DISCOVERY for TEACHERS: 2 Kings, Nahum, Zephaniah, Jeremiah, Lamentations

Lamentations

The Lamentations of Jeremiah

source for questions

Lamentations 1:1 through 5:22

key verse for memorization

“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

background

Lamentations is the anguished outpouring of a prophet mourning the degradation of a once great nation. This book, a collection of five poems, was written by Jeremiah shortly after the destruction of the city of Jerusalem, about 586 B.C. The Babylonian conqueror Nebuchadnezzar had laid siege to the city for eighteen long months and when the city was finally taken, it was a heartbreaking time for the Jewish people. This set of poems, the first four composed in the form of ancient funeral songs or dirges, and the final one, a prayer, describe the terrifying calamity that had befallen the land. They acknowledge that the people were being punished severely for disobeying God.

At one time the people of Judah had obeyed and loved their God. Now they were physically, emotionally, and spiritually broken. Jerusalem and Solomon’s Temple had been destroyed, and the people put to shame before their oppressors. But the greatest loss was the knowledge that God had turned away from them because of their rejection of Him. 

In spite of the excruciating pain of the situation they were in, Jeremiah voiced his hope that God would turn His anger away if only the people would repent. Lamentations concludes with a prayer designed to be the penitent outpouring of a broken nation—a nation that had finally realized the cost of angering God. With desperate longing, the prophet verbalized a plea intended to guide the people to a position of humility and repentance, asking God to remember them and turn away the fierceness of His great wrath.

Suggested Responses to Questions
  1. Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet. What circumstances caused his anguish? Lamentations 1:3,6,8,15-17

    A review should bring out the following thoughts.

    • Verse 3 – Judah had been taken into captivity.

    • Verse 6 – Her leaders were like malnourished deer (harts) unable to escape their hunters.

    • Verse 8 – Those who had once honored the city of Jerusalem now despised her.

    • Verses 15-17 – The God who had once been their comforter had become their judge and source of punishment.

    As a follow-up, ask your class if any of them have ever felt similarly burdened. Encourage them to describe how God brought them through.

     
  2. Lamentations 2:6-10 describes the destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem. What significance did this destruction have to the people of Judah?

    The destruction of the Temple signified the departure of God’s presence from a nation that had refused to follow Him. Point out to your class that this was the original Temple built by King Solomon. According to historians, it was a building of great beauty. However, more than that, this landmark was the center and hub of the Jewish faith. God had made it His holy dwelling place, a place where anointed priests could offer atonement for man’s sin. People would come yearly to the Temple to bring sacrifices and pay homage to God. Tragically, the people of Judah had rejected in their daily lives what they proclaimed by their rituals of worship, and thus, their worship had become a mockery. 

    Follow up this question by discussing with your class some ways we can make sure that our worship is sincere and focused on God. Thoughts could include: asking God to prepare our hearts before we come to His sanctuary to worship, making sure the glory and honor goes to God and not to individuals, having hearts that are open to God’s checks and prodding, making His house a place of prayer and not just a place of social interaction, etc. 

     
  3. In spite of all the pain and sorrow inflicted upon Israel by God, what was Jeremiah’s hope? Lamentations 3:31-32

    Verses 31 and 32 indicate Jeremiah’s confidence that God would not stay angry forever. Even though the nation would never return to its previous condition, Jeremiah believed that God one day would again show mercy upon His children.

    Ask your class: Why is hope so important? Discussion should bring out that, without hope, a person falls into despair and may feel that life is not worth living. As Christians, the Gospel presents the hope that no matter what trials and afflictions we face in this life, we will someday enjoy eternal life with God. Perhaps one of your students would share a time when hope sustained him/her.

     
  4. Lamentations 4:17-20 alludes to the fact that Judah had asked Egypt for help in fighting the Babylonian army. What one word is used to describe the nature of that help? What lesson can we derive from this?

    The descriptive word is “vain.” Ask your class for their definitions of the word. The point should be made that Egypt’s help was worthless and unsatisfactory. The Egyptians offered Judah false hope — they started to help but then retreated (Jeremiah 37:5-7). 

    Various thoughts may be suggested in terms of lessons we can derive from this. Your group will likely conclude that we can have no real assurance of help from any source other than God — He alone is totally reliable. He is also perfectly able to help, while other helpers, however well-intentioned, may not be able to carry through. Your group may also note that it is dangerous to put our faith in the wrong power.
     
     
  5. What was the condition of the sacred grounds on the Temple mount? Lamentations 5:18

    Foxes walked upon the mountain of Zion, indicating complete destruction. It must have been heartbreaking for Jeremiah to witness such desolation. Solomon had asked God to hear the people when they prayed toward this Temple (2 Chronicles 6:34-39). We can only imagine the pain felt when the people realized that the holiest place on earth was now just a pile of rubble.
     
  6. What miseries, as recited in chapter 5, had been sent by God to bring the people to a position of humility and repentance?

    You may wish to make a list with your class of the miseries described in this chapter.

    • Lamentations 5:3 – Men had been slain, leaving widows and orphans.

    • Lamentations 5:4 – The people were made to pay for wood, water, etc.

    • Lamentations 5:6 – The people were forced to beg their enemies for food.

    • Lamentations 5:11 – Women were raped and abused.

    • Lamentations 5:12 – National leaders were dishonored.

    • Lamentations 5:13 – Children were forced to labor.

    • Lamentations 5:14-15 – Hearts were no longer joyful.

    • Lamentations 5:18 – The Temple had been destroyed.

    Bring out that these circumstances were just a small portion of what this great nation suffered by disobeying God. Ask your class: What lesson is there for us in the tremendous punishment that was meted out to this nation for rejecting God? The point should be made that even though we live in a dispensation of mercy and grace, God still demands obedience. Discuss the outcome of disobeying God today.
     
     
  7. What attitude or condition was the prophet encouraging in the people, as indicated by his prayer at the end of chapter 5?

    The prophet’s prayer was designed to point the people toward humility and repentance. This chapter verbalizes the penitent prayer that a broken nation should pray — a nation that has finally realized the cost of angering God. 

    You might wish to discuss with your class the role that humility and repentance play when a penitent sinner comes to God for forgiveness of sin.

     
  8. How would you describe the Prophet Jeremiah after reading the Book of Lamentations? 

    You may wish to list on a dry erase board the character traits identified by your students. Class discussion will likely bring out that Jeremiah had a tremendous desire to serve and please God. He also had an unconditional love for God’s chosen people. This man of God was willing to stay and share the pain of the Jewish nation. Jeremiah possessed excellent leadership qualities. He spoke the truth. Talking with God was a priority with Jeremiah. We see a man who was loving and compassionate even though he knew this time of trouble could have been avoided. Jeremiah was a man God could depend upon. 

    We live in a different era and society than the Prophet Jeremiah. However, we would do well to emulate the characteristics of this man of God. What are some ways we can model his heart of compassion in our day?
conclusion

We live in an age when people and nations are forgetting and forsaking God. We also know that there is a time of tribulation coming soon upon this earth — a time of trouble of a magnitude that has never been seen before. Let us learn a lesson from the failure of the people of Judah, and stay true to God, that we might escape that terrible time!