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Judah’s end was drawn out. The first exiles went to Babylon in 605 bc; this chapter depicts the siege which culminated in the fall of the city and the capture of Zedekiah in 587 (v 20). The descriptions are by now familiar: the slow death by starvation (v 9), the inability of mothers to feed their young (v 4), the rich reduced to living skeletons (vv 7,8), the religious leaders ritually unclean (vv 13–15), the ancient equivalent of snipers making movement dangerous (v 18). The war in Syria brings images like these to our TV screens 2,600 years later.
Other nations are in view throughout Lamentations. Although God is acting in judgment, Babylon is responsible for bringing it about (the ‘pursuers’ of v 19 were the Babylonian soldiers). Others have failed to come to their aid (Lamentations 1:19). Edom, Israel’s neighbours to the east and long-term enemies, exulted over her downfall (vv 21,22) and will in turn be held accountable for their actions. They have blood on their hands. The vengeance which the writer longed for yesterday will be meted out, but not by Israel, for it is God’s prerogative.
Hebrew thought sees God as the ultimate author of all, but it also sees humans as responsible agents. There are questions around divine sovereignty and human responsibility which we long to resolve; Scripture seems content to live with the tension, assuring us that both are true.
In the end, God’s nature ensures that justice will prevail and love will win, and that is what verse 22 affirms. It is sometimes hard to believe that God rules over world events, but that does not mean it is untrue. One day it will be universally recognized (Philippians 2:10,11).
Lord God Almighty, you are king over everything. As we see pictures on TV of some of the horrific things that are going on in the world, we pray that your kingdom will come and your will be done, even though that is sometimes hard to believe. Through Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray exactly this. Amen.
First used in Encounter with God April-June 2015, written by John Grayston, copyright Scripture Union. Used with kind permission.