The book of Lamentations records the “laments” (tearful expressions of grief) of the prophet Jeremiah. If anyone in the Bible knew about grief, it was Jeremiah. This book is filled with tears and sorrow. It is a hymn of heartbreak. Lamentations has been called the Wailing Wall of the Bible.
The prophet was not a crybaby; there was good reason for his tears. During Jeremiah’s ministry, Israel was growing weaker nationally, militarily, and spiritually. For forty years Jeremiah attempted to call his people and his nation back to God. No one seemed to listen to him, and the situation grew worse and worse. This was his message: “Repent, O Jerusalem, or sudden judgment and destruction will come upon you.”
Sure enough, Jeremiah witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC. As he saw it burn, he sat down in the ashes and hot tears streamed down his face. Actually, Jeremiah was sitting in the rubble of Jerusalem, weeping as he wrote his book of Lamentations. (Note: you can’t tell in English, but he wrote the book in an alphabetical style, beginning each chapter with the Hebrew letter A, or aleph, and progressing verse by verse through the Hebrew alphabet, literally weeping from A to Z.)
Our chapter today is the only bright spot in the whole book. Here, in the middle of his grief, Jeremiah can see the hand of God’s mercy reaching down. The first twenty verses of the chapter record Jeremiah’s feelings about witnessing the inescapable judgment of God. Along with the other survivors of the Babylonian invasion, he had personally felt the physical and emotional sting of judgment (v.1-6). He knew the spiritual alienation of God’s punishment (v.7-9). He identified with an animal that had been hunted down (v.10-15). We learn from Jeremiah’s tearful testimony that judgment follows sin as surely as night follows day.
But in the darkness of his grief he saw some bright rays of hope (v.22-23, 31-33):
The love of the Lord never fails!
His mercy is new and abundant every day!
He is faithful to His people — even when we are unfaithful to Him!
He punishes and disciplines, but He never stops loving!
Jeremiah shared a personal testimony about God’s mercy in verses 55-58. At one point in his ministry, some people who did not like his message seized him and threw him into an empty cistern, leaving him to die in the mud at the bottom (see Jeremiah 38:1-13). But God had mercy on Jeremiah and rescued him. Remembering that experience, the prophet wrote, “I called on Your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit; You heard my plea…You came near when I called on You; You said, ‘Do not fear!'”
That’s our God. If you place your faith in Him, you will not be disappointed. Great is His faithfulness! He won’t let you down. He won’t leave you stranded and alone. “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him” (v.25). You can count on Him to see you through.
If you are down today, take heart! Tomorrow morning there may be a new set of problems waiting at your doorstep, but there will also be new mercy waiting for you. You may have failed the Lord yesterday, but today is a brand new day, and His mercy is new every morning. You may feel as if you are going through the darkest night of your life, but take heart — the sun is about to rise, and there is new love, new mercy, and new provision for you. Go ahead — get your hopes up!