IV. Theological Significance
This dirge poetry, unlike secular compositions of the same literary type, proclaims significant truths about God, his people, their sin, his righteous judgment, and the source of their hope in the midst of tragedy and suffering. Though the various poems have a calculated structure, as typical of dirge poetry, the thoughts of the author are often mixed and move from one theme to another, largely due to the sudden changes in his emotions. Therefore various themes are not developed or arranged in any systematic manner. However, the acrostic structure of these poems helps us to understand one important theological perspective of the writer. Destruction has come upon God's people in a tragic and horrifying manner. This has to be dealt with in all of its details without attempting to treat it lightly or to avoid it because it brings to memory the horror of destruction. Kaiser notes that the acrostic form “systematically organizes each detail so as to identify, objectify, and pacify each and every pain . . . The final letter will come and so will the end of this sorrow” (Kaiser, 17). At the same time, the writer of these poems also affirms that the suffering community is under God's judgment because they have rebelled against his commandments. Therefore, the end he foresees is not what is destined to be the natural end of suffering. The finality of grief and suffering is conditional upon his people's confession of their sin and guilt before God (see 2Ch 7:13-14). The sovereign God is also a gracious, loving, compassionate, and faithful God. The One who brings grief is also the One who comforts. The call of the author to his people is to seek God and to wait patiently for their salvation.
This little book reminds the Christian community of the tragic consequences of covenant breaking with God. Though suffering of God's people is a major issue here, it must be understood in its proper context. God's wrath is poured out upon those who have been unfaithful to him. In this sense, Lamentations offers no clear solution to the problem of suffering in the world. However, it provides us with some practical guidelines to encounter both personal and communal suffering. The writer expresses in detail everything he feels and experiences as a member of the suffering community. This is a courageous way to encounter suffering. He takes time to examine, reflect on, and come to grips with his pain. He takes time to pray, confess, and seek God's forgiveness. He is certain that his suffering will come to its end. Most importantly, he is convinced that he is not alone in his suffering but that he is surrounded by the “unfailing love” of God (3:32; Ro 8:28, 38-39).