The fifth lament is often labeled "a prayer." This wicked nation has finally admitted its guilt and asks God to "remember," "restore," and "renew" His covenant with them. What did it take to make them reach this point? Being shamed and disgraced for all the world to see. Before, they viewed themselves as the greatest nation in the world because they had been "chosen" by God. It made them indomitable, they believed. God would never suffer disgrace Himself and that is exactly what would happen if the people He was supposed to protect were conquered. Their pride kept them from seeing the Truth—when they broke the covenant, God was no longer bound by it. His bride had been unfaithful and He cast her off. Finally, their pride was broken.
Remember, O LORD, what has befallen us; look, and see our disgrace!
Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers, our homes to foreigners.
We have become orphans, fatherless; our mothers are like widows.
We must pay for the water we drink; the wood we get must be bought...
Slaves rule over us; there is none to deliver us from their hand.
We get our bread at the peril of our lives, because of the sword in the wilderness.
Our skin is hot as an oven with the burning heat of famine.
Women are raped in Zion, young women in the towns of Judah.
Princes are hung up by their hands; no respect is shown to the elders.
Young men are compelled to grind at the mill, and boys stagger under loads of wood.
The old men have left the city gate, the young men their music...
The crown has fallen from our head; woe to us, for we have sinned! (Lam 5:1-16)
Now they can admit their sin and their dependence upon God, and ask for His forgiveness.
Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old-- (Lam 5:21).
And what can we learn from this? Pride may be one of the worst problems this generation has. We are imbued with the notion of self-esteem from birth, it seems. The inability to admit wrong and lower oneself in the presence of One more mighty and righteous has made it impossible to teach anyone about God and His Laws. Everything is judged by emotion and "the right" to an opinion, instead of black and white Truth.
I have heard more people, including Christians, arguing with God, denouncing God when things go wrong, telling God exactly what they expect Him to do for them than I ever have before. "Why, after all my faithfulness?" they ask when a trial comes, as if God owes them a perfect life here on earth.
There is little appreciation for the seriousness of sin, especially those "little ones." In fact it has become something to joke about. The fact that all it took to ruin this world was one bite from a piece of fruit seems to escape everyone's notice. That one little bite was an open indictment of God by His creation. "You're just being mean not to let us eat this," Adam and Eve were saying, falling headlong into Satan's trap.
In the church today we have a problem similar to Israel's. God's people then still showed up every Sabbath Day and offered every sacrifice the Law required. We think that because we are so careful to keep every ritual exactly the right way that we are immune from any judgment. We have become "the chosen." Meanwhile, our hearts are just as bad as our neighbors' and our care in following the Biblical pattern doesn't extend beyond the church house door. A pattern of lifestyle—"conformed to the image of His Son"—never enters the equation.
The only way to reconcile ourselves to God is to surrender, to admit wrong, and to prostrate ourselves and our hearts before the Most Holy. "The just shall live by faith," God told Habakkuk as the Babylonians approached, a faith that accepts the will of God and stays faithful in all areas of life, no matter how rough things may get.
"The Babylonians" may yet fall upon us in our lives, either individually or as a group. I can see the day drawing near in the things happening in our culture. It's time to reject our pride and self-sufficiency if we hope to avoid the things this people had to endure in whatever fashion they may take. Perhaps we won't have to learn these things the hard way.
Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the LORD! Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven: (Lam 3:40-41)