For the next few weeks we will be reading through Lamentations at our Sunday gatherings. There is tremendous benefit in reading the bible together and doing so in public. Even when there's no further comment, study or preaching of a passage, there is tremendous benefit in reading the scriptures together. The scriptures themselves encourage such public reading (1Tim 4v13) and promise blessing when it is done (Revelation 1v3, Psalm 1v1-2).
But why are we reading the book of Lamentations in particular? Here are a couple of the (many) reasons:
It's an unfamiliar book, but we still need it
Even if you have been a Christian for a long period of time, chances are you haven't heard much preaching on Lamentations, or studied it in a small group or one-to-one. Likewise, most of us will read more frequently from the gospels, Psalms, epistles and narrative books of the bible than Lamentations. But, as with all scripture, Lamentations is inspired by the Spirit of God (2Peter 1v21) for our salvation through knowing Christ (2Tim 3v15) and our encouragement in living as the people of God (Romans 15v4). It is part of the richness of God's message to us and his world. If we neglect it, we miss out. One particular aspect of this is...
It expresses things we don't often express, but we still need to grapple with
The clue is in the title of the book: Lamentations is a series of laments. It is written in the aftermath of the devastation of Jerusalem and the Temple of God by the Babylonian Empire in 587BC, confirming and deepening Israel's exile. This was an event of seismic proportions, one which threw the Israelites into turmoil - a spiritual dislocation to match the political and geographical upheaval they had been through. Although there are many differences with our own lives, there are important similarities. We too live in a world of tragedy and suffering, we too live in a world where God's people often fail, we too live waiting and longing for our true home in God's restored and renew creation.
And yet, we are not very good at expressing our pain or hearing the pain of others expressed. We do not often pray or sing 'in the minor key.' We ignore, or distract ourselves from the painful reality of living in a world under the judgment of God. We have much to learn from Lamentation's graphic descriptions of Jerusalem's devastation, its confessions of sin and expressions of hope the far side of judgment.
For a helpful video about Lamentations see here.