Lamentations 5

This chapter has a drama in its structure in the original language, because after four neat alphabetical acrostic poems in chapters 1-4, the last has no discernable pattern. The structure is gone. Chaos has replaced order.

Like the other poems, the content is divided into observation and implication. It starts with a plea to God to remember what has happened to them, and lists the terrible sights and images in Jerusalem. And it’s awful.

It’s a picture of a destitute, marginalised, powerless people, exploited and abused at every turn. So many races and ethnic minorities come to mind still. The world has more stateless refugees than ever. Paying too much for basics of life like food and water, unable to find work or stuck doing back-breaking labour. Victims of crime, denied justice, joyless.

There is an acceptance that ‘the crown has fallen from their head’ because of sin. But there also a complaint to God that this generation is bearing the sin of previous ones, a hint of self-righteousness.

The list takes up more of the chapter than usual, and the conclusion is more pessimistic. It asks God to remember all this, and on the basis that his throne endures forever, restore them.

But it also considers the option that God may have utterly rejected them, that he is ‘angry beyond measure’.

I don’t think God was more angry about this sin than any, it all earns judgement. His character is one of grace. But the brutal truth was that the paradigm of Israel they knew was not God’s plan any more. The Messiah was coming. It was a new thing, as Isaiah said, and more inclusive, and not tied to sacrifices in the temple.

The exile would end, the temple would be rebuilt as promised, but smaller and then get sacked again and never return… (Yet).

I’m unsettled, I’m busy, I’m vulnerable. In the arc of my life, my strength is getting less not more. There are loose ends everywhere I can’t get a handle on.

Thursday and Friday last week, I opted out. I stayed home, didn’t think about work except to get a medical certificate. I was agitated and distracted, I muddled through the days.

Coming at such a vulnerable time for me, the book both dwarfs and validates my bad feelings. I’m relatively not that hard done by, but also it is ok to lament. The divine plan includes hard bits. It did for Jesus too. They don’t stop being hard because God is sovereign. Talk about them, share them with God and each other, to make sense of our existence.

This is the end of lamentations. It has to be there, after all the prophets. 16 books of prophesy, full of warnings about the coming destruction of Jerusalem and how bad it will be. There had to be a first hand account to close the narrative circle. To show it was indeed 100% as they said it would be.

The Lord gives and takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.

Songs

My hobby is songwriting – I may have referred to it deep in the early posts when I was recovering from the trauma of being self employed longer than I had the energy for it. I needed a conscious “me” thing to get a better work/life balance, and I’ve always written music since childhood.

Its a bit of an insular hobby. Maybe I can add performing at some point in my life. But I like it for now because I do it any time, and am completely free in my own creativity – or blandness as the case may be. Something I do that is not shaped by any brief or expectations other than my own.

I’m slowly, very slowly, writing a song inspired by each of these bible books I’ve read, and I may sprinkle a few more of my songs through the blog too.

If you see reference to 7pm Praise Team, that’s just a band I planned once. Maybe I’ll make it a real band one day – probably not… but the account was there. And it could yet prove useful if I ever convince someone with a better voice than mine to sing one of my songs…

All the entries with songs will collect at the link below – enjoy, if you like pop and can get used to my voice.

https://inheritingtheearth.wordpress.com/tag/song/

Reading boring books of the bible

Here’s a good article about reading the boring parts of the bible.

https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/bible-study/6-tricks-to-make-it-through-the-bible-s-boring-books.html

To which I’d add these points of emphasis:

1. Pay attention to God – its all about God revealing himself, Not everything that happens is holy because its in the bible. People sometimes claim to be good, but they are acting on their own? So always ask ‘Has God spoken? What is God’s role? What is being revealed of his character?’

Because boredom can arise  from reading long complex bits of writing that seem irrelevant.  Focusing on God, who is unchanging, can anchor you in a sea of confronting cultural and historical distance, and start to bring it back to something relevant and shared with the writer of the passage.

2. Also use commentaries for the really weird bits, and don’t be impatient.  Slow down when sometimes you get the urge to speed up. There is often more gold in there than you first think.  I’m looking at you, Ezekiel and Daniel. Often I’ve thought something was irredeemably stupid, and a little bit of commentary makes it pretty mind boggling.

3. Say to God your feelings, no matter how ‘wrong’.  Say the thing you think God doesn’t want to hear. If you find a passage boring, repetitive, needlessly violent or bizarre, say that to God and pursue the line of thought.

Because God is real, loving, slow to anger and wants the best for me, I’ve found this braveness in talking to him has generally opened up insight and blessing.  It means you wrestle honestly with the boring bits, and they actually can come to life in surprising ways.

4. The bible is reflecting you in unpleasant ways, because much about us is unpleasant to God. Its changing you in ways that you will fight and want to hold onto.  Its aligning your mind with God’s, and the ‘boredom’ may be your sinful nature rejecting God’s grace and teaching. Sometimes I stop for a bit, or carry on in pure stubbornness, passionless. I got that way last time I read Psalms actually, which I’m going back to finish next.

5. But also, boredom is just part of life, so sometimes its just part of the deal. The bible has bona fide boring bits, it just does. Accept it, and as the article says, skim the genealogies.

I say this having just finished 1 & 2 Chronicles, which were surprisingly less boring than I expected.  I was going to read Ezekiel next, but as I say I’ve decided to divert to Psalms. Time for some pithy poetry and ambiguity! Songs for all occasions.

Bible project

Just a shout out to this you tube channel.

Here’s a link to a playlist of all their videos in the same order as the Bible.

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLVpri7vfPPtKUOaqAAjEtZR4C-bO5Y_XQ

It’s a series of under-10-minute illustrated videos that give you really pithy overviews of the books of the Bible.

They’ve branched out of late and done words and themes and other Christian questions.

I’ve watched their two Isaiah videos (see the first below) twice. It’s like a drone shot of the book… You zoom up from the ground and see the whole landscape.

To find it you just search the name of any book in YouTube, or to be sure “Bible project” + book name.

Thank you Bible project, you’ve done humanity a massive favour!

 

 

Reading plans

I’ve been reading the bible from Bible Gateway. I suppose pretty much everyone does, and I often feel strong gratitude for the people who put it together (though I wish they would change designer at some point – that colour scheme!)

I’ve been dipping into one of their reading plans of late, the whole bible is laid out in chronological order of events, which helps the books lead one to the other.

https://www.biblegateway.com/reading-plans/chronological

I won’t stick to it 100% but useful to know!