It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.
It is good for a man that he bear
the yoke in his youth.
I’ve been reading a commentary by Robin Parry on Lamentations. It’s in a fairly new series called ‘Two Horizons’ which offers both a commentary on the text, and a series of essays exploring the theological implications of the text from a variety of angles. I have especially enjoyed Parry’s treatment of Lamentations as a worshipper’s text and his exploration of how it can inform Christian worship.
He even manages to go beyond relating The Man in Lamentations 3 to Jesus to letting the mourning of the text speak as the mourning of all humanity over their Godforsakenness.
I especially enjoyed his exploration of the Old Testament idea of God forsaking his people. This is uncomfortable language in the light of Jeremiah 29:11, where God promises to ‘never leave nor forsake’ his people. Contrast that with these words of the Lamentation:
The LORD has done what he purposed;
he has carried out his word,
which he commanded long ago;
he has thrown down without pity;
he has made the enemy rejoice over you
and exalted the might of your foes.
Parry reminds us that such language does not indicate the absence of God, “if anything, the problem is not that God is absent so much as that he is present as enemy-of-Israel” (p. 197). God in interaction with his people never leaves or forsakes them, rather he deals with them as the stipulations of the Covenant demand for the sake of the glory of his name. Parry suggests that what we read as abandonment language in the Old Testament is from the experience of Israel rather than the true dealing of God with them.
However I must raise one criticism against Parry: I would have liked him to have reflected on this motif as far as it informs the Church today. He mentions that the New Testament instances of God’s judgement being poured out in the present age upon churches (Revelation 3:16) and individuals (Acts 5:1-11). My complaint is that he only spends a couple of pages on the subject, and much of that is referencing historic uses of Lamentations as a warning to Churches (Eusebius, Gregory of Nyssa, Matthew Henry, Calvin) rather than exploring the idea of Covenant discipline in the light of the New Covenant of Christ.
I have am inclined to believe that the Christian Tradition does warrant such a reading of Lamentations. Granted, Parry DOES flesh out a framework for using the text in the Christian community in order to respond to suffering, I remain a little frustrated that the precise New Covenant grounding for such an interaction is left a little hollow. I don’t see him connecting God as enemy-of-Israel to God as enemy-of-the-Church.
Or perhaps the reader might think I’m missing the point of Christ’s covenant.
In either case, I’d appreciate a discussion on the matter and perhaps some kind of reading list.