Leaning Toward the Lamentations – 3

Posted on: January 21st, 2024

Royce Bell
In previous studies, we’ve read the 1st and 2nd chapters of the Lamentations. This week, we’ll skip chapter 3 (it’s 3 times as long and you might be tempted to say, “I just can’t read that much!” Don’t you just love that I’m so considerate of your feelings?) and look at  chapter 4. Once again, you’ll note two specific things (if you don’t see #2, trust me, it’s there):

1. Like chapters 1 and 2, it has 22 verses, and
2. Again like chapters 1 and 2, each verse begins with one of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, from Alef to Tau. Note: Your Bible may not indicate these letter? Take some time to do a little research into how those letters are included. 

A Short Reading

Lamentations 4

A View of the Broader Context
1. Drawing from what we note last week from reviewing chapter 2 and reading chapter 2: you’ll remember, chapter 1 focuses on the judgment of God (cf. 1:8-9) and Jerusalem’s self-pity (1:12-19), while chapter 2 identifies the source of the judgment as God and His righteous anger (2:1-8). 
2. Even though we’re not reading it, yet, chapter 3 is the pinnacle of Jeremiah’s lament, but to get there, we will experience several rises and falls (if you will, undulating waves) of sorrow and sadness. You may recognize the similarity with your own grief or sorrow, from time to time.
3. In chapter 4, the emotion is somewhat abated. What is there is quite harsh and off-putting (cp. 4:3-4 with vr. 10). It is similar to chapter 1, but far less strident and much more subdued. Yet, it is matter of factly frank and honest.

Narrowing the Focus

Have you ever noticed how some cultures show subdued expressions of grief, while others are very vocal and even, dramatically expressive (not all all suggesting artificiality or insincerity of emotion). As a former funeral professional, I interacted with scores of funeral directors hundreds (thousands?) of times over a 50+ years long career in ministry. For decades, I facilitated scores of grief aftercare group sessions (and baptized several from those connections). Trust me: The strict and austere Victorian culture of those of British or European ancestry is not at all superior, more reasonable, or more appropriate to that of African and Jewish ancestry and culture. Asian cultural expressions of grief are often even more restrained and symbolically expressed than Anglo-European, African, or Jewish cultures.

Think of your own culture. How did you learn to grieve or show sorrow? Does your culture or family have special customs, perhaps even centuries or millenniums old? Consider the following:

• Do you remember when a deceased family member was laid in state in the front room of the family home? Do you remember the sad, slow, and dirge-like songs which were often sung with those who visited the bereaved?
• Were you raised in a culture or home in which adults often sat sleepily awake throughout the night, “sitting up with the dead”?
• Have you ever heard of awakening children in the middle of the night upon receiving news of the death of a family member?
• Have you ever been with a grieving family which was alternately, acutely expressive of grief and a few minutes later, subdued and even calm, even though still in grief?
• Do you know the feeling of deep regret for words ill-spoken or having imposed hurt or harm to another? Were you able to overcome feelings of despair or deep disappointment in your attitudes or actions?