The Hope of a Nation.
Lamentations are Jeremiah's five sorrowful poems about the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 586 BC. They mourn the downfall of Judah and express two levels of intense suffering, the personal pain of Jeremiah and the angst of the people. The City of David, Jerusalem, was believed to be the dwelling place of God, at Mount Zion (see Psalm 9:11, 76:2, 135:21). The temple, of course, was the center of their religious life. To the Jewish nation their violation by foreign armies was the conclusion of God's favor and blessings, their ruin as a dominant force among the nations. Many of the Hebrew people were taken into Babylonian Exile as a result of being conquered. Jeremiah's poems acknowledged their sinful ways and accepted their defeat as God's punishment.
For an unknown reason the author used acrostics to relate the dirge-like qualities of the poems. Chapters 1, 2, and 4 are 22 verses each, every verse beginning with consecutive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Chapter 3 is 66 verses with an alphabetic letter grouping three verses each. Chapter 5 is 22 verses with no acrostics. There's much speculation about the use of the alphabet in the poems. Let's not go there in this context.
While four of the poems are sorrowful and repentant, several verses in Chapter 3 are considered the central theme God inspired Jeremiah to recite to the nation.
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never
ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your
faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The
Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one
should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man that he bear
the yoke in his youth.
Lamentations 3: 21-27, ESV
For the sake of space I have removed the poetic meter of these words. Recalling the character of God, they are words of comfort, the promise of God's faithfulness as Judah faced so many uncertainties. He called them to mind because they gave Jeremiah hope. Jeremiah wrote them because they were words of hope for the nation as well. They are words we should perhaps note and pray in these uncertain times.
We are not mourning the loss of our nation. Americans are pulling together for the most part in dealing with the Covid-19 virus. That is an essential element of our national character, how we measure up corporately in challenging circumstances. The virus is a bothersome inconvenience right now. It is, however, raising doubts and questions about our system of government, economic policies, employment possibilities, educational structure, and medical preparation. You know, uncertainties that are playing by the day.
With Jeremiah, we should know the answers for these national questions are with our Heavenly Father. This morning I read all four verses of The Star Spangled Banner. The entire hymn is a declaration of the American spirit, the grit and commitment of the citizens in "...the land of the free and the home of the brave." The fourth verse was especially encouraging , one that I learned in grade school but let slip to the edges of personal memory---
O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand Between their loved homes and the war's desolation. Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heav'n rescued land Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation! Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto: 'in God is our trust.' And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
God was the hope of the nation then, in 1814. He is the hope of the nation now! It's what Jeremiah said to the people of Judah, and over the centuries to God's people facing difficult times.
The hope of the nation.