Everyone faces situations of suffering, grief, and trial. It is important to remember that this context in Lamentations arises from the sin of God’s people and His corresponding judgment – different than the unprovoked trials faced by Job at the hand of Satan. The tone of hopelessness and despair that weighs heavily throughout these dirges is broken here by the ray of sunshine of the character of God. His lovingkindness and compassion can never be exhausted. We wake up every morning to find new resources to encourage us. Because God is faithful we can cling to His promises and hope in His deliverance and restoration. Note the structure of this chapter. It is still an acrostic – but now you have 3 consecutive verses starting with the same Hebrew letter – so the total number of verses = 22 X 3 = 66.
THE JOURNEY FROM DESPAIR TO HOPE HINGES ON THE CHARACTER OF GOD – HIS LOVINGKINDNESS, COMPASSION AND FAITHFULNESS
I. (:1-18) THE STARTING POINT — NO STRENGTH . . . NO HOPE FOR THE PROPHET – VIEWED AS THE SUFFERING SERVANT
- (:1-6) No Light for the Afflicted Prophet Because the Life-Giver is Against Him
- (:2) “He has driven me and made me walk in darkness and not in light.“
- (:6) “In dark places He has made me dwell, like those who have long been dead.“
- (:7-12) No Help Because the Helper Has Become the Hunter
- (:8) “Even when I cry out and call for help, He shuts out my prayer.“
- (:12) “He bent His bow and set me as a target for the arrow.“
- (:13-18) No Peace or Happiness or Strength or Hope – Instead Pain and Derision and Bitterness and Fear and Rejection are His Lot
- (:13) Pain: “He made the arrows of His quiver to enter into my inward parts.“
- (:14) Derision: “I have become a laughingstock to all my people, their mocking song all the day.“
- (:15) Bitterness: “He has filled me with bitterness, He has made me drunk with wormwood.“
- (:16) Fear: “And He has broken my teeth with gravel; He has made me cower in the dust.”
- Like giving the prophet stones to eat instead of bread
- (:17) Rejection: “And my soul has been rejected from peace; I have forgotten happiness.“
- (:18) Summary: “So I say, ‘My strength has perished, and so has my hope from the Lord.’”
II. (:19-42) THE TURNING POINT — THE CHARACTER OF GOD REKINDLES HOPE FOR THE NATION ISRAEL – GOD’ LOVINGKINDNESS, COMPASSION AND FAITHFULNESS
[Illustration: cf. fire that looks like it has gone out; but when you put that fresh piece of wood on the embers and stir it up … it bursts back into flames.]
- (:19-21) A Broken Spirit is the Foundation for Hope
- (:19) Plea for God to See My Affliction and Have Compassion: ” Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness.“
- (:20) Prostration of Humbling Self = Reflecting on God’s Perspective on My Afflictions: “Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me.”
- Matt 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.“
- Psalm 34:18 “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.“
- Psalm 51:17 “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.“
- Is. 57:15 “For thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy, ‘I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.“
- Is. 66:2 “‘For My hand made all these things, thus all these things came into being,’ declares the Lord. ‘But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.’“
- Lev. 26:40-42; Deut. 8:2-10; 2 Chron. 7:14; 33:12-13; Prov. 16:19; 29:23; Is. 61:1; Micah 6:8
- (:21) Rekindling of Hope: “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.“
- (:22-24) The Character of God is the Basis for Hope = Key to the entire book
- Unceasing Lovingkindnesses: “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease.“
- Unexhausting Compassions: “For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning.”
Dyer: God offered a fresh supply of loyal love every day to His covenant people. Much like the manna in the wilderness, the supply could not be exhausted.
- Unchanging Faithfulness: “Great is Your faithfulness.”
- God will always do what He has promised to do.
Dr. Neil Chadwick: In fact, these words were the inspiration for a hymn first introduced during the1954 Billy Graham Crusade in Great Britain. The words were written by Thomas Chisholm, a man born in a Kentucky log cabin, a man who never even received a high school education. “Great is Thy faithfulness, Great is Thy faithfulness; morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided, Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.”
