DON'T CRY FOR ME, JEREMIAH
Yes, the title of today's message is a play on the old song "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina" which is a very beautiful song from the movie/play "Evita." I only saw the movie version staring Madonna and Antonia Banderas. I loved the music. So, anyhow, today we are going to take a brief look at the Book of Lamentations. Lamentations is a book credited to Jeremiah, "The Weeping Prophet." It is for this reason that the Christian Bible, or canon has placed Lamentations immediately after the Book of Jeremiah. Is there any evidence that Jeremiah wrote Lamentations? No, there is not.
"How deserted lies the city, once so full of people! How like a widow is she, who once was great among the nations! She who was queen among the provinces has now become a slave." (Lamentations 1:1)
What city is being lamented? Yes, it is Jerusalem. The focus is on the desolation of the city that we have already read about. However, as we read this is it very possible for each of us to read it as it might relate to us. Suppose we read this with our own communities in mind? Many of us, depending on where you are while reading this, can remember a time when our little small towns were booming. I am constantly told that our town of Madison was once a place where businesses were booming down town and people did not have to go elsewhere. Now, it is a different story and the people who remember those days are lamenting the state of their hometown. But, it is not just here. I have great memories of another town in Missouri near where I grew up. There were businesses all around the town square where you could spend an entire day. At one time we had a local drug store where you could sit at the counter and drink down the best milk shake in the world. *I can still smell the smells of that little store. Then, when you got done there you could walk over to Paradise Donuts and buy some of the best donuts you ever ate. The last time I visited that little town I discovered that there were only second hand stores, a flower shop and the funeral home...and the bank that bought up half of the remaining buildings to build a bigger bank. Many small towns as just like this one.
"Bitterly she weeps at night, tears upon her cheeks. Among all her lovers there is none to comfort her. All her friends have betrayed her; they have become her enemies." (Lam. 1:2)
Let me back up a second to verse one. If you recall the book opened with a question that began with the word 'how." If you will read through the book you will notice that chapter one, two and four each begin with the word "how." What is interesting is that the Hebrew word for lamentations is 'ekah which means "how." It is as though the question "how could this happen to God's beloved city" is being asked.
This book is made up of five chapters with each chapter being a poem. These poems are works of art with a particular style of writing being employed. The writer uses a certain letter of the Hebrew alphabet in which every three lines begins with the next letter, and then so on. Each poem is a complaint psalm.
"The Lord has rejected his altar and abandoned his sanctuary. He has handed over to the enemy the walls of her palaces;" (Lam. 2:7) Who is the blame for the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple being placed on? Yes, God is being blamed.
The destruction is described vividly. The suffering of the people is real. "I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me." (Lam. 3:19-20) Lamentations does not whitewash pain. The writer says that "the precious sons of Zion, once worth their weight in gold, are now considered as pots of clay, the work of a potter's hands!" (Lam. 4:2) Just as the earthen pots were thrown away after being broken so were these young men. Then a comparison was made between the behavior of animals and humans: "Even jackals offer their breasts to nurse their young, but my people have become heartless like ostriches in the desert." (Lam. 4:3) While jackals had a reputation for caring for their young the ostriches had a reputation of abandoning and neglecting theirs. The writer says the people have become more like the ostriches.
"The punishment of my people is greater than that of Sodom, which was overthrown in a moment without a hand turned to help her." (Lam. 4:6) Wow! It almost sounds as though the writer is even lamenting Sodom. "No one helped her," he cries. Of course, this is a poem and is not necessarily concerned with the facts. A poem or a song is an expression. But, what the author is saying is that "at least Sodom experienced a quick death." He laments, however, the fact Jerusalem is dying a slow and agenizing death, because "those killed by the sword are better off than those who die of famine; racked with hunger, they waste away..." (Lam. 4:9) Well, the vivid descriptions of the destruction only get worse. The Bible is sometimes not for the faint of heart. There are parts of it that can not be sugarcoated. It tells of what desperate people will do in order to survive; where "with their own hands compassionate women have cooked their own children, who became their food when my people were destroyed." (Lam. 4:10)
So, how can their ever be healing? This book does not give the answers. But, it longs for a day when healing will take place. When Jesus looked out over the city of Jerusalem in Luke 19 he wept over the city. He was lamenting overt the city not accepting him. He cried: "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace-but now it is hidden from your eyes..." (Luke 19:42) Jesus, could not heal their hard-heartedness, yet he still went to the cross so that "healing" could still be possible.
Lamentations helps us understand that God allows us to express ourselves. So often we are told that a Christian should never complain, cry, or moan, but the Bible shows us real people with real issues who did not get the memo to "smile and be happy and experience the new you...etc." No, the Bible presents people who are not afraid to ask; "O.K., God what is happening here and why?" The Bible gives us permission to be real. Here's a thought...Christian, it's ok to be real. Long ago, (really long ago) I asked my pastor: "Randy, do you ever get angry?" He looked me in the eye and said, "Rick, you can't live in this world and not get angry." I have discovered the truth to this statement over and over. At the same time, I have found it difficult to live in this world and not get scared, or become sad, or...well all those other things. But, through it all we know the one that we are to trust to bring us through. Thanks be to God!