Today in Lamentations, we encounter a poetic and stylized description of the suffering that Jerusalem has endured. Instead of simply hearing “Jerusalem fell” we hear “God has bent his bow like an enemy, with his right hand set like a foe; he has killed all in whom we took pride in the tent of daughter Zion.”
Why beautify such disaster? It certainly engages the soul, making it memorably, as poetry brings it into the realm of the human heart. “My eyes are spent with weeping; my stomach churns.” There are times when we are not asking God “Why?” or spending our energy being angry with God – we are just wrapped up in our own raw emotions.
Lamentations, as a book, is letting us know that is all right. It is all right to be with God in pain, and to endure pain and suffering along with God, who also grieves for the fallen Israel and Judah.
In Matthew, we get a similar picture of God – one who walks with us. Jesus is walking along with the disciples and they are hungry. He gives them something to eat. They get in a heap of trouble for this, and arguably even more trouble when Jesus ends his defense with, “For the Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.”
We learn more than just “mercy is more important than sacrifice”. What we learn is that God understands and knows, even though God is above and beyond the human experience. God is Lord of all this, and despite this in not like the lord of the manor who remains far removed from the plight of the slaves. No, our God is one who walks with us in the midst of pain and suffering, despair and want.
I am not sure what it is, but I have a number of friends who are in the midst of suffering as well. Some are struggling with illness, others struggling financially, and others dealing with death of a loved one. And we learn much from Lamentations and this passage in Matthew about how to respond. We are called, not to try to talk them out of the struggle or the illness, for words like that are not meant to heal, but to simply walk along with them, like God walks with us.
It is the sense of “togetherness” that brings much power to Jesus’ ministry, and to the steadfast love and faithful presence of the Lord God throughout the Old Testament.
May we remain present and faithful and honest and true – to ourselves and to the world to which we minister. And may we always remember God walks with us too.