Tag: Lamentations

Paul House on Lamentations

Old Testament scholar Paul House is at QTC today. He’s speaking tonight on Isaiah.

He’s wearing a jacket and tie to be a non-conformist.

Lamentations is a post-exilic (587 BC) book reflecting post-exilic theology as Israel try to come to terms with the pain of exile. Exile is comparable to Gallipoli for Australians and Pearl Harbour/September 11 for Americans. It is a point by which to mark time culturally, it causes reflection, and for believers it causes reflection about God.

Israel have experienced “the day of the Lord” as a day of judgment. And they are realigning their thinking.

We don’t apply the Bible to our lives, we apply our lives to the Bible.

People who have experienced extreme trauma are presenting their thoughts about God in this book. Even people who are heinous, who have brought the trouble on themselves, this book has something to say.

The theme of this book is “prayers for outrageous grace.”

If you could deny God’s mercy and grace to anybody who would it be? There is grace for those people with God.

Structure: Chapter 1:1-9a are the words of a sympathetic narrator. The direct quotes are Jerusalem speaking. It happens again in verse 11. This is the heart rending poetry of the person receiving the punishment of the exile (documented elsewhere in 2 Kings in plain “history”).

In verses 18-22, Jerusalem, the city, speaks and confesses that God was in the right when it came to judgment. This is not Jerusalem at her best, but at her worst, and yet there is an element of hope that the judgment will be finite and there will be another side.

This idea of hope comes from Exodus 34:6-7, Leviticus 26:14-45, Deuteronomy 27-28; 30, 2 Kings 17.

God is slow to anger. There are more than 400 years between Solomon and exile. God is slow to anger, but he has a quick trigger finger when it comes to idolatry because idolatry is the most dangerous sin there is, because (by example) you’re taking people away from the only God who can save them.

Exodus 34 becomes the proof text for seeking intercession. It’s cited in Numbers 14, and in Joel 2, and in Jonah 3-4 it’s used for calling for God not to intercede in line with his merciful nature. Nahum 1:2-8 is a judgment statement on Assyria, the nation Jonah went out to, which says that God won’t clear the guilty.

There are good and bad promises from God (promises of blessing for obedience v promises of punishment for disobedience (consequences)).

Deuteronomy 30 is important because it shows the Lord will take both group, and individual, back on the point of faithful repentance. Which is how God has always dealt with people. It has never been works.

More than half the Psalms are lament. How do we use lament and prayer in song in our churches? How often do we do it?

Lamentations is a carefully and creatively written piece in acrostic form, and alliterative form later on. It’s art.

The book answers a “why” question, and a “how to respond” question, and a growing number of scholars in university schools of theology that argue that “this book is how to survive the abusive God in an unjust situation…” That’s certainly not the right view point, but it’s a viewpoint that people who are seeking pastoral assistance, will often adopt.

A better view is that the book is about outrageous grace. A character who has no right to go to God for forgiveness (given their history), knowing that God will supply it. Lamentations helps us to see how to pray, how to preach, how to wait, and how to hope.