Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 1 (Winter 2015) - Page 62

LAMENT - Carlson destroyed Jerusalem. The desperate slaying of innocent children showed complete loss of hope in human worth, and the angry murder of priests showed absolute loss of respect for divine will.51 The book of Lamentations is a collection of five laments. The first four are alphabetic acrostics, and the fifth lament, while not alphabetically acrostic, consists of twenty-two lines corresponding to the Hebrew alphabet. At the center of the text, the third lament has marked emphasis, beginning all three lines of each strophe (rather than just the first) with the appropriate letter of the alphabet.52 The third lament draws additional attention to itself with vivid and extended treatment of the writer’s individual suffering.53 This central, emphasized lament includes some of Lamentations’ most painful content and its most beautiful declarations of confidence in Yahweh’s steadfast love. A chiastic structure allows the third lament to ascend through darkness (3:6), constriction (3:7), mangling (3:11), piercing (3:13), mockery (3:14), and teeth broken by gravel (3:16)—until it arrives at a summit: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lam 3:22–23) After several verses of confident trust, the lament then descends through spiritual alienation (3:44), terror and ruin (3:47), unceasing tears (3:39), physical assault (3:53), and watery depths (3:54–55), as the writer insists that God see, hear, and respond with action (3:50, 56, 64–66). When the content and poetic structure of Lamentations is viewed against its violent historical background, several important lessons emerge. 1. The language of biblical lament provides appropriate, divinely inspired speech for the myriad emotions faced by survivors who cry out from the rubble of large-scale traumas. 2. The expression of lament must be thorough (alef to taw, a to z, and then back again). “Every permutation of suffering is attended. Every 51. Peterson, Five Smooth Stones, 115–116. 52. Ibid., 118. 53. Ibid., 141. Also, see Allen, Liturgy of Grief, 87–88. Allen calls this “man who has seen affliction” (Lam 3:1) the “wounded healer” (85–120). 61