Lamentations 1:1-5 :
How the city sits solitary,
that was full of people!
She has become as a widow,
who was great among the nations!
She who was a princess among the provinces
has become a slave!
She weeps bitterly in the night.
Her tears are on her cheeks.
Among all her lovers
she has no one to comfort her.
All her friends have dealt treacherously with her.
They have become her enemies.
Judah has gone into captivity because of affliction
and because of great servitude.
She dwells among the nations.
She finds no rest.
All her persecutors overtook her in her distress.
The roads to Zion mourn,
because no one comes to the solemn assembly.
All her gates are desolate.
Her priests sigh.
Her virgins are afflicted,
and she herself is in bitterness.
Her adversaries have become the head.
Her enemies prosper;
for Yahweh has afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions.
Her young children have gone into captivity before the adversary.
In the book of Jeremiah, we learned that the prophet was allowed to live in Judah after most of the people were removed from the land by Babylon. In this book, Jeremiah writes sad poetry to tell us what it was like there. It isn’t apparent in English, but the Hebrew poetry in this book follows very strict forms. It has exact numbers of verses and those verses start with consecutive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. I am told that there are five poems here, the first four of which follow the acrostic pattern. That makes this a very difficult work in literature.
In this first poem, we read about the sorrow of seeing Judah empty after having been a thriving and powerful country for so long. We read that no one helps her even though she used to have many “lovers.” They have now become her enemies. We are reminded that no one goes to the temple any more or meets at the gates of the city. We read that Israel’s enemies are now in charge and are prosperous.
In these first five verses, we are also reminded about why this has happened. “Yahweh has afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions.” God is using Jeremiah to give us a close look at what it feels like to be judged by God for sin. Why did God have Jeremiah write these sad things down in such an elaborate way? That’s a question that I would like us to consider as we continue our journey through these poems. I don’t believe that these poems are just about how sad Jeremiah was. I believe that we will discover that they hold an encouraging message for us about what our response should be and what God’s discipline produces in those He loves.