How lonely sits the city that was once full of people! Lamentations was composed as Jerusalem, the LORD’s Zion, lay in ruins. The Temple smoldered and the people had been led away. In the terrifying silence that followed, the author took up his pen.
But this is not a description of what life in this new world looked like; it’s a description of what it felt like: “My eyes are spent with weeping; my stomach churns.” There was nothing sanitary about this moment. There were no bulldozers to clear away the rubble; no Red Cross or foreign assistance was on its way; the remnant would have to forage for their own food, build their own shelter, bury their own dead.
In the Daily Reader we typically avoid outside commentary, but I want to point out something fascinating in the literary structure that we can only see in Hebrew: these first four chapters are acrostic poems. The first letter of each line follows the sequence of the Hebrew alphabet, 22 letters in all. If the same was done in English, the first line would start with “A,” the second with “B,” etc.
The reasons for this are unclear, but you’ll be able to feel some of the results. Each line has purpose, and there is often no clear connection between verses. It was a disciplined approach to writing that requires equally disciplined reading: layer upon layer of prophecy, wisdom, and lament. Someone – possibly Jeremiah, sitting among the ruins of Jerusalem – was inspired to create a composition of artistic masterpiece of grief and worship. Massive gulps of its draught might have little effect, but a sip could drown you.
Our verse for this week is Psalm 51:10: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Lamentations 1 and 2. Now let’s read it!
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.