The message is obvious and clear. When we reflect on the past, we recall the blessings and the abundance of God’s provision. We also remember the pain, the sorrow and the many heartbreaks that have been endured. At that point we are tempted to identify with Jeremiah who said, “Joy is gone from our hearts; our dancing has turned to mourning.” (5:15) But then we remember that even in the times of deep sorrow, the Lord has proven Himself to be faithful, and for that reason we can face the future with great hope. With the Prophet we can testify, “You came near when I called you, and you said, ‘Do not fear.'” (3:57) War, destruction, and disease may rage all around us, but because the faithfulness of God has been proven over and over, “. . . there may yet be hope. . . Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.” (3:29,32)
- Unlimited Inheritance: “‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul.”
- Cause for great contentment; answer to humanistic despair; looking away from one’s circumstances to the character of the Lord and all we possess in union with Him
Streane: For the expression, which is a frequent one, we may compare Ps. xvi. 5. Its origin is probably to be looked for in the Lord’s words to Aaron (Num. xviii. 20).
- Rekindling of Hope: “Therefore I have hope in Him.“
- (:25-27) Patient Endurance is the Blessed Pathway to Hope
- (:25) Patiently Seek the Lord: “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.“
- (:26) Silently Wait for the Lord’s Deliverance: “It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the Lord.“
- (:27) Meekly Accept the Lord’s Nurturing Discipline and Providential Direction: “It is good for a man that he should bear the yoke in his youth.”
Streane: in the time when his passions are strongest and therefore most need the discipline, which, if established in its seat then, will hold sway throughout his life. The words by no means imply that the writer was young at the time he used them. Rather he is looking back through a long life of trouble and the experience which he has gained in the course of it.
- (:28-30) The Loneliness of Rejection and Reproach is the Training Ground for Hope (the Fertile Soil for Hope)
- (:28) Sit Alone in Silence – Submitting to God’s Discipline: “Let him sit alone and be silent since He has laid it on him.“
- (:29) Shut Your Mouth – No Rebuttals – but Glimmers of Hope: “Let him put his mouth in the dust, perhaps there is hope.“
- (:30) Surrender Your Cheek – Accept Attacks and Reproach: “Let him give his cheek to the smiter; let him be filled with reproach.“
- (:31-33) The Restorative Goal of Discipline is the Perspective of Hope
- (:31) Ultimate Rejection is not the Goal of Discipline: “For the Lord will not reject forever,“
- (:32) Restoration (according to the Lord’s abundant compassion and lovingkindness) is the Goal of Discipline: “For if He causes grief, then He will have compassion according to His abundant lovingkindness.“
- (:33) Blessing Rather Than Cursing Delights the Lord: “For He does not afflict willingly or grieve the sons of men.“
- (:34-36) The Justice of the Lord is the Encouragement of Hope — 3 Injustices Condemned by the Lord – “Of these things the Lord does not approve”
- (:34) Oppression (or Cruel mistreatment): “To crush under His feet all the prisoners of the land.“
- (:35) Inequity: “To deprive a man of justice, in the presence of the Most High.“
- (:36) Cheating (defrauding a man of his legal rights): “To defraud a man in his lawsuit“
- (:37-39) The Vindication of God’s Judgment is the Grounds for Repentance (Leading to Hope)
- (:37) God is Sovereign Over All: “Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?“
- (:38) God Dispenses Both Blessing and Cursing: “Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both good and ill go forth?“
- (:39) Man Can Offer No Complaint in Light of His Sinfulness: “Why should any living mortal, or any man, offer complaint in view of his sins?”
Jimmy Chapman: THE SIN OF COMPLAINING – THE OPPOSITE OF THANKSGIVING
– Complaining denies God’s Sovereignty
– Complaining disrupts Christian Unity
– Complaining discredits Christian Testimony
- (:40-42) The Response of Repentance is the Prerequisite for Hope
- (:40) Call for Examination and Repentance: “Let us examine and probe our ways, And let us return to the Lord.“
- (:41) Posture of Repentance and Appeal: “We lift up our heart and hands toward God in heaven“
- (:42) Confession of Sin and Rebellion: “We have transgressed and rebelled; Thou hast not pardoned.”
