March 9, 2020
1 The Lord in his anger
has cast a dark shadow over beautiful Jerusalem.
The fairest of Israel’s cities lies in the dust,
thrown down from the heights of heaven.
In his day of great anger,
the Lord has shown no mercy even to his Temple.
2 Without mercy the Lord has destroyed
every home in Israel.
In his anger he has broken down
the fortress walls of beautiful Jerusalem.
He has brought them to the ground,
dishonoring the kingdom and its rulers.
3 All the strength of Israel
vanishes beneath his fierce anger.
The Lord has withdrawn his protection
as the enemy attacks.
He consumes the whole land of Israel
like a raging fire.
The beginning verses of Lamentations 2 are reminiscent of Psalm 90, which we looked at last month. We read about the anger of God. The author describes a God who shows no mercy; destroying homes, breaking down walls, and consuming the land with fire. And similar to our experience in the beginning verses of Psalm 90, this description can make us feel tremendously uncomfortable. This isn’t the God we like to reflect on, sit with, or pray to. So how do we contextualize these very dramatic and explicit verses? What do they mean for our relationship with God?
Here’s a spoiler alert—Chapter 3 of Lamentations softens some of these stark descriptions of God. There’s some evidence that these verses are more about our perception of God than his true character. But in the meantime, let’s think about anger. Think about your anger. When was the last time you were really angry? Was it at a rebellious child? Maybe an overly critical boss called you out in public and made your blood boil. Or maybe someone cut you off in traffic, and it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Whatever it was, most of us don’t have to think too hard to identify a recent surge of anger at a situation or person.
When was the last time you were on the receiving end of anger? Again, it’s probably not hard to recall being on that end of anger either. For some of us we have even felt, like these verses depict, that we are on the receiving end of God’s anger. Whether between others or God, anger is a regular part of our life. Politicians are angry. Protesters are angry. Bosses are angry. Customers are angry. Kids are angry. Spouses are angry. God is angry.
Now, the critical question, and a significant lesson we can learn from this section of Lamentations. When is the last time, either in your anger or being subjected to anger, did you take that situation before God? The beauty of this section of Lamentations is that the author pours out his feelings to God. Nothing is off limits. It’s all processed in prayer. Because we have so often seen anger processed poorly, it’s not something we often bring before God. Usually we try to get our emotions in check and then bring a rational prayer. But what if, today, you prayed in the midst of your anger? What if, while stewing at an injustice, you invited God into that very raw emotion? Try creating a habit of bringing everything to God, and see how it feels different.