“Jeremiah Mourning Over the Destruction of Jerusalem,” (Rembrandt, 1630)







Pastor Connie and I finished our sermon series on favorite Life Verses from the Bible, chosen by ABCers who shared theirs with us. We thought we had covered them all, but Bill Zobrist reminded me of the one he had talked with me about some months ago. I trust this Messenger article will do in place of a sermon. 

Lamentations, as its title suggests, is the saddest Book in the Bible. Scholars aren’t completely sure of its authorship, but it has long been attributed to the Prophet Jeremiah, who watched helplessly as the armies of Babylon captured Jerusalem and subjected its people; and finally, in 587 BC, destroyed the great Temple, which had stood as a symbol of Israel’s God for over four hundred years. The deep sorrow of the Prophet, as he watched his whole life’s ministry go down the drain, is expressed in Lamentation’s profound words of Hebrew poetry: “affliction under the rod of God’s wrath” (3:1), “darkness without any light” (vs. 2), “bitterness and tribulation” (vs. 5), “sit in darkness like the dead” (vs.6), “heavy chains on me” (vs. 7), “tore me to pieces” “desolate” (vs. 11), “laughingstock” (vs.14), “teeth grind on gravel” “cower in ashes” (vs. 16), “bereft of peace” “forgotten what happiness is” (vs.17). The worst of it is that it feels to Jeremiah like this was all God’s personal attack on him!        

           So I say, “Gone is my glory
                       and all that I had hoped for from the Lord.”
               The thought of my affliction and my homelessness
                       is wormwood and gall!
               My soul continually thinks of it
                       and is bowed down within me. (Lamentations 3:18-20)

How low can you go? 

Now, here are the surprising verses Bill Zobrist focused on:

               But this I call to mind,
                     and therefore I have hope:
               The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
                       his mercies never come to an end;
                they are new every morning;
                       great is your faithfulness.
               “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
                       “therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:21-24)

Bill fixed on the prominence of the word hope in this passage: in verses 18, 21, 24 and 29. In the face of utter hopelessness, hope still looms large. The Holy City is a pile of rubble, the King has been deposed, the Temple is in ashes, the Prophet is disgraced. But hope is still alive, because the God of Hope is still alive:

                       “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
                                  “therefore I will hope in him.”

 Thanks, Jeremiah. Thanks, Bill.

 – – Pastor George Van Alstine