We do not often use the word “lament.” We might “vent” with our friends, complaining about discomforts and daily grievances, but we rarely reveal our deepest sorrows. In the Bible, lament is more common. People lament by crying out to God with their fear and grief and regret. While a human counselor can give us helpful tools to manage grief, God has power to walk us through grief and fill us with hope. For this reason, biblical prayers of lament are always filled with hope.
The Bible does not name the author of Lamentations. Some think the book was written entirely by Jeremiah (based on 2 Chronicles 35:25), and others think that it was collected from multiple sources. What we know from the book itself is that the author witnessed Babylon sacking Jerusalem in 586 BC. He describes an abandoned city (1:1-6) with its walls in ruins (2:8-9) and its temple destroyed (2:6-7).
In the book of Lamentations, the author tours the smoldering wreckage one last time before being taken as a war captive to a foreign country. We hear him weeping over the devastation of Jerusalem, which is only the physical representation of a deeper tragedy—the moral failure of God’s people and the relational ruin it caused.
Remember that the people of Israel were God’s chosen people. In Deuteronomy, Moses reminded the Israelites, “if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God… [he] will set you high above all the nations of the earth” (28:1 ESV). This promise came true during the glorious reign of Solomon when nations flocked to Jerusalem to learn the secret of Israel’s success (1 Kings 4:20-34).
In the same Deuteronomy passage, God warned his people that their disobedience and faithlessness would have consequences. Moses predicted, “The LORD will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You shall go out one way against them and flee seven ways before them. And you shall be a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth” (28:25 ESV).
The author of Lamentations grieves the loss of Jerusalem, and the horrors that accompanied its fall, but he is most distraught over Israel’s broken relationship with God. He urges the people to “Arise, cry out in the night… Pour out your heart like water” (Lamentations 2:19 ESV).
The book of Lamentations is not all sad and gut-wrenching. In fact, it includes one of the most beloved and hopeful Bible verses right in the center of the book:
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases
his mercies never come to an end
They are new every morning
great is your faithfulness.” (3:22-23 ESV)
Biblically speaking, lament always leads to hope. When we bring our sorrows, sufferings, and sin to the Lord, we are met with his perfect wonderful character. Despite Israel’s grievous sin and failure, and their suffering of the consequences of that sin, God’s character has not changed—he is still merciful.
Biblically speaking, lament always leads to hope. When we bring our sorrows, sufferings, and sin to the Lord, we are met with his perfect wonderful character.
The answer to Israel’s suffering and the ultimate expression of God’s mercy is Jesus. Israel had reached a point where they believed they were beyond redemption (Lamentations 5:21-22). God answered Israel’s lament by sending his own Son to bear the punishment for their sin (John 3:16).
When we read Lamentations today, we know that God did indeed hear the cry of his people. He sent Jesus to bear the punishment we deserve for our sins, so that we could be restored to a right relationship with God (Lamentations 5:21)—never again to suffer God’s wrath for our sin.
Lamentations is in the Bible to remind you that just as God heard Israel’s lament, he also hears your deep cries when you weep to him. He even hears your groans and cries when they come from the grief you experience over the consequences of your own sin. God has provided mercy for you in Jesus Christ, who lovingly bore the eternal consequences of your sin so that you might experience God’s love and mercy if you will turn from your sin and cry out to God.
Lamentations is an eager invitation for you to ask for the Lord’s forgiveness and mercy. Open Lamentations and discover how to mourn with hope, and may you find rest in God’s mercy which never, ever comes to an end.