Order In the Chaos
Lamentations is an amazing book. Tucked away in our Bibles between Jeremiah and Ezekiel is this short little book that is surprising in many ways. If you're like me, it's probably not a book you read often. And even when you do it read it, it can be hard to understand what it's trying to say.
So what is this book trying to say?
The book of Lamentations is a poetic reflection on the complete and utter destruction of the city of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. For generations, God warned the people of Israel of their sin and rebellion. But God's covenant people were not faithful. So God raised up the big, bad Babylonian Empire to come and wipe the Southern Kingdom of Judah off the map. It was the worst thing God's people had ever experienced.
This book is an honest and gut-wrenching exploration of the pain and suffering that God's people experienced. It is filled with images of their suffering and loss. It is full of cries to God for help. And it seems to have more questions than answers about why God would allow such a terrible catastrophe. As a whole, this book seems pretty depressing and without hope.
But there's more to this book than meets the eye.
The book is filled with 5 alphabet poems. Each new verse of each poem starts with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Chapters one, two, and four have 22 verses—one for each Hebrew letter. Chapter 3 is a little different with 66 verses. Each group of verses has three lines all starting with the Hebrew letters. But chapter 5 is a little different as it loses the structure of the alphabet poems. It's almost like the author has just given up. But even this poem keeps the structure of 22 verses.
So what's the point? The point is that the structure of the book is part of its message. Even in life's most chaotic moments, there is still order. Even in life's deepest suffering, there is still comfort. Even in life's most devasting pain, there is still hope. In the pain and in the sorrow—God is still there.
The center of the book reveals our hope.
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I will hope in him.”
((Lamentations 3:22–24, ESV)
The never-ending love of God is our comfort. The mercy of God is our peace. The faithfulness of God is our hope. The Lord is the order in our chaos. And that's the message in the structure of this book. We can find hope and mercy and faithfulness in God, even in the chaos of life.
So as you read the book of Lamentations, be encouraged that it gives a voice to our pain. Find comfort in the honesty of a book that covers the A to Z of suffering. But more than that, hope in the One who brings order in the chaos. The chaos that God beat back at creation. The chaos that Jesus defeated by his cross and his empty tomb. The chaos that our faithful God will one day rid from our lives and his world.
The book of Lamentations invites us to see the Lord God as the order in our chaos.