A study of God's Longsuffering, Fierce Anger, and Providential care for His people Introduction:
The current state of Judah and Jerusalem is desolation at the hands of the Chaldeans. Lamentations is composed of five poems of deep sorrow that express the current state of the city and the captives. Jeremiah is the apparent author. The prophet's voice is, for the most part of Lamentations, a representation of the people as a whole that are left in Judah after the destruction of Jerusalem. There were no darker times in the history of God's people at this point than these and so they lament the awful consequences of their actions.
There comes a time in the life of sinful man that the Lord's longsuffering and patience ends (Lamentations 1:5). Jehovah God will show no mercy or pity upon the disobedient at that time (Lamentations 2:21). A day of "fierce anger and wrath" awaits the one who rejects Jehovah's law (cf. Lamentations 2:1-6) and no sinner shall escape (Lamentations 2:22). Judah had reached such a state of corruption and therefore "the Lord hath trodden as in a winepress the virgin daughter of Judah" (Lamentations 1:15). Young, old, male, female, adult, and child were all subject to the sword, famine, and pestilence. Jeremiah had warned the people for 42 years yet to no avail (cf. Jeremiah 1:1; 25:3ff•, 40:1ff).
God's fierce anger
Children were dying of thirst and starvation (Lamentations 4:4), nobles that once ate as kings walked in the streets with their skin barely clinging to the bones in a state of starvation (Lamentations 4:7-8), many had been slain with the sword (Lamentations 4:9), mothers boiled and ate their own children to avert starvation (Lamentations 4:10), Judah's virgins were raped (Lamentations 5:11), their princes executed and hung up by the hands for public display (Lamentations 5:13), and they were ruled by the Chaldeans, living as servants (Lamentations 5:1ff). As Jeremiah watched God's fierce anger unleashed upon sinful Judah, it caused him deep sorrow and pain (Lamentations 2:11; 3:48-49).
Jeremiah had assured Judah that what they were about to experience; (i.e., sword, famine, pestilence, and seventy years captivity), would serve to move them to shame and repentance (cf. Jeremiah 29:8-14). The book of Lamentations illustrates that the remnant of Judah is now sorry for their sinful deeds as a consequences of God's divine wrath. They understood, at the point of Jeremiah writing Lamentations, that their yoke of affliction lied heavily upon their neck because of their sins (Lamentations 1:14). Judah proclaims, "Jehovah is righteous; for I have rebelled against his commandment:" (Lamentations 1:18). At Lamentations 1:20 Judah proclaims, "for I have grievously rebelled." And again, "We have transgressed and have rebelled; thou hast not pardoned' (3:42). Finally, Judah proclaims, "Woe unto us! For we have sinned" (5:16).
Note that the consequences of Judah's sin had not changed even though their hearts are now turning back to Jehovah God (Proverbs 13:15; Hosea 2:6). Judah continued to experience great sorrow of heart over the loss of loved ones, the tabernacle, and the city. Judah's sorrow was heavy and tears were flowing as a river that raged out of control (Lamentations 1:16; 2:18). A heartbroken people had learned their lesson, but not without the Loving Father driving them to this point with drastic measures. This proves that Jehovah God is a God of love because in the state of mind Judah was in, they would not have changed without some sort of providential care (please read Jeremiah 5:30; 6:16 for the state of Judah's mind before God's wrath was pored out upon them).
God's purpose accomplished
Jeremiah records, "Jehovah hath done that which he purposed" (Lamentations 2:17), "Jehovah hath accomplished his wrath, he hath poured out his fierce anger... (Lamentations 4:11) and again states, "The punishment of thine iniquity is accomplished, O daughter of Zion; he will no more carry thee away into captivity" (Lamentations 4:22). As stated above, the people suffered God's wrath for their decision to follow and practice iniquity.
There is, however, a special emphasis placed upon the false prophets and shepherds of Judah who bear a heavy burden of guilt for Judah's demise. Jeremiah said, "It is because of the sins of her prophets, and the iniquities of her priests, that have shed the blood of the just in the midst of he"' (Lamentations 4:13). These shepherds had comforted Judah in their sin (Jeremiah 23:1317) and thereby held a degree of individual responsibility for Judah's fall. God's desire for Judah was that they would acknowledge their sins (Jeremiah 3:13, 25; 13:16). He desired that they seek truth (Jeremiah 5:1), stand in, hear, and obey the laws of God (Jeremiah 6:16; 7:21-24; 13:10, 17; 26:13), that they amend their ways (Jeremiah 18:11; 26:13), and to repent of their sins (Jeremiah 18:8; 25:5). This was Jehovah's purpose and it was achieved in the remnant that remained in Judah.
The Lord works the same way today with His disobedient people. Many of God's people today are currently on a crash course for hell. God's will is that no one perishes in their sins (Il Pet. 3:9). Here is where His providence comes in. God's knowledge of the future is His motivation for His present foresight and action. He knows what He wants to achieve and He provides the means for it to be accomplished. God desires for man to be saved and thereby chastens the disobedient as He did during the days of Judah's rebellion (cf. Revelation 3:19). There comes a time; however, when God's mercy and longsuffering ends. Judah experienced the wrath of Jehovah God for their iniquities (Lamentations 1:5). Likewise, those who would exhaust the longsuffering of the Lord today will face His fierce wrath (cf. Revelation 14:19-20). God's people today ought to consider the "latter end' of their sins (Deuteronomy 32:29; Isaiah 47:7; Lamentations 1:9). Jehovah's "purpose" (Lamentations 2:17; 4:11, 22) was to move Judah to such sorrow that they would exclaim, 'l have sinned' (cf. Jeremiah 3:13, 25). The book of Lamentations indicates that Jehovah's purpose had been served (cf. Lamentations 1:18, 20; 3:42; 5:16). No man or woman could complain about their sufferings for all were well warned (Lamentations 3:39). Let us all be moved with Godly sorrow and repentance of our iniquities before it is everlastingly too late!