LAMENTATIONS CHAPTER 3.
The Suffering and Comfort of the Pious.
A LAMENT OVER GRIEVOUS SUFFERINGS. V. 1. I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of His wrath, so Jeremiah writes in setting forth his own experiences as characteristic of the misery which is often the lot of God's children in the world, as He Himself chastises those whom He loves. V. 2. He hath led me and brought me into darkness, into various calamities, but not into light, this being the manner in which the pious of all times have regarded adversity, as though they had been shut out from the rays of God's mercy. V. 3. Surely against me is He turned, in continual and severe chastisements; He turneth His hand against me all the day, smiting without ceasing. V. 4. My flesh and my skin hath He made old, so that they were wasting away with sickness and premature old age; He hath broken my bones. Cp. Is. 38, 13. V. 5. He hath builded against me, like a besieging army, and compassed me with gall and travel (travail), that is, with poison and heavy afflictions. V. 6. He hath set me in dark places, literally, "He caused me to dwell in darkness," as they that be dead of old, those encompassed by the long night of death. Cp. Ps. 143, 3. V. 7. He hath hedged me about, surrounding him with a solid enclosure, that I cannot get out, that there is no escape; He hath made my chain heavy, so that he was absolutely hemmed in. V. 8. Also when I cry and shout, begging for deliverance, He shutteth out my prayer, this refusal to hear making the afflictions all the harder to bear. V. 9. He hath enclosed my ways with hewn stone, with a strong wall, placing insurmountable obstacles in his way; He hath made my paths crooked, so that he could not proceed on his way. V. 10. He was unto me as a bear lying in wait, lurking to pounce upon his prey, and as a lion in secret places, crouched in ambush, ready to spring upon the unsuspecting traveler. V. 11. He hath turned aside my ways, so that he went astray, and pulled me in pieces, so that his members were as severed from his body; He hath made me desolate, casting him away, lonely and miserable. V. 12. He hath bent His bow, taking deliberate aim at His target, and set me as a mark for the arrow. Cp. Job 16, 12. V. 13. He hath caused the arrows of His quiver, the darts of affliction, to enter into my reins, the vital organs of the body, as we now speak of the heart. V. 14. I was a derision to all my people, as when they mockingly set aside his advice not to go down to Egypt, and their song all the day, so that they made him their laughing-stock. V. 15. He hath filled me with bitterness, Job 9, 18; He hath made me drunken with worm wood, with the nauseous cup which He caused him to drink, instead of the strengthening medicine which his condition seemed to require. V. 16. He hath also broken my teeth with gravel-stones, feeding him stones instead of bread; He hath covered me with ashes, in shameful humiliation. V. 17. And Thou hast removed my soul far off from peace, thrusting it back from happiness; I forgat prosperity, the very recollection of it no longer being present with him. V. 18. And I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the Lord. His vitality was sapped by his afflictions, and his hope and trust in Jehovah had left him. Thus even children of the Lord are at times so deeply affected by the griefs which they must bear that they come very near to despair.
GODS MERCY AND POWER REVEALED. V. 19. Remembering, or, "Remember," mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall, the sufferings about which he has just complained so bitterly. V. 20. My soul hath them still in remembrance and is humbled in me, still bowed down, as under a heavy weight. V. 21. This, namely, the fact that his soul is deeply afflicted by the mere remembrance of his sufferings, I recall to my mind, taking it to heart, therefore have I hope. Throwing off the feeling of despair which threatened him, he thinks of the fact that God alone can help him, and upon this fact he places his hope. A consideration of the boundless mercy of the Lord strengthens his hope. V. 22. It is of the Lord's mercies, on account of the fact that He delights in making known His fatherly kindness and grace toward us, that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not, they have no end. V. 23. They are new every morning, namely, the evidences of His love and mercy; great is Thy faithfulness, the outflow of His compassionate love in fulfilling His promises. These wonderful facts the sacred writer now applies to himself. V. 24. The Lord is my Portion, saith my soul, cp. Ps. 16, 5; 73, 26; 142, 6; therefore will I hope in Him, resting his trust in Him in the certainty of faith. V. 25. The Lord is good unto them that wait for Him, in this steadfast trust, to the soul that seeketh Him, looking to Him alone for help and deliverance. The thoughts of Jehovah are always good and kind, even when He causes pain. Though man be in trouble, he should yet perceive the goodness of the Lord, so that he cannot defiantly murmur or faint-heartedly despair. V. 26. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord, in the calm certainty that He will send His deliverance in due time. It is a wonderful achievement to be humbly patient and quiet under all circumstances, no matter what tribulations may come, ever resting in the will of God. V. 27. