595.) Lamentations 5

August 12, 2011

Lamentations 5

(Contemporary English Version)

A Prayer for Mercy

I make it a point to avoid politics in this blog, but today’s “Prayer for Mercy” has me thinking about current events in the United States and around the world.  So much pain and sadness.  So much injustice.  So much evil.  So today, for each of the following 22 verses, would you please, Reader, supply the mental picture.  And would you please, Believer, pray to the Lord to have mercy on all these people and nations who are desperate for peace of body and soul. 

The People of Jerusalem Pray:

1Our LORD, don’t forget

how we have suffered

and been disgraced.

2Foreigners and strangers

have taken our land

and our homes.

3We are like children

whose mothers

are widows.

4The water we drink

and the wood we burn

cost far too much.

5We are terribly mistreated;

we are worn out

and can find no rest.

6We had to surrender

to Egypt and Assyria

because we were hungry.

7Our ancestors sinned,

but they are dead,

and we are left

to pay for their sins.

8Slaves are now our rulers,

and there is no one

to set us free.

9We are in danger

from brutal desert tribes;

we must risk our lives

just to bring in our crops.

   10Our skin is scorched

from fever and hunger.

11On Zion and everywhere in Judah

our wives and daughters

are being raped.

12Our rulers are strung up

by their arms,

and our nation’s advisors

are treated shamefully.

13Young men are forced

to do the work of slaves;

boys must carry

heavy loads of wood.

14Our leaders are not allowed

to decide cases in court,

and young people

no longer play music.

15Our hearts are sad;

instead of dancing,

we mourn.

16Zion’s glory has disappeared!

And we are doomed

because of our sins.

17We feel sick all over

and can’t even see straight;

18our city is in ruins,

overrun by wild dogs.

19You will rule forever, LORD!

You are King for all time.

20Why have you forgotten us for so long?

21Bring us back to you!

Give us a fresh start.

22Or do you despise us

so much

that you don’t want us?

Lord, we commend all for whom we pray into your tender and merciful care, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

_________________________

Music:

“Breathe”  by Michael W. Smith — but the line I always remember (in my lamentations) is, “I’m desperate for you.”

_________________________

Contemporary English Version (CEV)   Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society

Images courtesy of:
Lord have mercy.    http://www.stjohntacoma.org/images/blog_img/lord_have_mercy.jpg

594.) Lamentations 4

August 11, 2011

Jeremiah, by Michelangelo, 1511 (Sistine Chapel, Rome)

Lamentations 4

(Contemporary English Version)

The Punishment of Jerusalem

The Prophet Speaks:

1The purest gold is ruined

and has lost its shine;

jewels from the temple

lie scattered in the streets.

2These are Zion’s people,

worth more than purest gold;

yet they are counted worthless

like dishes of clay.

3Even jackals nurse their young,

“The most common social unit of jackals is that of a monogamous pair which defends its territory from other pairs by vigorously chasing intruding rivals and marking landmarks around the territory.  The territory may be large enough to hold some young adults who stay with their parents until they establish their own territories.”

–Wikipedia

_________________________

but my people are like ostriches

that abandon their own.

4Babies are so thirsty

that their tongues are stuck

to the roof of the mouth.

Children go begging for food,

but no one gives them any.

Matthew 25:40 (New International Version)

The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

_________________________

5All who ate expensive foods

lie starving in the streets;

those who grew up in luxury

now sit on trash heaps.

6My nation was punished worse

than the people of Sodom,

whose city was destroyed in a flash

without the help of human hands.

   7The leaders of Jerusalem

were purer than snow and whiter than milk;

their bodies were healthy and glowed like jewels.

   8Now they are blacker than tar,

and no one recognizes them;

their skin clings to their bones

and is drier than firewood.

9Being killed with a sword is better

than slowly starving to death.

“I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. Third, and what’s worse, you’re more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.”

–evangelist Tony Campolo

_________________________

10Life in the city is so bad

that loving mothers

have boiled

and eaten their own children.

