The book of Lamentations is a difficult book to read simply because of the intense emotion and heartbreak that is so prevalent throughout the book.

Most agree that this is a postscript to the book of Jeremiah about the destruction of Jerusalem, but the name of the author is absent from its pages. The Greek translation (Septuagint or LXX) added these words as an introduction to the book, “And it came to pass after Israel was taken captive, and Jerusalem made desolate, that Jeremiah sat weeping, and lamented with this lamentation over Jerusalem, and said…” Jewish tradition also attributes the work to the prophet Jeremiah noting several things within the Lamentation that sounds like Jeremiah.

Several of the ideas expressed by Jeremiah are also expressed in Lamentations (Jer. 30:14/Lam. 1:2; Jer. 49:12/Lam. 4:21). In both books, the author says that his eyes flowed with tears (Jer. 9:1, 18/Lam. 1:16; 2:11) and was an eyewitness to the fall of Jerusalem (Jer. 19:9/Lam. 2:20; 4:10). These connections are convincing for me personally. I believe that Jeremiah wrote the book of Lamentations.

The book reminds us of the huge cost of sin that resulted in Israel’s complete destruction and captivity in Babylon. As one commentator said, “It is a mute reminder that sin, despite all its allurement and excitement, carries with it heavyweights of sorrow, grief, misery, barrenness, and pain. It is the other side of the eat, drink, and be merry’ coin” (Charles R. Swindoll, The Lamentations of Jeremiah, “Introduction”). [i]

All the heartache and hardships experienced by the people throughout the book of Lamentations was clearly predicted 900 years before it took place. God had warned Israel in Deuteronomy 28:15-68 of the fearful consequences of disobedience. Jeremiah makes the point throughout Lamentations that God has kept His promises of punishment given in the covenant. What is easily missed is the promises of restoration if the people repent and return to God (Deut. 30:1-10) and Jeremiah offers that hope to Israel (Lam. 3:21-32).

Several lessons stand out from this difficult book.

First, we need to see that sin and rebellion to His will is never free nor without consequences. Repeatedly God warns us that the cost is going to be higher than we can imagine; repeatedly warning that He will punish those who refuse to listen to Him.

Second, we need to see that God punishes for a purpose. All along God had used the prophets (those who spoke for Him) to draw His people back. Yet, like so many today, they refused to repent of their rebellions or listen to God.

Third, we need to see that even during punishment God is still calling us to return to Him. God loves us and wants to draw us up into His arms and embrace us as children but that doesn’t mean He will not punish, just like our earthly fathers have done.

This teaches us that God is still warning us that eventually, our sins will catch up with us. He warns us that rebellion against His commands will eventually overtake us and once it does it’s too late to avoid the hurt and loss. That does not mean that God will not allow repentance and will not bring those punishments to an end.

Dear Christian do not refuse to repent of your sins and rebellion. Do not continue to refuse to do the works He has commanded us. Use the words of Lamentations to encourage you to avoid the hurt and pain and turn back to Him while you still have time.

[i] Dyer, C. H. (1985). Lamentations. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 1207). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.