The book of Lamentations is one of the shorter books of the Bible, five chapters long. It was written lamenting the fall of Jerusalem which happened in 587 BC. It was an eyewitness account of all the hardships Jerusalem and its remaining inhabitants suffered. They were decimated. Many times it accounts that they were merely skin and bones. So much were they starving that Mothers would cook their dead children to eat (Lam 2:20 & 4:10). This happened again as it is accounted after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD which was predicted by Jesus (Mt 24:2).
The writer of this book laments all the horrific sins of the past that has caused the suffering and pain of the people. He knows God’s love for them has not been wiped out. God will have mercy on them in the future and he asks God for this mercy. He also encourages the people to accept this as a chastisement from God who will have mercy on them. But for the time being, it is a time for sorrow for the sins committed by the people and their ancestors.
Baruch, in a certain sense, is a continuation of Lamentations. Baruch is known to be a “well known secretary” of Jeremiah. He lived at the end of the time of the Kings and through most of the exile. Lamentations seems to talk more about those who remained in Jerusalem, whereas Baruch talks of those who were taken into exile for the service of the Babylonian King. Baruch does not focus on the lamenting of the sins, but is more focused on the hope of those who repent. It is six chapters in length.
Baruch asks everybody to pray to God for the people and their plight. It asks submission to the Babylonians and not to fight their captivity, for their captivity is really God’s will to cleanse His people. It is believed that God will bring them back in time. But there is a catch.
They are not to go chasing after the gods of the pagans. He sternly warns them not to follow after false gods. Chapter 6 is dedicated to this cause. The thinking is very logical about the false gods. The pagans made statues to worship. People were required to worship the actual statues made of gold, silver or wood. But these statues cannot move, eat, drink, kill. They tarnish over time and lose their luster. They cannot actually see, hear, smell or talk. These objects cannot defend themselves, even if you put a knife in its hands. They are simply dead objects that they are not to fear. If trouble comes, God will defend them and come to their aid as He has in the past.
The themes of Baruch are: 1. Prayer of the Exiles 2. Praise of wisdom in the Law of Moses 3. Jerusalem bewails and consoles her captive children. 4. Jerusalem consoled 5. The letter of Jeremiah against idolatry.
The Jewish people had to undergo the suffering of the exile and learn patience and humility. It wasn’t till after the sins of the people and suffering took over that they were willing to submit to God and His ways. It appeared that the Jewish people were done for by all human standards. But He has His way of bringing us back, if we are open to Him. Sometimes we are stubborn and rebel against God and find ourselves suffering because of it. God does not desire our suffering, but takes away His presence and the suffering we experience is the lack of His presence in our lives. Repentance invites God back into our lives and His grace, love and peace. But that decision is heavily dependent on our willingness to follow Him.