_________________________

Music:

Oh, the children!  The Baylor University Men’s Choir sings “The Prayer of the Children.”

Can you hear the prayer of the children
on bended knee, in the shadow of an unknown room?
Empty eyes with no more tears to cry
turning heavenward toward the light.

Crying, “Jesus, help me
to see the morning light of one more day,
but if I should die before I wake,
I pray my soul to take.”

Can you feel the hearts of the children
aching for home, for something of their very own.
Reaching hands with nothing to hold onto
but hope for a better day, a better day.

Crying, “Jesus, help me
to feel the love again in my own land,
but if unknown roads lead away from home,
give me loving arms, away from harm.”

(oooooo la la la la)

Can you hear the voice of the children
softly pleading for silence in their shattered world?
Angry guns preach a gospel full of hate,
blood of the innocent on their hands.

Crying, “Jesus, help me
to feel the sun again upon my face?
For when darkness clears, I know you’re near,
bringing peace again.”

Dali čujete sve dječje molitve?

Can you hear the prayer of the children?

_________________________

11The LORD was so fiercely angry

that he burned the city of Zion

to the ground.

12Not a king on this earth

or the people of any nation

believed enemies could break

through her gates.

The Huldah Gates (Second Temple period) are the two sets of now-blocked gates in the  Southern Wall of the Temple Mount, situated in Jerusalem’s Old City.  The western set is a double arched gate (the double gate), and the eastern is a triple arched gate (the triple gate). Each arch of the double gate led into an aisle of a passageway leading from the gate into the Mount, and to steps leading to the Mount’s surface; when the al-Aqsa Mosque was built, the old steps were blocked, and the eastern aisle lengthened so that new steps from its end would exit north of the Mosque. The triple gate is similar, though the longer aisle is to the west, and its third aisle, on the east, forms the western boundary of the vaulted area known as Solomon’s Stables.   

–Wikipedia

_________________________

13Jerusalem was punished because

her prophets and her priests

had sinned and caused the death

of innocent victims.

14Yes, her prophets and priests

were covered with blood;

no one would come near them,

as they wandered from street to street.

15Instead, everyone shouted,

“Go away! Don’t touch us!

You’re filthy and unfit

to belong to God’s people!”

So they had to leave

and become refugees.

Egyptian immigration official:

Listen. Let’s get this straight. These people have arrived on our doorstep –illegally. No papers, no money. No proof or record of persecution.  No one to back up their story. I see no reason to grant them refugee status. We are a decent, caring people, but we’ve been the good guys for too long. These people are just taking advantage of us. Send them back where they came from. We have no room for any more illegals in this country. We have enough rubbish in this country already. We don’t want any more.

(from the play –  Jesus Was Once a Refugee)

_________________________

But foreign nations told them,

“You can’t stay here!”

   16The LORD is the one

who sent them scattering,

and he has forgotten them.

No respect or kindness will be shown

to the priests or leaders.

17Our eyes became weary,

hopelessly looking for help

from a nation that could not save us.

18Enemies hunted us down

on every public street.

Our time was up; our doom was near.

19They swooped down faster

than eagles from the sky.

Eagles soar down and then fly low at up to 75 miles per hour.  They usually snatch their prey with their feet (fish is their favorite).

_________________________

They hunted for us in the hills

and set traps to catch us out in the desert.

20The LORD’s chosen leader was our hope for survival!

We thought he would keep us safe

somewhere among the nations,

but even he was caught in one of their traps.

21You people of Edom can celebrate now!

But your time will come to suffer

and stagger around naked.

22The people of Zion have paid for their sins,

and the Lord will soon let them return home.

But, people of Edom,

you will be punished, and your sins exposed.

