Tuesday, 27 May 2014

LAMENTATIONS 5

LAMENTATIONS 5 - 'THE SURVIVORS TALE'
The final poem, again a lament of 22 verses (the same number as the Hebrew alphabet) but not a pure acrostic. Perhaps it reflects the chaotic state of the city? It is also shorter. Chapters 1-3 is made up of stanza's of three lines for each verse, chapter 4 has two line stanzas, now in chapter 5 each verse is just one line. There is a winding down. The second part of each line is never more than three words.
It is set in the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem - v18. The suffering is not of the same intensity, but it endures and there is seemingly no end to it. Life will never be the same again, never as it once was. How do you live in the aftermath?
The answer is given to us in this lament.- LIVE BY PRAYER
The whole lament is a prayer, from the start -v1, to the finish v21-22.
Look briefly at other examples of laments -Psalms 44, 60, 74, 80, 83, 89.
A lament according to Westermann may comprise the following parts:
1. Address and cry for help
2. The lament
3. Confession of Trust
4. Petition
5. Vow of Praise
Lamentations 5 is written so that v2-10 the first person plural occurs almost 20 times; this is dropped for v11-14, and reappears in v15-22. This gives us a guide for dividing the lament up.
A. LOOK AT WHAT WE HAVE BECOME -v1-10
v1 Someone has commented that this is perhaps the most insistent prayer in the whole Old Testament.
[1] We have lost our inheritance - v2-3.
The law of Moses did everything possible to ensure that each family kept it's inheritance - even down to the year of Jubilee.
Now the land that God promised to Abraham, gave to the people in the time of Joshua, reached it's greatest point under Solomon, now belongs to others. It continued to do so until Israel became a state in 1946.
The Babylonians destroyed all the houses in Jerusalem - 2 Kings 25:9 And he burned the house of the LORD and the king’s house and all the houses of Jerusalem; every great house he burned down.
'The remaining inhabitants are without land, property, and without protection - like penniless paupers, widows and orphans' Walter C. Kaiser Jr.
[2] We are being exploited for the basic necessities of life - v4
The rich become richer, the poor become poorer!
[3] Our enemies oppress us - v5-10
v5 They are given no rest (the theme we have seen in Hebrews 3&4)
Why? v6-7 they made alliances with Assyria and Egypt when God had told them not to do so. They put their trust in man rather than in God. The prophets warned them against this:
Jerm 2:18 And now what do you gain by going to Egypt to drink the waters of the Nile? Or what do you gain by going to Assyria to drink the waters of the Euphrates?
Jerm 2:36 How much you go about, changing your way! You shall be put to shame by Egypt as you were put to shame by Assyria v37 From it too you will come away with your hands on your head, for the LORD has rejected those in whom you trust, and you will not prosper by them.
v7 They confess their sins. Do we give enough attention to this? Have we over reacted to the Roman Catholic confessional box image of confession such that we barely confess our sins to God at all?
Ps 32:5 I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
v8-10 More details of the difficulties they are facing. These are some of the curses of the covenant the people were warned about if they were unfaithful:
Deut 28:48 therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything. And he will put a yoke of iron on your neck until he has destroyed you.

B. LISTEN TO MY STORY - v11-14
People from all levels of society were suffering:
[1] v11 Women and virgins were raped - Angelina Jolie & William Hague have been highlighting this horrific aspect of conflicts occurring today.
[2] v12a Princes ill treated. Hung up to die.
[3] v12b Even the elderly are abused.
[4] v13 Young men and boys are used as slave labour.
[5] v14 Relaxation pastimes for young and old are no more. The old men would gather at the city gate and talk together, the young listened to their music - but these pastimes were now forbidden or not possible.
Everyone has a story of their individual suffering.

C. CONTINUE TO CALL ON THE LORD - v15-22
[1] v15 What a change has taken place in society. The party's over. No more laughter. The dance floor is silent and empty. Compare countries before the 1st World War and afterwards.
[2] v16 Our crown has fallen - we have lost our position and honour in the eyes of the world. Why? Because of our sin.
[3] v17 Look into our eyes. They are dull. The joy and laughter, the sparkle and brightness of life has faded. Our eyes reveal our heart. Our sick heart.
[4] v18 Mount Zion, the joy of the whole earth (see Psalm 48:2) is desolate. This is the city of the great King! Now it is the day of the jackals.
Where has the hope and faith gone from the high point of Lamentations 3:22-24? We have come along way down into the valley from that mountain top.
Grief is like that. There may be times when you soar on the wings of an eagle. Faith is strong. The Lord is near. The next day, or even the next minute you have crashed down to earth. You begin to learn to endure the pain. To live with it. You know that grace will come and lift you up again. This is what we find in the next verse:
[5] v19 We lift up our eyes to the Lord. He is unchanged. Everything else has changed, most for the worst, but not the Lord.
Psalm 102:12 But you, O LORD, are enthroned forever; you are remembered throughout all generations.
We can come to him, even though we have sinned and are guilty - because of Jesus our great High Priest.
What can we say to the Lord?
[6] v20-22 A prayer for restoration and renewal. (Two terms that were hijacked by the charismatic movement and given a 'twist' in meaning. WE need to reclaim them and give them their proper meaning.
Restoration is not about spiritual gifts but about the Lord himself. It is a prayer for restoring our relationship with him. Restoring that sense of his presence that has been missing for so long as described in v20. It is about restoring us to that experience of the love of God. In an earlier study we saw:
(1) God's love of benevolence (big heartedness, giving out of generosity, kindness, grace,) seen in election and predestination.
(2) God's love of beneficence (a gift that is not deserved or earned, but is generously and freely given).
(3) God's love of delight or friendship in which he rewards his people for their holiness and obedience to his commandments.
It is the last that they are praying for Isaiah 62:4-5 You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married.
For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.
What do you think of the ending of Lamentations?
It is not a happy ending.It seems an incomplete ending. That is so not just for Lamentations but for all the Old Testament. The Old Testament is incomplete. It needs the new Testament.
2Co 3:6 ..who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. 2 Co 3:14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away.
Paul can speak of the new and old testaments. He was aware that what he and others were writing was scripture, the completion of the story.



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