12 “Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?
Look and see
if there is any sorrow like my sorrow,
which was brought upon me,
which the Lord inflicted
on the day of his fierce anger.
13 “From on high he sent fire;Lamentations 1:12-13
into my bones he made it descend;
he spread a net for my feet;
he turned me back;
he has left me stunned,
faint all the day long.
I will never, ever get tired of Jerusalem. There is literally nowhere you can go in the Old City and not experience the pages of Scripture coming to life.
The last time I went, in 2022, our group was at the end of our long, exhausting day in Jerusalem. Where we stopped to regroup, we were next to what looked like a drainage ditch running alongside the street. Our guide pointed out that this was one of the only places in Jerusalem where you could see original walls of the city, dating back to before the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC.
My heart stopped for a moment. While people walked and shopped and waited for taxis and paused to rest (like our group was doing), a three thousand year old testimony to the truth of the Bible lay under their feet.
We often say things like “If these walls could speak” when we talk about history. We wish the buildings themselves could tell the story of all that happened there.
In Lamentations 1, the walls do speak.
Lamentations is a series of five laments. The structure is so deliberate and magnificently designed. Chapters 1, 2, and 4 are each 22 verses, and chapter 3 is 66 verses. The first four chapters are acrostics, with three couplets for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Chapter five is also 22 verses long, but it breaks the alphabet poem pattern. Instead, it is a corporate plea for restoration.
Because the chapters are so carefully and methodically built, it’s easy to see the pattern:
Chapter One: The City Speaks
The first 11 verses personify Jerusalem as a woman– Daughter Zion. The pronouns are third person: “she” and “her” are in every single verse. Then, at the halfway point, they switch to first person: “I,” “Me,” and “My”.
Notice how the walls themselves speak:
- “He sent fire from on high into my bones” (1:12; compare 2 Kings 25:9, which describes how Jerusalem was burned)
- “The Lord has rejected all the mighty men within me” (1:15)
- “Outside, the sword takes the children; inside, there is death” (1:20)
Notice also how Daughter Zion takes responsibility:
18 “The Lord is in the right,Lamentations 1:18
for I have rebelled against his word;
but hear, all you peoples,
and see my suffering;
my young women and my young men
have gone into captivity.
Chapter Two: The Prophet Speaks.
Again, there is a clear delineation between the first half of the chapter, which is all third person: “The Lord” “He,” and “His.” These verses leave no doubt that the destruction of Jerusalem was not arbitrary or accidental. It was God’s wrath being poured out. At least 25 times in the first nine verses, there is a reference to what God Himself did: He has thrown down. He has demolished. He has wrecked. He has rejected. And on and on. As in Chapter 1, there are a lot of references to walls and fire:
- “He has cut off every horn of Israel in His burning anger… He has blazed against Jacob like a flaming fire that consumes everything” (2:3)
- “He has handed the walls of her palaces over to the enemy” (2:7)
8 The Lord determined to lay in ruins
the wall of the daughter of Zion;
he stretched out the measuring line;
he did not restrain his hand from destroying;
he caused rampart and wall to lament;
they languished together.
9 Her gates have sunk into the ground;Lamentations 2:8-9
he has ruined and broken her bars;
her king and princes are among the nations;
the law is no more,
and her prophets find
no vision from the Lord.
Then, just as in chapter 1, verse 11 shifts to first person. It’s the voice of the prophet (probably Jeremiah) lamenting for all he has seen God do: “My eyes are worn out from weeping… my heart is poured out in grief because of the destruction of my dear people.”
So here’s what God said to me this morning as I meditated on these chapters. For all the times I have wished “these walls could speak,” am I willing to listen when they do? I can casually agree with the saying, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” but am I learning from history?
I’ve read through the Bible many times. Every year, Jeremiah, Lamentations, and Ezekiel always just feel like boxes to be checked and chapters to endure until I get to the “good stuff” in the New Testament. In this way, I am a lot like those tourists and school kids and shoppers and bus drivers I saw in 2022, going about their business in Jerusalem, indifferent to the history beneath their feet.
But this year, it feels different. This year, I feel God saying to me, “These warnings are for you. These walls are speaking. I have preserved these stories for over three thousand years because they have something to say to you.”
For Further Reading:
- Barker, Peter, “Surviving Section of Solomon’s ‘Torn Down’ Temple Wall Found Intact.” Newsweek (online), July 19, 2019, accessed August 25, 2023.
- Robinson, Matthew, “Archaeologists find evidence of Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem – as told in the Bible.” CNN Travel (online), August 12, 2019, accessed August 25, 2023.
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