_________________________

Contemporary English Version (CEV)   Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society

Images courtesy of:
Michelangelo.    http://www.oberlin.edu/images/636F.JPG
jackal family.    http://www.cuboimages.it/FOTO/thumbs/EYE_cubo/EYE00647.jpg
child begging in Thailand.    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-EVX43AoP1Fc/Tf-ho9tOn4I/AAAAAAAADiY/HtY8hRxcY-0/s1600/child-begging-at-asok-station-display.jpg
malnutrition, child.    http://www.who.int/nutrition/pressnote_action_on_malnutrition_photo.jpg
Huldah Gates (Triple Gate).   http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_Z5P1CjCDib4/SoGyKm74bfI/AAAAAAAAGlE/52nPbKnqelQ/s400/IMG_1731-1.JPG
Flight into Egypt.    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-2JSz5pcmYek/TV1sDTrTYTI/AAAAAAAAPJQ/5_pFIGvSiys/s1600/Egypt.jpg
eagle.    http://images.inmagine.com/400nwm/iris/stockconnection-024/ptg00125573.jpg

593.) Lamentations 3

August 10, 2011

"The sufferings of Jeremiah" etching by Marc Chagall, 1939.

Lamentations 3

(Contemporary English Version)

There Is Still Hope

The Prophet Speaks:

1I have suffered much because God was angry.

2He chased me into a dark place, where no light could enter.

3I am the only one he punishes over and over again,

without ever stopping.

4God caused my skin and flesh to waste away,

and he crushed my bones.

5He attacked and surrounded me with hardships and trouble;

6he forced me to sit in the dark like someone long dead.

7God built a fence around me that I cannot climb over,

Job 19:8 (King James Version)

 He hath fenced up my way that I cannot pass, and he hath set darkness in my paths.

_________________________

and he chained me down.

8Even when I shouted and prayed for help,

he refused to listen.

9God put big rocks in my way

and made me follow a crooked path.

10God was like a bear or a lion waiting in ambush for me;

11he dragged me from the road, then tore me to shreds.

    12God took careful aim and shot his arrows

13straight through my heart.

Job 6:4 (New Living Translation)

For the Almighty has struck me down with his arrows.
      Their poison infects my spirit.
      God’s terrors are lined up against me.

_________________________

14I am a joke to everyone–

no one ever stops making fun of me.

15God has turned my life sour.

16He made me eat gravel and rubbed me in the dirt.

17I cannot find peace or remember happiness.

18I tell myself, “I am finished!

I can’t count on the LORD to do anything for me.”

19Just thinking of my troubles and my lonely wandering

makes me miserable.

20That’s all I ever think about, and I am depressed.

_________________________

“Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.”
Martin Luther

_________________________

21Then I remember something

that fills me with hope.

22The LORD’s kindness never fails!

If he had not been merciful,

we would have been destroyed.

   23The LORD can always be trusted

to show mercy each morning.

_________________________

Music:

Lamentations 3:22-23   (NIV)

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
   for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
   great is your faithfulness.

Here is Fernando Ortega singing a lovely, and uncommon, version of the hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.”

_________________________

24Deep in my heart I say,

“The LORD is all I need; I can depend on him!”

25The LORD is kind to everyone who trusts and obeys him.

26It is good to wait patiently for the LORD to save us.

27When we are young, it is good to struggle hard

28and to sit silently alone,

if this is what the LORD intends.

29Being rubbed in the dirt can teach us a lesson;

   30we can also learn from insults and hard knocks.

31The Lord won’t always reject us!

32He causes a lot of suffering,

but he also has pity because of his great love.

In his classic treatment of suffering, The Problem of Pain, C. S. Lewis wrote:

God whispers to us in our pleasures,
speaks in our conscience,
but shouts in our pain:
it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

Lewis argues that not only is it possible to find God when life is hard, but also it is in some sense easier than when life is good.

_________________________

33The Lord doesn’t enjoy sending grief or pain.

34Don’t trample prisoners under your feet

35or cheat anyone out of what is rightfully theirs.

God Most High sees everything,

36and he knows when you refuse

to give someone a fair trial.