III. (:43-66) THE DESTINATION POINT — THE EXPECTATION OF DELIVERANCE FOR ISRAEL AND VENGEANCE ON HER ENEMIES
- (:43-54) No Resolution Yet – Just Pain and Destruction and Apparent Hopelessness
- (:43-45) Lobbying for the Reversal of Divine Discipline
- (:43) Divine Favor Still Hidden by Divine Anger – Pursuing and Slaying: “Thou hast covered Thyself with anger and pursued us; thou has slain and hast not spared.“
- (:44) Divine Access Still Hidden by Divine Blockade – Ignoring Prayers: “Thou has covered Thyself with a cloud so that no prayer can pass through.“
- (:45) Glory and Respect Still Replaced by Shame and Derision: “Mere offscouring and refuse Thou hast made us in the midst of the peoples.“
- (:46-48) Looking at Complete Devastation
- (:46) Devoured by her Enemies: “All our enemies have opened their mouth against us.“
- (:47) Devastated on Every Side: “Panic and pitfall have befallen us, devastation and destruction;“
- (:48) Utterly Destroyed: “My eyes run down with streams of water because of the destruction of the daughter of my people.“
- (:49-51) Longing for the Lord’s Compassion and Mercy
- (:49) Weeping Continually: “My eyes pour down unceasingly, without stopping,“
- (:50) Waiting for the Lord to See and Act: “Until the Lord looks down and sees from heaven.“
- (:51) Watching in Horror: “My eyes bring pain to my soul because of all the daughters of my city.“
- (:52-54) Lamenting the Apparent Hopelessness
- (:52) Pursued: “My enemies without cause hunted me down like a bird!“
- (:53) Buried: “They have silenced me in the pit and have placed a stone on me.“
- (:54) Cut Off: “Waters flowed over my head; I said, ‘I am cut off!’“
- (:43-45) Lobbying for the Reversal of Divine Discipline
- (:55-66) Expectation of Deliverance and Vengeance
- (:55-57) Desperate Cry for Help
- (:55) Calling on the Name of the Lord: “I called on Thy name, O Lord, out of the lowest pit.“
- (:56) Gaining a Hearing: “Thou hast heard my voice,do not hide Thine ear from my prayer for relief, from my cry for help.“
- (:57) Encouraged by the Response: “Thou didst draw near when I called on Thee; thou didst say, ‘Do not fear!’“
- (:58-60) Righteous Appeal for Justice
- (:58) The Lord is My Redeemer, My Deliverer: “O Lord, Thou didst plead my soul’s cause thou hast redeemed my life.“
- (:59) The Lord is My Righteous Judge: “O Lord, Thou hast seen my oppression; judge my case.“
- (:60) The Lord Sees All Wrongs and Wicked Plots: “Thou hast seen all their vengeance,all their schemes against me.“
- (:61-63) Vivid Reminder of Mocking
- (:61) It Was Malicious: “Thou hast heard their reproach, O Lord, all their schemes against me.“
- (:62) It Was Constant: “The lips of my assailants and their whispering are against me all day long.“
- (:63) It Was Derisive: “Look on their sitting and their rising; I am their mocking song.“
- (:64-66) Confident Anticipation of Vengeance
- (:64) Equitable Judgment: “Thou wilt recompense them, O Lord, according to the work of their hands.“
- (:65) Unrelenting Curse: “Thou wilt give them hardness of heart, thy curse will be on them.“
- (:66) Wrathful Destruction: “Thou wilt pursue them in anger and destroy them from under the heavens of the Lord!”
- (:55-57) Desperate Cry for Help
MacArthur: This imprecatory prayer for divine vengeance would be answered in Babylon’s fall (cf. Is 46, 47); Jer 50, 51; Da 5). It would also have its ultimate answer at the Great White Throne (Rev 20:11-15).
