Listen:  131.5

The book of Lamentations, sometimes called the Lamentations of Jeremiah, is just as the title suggests, a book of mourning and weeping by Jeremiah the prophet.  This book was written during the time of Israel’s captivity in Babylon.  Let’s start out by reading Lamentations 3:1-4, “I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath. He hath led me, and brought me into darkness, but not into light. Surely against me is he turned; he turneth his hand against me all the day. My flesh and my skin hath he made old; he hath broken my bones.”  Jeremiah, in identifying himself with the Israelites, mourns over his condition as brought on by the Lord.  These words of anguish were caused by the Lord Himself in His wrath against the unfaithfulness of His people.  From verses 1-19, Jeremiah laments over the regrettable condition of the Lord’s people. 

At this low, low depth of despair, the prophet humbles himself and sets his eyes upon the goodness of the Lord.  In Lamentations 3:20-24he says, “My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me. This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. 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.”  Jeremiah, in his humility realizes that it is only the mercy of God that keeps Him from utterly destroying this sinful people.  Indeed, this is true of all of us.  What do we deserve for our sinful condition?  We deserve death and eternal punishment.  In Romans 6:23, the righteousness of God tells us, “For the wages of sin is death…”  It is the mercy of God that finishes that verse by saying, “…but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Although the Israelites were going through very difficult times, they still were not receiving what the really deserved….death and destruction.

Jeremiah says in verse 31, “For the Lord will not cast off for ever.”  The Lord was punishing His people by allowing Babylon to hold them in captivity.  However, He did not forget His people and would not cast them off forever.  The day would come that, when the Lord’s people repented and turned to Him that He would restore them to their land and punish those who held them in slavery.  Now let’s read Lamentations 3:37which says, “Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not?”  Now let’s read that verse out of the NASB for a clearer meaning.  That says, “Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, Unless the Lord has commanded it?”

The Lord’s rejection and punishment is neither unending nor without purpose.  While the Lord certainly disapproves of oppression and injustice, He could and He did, in His sovereignty, use these things to fulfill His will in punishing His people for their sins.  Babylon was powerless to capture and enslave the Lord’s people without the Lord allowing it to happen.  It was because of their sins that they were in such a condition.  It was not an act of the power of Babylon that the Lord’s people were in captivity; it was an act of the power and sovereignty of God.

In later years, after Ezra was used to rebuild the Lord’s temple, Nehemiah was used of the Lord to rebuild the walls of the city.  Nehemiah, in his prayer, completely vindicated the Lord in His punishment of His people.  In Nehemiah 1:5-6he prayed, “…I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments: Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned.”  Nehemiah freely acknowledged that these people had sinned against God and were punished by the One who, “keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love Him.”  (131.5)