37No one can do anything

without the Lord’s approval.

38Good and bad each happen

at the command of God Most High.

Psalm 33:11 (New Living Translation)

But the Lord’s plans stand firm forever;
      his intentions can never be shaken.

_________________________

39We’re still alive!

We shouldn’t complain

when we are being punished for our sins.

40Instead, we should think

about the way we are living,

and turn back to the LORD.

41When we lift our hands

in prayer to God in heaven,

we should offer him our hearts

and say, 42“We’ve sinned!

We’ve rebelled against you,

and you haven’t forgiven us!

43Anger is written all over you,

as you pursue and slaughter us

without showing pity.

44You are behind a wall of clouds

that blocks out our prayers.

from My Utmost for His Highest,
by Oswald Chambers

GOD’S SILENCE — THEN WHAT?

When He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was —John 11:6

Has God trusted you with His silence — a silence that has great meaning? God’s silences are actually His answers. Just think of those days of absolute silence in the home at Bethany! Is there anything comparable to those days in your life? Can God trust you like that, or are you still asking Him for a visible answer? God will give you the very blessings you ask if you refuse to go any further without them, but His silence is the sign that He is bringing you into an even more wonderful understanding of Himself. Are you mourning before God because you have not had an audible response? When you cannot hear God, you will find that He has trusted you in the most intimate way possible— with absolute silence, not a silence of despair, but one of pleasure, because He saw that you could withstand an even bigger revelation. If God has given you a silence, then praise Him— He is bringing you into the mainstream of His purposes. The actual evidence of the answer in time is simply a matter of God’s sovereignty. Time is nothing to God. For a while you may have said, “I asked God to give me bread, but He gave me a stone instead” (see Matthew 7:9).  He did not give you a stone, and today you find that He gave you the “bread of life” (John 6:35).

A wonderful thing about God’s silence is that His stillness is contagious— it gets into you, causing you to become perfectly confident so that you can honestly say, “I know that God has heard me.” His silence is the very proof that He has. As long as you have the idea that God will always bless you in answer to prayer, He will do it, but He will never give you the grace of His silence. If Jesus Christ is bringing you into the understanding that prayer is for the glorifying of His Father, then He will give you the first sign of His intimacy— silence.

_________________________

45You allowed nations

to treat us like garbage;

46our enemies curse us.

47We are terrified and trapped,

caught and crushed.”

48My people are destroyed!

Tears flood my eyes,

49and they won’t stop

50until the LORD looks down from heaven and helps.

51I am horrified when I see what enemies have done

to the young women of our city.

52No one had reason to hate me,

but I was hunted down like a bird.

53Then they tried to kill me

by tossing me into a pit and throwing stones at me.

54Water covered my head–

I thought I was gone.

55From the bottom of the pit, I prayed to you, LORD.

56I begged you to listen.

“Help!” I shouted. “Save me!”

You answered my prayer

57and came when I was in need.

You told me, “Don’t worry!”

58You rescued me and saved my life.

Hello, Jonah! To see more wall murals by Jerry Wallace, click HERE.

Jonah 2:5-7 (New Living Translation)

“I sank beneath the waves,
      and the waters closed over me.
      Seaweed wrapped itself around my head.
I sank down to the very roots of the mountains.
      I was imprisoned in the earth,
      whose gates lock shut forever.
   But you, O Lord my God,
      snatched me from the jaws of death!
As my life was slipping away,
      I remembered the Lord.
   And my earnest prayer went out to you
      in your holy Temple.”

_________________________

59You saw them abuse me, LORD,

so make things right.

60You know every plot they have made against me.

61Yes, you know their insults and their evil plans.

62All day long they attack with words and whispers.

63No matter what they are doing, they keep on mocking me.

64Pay them back for everything they have done, LORD!

65Put your curse on them and make them suffer.

     66Get angry and go after them

until not a trace is left under the heavens.

