Lam 4:6, 9). Jerusalem deserved a harsher punishment, in part, because they were God’s people with his word and his temple; the residents of Sodom had not known the Lord.

These verses reveal specific aspects of divine judgment, horrible as they are. The women of Jerusalem boiled and ate their young children—this was both an act of compassion on the babies and a desperate search for food. This was a curse foretold in Deut 28:53. We also read one reason for this judgment: the prophets and priests have sinned horribly in the city (Lam 4:13). The people cried “Unclean!” at them as they wandered through the streets (Lam 4:14-15). These religious leaders were banished from the city by God himself, scattered among the nations (Lam 4:15-16).

False Hopes

As the Lord brought judgment to Jerusalem, some of their false idols came to light.

Historically, the siege of Jerusalem was paused for a time when it was thought that Egypt would intervene. Judah had been hoping for rescue, but this hope never came; Egypt turned out to be “a nation which could not save” (Lam 4:17).

Judah had also been hoping in Zedekiah, their king when the city was attacked by Babylon. This is mentioned in Lam 4:20, where the king is referred to as “the Lord’s anointed.” The people thought he would protect them, that they could live “under his shadow,” but he, like so many others, was captured.

Waiting on the Judge

At the end of Lam 4:20, the writer is in a miserable state. With the fall of Jerusalem, so very much has been lost. God himself has been judging his people through the Babylonian army. The people are without prophets, without priests, without temple, and without food. And their hopes (in Egypt and in King Zedekiah) have come up empty. What is left?

Much remains! The writer falls back on the promises of God.

Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom,
you who dwell in the land of Uz;
but to you also the cup shall pass;
you shall become drunk and strip yourself bare.
The punishment of your iniquity, O daughter of Zion, is accomplished;
he will keep you in exile no longer;
but your iniquity, O daughter of Edom, he will punish;
he will uncover your sins. (Lam 4:21–22)

The author of Lamentations knows who God is and what he has promised. Even though they are part of his plan, those who brutalize God’s people will themselves be punished. The cup of judgment will pass from Israel to Edom (another nation in the area).

More hopefully, God’s wrath against his people is finite, and he will keep them “in exile no longer.” This is not some idle wish—this is a rock-solid promise of God. (See Jeremiah 31, among other places.) This fits squarely with God’s character and his love for his people (Lam 3:31–33).

God’s promises are a life raft, and with this particular promise, the call is to trust in the Lord and wait. This is not new! We have seen previously that waiting for the Lord is a large component of seeking him (Lam 3:25–26).

We May Have Sorrow, but We Always Have the Lord

Though a request is a common component of lament, there is no bold request in Lamentations 4. The author’s distress is severe and obvious; he is calling the Lord’s attention to his troubles and reminding himself (in the presence of the Lord) that God’s promises are true. God is trustworthy and we can—we must!—rely on what he says.

Of course, this is true for us too! In our distress or suffering, we must not rely on our health, our optimism, our bank account, our reputation, our friends, our safety, or any sort of harmony in our life. We can, however, look to the Lord and his promises!

In an upcoming article, I plan to write about a few of God’s promises that we can call to mind in times of anguish, pain, and discouragement. It may be a good exercise, until then, to search the Scriptures yourself and search out the promises of God which are yours in Jesus. These are precious.

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