The book of Lamentations forms a chiastic structure:
1A) Lam 1:1, The greatness of Jerusalem departed;
1B) Lam 1:2-22 p, The mourning + reproach of Zion;
1C) Lam 2:1-22 p, The LORD caused her destruction;
CENTRAL AXIS) Lam 3:1-66 p, Hope in the LORD’s mercy + Zion’s repentance;
2C) Lam 4:1-22 p, The LORD punished her iniquity;
2B) Lam 5:1-18 p, The reproach + mourning of Zion;
2A) Lam 5:19-22 p, The greatness of the LORD remains forever.
The central point of the book of Lamentations is not the sin of Jerusalem, the LORD’s anger, her punishment, or her sorrow. It is Lam 3: the LORD never punishes willingly, but because He loves Jerusalem, He punished her to purge her of her sins.
The same holds true of all of the LORD’s people: His central focus is not our sin, His anger (He is slow to anger), our punishment or our sufferings or sorrow. It is His mercy, His lovingkindness, His faithfulness, His goodness. He loves us and never punishes us willingly, but to purge us of our sins (the New Testament term is “sanctification”) He will allow us to be punished when we will not learn by instruction.
Even when we are suffering because we have brought it on ourselves, we are not without either hope or comfort. The LORD’s mercy and faithfulness is great. It never ends, and will not leave or forsake us. His mercy is new every morning. It is never too late to repent — He will not reproach us.
This is the kindness of the LORD that leads us to repentance:
“Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” Rom 2:1-4
For the wicked and unredeemed, there yet remains the day of the LORD’s wrath from which there will be no recovery. For the people of the LORD, however, He does not wait until the point of no return to chastise us. Because of His great lovingkindness and faithfulness, He chastises His own now, so that they are with mercy led to repentance now. They will not be included with the wicked and the unredeemed in the terrible day of the LORD’s wrath.
I praise You, O LORD my God, with all my heart, in the day of my suffering! I thank You for Your great lovingkindness, in leading me to repentance now! Thank You for not leaving me to suffer wrath later with the wicked and the unredeemed!