Lamentations 3:21 - Hope in the Midst of Lamentations
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hopeLamentations 3:21
As I write this meditation it is during a week in which the daily news reports focus on VE-Day. Together the two countries of Holland and Canada remember the liberation of Holland some sixty years ago. As I watched the Canadian war veterans over in Holland I saw one veteran wipe away the tears from his eyes. What he cannot wipe away are the memories of the horror of war.
These thoughts come to mind as the Scripture lies open in front of me to the book of Lamentations. Here too we are confronted with the horror and devastation of war. Words become images that fill our mind’s eye. A city is destroyed. A nation is in exile. Children are fainting and then dying in the arms of their mothers. The year is 586 B.C. The city is Jerusalem. The destruction has been wrought by the invading armies of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. The poet is thought to be the prophet Jeremiah.
As he writes his poems in the aftermath of war, with tears running down his cheeks, he confesses that the Lord in his righteousness has punished the sins of his people. The Lord has sent the armies of Babylon to devastate his beloved Zion and take her people into captivity. Jeremiah affirms God’s justice and Judah’s sins. He does so for he knows that only then will the prayer of the last poem be answered,
Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may return; renew our days as of old.
In the face of God’s just actions the aftermath of war becomes a time for self-examination in the hope that repentance will lead to renewal and restoration by the Lord.
The message that the Lord is righteous and that sin cannot go unpunished comes from the desolation of Jerusalem but also from the desolation of Christ outside Jerusalem. On that hill called Golgotha sin was punished. The hands of Almighty God wove our sins together and set them upon his neck like a yoke. He was exiled from the city of the righteous to endure the suffering and the agony reserved for the unrighteous. And the book of Lamentations teaches us to say that in all this, “The Lord is righteous” (Lamentations 1:18). At the same time it teaches us to say in the same verse, “Yet, I rebelled against his command.” In the face of God’s just actions the cross of Christ leads to self-examination in the hope that our repentance leads to renewal and restoration by the Lord.
So it is that we find in the mist of Lamentations the words, “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope” (Lamentations 3:21). What does Jeremiah call to mind? He calls to mind the Lord’s great love and compassion, which are never ended. As he sits amid the devastation of the city Jeremiah knows in the depths of his heart that this is not the end of God’s people. That is why this verse begins with “Yet.” He knows this because he knows the Lord who has revealed Himself as slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He is full of compassion and mercy. In wrath He turned his back on his daughter for a moment but Jeremiah knows it is not for a lifetime. In wrath He turned his back on his beloved Son but we know it is not for a lifetime. And so as we survey that wondrous cross we see not only the justice of God, but also his mercy. For in wrath He remembered mercy. After the darkness of his wrath had come over Jerusalem, the sun returned. After the night there is morning. And as Jeremiah writes, the Lord’s compassions “are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:23).
Whenever the people of God turn to Him with broken spirits and contrite hearts He who is faithful will show his unfailing love and compassion. That is our hope even amid the darkness of sin and its effects in this world. Because of who our Lord is we can wait patiently for Him. We wait in hope, for He has promised to restore us to Himself. He has promised to renew this world in which we live. When that day comes He will wipe away the tears of old men who remember war. He will wipe away the tears of mothers whose children’s lives have ebbed away in their arms. He will wipe all our tears away.