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2nd July

Lamentations 4-5; Psalm 28

Bible in a Year
6 minutes
In this article
2nd July

Lamentations 4-5; Psalm 28

Bible in a Year
6 minutes


So far we’ve started the book of Lamentations. This book was written by someone who witnessed, first-hand, the destruction of Jerusalem and is now processing the suffering and brokenness that they saw. We saw this reflected in the violent imagery and language they used.

This book, much like many of the other books we've read, is not a clean and pretty book. It's raw and explicit and emotional. The more we try to clean up the Bible and make it pretty and easy to read, the more we actually dishonour the human emotions that the Bible is trying to speak to and heal. The first four poems are acrostic, where each section starts with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

We read through the first poem, which pictured Jerusalem as a widow who had lost her husband and children and was working through her pain. The brokenness and wickedness that she saw pointed her inward to look at the brokenness and wickedness she'd expressed in her own life. Then we read through the second poem that focused on God's wrath; his righteous judgement against the continual wickedness of a people over centuries.

Then came the third poem where we read through the wrestlings of one man who suffered through Jerusalem's destruction. His wrestling allowed him to work through his pain towards some sort of hope, and we saw how it could be broken down into five steps. Step one, he recognised the reality that the situation we're going through is hard. Step two, he reminded himself of the truth of God's goodness. Step three, he identified the sin and brokenness in his life that needed to change. Step four, he acknowledged the consequences that his sin has had. And step five, he asked God to break into his situation and then trusted that God will.

Lamentations 4-5

The fourth poem continues the example set in the poems before in being an acrostic, with each verse starting with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet. This gets lost in translation into English, but these details help us understand the intention of the author was for these poems to be an A-Z, or א-ת, of working through lament.

This poem focuses on contrasts. A temple that was once laden with gold, is now scattered through the streets. A people who were once valued like gold are now like bits of pottery smashed on the floor. While jackals, of which there are now plenty, feed and look after their young, the women of Jerusalem have given up trying. Those who ate well are now starving.

The destruction of Jerusalem has been even worse than the destruction of Sodom back in Genesis 19. The men of Jerusalem were handsome and healthy, but now they are weak and unrecognisable. It was better to be one of the ones who died by the sword than those who lived and are now starving. Women who were compassionate have resorted to eating their own children. These comparisons make the reality of the current brokenness and suffering so much worse.

This was all as a result of God's wrath. The people had got proud. They figured no enemy could breach their walls. This was in part because of the priests and the false prophets, who, instead of leading the people to God, led them away from him. And now it has become clear how false these priests and prophets have become, and when people see them, they hurl abuse at them.

When destruction was still coming, the people put their trust in foreign nations in the hope they would come and save them, rather than putting their trust in God. But those foreign nations never came, and their enemies began to chase them in the streets. They followed the people as they fled the city. God's 'anointed' one, the king Zedekiah, was captured. The people had put their trust in him as well, and he had failed them.

And then the writer turns to the people of Edom, who had celebrated the destruction of Jerusalem and Judah, and used it as an opportunity to claim land for themselves. The writer warns them they might be celebrating now, but God will soon pour out on them the same wrath he poured out on Jerusalem. You may remember the book of Obadiah was focused on speaking Judgement over Edom in the same way.

The fifth and last poem is the same length as the others, but it has abandoned the acrostic pattern. It's almost like the writer's grief has got so bad they cannot contain it in structured poetry. They cry out to God to look at his people and their suffering.

Strangers have claimed their land. They are like orphans without mothers or fathers. They can no longer get water themselves but have to pay for it. They are oppressed by other nations and are being punished for sins their parents made. They are even lower than slaves and they live in fear of death by sword or starvation. Young women are being raped. Young men are left dangling from ropes, tied up by their hands. There is no music, or joy, or dancing. This has all happened because the people sinned. Their hearts had become sick and their eyes had grown dim to God's truth.

Once again, the writer has taken the time to recognise the suffering and brokenness they are facing. They're not trying to hide from it, or pretend like everything is okay. They're facing it head on. But then, like before, they pivot and remind themselves of God's truth and goodness. "But you, O Lord, reign forever; your throne endures to all generations." (Lamentations 5:19).

The book ends on a request and an unanswered question. “Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old — unless you have utterly rejected us, and you remain exceedingly angry with us” (Lamentations 5:21-22). While the write is holding on to some sort of hope, there’s still that question for them. Will God rescue them, or has he finally given up on his people?

This open ending is almost a call to the reader to continue in this wrestling for themselves. If you ever had any doubt on whether it is okay to lament or grieve as a Christian, we have now read a whole book about it. Lament is an essential theme of the Bible. It is how we move from the very real suffering we face to the hope that we have in God.

Maybe you've never experienced lament before. Maybe you've been taught that because we have hope, we should always be happy and positive. But all too often, that leaves our hurts to fester inside of us and kills our joy. Lament allows us to process through the suffering so we can experience the hope.

The book of Lamentation, along with all the lament psalms that make up nearly a third of the all psalms, shows us that lament is a core part of how God’s people engage with God. In the wider context of the Bible, we know the answer to the unanswered question. God hasn’t given up on his people. He is still working to restore them and all creation to himself. Sometimes we still need to wrestle through hurt, confusion, and frustration to bring ourselves back to that truth.

Psalm 28 

This psalm is attributed to king David and falls into the category of lament psalm. There is the possibility that it was a prayer of a king as they are going through potential threats to their life. We’ll see this at the end of the psalm.

Psalm 28:1-2 - A prayer for help

Psalm 28:3-5 - A prayer for the wicked to be punished

Psalm 28:6-8 - A declaration of trust in God

Psalm 28:9 - Final request

This lament psalm launches straight into asking God to intervene. The psalmist asks God to not ignore them; to not be deaf or silent to their troubles, because without God, they will continue to fade. 

The psalmist points out that they have been crying out to God and seeking him in his sanctuary. They have been faithful in seeking for God’s help, not trying to do it in their own strength.

Then comes the second request, punish the wicked. The psalmist clearly has enemies who are causing trouble, and so they ask God to give their enemies what they deserve. These are people who pretend to want the best for others but who’s only care is themselves. They do not care about God.

Having made their requests, the psalmist declares their trust in God. God does hear. He is the strength and shield of his people. And then it mentions that God “is the saving refuge of his anointed” (Psalm 28:8). This is the little clue that the psalmist is a king, as kings were often referred to as God’s anointed.

Anchored one more in their confidence in God, the psalmist ends with one last request. May he save his people, like a shepherd who carries his sheep.

Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.

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