TODAY’S READING: Lamentations 3–5
Hebrew poetry uses little to no rhyme, but it does use repetition of key thoughts and phrases. In poems of lament the usual rhythm is called qinah, a five-beat pattern divided into 3 and 2. Lamentations uses an alphabetical acrostic; each verse starting with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Each chapter of Lamentations has 22 verses (the Hebrew alphabet has 22 letters) with the exception of chapter 3 which runs through the alphabet three times for a total of 66 verses. If we read Lamentations 3 with the bifocal lenses of missions and of its natural structure, three critical foci emerge.
Wrath. The context of Lamentations is the failure of God’s people to accomplish His mission, thus incurring His wrath. The first acrostic begins with the rod of God’s wrath. The wrath of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God, but the wrath of God does. Man has so abused anger that we project onto God our twisted use of anger and forget that anger is part of God’s nature. God could not be good if He did not get angry. It is gentle Jesus who whipped up fury in the temple and cursed the fig tree (because they did not fulfil God’s mission for them). It is the same God who sent His own people into exile for refusing His mission. God is indeed a God of wrath, but unlike humans who start merciful and end angry, this lament starts with God’s anger and ends with the promise that mercy will outlast judgment (Lam. 3:22).
Faithfulness. The second acrostic begins with God’s faithfulness and ends with why He does not answer prayer (v. 23, 44). This refusal of God to answer man’s requests outside of their obedience reminds us that the mission is God’s. Because the mission is His, we pray, wait, and obey (v. 25). Missions is not doing what we want to do nor asking God to underwrite our strategies; missions is finding out what God is doing, listening for our orders, and running to His battle. God is faithful even when man is not, and the success of missions does not rest on me or you. God will be glorified among all peoples whether or not we participate. Non-participation in the pursuit of the global glory of Jesus among all nations is our loss…never God’s. Missions is not complicated, it’s hard, but missions is doable because it rests on God’s faithfulness and any weakling can pray, wait, and obey.
Peoples. The third acrostic begins with reference to the nations and reveals that all nations will be judged and mercied just as Israel was. The inspired poet calls down the anger of God asking that his enemies be pursued and destroyed from under the heavens. The beautiful heart of God in this wondrous dance of missions does include pursuit and destruction of all peoples. But it also includes pursuit, mercy, and eternal life. Wrath is part of the story and inescapably the destiny of some, of many, but it does not have to be for all. Mercy is still great and grace still free, and it is still offered to the Najdi Saudis if only someone will tell them.
 The Chronological Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008. 815, 818.