Hope for the darkest days

Ever had an awful day?  A day when nothing goes right, and in fact, everything goes wrong?  A day when the world is against you and it seems even God Himself has turned His back to you?  A day you’re sure no one could possibly understand?

Take heart, for indeed someone does understand.  Lamentations was written in response to the catastrophic destruction and exile of God’s own people from their own beloved city of Jerusalem.  Imagine 9-11 multiplied by thousands and you begin to understand their extensive devastation and despair.  But far from an uncontrolled wailing and plunge into the depths of despair, Lamentations offers what we can hardly imagine – hope!

May you too be encouraged and uplifted from your place of desperation by the laments of an ancient poet.  Here is my take on the book of Lamentations in 26 short verses.  I have written the summary in alphabetic acrostic form, mirroring the original literary style of Lamentations.  (Details explaining the alphabet acrostic form and its purposes follow the 26-verse summary.)

All our people mourn and despair
Because of the great devastation we now endure
Cry out to the Lord, for He listens
Deny not thy feelings, but also not thy understanding
Even Zion cries out in anguish for us, her people
For each one of us who are exiled, many more no longer breathe
Grieve, my sister, but know that Yahweh our God also grieves
Hear again the words of the prophet and understand
It is our own rebellion and our wayfaring kings for which we now suffer
Justice from the hand of the Lord prevails
Know and remember thy Lord and His steadfast love
Look to His compassion and find hope
Mercies from the Lord renew and strengthen our souls
No, indeed! Our enemies will not go unscathed
Offer your petitions to Yahweh who is Justice and Righteousness
Pass judgment upon not only them, but ourselves who abandoned our God
Quietly in silence we wait
Ready to endure that which the Lord hath declared
Salvation is at hand as our souls seek Him who is our portion
Turn your heart once again to our Redeemer
Unloose the ties of hatred and anger that bind your heart
Victory for us, His chosen people is at hand
Watch and wait!
Xpect Him to act for He does not reject forever
Yahweh’s goodness and abundance await us, His people!
Zion will be restored!

Did you know the book of Lamentations was written as an alphabetic acrostic poem?  While that format is lost in English, this is indeed the format of the original Hebrew.   In the first, second and fourth chapters of Lamentations, each stanza starts with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet making each chapter 22 verses in length.  Chapter three follows the same pattern, but rather than having each stanza begin with a successive letter, each line begins that way. Chapter three then has 66 verses, with 3 verses for each letter. Chapter five does not follow the acrostic form, but does have the same number of lines of poetry as there are letters in the Hebrew alphabet!  Isn’t that amazing?!

Considering the book of Lamentations as a literature piece, it is a beautifully written lament. However, when you consider the painstaking care of incorporating the literary form of an alphabetic acrostic, you come to really appreciate the quality and skill of the author.  Even beyond that, however, the format and style of the book suggests far more than just talent. This lament, composed in response to the devastating effects of the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 586, takes the reader from a place of complete suffering, abhorrence, and devastation to a place of hope. The Aleph to Tav (A to Z) composition suggests that even this catastrophic event is fully encompassed in the sovereign reign and mercy of Yahweh, and rather than getting stuck in the negativity and despair of the immediate present-day situation, it refocuses the experiences of the mourners in the bigger picture of hope found in the Lord. The alphabetic acrostic brings the reader through the experience of expected restoration, as regardless of contemporary evidence otherwise, a reader knows they cannot stop at Gimel or Yod, but must continue onto Tav. Through the structure composition, the reader is moved from grief to joyous hope. And perhaps most importantly, God’s people are brought from a place of being judged and punished by Yahweh, to being restored by their Redeemer.