“Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem,” by Rembrandt
In spite of the catastrophic context of this week’s reading, there is a surprising amount of hope and resilience in the text. The kingdom of Judah has been conquered by Babylon. Jerusalem has been destroyed. Everything that Jeremiah and his contemporaries have counted on has disappeared, except for their abiding faith in God. Here are some themes from these week’s reading:
Maintaining hope in troubled times
The author of the third Lamentation finds hope in their survival, despite all they have endured: “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not” (Lamentations 3:22). The author goes on to say, “It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord” (Lamentations 3:26). This sentiment echoes the later experience of the people of Alma, when they were in bondage to the Lamanites: “They did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord” (Mosiah 24:15).
Preserving and valuing scripture
Preserving God’s word is a priority, even in troubled times. When King Jehoiakim burned the book of Jeremiah’s prophecies transcribed by Baruch, God said, “Take thee again another roll, and write in it all the former words that were in the first roll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah hath burned” (Jeremiah 26:28). Likewise, the importance of sacred records is a consistent theme throughout the Book of Mormon. For example, as Alma transferred responsibility for sacred records to his son Helaman, he said, “Remember, my son, that God has entrusted you with these things, which are sacred, which he has kept sacred, and also which he will keep and preserve for a wise purpose in him, that he may show forth his power unto future generations” (Alma 37:14). Here is a blog post about how the writings of early Book of Mormon prophets were maintained for about 1,000 years: How Were the Small Plates of Nephi Preserved for So Long?
Internalizing the gospel
When Abinadi told the wicked priests of King Noah that the commandments of God were not “written in [their] hearts” (Mosiah 13:11), he may have been referencing Moses’ admonition: “These words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart” (Deuteronomy 6:6). Jeremiah prophesied of a time when that vision would become a universal reality:
After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LordJeremiah 31:33-34
If the purpose of the gospel is to change our natures, then we can’t interact with it in a superficial way. It has to become part of our innermost selves. Here are a few blog posts which reference this passage from Jeremiah:
- “My Law” – God’s law isn’t something that is imposed upon us, something we are forced to comply with. It’s not so much something to live up to as something to grow into.
- What Does It Mean to Have the Commandments Written in Our Hearts? – You can memorize a checklist or a set of instructions, but merely memorizing God’s commandments is insufficient to accomplish their purpose. The ultimate goal is to understand and adopt God’s intent in giving us the commandments.
- I Perceive That They Are Not Written in Your Hearts – Mosiah 13:11 – “You can’t do a Google search to gain a testimony. You can’t text message faith.” (M. Russell Ballard)
One more note about this week’s reading: The first four chapters of Lamentations are acrostics. The first letter of each verse combine to form a pattern. Chapters 1, 2, and 4 are 22 verses long, corresponding to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Verse 1 begins with the first letter, alef (א), and each subsequent verse begins with the next letter. Chapter 3 is 66 verses long and follows a similar pattern. The first three verses each begin with alef, and so on. Another example of this writing technique is Psalm 119, which is 176 verses long (8 verses for each letter of the alphabet). The King James Version actually represents each Hebrew letter at the beginning of each section of this psalm.