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Prayers of the Prophets – Lesson 3: Pain & Oppression

For the Lord will not cast off forever: but though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies. For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men. –Lamentations 3:31-33

Scripture Reading: Lamentations 1:1-12
Introduction

When King Zedekiah rebelled against the Babylonians, to whom Judah was subject, Nebuchadnezzar came against Jerusalem. While the Babylonians sieged the city, the people inside began starving and dying. When the city finally fell, Judah’s king escaped from the city with his soldiers, abandoning the population to their enemies. The Babylonian official in charge of the siege destroyed most of Jerusalem, burned the temple, and carried all but the poorest people into exile.

The book of Lamentations is a collection of five lamentations (songs) of Jeremiah over the suffering and destruction of Jerusalem, and the subsequent exile of many of its people. Contained within three of these lamentations are prayers that the prophet cried in anguish to the Lord. The last lamentation is itself a prayer from start to finish, that recorded Jerusalem’s suffering and final plea. The book of Lamentations has much to teach us today concerning suffering. Consider the following:

  • The best way to survive grief is to express it. It is helpful to talk through each aspect of our sorrow.
  • Defeats as well as victories need to be remembered. If we’d commemorate some of our failures, the failure probably wouldn’t be repeated.
  • Privileges do not protect us from responsibility or from discipline. Actually, privileges increase our responsibility and need for discipline.
  • God often allows suffering in our lives to discipline us, and sometimes to restore us to fellowship with Him.
  • Satan can also bring suffering on us, but that type of suffering is destructive rather than restorative.
  • Suffering should bring us into earnest prayer. With God as our focus, we should look for some hope to help us endure. Lamentations offers this in 3:21-24, where God’s great mercy and love are remembered.

Lesson Questions

  1. How deeply tormented was Jeremiah in his first lamentation? Lam. 1:20.
  2. What did the prophet pray concerning the enemies that were destroying Jerusalem? Lam. 1:21-22.
  3. How were the people of Jerusalem instructed to pray in the second lamentation? Lam. 2:18-19; Psalm 42:3-5.
  4. For what fatal tragedy were the people to intercede? Lam. 2:20-22; Jer. 16:1-4.
  5. In the third lamentation, why did Jeremiah plead for God to hear him? Lam. 3:40-57.
  6. As he continued his prayer, what did the prophet pray concerning the invading Babylonians? Lam. 3:58-66.
  7. Describe the heavy oppression that Jeremiah’s prayer revealed in the fifth lamentation? Lam. 5:1-18.
  8. What does the prophet’s prayer reveal as the only hope for Judah? Lam. 5:19-22; Psalm 80:1-7; Jer. 17:13-14.

Life Application

How do you know that God really loves and accepts you as His child? In Hebrews 12:6-7, it says, “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” Could we say God really cared about us if He never corrected or disciplined us? It is cruelty or love that makes a good father chasten his children? God chastens us so that we “… might be partakers of His holiness” (Heb. 12:10). Have you ever thanked God for His correction and discipline – clear signs of His infinite Love?