THINK: What do you feel as you read Lamentations? Except for the fact that it's not the end of the story, it can be depressing. That's understandable considering it's theme: sin brings sorrow (1:18). People may enjoy the pleasures of sin and immorality for a while, but eventually the consequences become evident. Sooner or later, distress, despair and destruction will come to all who don't turn to God in repentance. Those who know the joy of a relationship with Jesus should grieve over the tragedy of people still enslaved to sin, praying desperately that they'll recognize their hopeless condition and turn to God for mercy, forgiveness and new life.
RESPOND: What city is in ruins, how does Jeremiah personify (i.e., describe with human traits) the city, and what are his emotions at the time? (See 1:1 note.) Where were most of the people of Judah at that time (1:3-4)? Why had all of these things happened to Jerusalem and the nation of Judah? (See 1:5 note.) How is this tragedy a warning to us? (See 1:7 note.) What does the name "Lamentations" imply? (See 1:12 first note.) While considering God's love and forgiveness, what do we also need to keep in mind regarding God's character and attitude toward sin (1:12)? (See 1:12 second note.) In what ways does sin and rebellion toward God bring suffering, distress and torment (1:18-20)? How and why did the Lord become like an enemy to Israel and Judah (2:5), and how is this a warning to us? (See 2:5 note.) What are some risks individuals and churches take if they choose to tolerate or adopt ungodly beliefs and behaviors? (See 2:5 and 2:7 notes.) In what way is Jeremiah's sorrow an example to us? (See 2:11 note.) What did Jeremiah desperately call the people to do, and why? (See 2:18 note.)
PRAY: Praise God for His love, mercy and patience, but also for His perfect justice and righteous judgments. Pray for a supernatural compassion for people who don't know Jesus and are still enslaved to sin.
ACT: Pay attention to the people and conditions around you at school, at work, and in your community, including what you see and hear in the media. Consider people's spiritual condition and the effects of sin that are evident in the world. Try to look at people and situations from God's perspective of sorrow over sin and compassion for those who are spiritually lost. Use words and actions that could help people see Jesus through you.
THINK: A lot of people are aware of the fact that God is love (1 John 4:8). Even those who don't have a personal relationship with God tend to emphasize His love and forgiveness, while ignoring other aspects of His character. This includes His perfect justice and His justified anger regarding sin and those who reject His patient call to turn from their own ways and follow him. Thankfully, God exercises tough love to bring people to their spiritual senses. This means He sometimes allows problems and pain for those who rebel against Him in order to humble them and accomplish a positive, purifying purpose in their lives. If they admit their sin, ask God to forgive them and entrust their lives to Him, He's ready to forgive immediately, although He will restore a person's full purpose in His own time.
RESPOND: How is Israel portrayed in chapter 3? (See 3:1 note.) According to 3:8, what's one of the consequences of living in rebellion against God? (See 3:8 note.) According to 3:21-24, what hope did the people still have and why? (See 3:21-23 note.) Why does God allow problems and pain for those who rebel against Him, and how should we respond to such times? (See 3:27-33 and 3:33 notes.) How did Jeremiah identify with his people and what was his hope for them? (See 3:40-41 note.) According to 3:57-58, how did God respond to Jeremiah? What does chapter 4 reveal about things that many individuals and nations value and rely on for satisfaction, strength and status? (See 4:1-12 note.) How bad did conditions get in Jerusalem and what terrible things did some people resort to in order to survive (4:9-10)? (See 4:1-12 note.) What two main categories of sin resulted in Judah's tragic condition? (See 4:13 note.) When would Judah's captivity and punishment end? (See 4:22 note.) How does the book of Lamentations end, what does this teach us to do in the midst of harsh circumstances, and why? (See 5:21-22 note.)
PRAY: Give God thanks for tough times that turn your attention to Him. Thank Him for hope through such times and for the forgiveness that's available to all who humbly confess their sin to Him.
ACT: As 3:40 challenges you, examine your ways to see if there is any persistent or unconfessed sin in your life. Also, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any ways in which you're relying on the wrong things. As He does, admit your sin and ask God to forgive you. Then turn from the sin and follow God wholeheartedly.