_________________________

Contemporary English Version (CEV)   Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society

Images courtesy of:
Chagall.    http://campus.udayton.edu/mary/gallery/works/lamentationofjeremiah.htm
dog fenced in.    http://www.chainlinkfence.com/_images/dk3.jpg
arrow through the heart.    http://rlv.zcache.com/cupid_arrow_in_heart_tshirt-p235058565772337845trlf_400.jpg
hope.  http://cache2.artprintimages.com/p/LRG/22/2205/V6CAD00Z/art-print/karen-tribett-hope.jpg
Thy will be done.  http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_fu8wMNQvYbM/Shn8e2cNsLI/AAAAAAAACcA/HRQ-JOhTMHw/s400/thy+will+be+done-sunset+copy+%28web%29.jpg
Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.     http://www.historyforkids.org/learn/religion/christians/lazarus.jpg
Jonah.     http://www.adventuresinartandmusic.ca/mural_home_page.html

592.) Lamentations 2

August 9, 2011

“Jeremiah lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem” by Rembrandt, 1630 (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)

Lamentations 2

(Contemporary English Version)

The LORD Was Like an Enemy

This chapter is also an acrostic poem, the verses of which begin with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

The Prophet Speaks:

1The Lord was angry!

So he disgraced Zion though it was Israel’s pride

and his own place of rest.

In his anger he threw Zion down from heaven to earth.

2The LORD had no mercy!

He destroyed the homes of Jacob’s descendants.

In his anger he tore down every walled city in Judah;

he toppled the nation together with its leaders,

leaving them in shame.

Psalm 89:39-40 (New International Version)

You have renounced the covenant with your servant
   and have defiled his crown in the dust.
You have broken through all his walls
   and reduced his strongholds to ruins.

3The Lord was so furiously angry

that he wiped out the whole army of Israel

by not supporting them when the enemy attacked.

He was like a raging fire

that swallowed up the descendants of Jacob.

4He attacked like an enemy with a bow and arrows,

killing our loved ones.

He has burned to the ground the homes on Mount Zion.

I know a woman whose house burned to the ground.  She says that even now, years after, she is sometimes jolted awake by the memory of yet another thing that was lost.  The blanket her grandmother had knit for her when she was born.  The baptismal dress her children wore.  Their wedding invitation, framed in a mother-of-pearl frame.  Her scrapbook of her brother’s senior year in high school, beginning with football practice (he was the quarterback) and ending with the car wreck the night after graduation.  Totally random, she says, the things she remembers.  And always with a pain deep inside. Life can be hard.

_________________________

5The Lord was like an enemy!

He left Israel in ruins

with its palaces and fortresses destroyed,

and with everyone in Judah moaning and weeping.

6He shattered his temple like a hut in a garden;

he completely wiped out his meeting place,

and did away with festivals and Sabbaths

in the city of Zion.

In his fierce anger he rejected our king and priests.

7The Lord abandoned his altar and his temple;

he let Zion’s enemies capture her fortresses.

Noisy shouts were heard from the temple,

as if it were a time of celebration.

Psalm 74:7-8 (New International Version)

They burned your sanctuary to the ground;
   they defiled the dwelling place of your Name.
They said in their hearts, “We will crush them completely!”
   They burned every place where God was worshiped in the land.

8The LORD had decided

to tear down the walls of Zion stone by stone.

So he started destroying and did not stop

until walls and fortresses mourned and trembled.

9Zion’s gates have fallen

facedown on the ground;

the bars that locked the gates are smashed to pieces.

Her king and royal family are prisoners in foreign lands.

Her priests don’t teach,

and her prophets don’t have a message from the LORD.

10Zion’s leaders are silent.

They just sit on the ground,

tossing dirt on their heads and wearing sackcloth.

Her young women can do nothing

but stare at the ground.

11My eyes are red from crying,

my stomach is in knots, and I feel sick all over.

Psalm 22:14 (New International Version)

I am poured out like water,
   and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
   it has melted within me.

