At all times laments assume
that Yahweh’s desire to forgive, restore and heal never abates. . . .
Since God is faithful the devastated have hope.
— Paul R. House (Old Testament Theology)
This morning I was reading from Proverbs 25 in The Message. Verse 20 says:
Singing light songs to the heavyhearted
is like pouring salt in their wounds.
While reading through Ezekiel 19 later in the day, I realized how apropos that proverb is—and how often we ignore its wisdom.
In Ezekiel 19, the first and last verses very clearly explain what God wanted Ezekiel to do:
As for you, raise up a lamentation for the princes of Israel. (v. 1, NRSV)
This is a lamentation, and it is used as a lamentation. (v. 14, NRSV)
Lamentations in the Old Testament were songs composed to mourn a death. Ezekiel holds the record with 10 of 18 occurrences of the word in the entire Old Testament. There’s more lamenting in Ezekiel than Lamentations!
. . .
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to pin down the exact historical circumstance of this lament. In fact, it seems to read more like a riddle than a lament. I’m sure an exilic Jew in that era would have no problem understanding its meaning, but we’re too far removed.
Most understand the mother lion to represent God’s people, and that the two lions that take centre stage in this dirge to represent two leaders. Scholars are divided as to which lion corresponds with which ruler.
Fortunately, the relevance of this lament is not limited to the historical era. Its message is available for all to hear: the rulers of Israel acted violently and were taken into killed. It is time to mourn.
. . .
We’re not used to singing laments today. We’re steeped in the “smile for Jesus” tradition where a sad face is viewed with suspicion instead of being considered good for the heart (Ecclesiastes 7:3).
At funerals you’re told to be happy—your loved on is in a better place. When you’re feeling spiritually empty you’re expected to rejoice anyway. When you’ve had a bad day, you still put on your best smile and show up at the church pot luck with bells on.
Biblical spirituality differs from that. If you’re sad, be sad. Sing a sad song—God gave you more than one emotion for a reason. At times all you can do is pour out your grief and let God heal you.
. . .
Lord God, remind me that it’s all right to pour out my emotions to you—no matter what those emotions may be. Keep me from the hypocrisy of praying differently than I feel. In Jesus’ name, Amen.