Too often we open the Old Testament to read and immediately default to the “this-is-for-Israel” mindset. While it is very true that God superintended the writing of the Old Testament books as revelation He gave to Israel through the prophets, we must remember that
All Scripture is inspired [breathed out] by God and profitable for teaching [doctrine], for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:16–17 NASU with my explanatory notes in square brackets)
In other words, as Christians (not Israel) we also must have a mindset to learn doctrine through, to be reproved by, to be corrected by, and to be trained in righteousness by the Old Testament, so that we might be equipped for “every good work.”
The little book of Lamentations, with the possible exception of 3:21–27, resides outside the Christian’s established routine for personal sanctification. Let’s take another look at this hidden gem in the Old Testament. Indeed, let’s submit ourselves to the task of reading it from the positive viewpoint that God gave it so that we might profit (remember “profitable” in 2 Tim 3:16?) from it spiritually.
In Lamentations chapters 1 and 2 Jeremiah refers to the absence of either comfort or a comforter for his people. God was judging Jeremiah’s people, Israel, for their disobedience to His Word. Because of their disobedience God removed from them anyone who might comfort them. Four times (1:9, 16, 17, 21) Jeremiah says that his people have no comforter.
When God’s people (whether Old Testament Israel or New Testament Christians) disobey Him, He sees to it that they become discomforted, discouraged, discontented, and disarmed (loss of effective spiritual weapons). Such people have no resting place (1:3), no pasture (1:6), and no strength (1:6). They have no one to help them (1:7). Under the chastening hand of God, no believer can find respite. That’s where a shepherd enters the picture—God-given shepherds. A shepherd desires, like Jeremiah, to comfort God’s people (2:13). Pastors (= shepherds) and elders must bring comfort to God’s people in God’s way. They must convince people to deal with the sin problem and to repent in order to be restored to a position of blessing.
Israel was not hopeless even in judgment—nor is the Christian without hope when experiencing the chastisement God administers for disobedience. Four times Jeremiah speaks of no comfort or no comforter. At the heart of the Book of Lamentations, however, the prophet speaks four times about hope (3:18, 21, 24, 29). The hope about which he speaks focuses on the theological truth that God will not forsake or abandon His people forever (3:31–32).
Instead of complaining about our lack of comfort when God is chastising us, we need to trust in the fulfillment of His promises in His Word (3:37–39). We must confess our sins, just as God required of Israel (3:40–42; 1 John 1:9). God will respond to our prayer of repentance (Lam 3:57), because He has redeemed us (3:58). In the end we will know that God has always been in in control as our sovereign King (5:18).
Thus our meditation in the Old Testament has led us to a significant consideration of our Lord’s steadfast, loyal love and abundant mercies (3:21–24). In the heart of Lamentations, a book of grief, God Himself provides comfort, encouragement, rest, and strength as Israel’s Comforter and as our Comforter.