19 June, 2024

May 14 | Punished

by | 8 May, 2023 | 0 comments

Unit: Lamentations
Theme: God-Given Grief
Lesson text: Lamentations 5:1-22
Supplemental texts: 2 Kings 21:10-16; Psalm 143:1-12; Jeremiah 4:16-18; Ezekiel 5:15.

Aim: Pray for mercy when you suffer God’s punishment. 

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Download a PDF of this week’s lesson material (the study by Mark Scott, the Application by David Faust, and Discovery Questions by Michael C. Mack): LOOKOUT_May14_2023.

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By Mark Scott

James Dobson told of a little boy who was cantankerous in church. His mother finally picked him up and hauled him down the center aisle to the foyer to discipline him. The little boy touched each person on the end of each pew as he was being hauled out and said, “Pray for me.” Thank God for mothers (and fathers) who wisely punish their children when it is deserved.  

Like the mother in this story, God has administered deserved punishment; for the Israelites, the reason was their unfaithfulness. The result was Lamentations, which we are working our way through. Last week we discussed God’s discipline (chapter 4), and this week we discuss his punishment (chapter 5). 

Bad News 
Lamentations 5:1-18 

Israel’s Situation (vv. 1-10)Chapter 5 begins with a prayer, “Remember, Lord. . . .” The situation was dire. Israel had been disgraced (reproached or scorned) by their Babylonian captors. Their inheritance (possession or property) and homes had been turned over to foreigners. Their pursuers had nipped at their heels (literally stood on their necks). The Israelites previously had submitted to Egypt and Assyria (representative of past captivities) to find bread. People groups who should have been Israel’s slaves now ruled over them. No one could free Israel from their hands. 

In addition to being enslaved, Israel’s family life was a train wreck. Fathers had gone to war and were killed, and thus the nation was fatherless and many mothers were widows. The workforce was depleted, so water and wood had to be purchased for drinking and cooking. Prices were steep. Bread was secured at the risk of their lives. Their skin was feverish from working in the hot Palestinian sun, which Jeremiah described as being hot as an oven.  

Israel’s People (vv. 11-14)Several groups of people are mentioned in these verses—women, virgins, princes, elders, young men, and boys. The women and virgins had been violated (raped) in the center of Judaism (Zion and the surrounding towns). The kingly families have been hung up by their hands. Older people were shown no respect. They were gone from the city gate (meaning that their influence in the market and courts was absent). Jobs typically carried out by animals (e.g., grinding at the millstones and carrying wood) were being done by young men and boys. The music of young men had dried up.  

Israel’s Spirit (vv. 15-18)—The heart of the Israelites had been extinguished. The defeat of their hearts was worse than the desolation of Mount Zion. Joy had left their hearts. Dancing had turned to mourning. Their sense of royalty as God’s special people had slipped like a crown from a king’s head. Hearts had grown faint, and eyes had grown dim. They weren’t trying to cover up anything, at least. The broken people of God admitted that their sin had created this dilemma. There was no singing in Zion; the sound of jackals was all that was heard.  

Good News Disguised as Bad News 
Lamentations 5:19-22 

If the first part of this prayer is a plea for God to remember what had happened to Israel, then the rest of the prayer acknowledges that God was God, and he was uniquely postured to renew and restore his people. What is ultimately good news sometimes comes disguised as the bad news of judgment.  

Jeremiah acknowledged that God would reign forever (in contrast to the Babylonians’ reign, which would soon come to an end). God’s throne endured from generation to generation (in contrast to the Egyptians’ and Assyrians’ thrones, which had already seen their demise). Israel was allowed to vent their frustration (via Jeremiah) and to ask why God seemed to forget and forsake them. The nation even wondered if God had utterly rejected her and was angry . . . beyond measure with her.  

But deep within the soul of Israel was the desire to be restored and renewed (repaired or made new) as God’s people. That was possible only by the grace of God. As strange as it might sound, the path to renewal is often punishment. That is the good news disguised as bad news.  

On this Mother’s Day, thank God the Father for being like a tough and tender mother. The stern lines in his face are really marks of love. Let us learn the lesson that Israel had to learn—that is, to pray for mercy when we suffer God’s punishment. 

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