_________________________

My people are being wiped out,

and children lie helpless in the streets of the city.

12A child begs its mother for food and drink,

then blacks out

like a wounded soldier lying in the street.

The child slowly dies in its mother’s arms.

13Zion, how can I comfort you?

Isaiah 40:1-2 (New International Version)

Comfort, comfort my people,
   says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
   and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
   that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the LORD’s hand
   double for all her sins.

_________________________

How great is your pain?

Lovely city of Jerusalem,

how can I heal your wounds, gaping as wide as the sea?

14Your prophets deceived you

with false visions and lying messages–

they should have warned you

to leave your sins and be saved from disaster.

15Those who pass by shake their heads and sneer

as they make fun and shout,

“What a lovely city you were, the happiest on earth,

but look at you now!”

“Colorful Town” by Dora Ficher, 2009.

Psalm 50:2 (English Standard Version)

Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
    God shines forth.

_________________________

16Zion, your enemies curse you and snarl like wild animals,

while shouting, “This is the day we’ve waited for!

At last, we’ve got you!”

17The LORD has done everything

that he had planned and threatened long ago.

He destroyed you without mercy

and let your enemies boast about their powerful forces.

18Zion, deep in your heart you cried out to the Lord.

Now let your tears overflow your walls day and night.

Don’t ever lose hope or let your tears stop.

19Get up and pray for help all through the night.

Pour out your feelings to the Lord, as you would pour water out of a jug.

“Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away.”

Dinah Craik (1826-1887), English poet and novelist

_________________________

Beg him to save your people,

who are starving to death at every street crossing.

Jerusalem Speaks:

20Think about it, LORD!

Have you ever been this cruel to anyone before?

Is it right for mothers to eat their children,

or for priests and prophets to be killed in your temple?

21My people, both young and old, lie dead in the streets.

Because you were angry,

my young men and women were brutally slaughtered.

22When you were angry, LORD,

you invited my enemies like guests for a party.

No one survived that day;

enemies killed my children,

my own little ones.

_________________________

Music:

One morning in March 1991, four year old Conor Clapton, son of the important and influential English guitarist, singer, and song-writer Eric Clapton, died when he fell from a 53rd-story window in a New York City apartment.  He landed on the roof of an adjacent four-story building.  This song is Clapton’s expression of grief at the loss of his little boy.  I remember when this happened; we were living in Italy at the time and I had two precious sons — Sean was 5 and Devlin was not quite 1.

To all the fathers and mothers who have lost a child, beginning with Adam and Eve and continuing to this very day — the promise is sure.  There will be no “Tears in Heaven.”

(with love to Judy, Marlys, Mary, Jan and Don, Cary and Andy . . .)

Would you know my name
If I saw you in heaven
Will it be the same
If I saw you in heaven
I must be strong, and carry on
Cause I know I don’t belong
Here in heaven

Would you hold my hand
If I saw you in heaven
Would you help me stand
If I saw you in heaven
I’ll find my way, through night and day
Cause I know I just can’t stay
Here in heaven

Time can bring you down
Time can bend your knee
Time can break your heart
Have you begging please
Begging please

(instrumental)

Beyond the door
There’s peace I’m sure.
And I know there’ll be no more…
Tears in heaven

_________________________

Contemporary English Version (CEV)   Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society

Images courtesy of:
Rembrandt.    http://www.artchive.com/artchive/r/rembrandt/jeremiah.jpg
home burning.    http://www.palmdeserthomeinspector.com/system/files/userfiles/Big_Home_Burning.jpg
heart melt.    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-iNQM83YptkU/TdmYk-3VFqI/AAAAAAAAAck/AxLHScnBxp8/s200/heart+melt.jpg
little girl.   http://ambrosiagirl.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2008/01/img_4681.jpg
Ficher.    http://doraficher.typepad.com/.a/6a0111685bdd87970c01127919ef9f28a4-800wi
pitcher,  pouring water.   http://www.cancerfreesociety.org/Pitcher%20Pouring%20Water%20copy.jpg

591.) Lamentations 1

August 8, 2011

"How deserted lies the city!" engraving by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, 1860.

