Read the full chapter here.
The laments keep coming in Lamentations 4. What was once beautiful is now barren (v.1) and Jeremiah paints a picture that contains some pretty hard truths (v.9). The scenes of the siege are just heartbreaking and stomach-turning (v.10) and in v.13 we see the root cause: the sins of her prophets…the iniquities of her priests. The root cause of the judgement being poured out here was sin. There is then a glimmer of hope at the end of the chapter:
“O people of Zion, your punishment will come to an end;
he will not prolong your exile.
God is saying to His people, essentially, that the punishment is finished, that it will not last forever. The exile in relationship, the special relationship God’s people have with Him, will not be prolonged. Because it is all finished, there is hope for the people that they will be restored to right relationship with God and that the future is one of hope.
The Bible tells us that God is holy, distinct, pure, and just (Leviticus 19.2, Colossians 3.25) and therefore must punish sin. For generations, this took place in the constant cycle of sacrifices and offerings, but the job was never complete. There is a shadow and a hint here in v.22 that a day was coming when it would all be finished. Yes, ‘your punishment will come to an end’ is immediately referring to these people in this place and at this time, but consider this:
“Jesus said, “It is completed!”
Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”
What was previewed here in Lamentations was completed in the work of Jesus on the cross. The punishment for sin has already been given, the payment for iniquity has already been made. The exile from God has been ended by the One person able to bridge the gap (1 Timothy 2.5-6). Because of Jesus’ finished propitiation on the cross and our faith that yes, it was good enough, there is hope for you and for me that the future will be one of right relationship with God that that the punishment [has] come to an end. Simply, Jesus took it so that you don’t have to.