Jensen: (:55-66) The opening lines are the prominent ones, even though the prayer ends on a severe note of imprecation. The tone is one of deep gratitude to the Lord for hearing the prophet when he called upon Him out of the dungeon of despair and affliction. No greater testimony can a sinner offer to God than to say, in thanksgiving, “Thou hast redeemed my life” (3:58).
- Have you ever cried out for the Lord’s help when it seemed like He was not listening or responding? Did you learn the lesson of patient endurance and waiting upon the Lord?
- Have you ever felt that your spiritual condition or physical circumstances were just hopeless and that the Lord had cut you off from all assistance? List all of the images or analogies of despair that you can find in this chapter. Did the Lord give you a renewed appreciation for His compassion and lovingkindness and faithfulness?
- What specific examples of the Lord’s mercy and faithfulness can you point to?
- Is it appropriate today for us to pray for vengeance upon those who actively oppose us as our enemies? Why are we instructed to love our enemies?
QUOTES FOR REFLECTION:
III. Third Dirge–The Response of the Prophet (Jeremiah) to the Destruction of Jerusalem: As a representative of the community the prophet laments God’s judgment upon him, yet expresses his hope in God and urges the nation to repent and confess their sins also praying for vengeance upon their enemies in view of their present suffering 3:1-66
A. Personal Suffering: The Prophet, as a representative of the people, laments God’s judgment upon him 3:1-19
1. Suffering at God’s Hand: 3:1-3
2. The Life of Suffering and Hardship: 3:4-7
3. Ineffective Prayers: 3:8
4. No Escape: 3:9-13
5. Total Humiliation: 3:14-15
6. Total Depression: 3:16-18
7. A Call for the Lord to Remember His Afflictions: 3:19
B. Consolation and Hope of Grace in God: The prophet expresses his hope in God in the face of dark suffering 3:20-39
1. He has been humbled: 3:20
2. Hope Because of the Lord’s Loyal Love : 3:21-23
3. A Remembrance of the Promise of Restoration through Yahweh: 3:24-38
a. Yahweh Inspires Hope: 3:24
b. Yahweh Is Good to a Seeker: 3:25
c. Suffering Can Be Good: 3:26-27
d. The Endurance of Suffering Is Necessary: 3:28-30
e. Suffering Is Not Forever: 3:31-38
4. A Need to Suffer in Silent Faith: 3:39
C. Exhortation of the Nation to Penitence: The prophet confirms that confession and repentance are proper for the nation to do 3:40-42
1. An Exhortation for the Nation to Examine Itself: 3:40
2. A Reminder that the Nation is Rebellious 3:41-42
D. An Imprecatory Prayer for Vengeance in View of Desolation: The prophet returns to the desolate state of the people and prays for vengeance on the enemy 3:43-66
1. An Affirmation of the Nation’s Just Judgment for Her Sin: 3:43-51
2. An Affirmation of Personal Deliverance by the Lord: 3:52-58
3. A Plea for the Lord to Bring about Judgment upon His/Their Enemies: 3:59-66
Stedman: In many ways, this is one of the most beautiful passages in all the Bible. It reveals the compassion of the heart of God. Judgment, as Isaiah says, is his strange work. He does not like to do it. He does not willingly afflict or grieve the sons of men. His mercies are fresh every morning. In his own pain Jeremiah remembers this: that behind all the desolation is the work of love. God destroyed Jerusalem because it was heading the wrong way. He destroyed it so that he could restore it later, and build it up again in joy and peace and blessing. The Lord does not cast off forever; though he causes grief, he will have compassion.
Kuist: When viewed in terms of a speaker, there are three parts:
(1) In verses 1-39 an individual “I” (“me,” “my”) speaks concerning “him” (“he,” “his”).
(2) In verses 40-47 the singular “I” changes to the plural “We” (“us,” “our”) and the voice of the individual is blended with that of his suffering, confessing people.
(3) In verses 48-66, once again the individual “I” (“my,” “me”) speaks, while addressing himself to the Lord.
