Wht are the people crying? - Lamentations 1:1-22

This is a sermon by Lee McMunn from the Riverside Church service on 26th April 2015.

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Why are the people crying? Lamentations chapter 1

Earlier this week I came across this quotation from a Christian leader in London. Mike Ovey is the Principal of Oak Hill Theological College and this is what he writes about why politicians are so evasive, "The reason in part why our politicians do not tell us the truth...is that they dare not because we handle truth so badly. It is not simply that we have the leaders we deserve; we have made them so.”


We handle the truth so badly. We see this in many areas of our lives. It’s not just in politics. We see it in many businesses and schools up and down the country. What is the thing we remember most after some feedback at work, whether an appraisal or observation? Why is this? It’s because we handle the truth so badly. 


We even see it in the world of entertainment.  We all know what happens on Stricly Come Dancing when a judge says something negative that happens to be true about a dancer’s performance. They get booed. Why? We handle truth so badly. 


We should not be surprised if this attitude towards the truth makes an appearance in the church of Jesus Christ. How many of us would feel really nervous about rebuking a brother or sister? How many of us have ever been corrected by a fellow Christian? How did you take it? 


It also impacts church leaders. We feel the pressure not to communicate challenging and uncomfortable truth. And that brings me to Lamentations chapter 1


Because let me tell you up front. The big application of this chapter is really difficult for many in our comfortable society to hear. And yet like a warning sign at the edge of a cliff, this chapter is not here in the Bible to spoil our day. Rather it is here to direct us to the place where true joy is found, and that is to know God as he has revealed himself, to trust his words and to obey them in all sphere of our life. And yet like that warning scene, it tells us what the consequences will be if we choose our way instead of God’s way.


If I had to summarise Lamentations chapter 1 then I would say that it contains two voices but one message. Let me explain that.


First of all, the two voices.


We’ve already seen that these poems are carefully constructed. They are acrostics. So we should read them carefully  When we do this with the first poem we discover that it has two parts, and in each part we her a different voice speaking to us. 


  • Vs 1-11 we hear the prophet Jeremiah 
  • Vs 12-22 we hear the city Jerusalem


What I mean is that by and large the first 11 verses, although they are about Jerusalem, are spoken by some observing her. 


  • Look at verse 1 
  • Or verse 7

It’s all written in the third person. 


Now contrast this with what we find in the second half of the poem.


  • Look at verse 12
  • Or verse 18

This section is by and large written in the first person, where Jerusalem speaks for herself. 


The Bible writer didn’t think that the bricks and mortar had feelings and emotions. It was a poetic device known as personification  It is a very powerful and effective way to convey what the people of God would have been feeling. 


Don’t be despondent if you couldn’t see this when you listened to the reading earlier. It often takes multiple readings to discover this. And you need to be looking for the right things as you read. But I think you will spot the differences if you read it through again in your own time. 


Although there are two voices, there is really only one big message. 


Second, the one message.


What do both these voices say? Sin brings tears.


Let me show you this.


  • Verse 2a
  • Verse 4
  • Verse 16a
  • Verse 20


There is great torment and great distress. 


If you have ever been in a despairing situation you were probably grateful for those who tried to comfort you. 


But let me show you something about what happened to the people of God in 587BC.


  • Verse 2b
  • Verse 9
  • Verse 16b
  • Verse 17
  • Verse 21


No one gets alongside them and tries to comfort them. They are alone in their torment.


Why were the people crying?


There are many obvious reasons mentioned in this section. Those nations the people of God had trusted to protect them had let them down. The Babylonians had pulverised their city. Many friends and family had been killed. 


But there is a shocking reason mentioned in these verses.


  • Verse 5b
  • Verse 8a
  • Verse 12
  • Verse 14
  • Verse 15
  • Verse 18 - the LORD is righteous


The people are in great distress with uncontrollable tears and no comfort because they are experiencing the judgement of God for their sins. 


Why is this written? What does it mean to us?


Not so we sympathise with these people. We’re talking more than 2500 years ago!


We are certainly to be reminded that the sins we commit in this life will bring us tears in this life. There are many motivations for obeying God but here is certainly one of them. 


  • From God’s ways for relationships. 
  • Not idolising education or sport or family. Brief pleasure as we enjoy a good gift of God. But don’t make it the ultimate thing you live for. It will bring tears.
  • Or one of the sins of omission, when we don’t believe God’s view of the world. We then are not prepared for when the storms hit. 


A better application is to be reminded of the greater judgement that Jesus speaks about in the New Testament. The best correspondence with the judgement mentioned here in Lamentations is the place of hell unashamedly spoken about by Jesus and the other NT writers. 


How is hell described? Weeping and gnashing of teeth. No comfort. Luke 16 - contrast between comfort and agony. Revelation 14:17-20.


Lamentations chapter 1 is ultimately a warning for us to avoid the greater judgement of hell. 


How to you respond to this uncomfortable news? Believe it and respond appropriately. 


We need to avoid this destination. How do we do that? 


First, by considering our future based on the past words of God.


I was very struck by something that is said in verse 9. “Her filthiness clung to her skirts; she did not consider her future.”


And then once we have considered our future based on the past words of God then we must follow the one who experienced the wrath we deserve instead of us. Do you remember what Jesus said as he died on the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"


Barry Webb, “There is nowhere else to run but into the arms of the very One whose anger you have aroused."


How will this motivate us to live for Jesus this week?


This eternity puts some perspective on what God allows me to experience now. Hell is what I deserve. Nothing compares to that. 


Gratefulness to Jesus.


Renewed zeal to win the lost for Christ. These are the stakes. 


The LORD is righteous. We will not be embarrassed then.

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