How this oft-overlooked book can highlight themes of Trumpets and Atonement
I can count on one hand the number of sermons I’ve heard on the book of Lamentations. I could maybe even count them on one *finger* (and I had to search for it).
While Lamentations never directly mentions either the feasts of Trumpets or Atonement, its themes are unmistakably linked to the themes of both holy days, and the fall holy day season overall in God’s plan for mankind.
What are those themes? Complete destruction and anguish from God’s wrath as His promised judgment comes, mourning and confession of sin, and acknowledgement of God’s righteousness in that judgment. Humility and asking for mercy while recognizing that it’s undeserved.
And harder to find, but definitely present, is hope in God’s faithfulness and mercy, and ultimately reconciliation through His promises of a coming restoration.
These holy days occur in the seventh month (seven being a number of completeness). Chapters 1, 2, and 4 are written in acrostics, one for each letter of the alphabet and signifying the completeness and totality of God’s wrath and the destruction of Jerusalem.
What is the book of Lamentations about?
Lamentations is one of the five scrolls comprising “The Writings” in the Old Testament. It mourns the destruction of the first temple, the “funeral of a city”, and foreshadows the destruction of the second temple and Jerusalem in 70 AD.
The Jews recite the book on Tisha b’Av, called the “dark fast” to commemorate the destruction of the temple. Tisha b’Av is seen as a fast without hope (dark) in contrast to the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) which they see as a “white fast” due to the hope embedded.
It’s generally accepted that the book of Lamentations was written by the prophet Jeremiah due to both internal and external evidence, but the author is never named in the text. The fairly dramatic, evocative language certainly seems to fit with the book of Jeremiah though.
Much of Lamentations goes into excruciating detail about the consequences of Jerusalem’s repeated rebellions against God, and paints a terrifying picture of His promised wrath. It is punishment with purpose, prophesied beforehand again and again to turn them from it.
It is an expression of grief and sadness, a detailed account of tragedy, and a denunciation of the sins of His people. The book moves us through tragedy and sorrow toward a confident hope in God’s ultimate salvation of His (and all) people.
In our culture today we tend to close our eyes to suffering, grit our teeth through it, or try and ignore it in favor of looking forward to a better time. Lamentations, instead, wallows in it. Lamentations surrounds you in Jeremiah’s grief over Jerusalem’s destruction, in the suffering of God’s people.
Is Lamentations relevant to God’s people today?
In a word, yes.
The book of Lamentations is written to encompass Jerusalem and the nation of Judah, the remainder of God’s people at the time. It should serve as a very sobering warning to us as His people today.
Jerusalem rebelled against God, and for centuries God warned that the judgment He promised for their sins would come. When the wrath of His judgment finally comes upon Jerusalem, the book of Lamentations doesn’t question the reason or justice of God’s actions, but rather asks for His mercy.
The end-time application of the book is focused on Jerusalem as well. Because of this, it fits more naturally into the fall holy days and what the world will experience during end-time events, and the book’s themes very much tie into this.
While Lamentations has seen its first and second fulfillments, like most major prophecies in the bible there is a future and final one at the end time. So although it’s focused on Jerusalem, it IS written to God’s people, and that alone makes it important for us to pay it some attention.
We know that all scripture is given by God and is good for instruction and to equip His people (II Tim. 3:16). So what should we take from this book? I submit that there are clear messages to God’s firstfruits, warnings that if heeded today can keep us from the terrible future reality that is laid out in the book.