The book of Lamentations teaches us how to grieve.
The high point has been crossed (Lam 3:22-24). Now we must come down the slopes of grief. However, grieving does not suddenly end. The remaining chapters will bring us to a position that at the beginning of Lamentations seemed impossible, a place where we can live with the grief and life can go on.
Part of working through grief is to name what has been lost. To face up to the causes. To bring the real picture before God in prayer. Chapter four furthers this process.
Once again the Lament is in the form of an acrostic poem. This time each stanza (verse) is only two lines of which only the first begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet. This slightly loser structure signifies a lessening of the intensity.
The chapter divides into three:
 v1-11 The experience of suffering
 v12-20 The causes of suffering
 v21-22 The hope that grows from the ashes of suffering
1. WHO SUFFERS? 4:1-11
v1 The Temple is in ruins. It's stones scattered on the streets. It's gold plundered.
v2 The sons of Zion, worth their weight in gold, are treated as no better than a cheap kitchen pot.
v3 Mothers treat their children with unimaginable cruelty - worse than the jackals treat their young, more like the Ostrich.
Job 39:13-17 “The wings of the ostrich wave proudly, but are they the pinions and plumage of love? For she leaves her eggs to the earth and lets them be warmed on the ground, forgetting that a foot may crush them and that the wild beast may trample them. She deals cruelly with her young, as if they were not hers; though her labour be in vain, yet she has no fear, because God has made her forget wisdom and given her no share in understanding.
Provan's commentary on Lamentations quotes Cramp's Handbook of the Birds of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa notes: "Under certain environmental conditions...the family group may break up when chicks are a few weeks old, the adults renewing sexual activity and becoming highly aggressive towards all juveniles. Chicks fledged in small numbers outside the breeding season are frequently treated as outcasts and live solitary."
The Ostrich is called by the Arabs: 'impious' or 'the ungodly bird'.
v4 The poster (word) picture of a famine.
v5 The rich are not immune to this suffering. They die like the poor in the streets.
v6 The theological explanation - this is God's judgement. The punishment has been greater than that of Sodom. Sodom was destroyed in an instant. The people of Jerusalem suffered a long time before dying. Why the difference? Jerusalem had been given greater privileges and so had a greater responsibility.
Luke 12:48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.
The same pictures we have just seen are viewed again, but this time the focus is on the princes (the leaders).
v7-8 The famine has changed their appearance. Beauty has become ashes. This is the reverse of revival described by Isaiah:
Isaiah 61:3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion-- to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.
v9 A quick death is preferable to this.
v10 Women have cooked and eaten their own children! (See 2 Kings 6:25-31 for an instance of this when Samaria was under siege.)
v11 The theological explanation - this is the wrath of God. Are you embarrassed by this? Never apologise for God's wrath.
Luke 13:4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
2. WHOSE TO BLAME? 4:12-20
When ever asking that question we need to begin by examining ourselves and confessing our responsibility and sins.
We need to remember that our flesh is loath to take any responsibility for anything that goes wrong. We are all blame shifters by sinful nature. We would rather blame someone else, our wives/husbands, even God (Adam blamed Eve and God, Eve blamed the serpent). It takes grace to confess and repent.
v12 It was well known that Jerusalem was the 'City of God'. They thought it was impregnable! God would protect Jerusalem.
The enemy had reached the gates only to be destroyed.
2 Kings 19:32-35 “Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there, or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it.
By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the LORD. For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.”
And that night the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies."
v13 Whose to blame? Everyone for all have sinned, but not all are equally to blame. Here the religious leaders are singled out for a larger portion of the blame. It was the prophets and priests.
What did they do, or fail to do? They were guilty of shedding the blood of the righteous. They had told the people what they wanted to hear. They were guilty in two ways:
 Their failure to warn the people:
Eze 3:18 If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.
 Their opposition to those who were righteous. An opposition that led to the murder of some. They had wanted to put Jeremiah to death, he was spared but other prophets fared less well - see Jeremiah 27:7-24.
v14-15: The false prophets and corrupt priests were exposed by the destruction of Jerusalem for what they really were. They were treated by the people as vagabonds and lepers.
v16 Again a theological explanation - this was the Lord's judgement on the leaders (this time the elders are mentioned as well.)
v17-19: They looked for help from other nations, especially Egypt. The end drew near. There was no escape. No help came.
v20 Then king Zedekiah was captured and taken to Babylon - see 2 Kings 25:1-7.
3. WHAT HOPE FOR THE FUTURE? 4:21-22
v21 Edom, the descendants of Esua, far from helping their 'brother' rejoiced over the fall of Jerusalem. Their day of judgement will come. They too will drink from the cup of God's wrath. See the book of Obadiah.
v22 The punishment of the Lord's people will come to an end. Their exile will be over. Here is hope. Their grief which they are now experiencing will not stop life from going on. Edom however will be punished.
Jeremiah 50:20 In those days and in that time, declares the LORD, iniquity shall be sought in Israel, and there shall be none. And sin in Judah, and none shall be found, for I will pardon those whom I leave as a remnant.
Only in the gospel is their real hope.