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            If you've been following the Daily Bible Readings on the back of our bulletin, you may have noticed that we are alternating between Old and New Testament books.  I know when I first began reading the Old Testament some books were easier to understand than others.  I was drawn to books like Genesis, Jonah and Ruth because they contained stories about people that I could relate to.  Books like Deuteronomy, Leviticus and Lamentations were less appealing because they were harder to understand.  Perhaps you have encountered the same feelings.  Don't give up!  Here are some helpful points to take along on your journey through Lamentations*:

            ~ Other Ancient Near East writings lament the destruction of great cities.  But unlike the Bible, these literary pieces attribute the loss of property, loved ones and income to capricious gods who temporarily lost interest in protecting the city.  In contrast, the prophet Jeremiah sees that Judah's disregard of God's Law is what brought about its destruction.  As you read through Lamentations notice how many times Jeremiah links the two.

            ~ Many times we place the Bible on a "spiritual bookshelf" all by itself.  But like many great books, the Bible is literature.  God has chosen to communicate His Word through the conventions of language.  Therefore the Bible contains many genres of writing.  Lamentations is a poetic book.  Hebrew poetry is quite beautiful but sometimes hard to capture in English.  It doesn't rhyme, rather, it builds concept upon concept, image upon image.  So as you're reading, look for repeated ideas and images which are usually repeated in double or triple lines.

            ~ A lament is a specific type of poem.  It reflects on deep, personal suffering as well as spiritual agony.   The prophet Jeremiah probably wrote this lament shortly after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B. C.  Although Jeremiah understands God's justice in carrying out His judgment on Jerusalem, he still mourns the loss of his beloved home.  As you read, notice that Jeremiah might be intensely sorrowful, but he is not hopeless.   He understands that hope lies in God's character alone.

            ~ Jeremiah is not the only person ever to encounter sorrow.   Yet while his beautiful poetry speaks of an event that is foreign to most of us, the depth of his emotion speaks to anyone who has mourned over a tragic loss; a loved one, innocence,  a job, a home, a piece of oneself.  As you read through Jeremiah, keep in mind its immediate context, but let the poetry speak to the loss in your own heart.  Remember, like Jeremiah, that hope lies in the character of God.  He is the One who will console you in your time of sorrow.

Ann LeFevre  1/30/2011

 

*  A great resource for anyone who wants to learn more about the books of the Bible is How to Read the Bible Book by Book by Gordon D. Fee & Douglas Stuart, c.2002, Zondervan

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