This is an exposition of Lamentations 1:1-22. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, January 7, 2018.
At 8:46 on the morning of September 11, 2001 American Airlines flight 11 struck the North Tower of the World Trade City.
News quickly spread about this terrible accident in the heart of New York City. The plane struck between floors 99 and 93 killing 76 passengers and 11 crew members instantly. As local and national news outlets covering the story were trying to determine how such an accident could happen American Airline flight 175 struck the South Tower at 9:03 killing 51 passengers and 9 crew members. Panic set in. This was no accident. At 9:37 flight 77 struck the Pentagon. At 9:59 the South Tower collapsed more than 800 civilians and first responders perished. 10:03 flight 93 went down in Shanksville, Pennsylvania killing 33 passengers and 7 crew members. 10:28 the North Tower collapsed more than 1,600 died. In just 1 hour and 42 minutes 2,996 died; lower Manhattan was in rubble and a nation was shaken. A month later I was walking through ground zero midst the sounds of cranes and large equipment filling tractor trailers with debris. Everywhere you look there was devastation. The fires still burning under the 7 stories of debris that remained. It had been a month. Everyday, around the clock workers worked to clear the rubble. Trucks were lined up in every direction, waiting their turn. Drivers delivered their loads to the waste site and got back inline for the next load. 24/7 for a solid month and it look as if nothing had been done. First responders still search for the remains of victims. I spoke to one firefighter and asked how long he had been at ground zero. “Everyday sense the day it happened. I’ve got a brother, 2 cousins and an uncle buried in there and I’m not leaving until they are found.” The nation mourned, wept and expressed its anger. “We want those responsible to be brought to justice.” Those responsible. Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell dared to suggest that perhaps this was a judgment from God. Both were ridiculed and shamed until they withdrew their remarks. Is it such a far-fetched notion? Is it unthinkable that a sovereign, holy and righteous God would allow such devastation? Is it unthinkable that a nation would be held accountable for moral decay and failure to live according to the standards it confesses?
His name was Jeremiah. A man called to serve as a prophet to the nation of Judah. For decades he had warned that God would not be mocked, that nations reap what they sow. He pleaded with the nation to return to God. Turn away from their idols, live and govern according to truth and righteousness. The nation refused. Judgment came at the hands of the Babylonian Empire. The city of Jerusalem was under siege from 588-587. In 586 the Babylonians broke through the city walls and left the city in ruins. The temple was destroyed. The palace ransacked. Judah’s best and brightest were exiled to a distant land. Those who remained were ravished by hunger and loss. The prophet wept. Our text this evening is found in the book of Lamentations, chapter 1.
Text: Lamentations 1:1-22
This book is often referred to as, “the forgotten book.” It’s not an easy book to read. It’s awfully depressing. So, naturally I thought, “What better way to begin a new year than with a series of funeral messages?” The book has 5 chapters. Three of which are funeral dirges or songs. The last chapter is a prayer and chapter 3, the climax of the book is a message of hope. The book is a work of Hebrew poetry. Chapters 1, 2 and 4 are written as an acrostic. Each verse begins with a succeeding letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Thus each contains 22 verses. You might say it expresses grief from A to Z. Chapter 3 is a triple acrostic. The first 3 verses all begin with he first letter of the alphabet, verse 4-6 with the second letter and so on, thus 66 verses. While verse 3 also records lament it also stresses the goodness and faithfulness of God in the midst of such suffering and devastation.
Lamentations is written to express grief over loss but also to help God’s people to cope with that loss and deliver them from despair as the prophet reminds them of God’s presence and His rule over them and over all things. It is a work of theodicy expressing God’s goodness and power amid pain and suffering.
There are at least 5 theological themes ruing through the pages of this lament.
- God is sovereign.
- Sin shatters the relationship between God and man.
- Cherished institutions are not exempt from God’s judgment.
- Suffering is real.
- Hope is found in God alone.
Suffering, heartache and pain are inevitable in this fallen, broken world. How are we to respond? How are we to navigate these troubled waters? For some answers we turn to the weeping prophet.
Thesis: Weathering the storm of crushing loss and profound suffering demands an honest assessment of what is lost; the acknowledgment of the root cause of such devastation; and a genuine affirmation of God’s goodness and righteousness.
It is natural to note some similarities between the suffering of Judah and that of Job. Both certain are forced to deal with crushing loss. Both affirm that God has allowed/brought this sorrow. However there are major differences. This is national suffering whereas Job’s was personal. Job was innocent, he didn’t deserve it - Judah brought this on herself. But certain themes overlap.
There are three things I want us to note as we work through this first chapter.
- Suffering’s Suffocating Presence. (1:1-11)
- Confession of National Sin and Pride. (1:5, 8, 18)
There is a third thing that is connected to and ought to accompany this second point…
- A Genuine Affirmation of God’s Goodness and Righteousness. (1:18, 20)
The prophet is reminding the people as hard as this is, God was right to bring judgment. That doesn’t mean the people must “like” it. It doesn’t mean this is pleasant or enjoyable but we must acknowledge God is holy and righteous in all He does. This is why the NT calls us to rejoice in all things and to give thanks for all things. Because we know that God is able to work all things together for the good of those who love him and are called according to His purpose.
We are to respond to suffering with humility and patience, quick to confess any sin. Your sufferings are a message to you - do not despise or waste them. Take them as a work of refining grace.