Nestled amongst the major prophets of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel lies the small but powerful book of Lamentations. While the prophets offer the dooming judgment of Almighty God upon Israel and Judah, trapped within the chaos and devastation of their own making, Lamentations allows a glimpse of the raw, exposed emotions of Jerusalem and their cry to The Almighty. This book is a nation — an entire race of people — in agony and despair recognizing its responsibility and ownership in its current depravity and rejection by God.
This book speaks of horrors occurring against and within Jerusalem: armies rising against the people, mothers eating their children, humility of a once-beloved nation, a beautiful city now destroyed and in dust, bodies that waste away in disease and decay.
What is most striking is the fact that this nation, according to the Sacred Writer, acknowledges her responsibility in the devastation she now faces:
“The LORD is in the right, for I have rebelled against his word…” (1:18)
“The LORD has done what he purposed, he has carried out his threat…” (2:17)
“Why should any who draw breath complain about the punishment of their sins?” (3:39)
This book reveals the anguish of the people as a nation, BUT she also accepts her portion as due consequence of her previous actions.
Additionally, through its devastation, she honors God and blesses His sovereignty:
“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end…” (3:22)
“For the LORD will not reject forever…” (3:31)
“You have taken up my cause, O LORD, you have redeemed my life…” (3:58)
God’s justice is acknowledged; His mercy is present though not immediately felt by the people. What makes this book invaluable to the canon is that this is the one book that offers the cries of an entire nation in mourning over the loss of her relationship with the Father of her ancestors. AND she bears the full responsibility for her loss. Even though the writer mentions the love and mercy of God, the last two verses of the book offer substantial doubt if she is a people who even could be redeemed:
“Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may be restored; renew our days as of old—-unless you have utterly rejected us, and are angry with us beyond measure.” (5:21-22).