He lived in a city once called “the perfection of beauty” (1). Built on a high ridge, it had beautiful buildings, palaces, towers, and a magnificent house of worship. “The joy of the whole earth” was how his friends and neighbors referred to it.
But the days of beauty and joy are now just memories. In fact, maybe those days of splendor and favor weren’t even real for they had been paved over by so much destruction and suffering. Taking time to write, he posts “I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity even is.” (2)
Looking across where the walls and gates of his city once stood tall, he sees only heaps of rubble. The people of Aleppo, Syria could understand this man’s sorrow. The people of Mosul, Iraq could empathize with this man’s anguish. For I imagine Jeremiah’s view of Jerusalem in 586 BC looked quite similar to many parts of the Middle East today.
A nation defeated.
A city deserted.
A community humiliated, poor, and hungry.
Children starved or killed.
Friends captured or detained.
The place of worship destroyed and abandoned by the One who had dwelt in it. (3)
His heart broken and eyes failing from all the weeping.
In his mourning, Jeremiah writes five songs of sorrow which are collected by the Spirit for us in the book of Lamentations. By the middle of his third poetic song, the weight of his agony is extreme. There have been 62 long stanzas of mourning. It is almost too much to bear, and then, at just this moment, the weeping prophet begins to weave hope into his lament – hope for his people and hope for us.
A meditation remix (*) of Lamentations 3:19-66…
My soul, I know your affliction and struggle;
each sorrow heavy, each grief burdensome.
I am a first-hand witness to your condition,
O my soul: downcast and weary.
Yet come, all is not without hope.
Let us remember in the dark what was true in the light.
When we stand in the darkness, let us decide to stand as well
on the truth: hope-filled and sustaining.
“Let there be light (4)
for I have overcome the world.” (5)
The whole world. All of it.
Every disease, violent act, affliction, burden.
“Let there be light”
And no more night. (6)
No more death, mourning, crying, or pain. (7)
Every dawn, the rising sun is an announcement:
“This day Adonai will show compassion.”
Let there be light, life, and only love.
For only the Lord’s lovingkindness is so gracious.
Only the Lord’s mercy is holy unceasing.
Only the Lord’s faithfulness is worth waiting upon.
My grief, great as it is,
is not without cause;
I am not in constant right-standing.
His love, as it is great,
is mine without cause;
Only by way of His mercy can I stand right.
His way should be our way:
justice wrapped in compassion.
For the prisoners,
for the rights of the people.
For the red, yellow, black and white,
all the precious souls in God’s sight.
And when we see justice mocked,
let us bear witness —
True is the song of the children,
“He’s got the whole world in His hands.”
True is the song of the Psalter,
“He spoke, and there it was.
He commanded, and there is stood. (8)
True is the song in our hearts,
“As children of the True Light,
greater is the Light of the One within us,
than the darkness living in this world.” (9)
The Refiner’s Fire illuminates my judging heart, (10)
and reveals the selfish works of my hands.
Come, refine my heart and make it pure,
touch your coals to my hands and lips making them clean. (11)
If you were to speak, O Lord,
and say “Let there be a consuming fire,”
You would not be without cause,
for we are a self-filled, pride-filled, idol-filled people.
But O Lord, hear our cry
and say “Let there be forgiveness” instead.
We are as good as dead
El Shaddai, since in your hands rest the whole world,
then surely you have felt the weight of the darkness here.
The enemies of Peace, Light, and Love
open their mouths and spew forth terror, hate, and division.
They open their hands and send forth
explosions, bullets, and homemade bombs.
How long will there be suffering without relief;
disease and addiction without cures?
How long will our souls grieve over suicides and homicides,
starvation and poisonings,
drownings in seas over there and icy ponds here?
How long will mothers wail,
fathers weep, and children be orphaned?
From heaven, O Lord, does your light
even penetrate the gloom here?
Let our suffering not be eclipsed by a shadow;
nor our grief hidden on the backside of the moon.
Do you see no evil,
hear no evil, speak against no evil?
God Almighty, look!
Hear our cries.
See the madness.
Relieve our fears.
Come close and save us.
O Lord Defender, you’ve taken my case.
O Lord Maker, you’re redeeming my life.
He who molded the ear, does He not hear?
He who formed the eye, does He not see? (12)
He who made promises, however long ago,
is He not faithful? (13)
Yes! Yes! A thousand times “Yes!”
The All Mighty is All Knowing.
When the darkness broadcasts its propaganda,
you hear, in every language, their call for death.
When the darkness drives trucks into crowds
and buries mines where children roam,
you see as they turn playing fields into killing fields.
And when they plot their next target
and pick their next market,
you know from afar their secret thoughts and ways.
No, never a surprise to you
are the ways of the wicked.
Let what is right and good, O Lord,
shine like the most glorious of dawns.
Render a just verdict upon the evil
with all the strength and might of the noonday sun. (14)
Blind the wicked and throw them into outer darkness, (15)
for you are the Judge of the whole world.
In a little while, you promise,
the wicked will disappear.
Although we may scan the horizon for their approach,
they will never again darken our paths.
The meek, the humble, the broken,
they will find rest in a land of peace. (16)
Come, O Light of the World,
come quickly and let there be light.
*A Meditation Remix?
Gentle readers, I do not wish there to be any cognitive dissonance pertaining to the words above. All Scripture, I believe, is one hundred percent God-breathed, (2 Tim 3:16) beautiful, and complete just as it is. I am not offering a new translation or interpretation; this is not a replacement in any way to the original sacred writings.
Instead, I’m starting to think of this writing style as a meditation remix. It begins as a meditation specifically on Lamentations 3:19-66 and then other pieces get mixed in. My hearts begins to feel a certain rhythm of words and imagery as I seek to write this passage of holy scripture on my heart. And as I pondered the specific words and phrases, other verses came to mind and get swirled into the mix revealing how our Lord “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb 13:8). Amen!
My desire is simply that this meditation remix will inspire you to return to the original text, see it with fresh eyes, and experience it with a heart open to His words of hope.