When viewed in terms of topic the poem has four main parts:
(1) A Cry of Despair (3:1-18): A sorely afflicted person, who refers to himself in the words “I am the man,” voices his despair over the extremity and persistence of his sufferings under the hand of his adversary (3:1-3) and under his own people, who have made him a laughingstock (3:14).
(2) A Psalm of Hope (3:19-39): Here the speaker contemplates the mercies of God. He addresses the Lord twice as “the Most High” (3:25, 38), and refers to himself as a mere “man” (3:27, 35, 39). He then concludes that good and evil come “from the mouth of the Most High” (3:38-39).
(3) A Prayer of Penitence (3:40-47): Here the stricken people to whom the individual belongs describe themselves as “offscouring and refuse,” and urge one another to examine their ways and return to the Lord.
(4) A Prayer for Deliverance and Requital (3:48-66): Once again the individual is heard: “Judge thou my case” (3:59). The conviction that God has seen the wrong done to him, backed by an earnest plea for justice, leads the speaker to believe that divine retribution will fall upon his enemies (3:59-66).
Dyer: The identity of the subject in chapter 3 has been disputed. . . The best solution is to see the individual in chapter 3 as Jeremiah representing all Israelites. He used his own experiences because the things he suffered represented things that many Israelites had suffered.
[Re vv. 25-40] Jeremiah wrote seven principles about the nature of Israel’s affliction:
(1) Affliction should be endured with hope in God’s salvation, that is, ultimate restoration (Lam. 3:25-30).
(2) Affliction is only temporary and is tempered by God’s compassion and love (vv. 31-32).
(3) God does not delight in affliction (v. 33).
(4) If affliction comes because of injustice, God sees it and does not approve of it (vv. 34-36).
(5) Affliction is always in relationship to God’s sovereignty (vv. 37-38; cf. Job 2:10).
(6) Affliction ultimately came because of Judah’s sins (Lam. 3:39).
(7) Affliction should accomplish the greater good of turning God’s people back to Him (v. 40).
Tim Wegener: (3:21-26)
Jeremiah saw no widespread turning to God; rather they persecuted him; threw him into prison and a muddy pit; accused him of being a traitor. He hoped for restoration. He took no joy in the destruction of Jerusalem. Composed a series of acrostic poems, laments, dirges, songs to give vent to his great emotions of grief. His pain screams out to us. But at the very center of this book is a light that is so intense it is shocking.
Jeremiah knew: There is hope in God’s Mercy:
1) Because of God’s Attributes: Lovingkindnesses, Compassions and Faithfulness
2) Because God was his Portion
3) Because of God’s Sovereignty
Todd Riley: Precious Counsel for Those who are in one of Life’s Valleys
1. Don’t feel that you need to bottle all your pains in
2. Realize that the pain and sufferings we experience ultimately come from the Lord- either by his permissive will or his direct agency.
3. Understand that the pain and sufferings we experience by the hand of God do not delight him.
4. Contemplate this: If it were not for the depths of God’s love and mercy, things would be much worse for all of us.
5. Above all, put your hope and trust in God
6. Wait patiently for his deliverance v.24, 28-30
7. Examine yourself that you may determine if you are right with the Lord v. 40-42
8. Recognize that in every trial and pain that God has a lesson to teach.
William Wyne: God’s Unfailing Faithfulness
The Marine Corps has an interesting motto, Semper Fidelis, the short is Semper Fi. Perhaps you have seen that on windows or bumpers of cars. Semper Fidelis are two Latin words that mean, “Always Faithful”. It is really the code of conduct and character of the gallant soldiers of the Corps. It is a description of their loyalty, and a definition of their lives as Marines. It is supposed to be their driven purpose as honorable and dedicated soldiers to this branch of service – Always Faithful. I believe that the language of scriptures says the same thing about God. . .
God’s unfailing faithfulness means that everything He says and does is certain, and that we can be certain that He will always be one hundred percent God, one hundred percent of the time, or He will not be God at all. Jeremiah discovered in verse 22a that His faithfulness is never partial, but He has an unfailing fullness of faithfulness. . . Finally, His faithfulness is not stale, He has an unfailing freshness of faithfulness.