The five chapters of Lamentations are five poems, each lamenting the destruction and desolation that came to Jerusalem as a result of the Babylonians in 586 BCE.   The first chapter, for example, is an acrostic poem; each verse begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  The poems function as a formal ritual by which the exiles could grieve over the calamity, over their pain and loss.

Traditionally the book has been ascribed to the prophet Jeremiah, although no name is attached to it.  No matter who wrote it, as one scholar noted, “the whole song stands so near the events that one feels everywhere as if the terrible pictures of the destruction stand still immediately before the eyes of the one lamenting.”

Orthodox Jews read aloud the entire book on the ninth day of the month Ab, the traditional date of the destruction of Solomon’s Temple.  In Christian traditions, Lamentations is often read during the days of Holy Week.

Lamentations 1

(Contemporary English Version)

Lonely Jerusalem

The Prophet Speaks:

1Jerusalem, once so crowded,

lies deserted and lonely.

This city that was known

all over the world

is now like a widow.

This queen of the nations

has been made a slave.

“It was common in the Old Testament for cities to be portrayed as women,” says the footnote for this verse in The Archaeological Study Bible.

2Each night, bitter tears flood her cheeks.

None of her former lovers

are there to offer comfort;

her friends have betrayed her and are now her enemies.

The “lovers” and “friends” refer to foreign allies who had promised to help Judah, but did not.

3The people of Judah are slaves,

suffering in a foreign land,

with no rest from sorrow.

Their enemies captured them

and were terribly cruel.

Yes, we have read of the offenses the people of Israel endured from the Babylonians — their Temple ransacked and burned, the city walls of Jerusalem destroyed, the people carried off into exile, the king blinded . . .

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4The roads to Zion mourn

because no one travels there

to celebrate the festivals.

Before the fall of Jerusalem, the people of Israel celebrated seven annual feasts:

  • Passover – to remember how the Lord rescued his people from bondage in Egypt
  • Feast of Unleavened Bread – to avoid yeast, a symbol of evil; to be ready to follow God
  • Offering of Firstfruits – to celebrate God’s gracious provision at the beginning of the barley harvest
  • Pentecost – to show gratitude for the wheat harvest
  • Feast of Trumpets – to usher in a month with particularly significant holy days
  • Day of Atonement – to fast, pray, and confess on the holiest day of the year
  • Feast of Booths – to recall life in the wilderness by constructing small huts and camping out while also praising God for the year’s harvest

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The city gates are deserted;

priests are weeping.

Young women are raped; Zion is in sorrow!

5Enemies now rule the city

and live as they please.

The LORD has punished Jerusalem

because of her awful sins;

he has let her people be dragged away.

6Zion’s glory has disappeared.

Her leaders are like deer

that cannot find pasture;

they are hunted down

till their strength is gone.

7Her people recall the good life

that once was theirs;

now they suffer and are scattered.

The Garden of Exile at the Jewish Museum in Berlin

No one was there to protect them from their enemies

who sneered when their city was taken.

8Jerusalem’s horrible sins

have made the city a joke.

Those who once admired her

now hate her instead–

she has been disgraced;

she groans and turns away.

9Her sins had made her filthy,

but she wasn’t worried about what could happen.

And when Jerusalem fell,

it was so tragic.

No one gave her comfort when she cried out,

“Help! I’m in trouble, LORD!  The enemy has won.”

Psalm 25:18-19 (English Standard Version)

Consider my affliction and my trouble,
   and forgive all my sins.

Consider how many are my foes,
   and with what violent hatred they hate me.

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10Zion’s treasures were stolen.

Jerusalem saw foreigners

enter her place of worship,

though the LORD

had forbidden them to belong to his people.

