WEEK 4: Devastated, and Without a Comforter – Lamentations 1
Lamentations 1 divides neatly into two halves: verses 1–11 and 12–22.
In verses 1–11, the main voice is that of a reporter or narrator – traditionally believed to be the prophet Jeremiah. The reporter describes the horrific fate and humanitarian crisis that has befallen Jerusalem, which is personified as a woman (Lady Zion). In these verses, Lady Zion’s voice is heard twice as she cries out in anguish to Yahweh/God, imploring Him to at least ‘look’.
According to the report, the battered Lady Zion has been abandoned by her ‘lovers’ and betrayed by her ‘friends’ (v. 2). Now there is no one to comfort her. Even though she is still in a covenant relationship with Yahweh, in reality she deserted Him long ago. Bored with Yahweh, she took many ‘lovers’. Yet now that disaster has befallen her, she is alone.
Read Lamentations 1:1–11. When Lady Zion cries out in verses 9c and 11c, she only asks one thing from Yahweh – what is it? What do you think she is hoping to achieve?
In verses 12–22, the main voice is that of Lady Zion. She has cried out to God, pleading with Him to look and see, but received only silence in return. So now she turns to the passers-by and pleads with them for their attention. After appealing to the passers-by (v. 11) and warning the nations (v. 18), Lady Zion cries out to Yahweh again (vv. 20–22), pleading that He look at her, see her distress and consider the enemy’s gloating. She challenges Yahweh to punish the enemy’s sins just as He has punished hers.
Read Lamentations 1:12–22. Think: Have you ever experienced a situation where you had to suffer alone – helpless and without a comforter? What difference does it make to have someone see and acknowledge your pain?
Do you think severely persecuted, war-ravaged and traumatised believers might appreciate and need our witness (seeing), our support (comforting) and our prayers (advocacy before God)? In practice, how do we do this?
When the Apostle Paul was imprisoned in Rome, he lamented to Timothy that all the believers in Asia (modern-day Turkey) turned away from him; all, that is, except Onesiphorus, who was ‘not ashamed’ of Paul’s chains (2 Tim 1:15–16). It seems that the believers in Asia had decided that it was not in their interest to associate with Paul when he was a prisoner. Maybe they did not want to risk guilt by association. Maybe they did not want the burden of caring. Maybe they didn’t want anything to dampen their joyous celebrations. Maybe they didn’t want anything to threaten their denial of the reality of persecution.
A challenge is to think what sort of Christians we are – are we the ‘passers-by’/observers of Lamentations 1:12? Do we embrace other Christians when they come bearing good news as beacons of victory, but distance ourselves from Christians when they are needy and distressed? How can we ‘bear one another’s burdens’ (Galatians 6:2)?
Elizabeth Kendal is a dedicated international religious liberty analyst and advocate. Elizabeth maintains two blogs: Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) to facilitate strategic mission, aid, advocacy and prayer; and Religious Liberty Monitoring (providing additional news and analysis).