Learning the Language of Lament (Part Five)

I’ve got a challenge for you. Scroll through your preferred social media platform and see how many posts it takes to find someone complaining about a political leader or an action of a political leader. My guess is you won’t get to double digits before you see some sort of complaint recorded.

As freedom loving Americans we value our ability to air our opinions of our leaders. We the people are supposed to hold the weight in this country and we don’t like it when a leader attempts to tell us what to do. They might hold a particular office at present but we know that they aren’t any different or better than us. We’ve been given the freedom to complain and so we are going to use it.

All that is well and good but we end up sounding an awful lot like those in Korah’s rebellion. Granted, grumbling against Moses is a tad bit different than grumbling against a politician. Though we could argue that God places every leader in place it isn’t quite a one to one comparison. Nevertheless, one of the things I found present in almost all instances of grumbling that I did not find present in lament is a kicking at God’s sovereign rule. And particularly a displeasure at the leaders that God has set before them.

There is an interesting connection between the grumbling of the Pharisees in John 6 and the grumbling of those in Korah’s rebellion. In Korah’s rebellion they thought it unfair that Moses and Aaron were in an exalted position, so they said, “For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?” In John 6 the religious leaders are upset because Joseph and Mary’s boy is gathering such a following and so they grumble. They believe they should be in a position of greater influence. They’ve paid their dues. They’ve studied the Torah. Why are people following Jesus?

There is something about grumbling which kicks against the sovereignty of God. The grumbler does not like what God has done with someone else, and especially how His activity in the life of another relates in comparison to yourself. It is a discontentment with the lot you’ve been given.

And in almost every instance of grumbling what I found were threats and/or unholy actions. “We’ll go back to Egypt”. Or a more pronounced rebellion as we read of in Numbers 6. And we see this as well in John 6 when many grumble and turn away from following Jesus.

There are several examples within the lament genre where the writer is distraught because of poor treatment by leadership. And in almost every instance the response is not grumbling but petitioning God. There are no veiled threats towards God in the language of lament. “If you don’t fix these leaders God, I’m going to take matters into my own hands.” Instead what we read are cries for God’s rescue and His justice to come.

Imprecatory prayers actually come from those bruised by leaders who are still trusting in God. And what I find interesting is that we are so quick to balk at imprecatory prayers whilst simultaneously giving ourselves permission to rage on Facebook. I appreciate the words of Gordon Wenham:

It is surely better to pray to God to punish the wicked than to do it yourself. Praying the laments breaks the circle of violence instead of perpetuating it. (Wenham, 49)

The imprecatory prayers are there as we pray for God to bring justice when our hands are tied. The Constitution might give us freedom of a full vent of our spirit and opinions but the Bible doesn’t. There is a way in which we can grumble and complain against our leaders which is not honoring the sovereignty of God.

There are times to speak, yes. In a democratic society there is a way in which silence could be highly unfaithful. But we must learn how to lament first. We must have taken our aches and moans to the Lord first and ask Him to provide justice. When given opportunities to put boots to ground we should work towards biblical justice using godly methods. But in the meantime, when our voice is but a whisper in Washington, let us learn how to lament.

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