11Everyone in the city groans

while searching for food;

they trade their valuables

for barely enough scraps to stay alive.

Jerusalem shouts to the LORD,

“Please look and see how miserable I am!”

Jerusalem Speaks:

12No passerby even cares.

Why doesn’t someone notice

my terrible sufferings?

You were fiercely angry, LORD,

and you punished me worst of all.

Lamentations 1:12   (NIV)

“Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?
   Look around and see.
Is any suffering like my suffering?”

The first time this verse registered with me was during a season of Lent sometime when I was in high school.  The local Methodist church put a cross out, draped in a purple cloth, with a sign that read, “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?”  I see it clearly in my mind’s eye still, and I answer — Yes, Lord, your crucifixion is something to me!  It is your wounds, and my healing!  It is your sorrow, and my joy!  It is your death, and my life!   Thank you with all my heart!

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13From heaven you sent a fire

that burned in my bones;

you set a trap for my feet

and made me turn back.

All day long you leave me

in shock from constant pain.

14You have tied my sins

around my neck, and they weigh so heavily

that my strength is gone.

You have put me in the power

of enemies too strong for me.

15You, LORD, have turned back my warriors

and crushed my young heroes.

Judah was a woman untouched,

but you let her be trampled like grapes in a wine pit.

16Because of this, I mourn,

and tears flood my eyes.

No one is here to comfort or to encourage me;

we have lost the war–

my people are suffering.

The Prophet Speaks:

17Zion reaches out her hands,

but no one offers comfort.

Isaiah 1:15 (New International Version)

When you spread out your hands in prayer,
   I hide my eyes from you;
even when you offer many prayers,
   I am not listening.

   Your hands are full of blood!

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The LORD has turned the neighboring nations

against Jacob’s descendants.

Jerusalem is merely a filthy rag to her neighbors.

Jerusalem Speaks:

18The LORD was right,

but I refused to obey him.

Now I ask all of you to look

at my sufferings–

even my young people have been dragged away.

19I called out to my lovers,

but they betrayed me.

My priests and my leaders died

while searching the city for scraps of food.

20Won’t you look and see

how upset I am, our LORD?

My stomach is in knots,

and my heart is broken

because I betrayed you.

In the streets and at home,

my people are slaughtered.

21Everyone heard my groaning,

but no one offered comfort.

My enemies know of the trouble

that you have brought on me,

and it makes them glad.

Hurry and punish them, as you have promised.

22Don’t let their evil deeds escape your sight.

Punish them as much as you have punished me

because of my sins.

I never stop groaning–

I’ve lost all hope!

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Music:

Where to go for comfort?  Where to go for hope?  “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life!”

1 Peter 1:3 (NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

“My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”  sung by Deborah Liv Johnson.

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Contemporary English Version (CEV)   Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society

Images courtesy of:
Carolsfeld.     http://www.pitts.emory.edu/woodcuts/1853BiblD/00011488.jpg
“The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem,” by David Roberts (1850).   http://lh3.ggpht.com/_djGdu0EN2ao/SJhW2K1WHkI/AAAAAAAAADI/72hr8XEOEHQ/%5BRoberts,%20David%5D%20The%20Siege%20and%20Destruction%20of%20Jerusalem%20%281850%29.jpg
blowing the shofar.    http://rinah-shalom.tripod.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderpictures/blowing_the_shofar.gif
Garden of Exile.    http://www2.gsu.edu/~wwwher/about/germanypictures/berlin.jewish2.jpg
fallen stones in Jerusalem.    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/93/NinthAvStonesWesternWall.JPG
crucifixion.    http://yearintheoffice.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/card-_84-crucifix-front.jpg
reaching hand.    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_DmtdGP6kzMQ/SesKuP1jFGI/AAAAAAAAJ84/bg9COHGMinQ/s400/ReachingHand.jpg
stomach in knots.  http://www.ithinkifeeliam.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/S_my-stomach-is-in-knots.jpg