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth, so that the disciplinary value of various sufferings may have an opportunity to work patience in his heart and enable him to bear the burdens of age with greater fortitude and trust in the Lord. He who has learned to take up his cross in patient resignation while he was still young will have no trouble in exercising the proper submissiveness when he is old. V. 28. He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, practicing patience in a solitude which enables him to value the divine chastisements, because He hath borne it upon him, because and when Jehovah has laid the burden upon him. V. 29. He putteth his mouth in the dust, in the position of most humble submission, restraining himself from murmuring, if so be there may be hope, or, "perhaps there is still hope," namely, that God will have compassion and withdraw His chastening Land. V. 30. He giveth his cheek to him that smiteth him, submitting even to injustice if it serves the cause of the Lord, cp. Matt. 5, 39-1; he is filled full with reproach, enduring also the scorn which men heap upon him for his trust in God. Note the climax beginning with the easiest matter and ending with the most difficult, the patient bearing of insults, if it serves the glory of the Lord. V. 31. For the Lord will not cast off forever, cp. Ps. 77, 8; v. 32; but though He cause grief, yet will He have compassion according to the multitude of His mercies, so that His grace and love outweigh the burden of even the severest affliction. V. 33. For He doth not afflict willingly, literally, "from His heart," nor grieve the children of men. It is not because the Lord takes a vindictive delight in punishing men that He lays afflictions upon them, but because His chastisement is necessary for sinful men, for the furtherance of their soul's salvation. Cp. Heb. 12, 5-1. V. 34. To crush under his feet all the prisoners of the earth, as in the cruel treatment accorded the Jews by the Chaldeans, v. 35. to turn aside the right of a man before the face of the Most High, as when a judge perverts justice before the very eyes of God, who sees and hears it all, v. 36. to subvert in his cause, so that justice cannot be done, the Lord approveth not, He very decidedly does not favor such injustice. The thoughts naturally arise at this point whether the Lord, then, has nothing to do with all such happenings. V. 37. Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not? There is nothing happening on the earth which is not in accordance with the Lord's intention or not happening with His permission. While no one may injure his neighbor with the approbation of the Lord, yet the injury he does serves the purposes of God's providential chastisement of transgressors. V. 38. Out of the mouth of the Most High proceedeth not evil and good? so that the one as well as the other is done by His command or permission. V. 39. Wherefore doth a living man complain? with sighs and groans over his afflictions, a man for the punishment of his sins? That is, to rectify the evil in the world, let each one lament over his sins. It is only by daily contrition and repentance that we make any headway in combating the evils of this present world. If we grow weary of this lifelong battle, acts of wickedness are bound to multiply.
CONFESSION OF SIN AND COMPLAINT OVER THE CRUELTY OF THE ENEMIES. V. 40. Let us search and try our ways, in true contrition, to find the reason for God's displeasure, and turn again to the Lord, returning all the way, in sincere repentance. V. 41. Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens, with the last shred of hypocrisy banished. V. 42. We have transgressed and have rebelled, the emphasis being on the pronoun, as in every sincere confession of sin; Thou hast not pardoned, that is. He had not, like a weak earthly father, overlooked and condoned the transgression, but had meted out the punishment which it deserved. V. 43. Thou hast covered with anger, shutting Himself off so as not to see them, and persecuted us. The veil of His wrath kept Him, as it were, from feeling a weak sympathy. Thou hast slain. Thou hast not pitied. Cp. Jer. 29, 18. V. 44. Thou hast covered Thyself with a cloud, an impenetrable covering, that our prayer should not pass through, and help, therefore, was not forthcoming. V. 45. Thou hast made us, by refusing His assistance, as the off-scouring and refuse in the midst of the people. Israel, ground down to the dust, had become an object of contempt among the heathen nations. V. 46. All our enemies have opened their mouths against us, gaping at them in a gesture of scorn and derision. V. 47. Fear and a snare is come upon us, desolation and destruction. The picture is taken from the hunting of wild beasts, which, filled with terror by the cries of the hunters, fall into the pits that have been prepared for their capture. This situation fills the heart of the inspired poet with deep anguish. V. 48. Mine eye runneth down with rivers of water in an excess of sorrow, for the destruction of the daughter of my people. Cp. Ps. 119, 136. V. 49. Mine eye trickleth down, in a steady flow of tears, and ceaseth not, without any intermission, there being no abatement of the feeling of grief and therefore also no cessation of tears, v. 50. till the Lord look down and behold from heaven, namely, to make an end of His people's misery, to have mercy upon them. V. 51. Mine eye affecteth mine heart, literally, "my eye puts an ache upon my soul," the pain of the eye from its ceaseless weeping affecting the soul as well, because of all the daughters of my city, whose fate was most deeply to be deplored. V. 52. Mine enemies chased me sore, hunting him down like fowlers, like a bird, without cause. Cp. Prov. 1, 17. V. 53. They have cut off my life in the dungeon, desiring to destroy it by taking such extreme measures, and cast a stone upon me, heaping this further indignity upon him as he was helpless in their power. V. 54. Waters flowed over mine head, the picture of a flood of waters being used to give some idea of the greatness and intensity of his suffering; then I said, I am cut off, abandoned by God, removed from the comfort of His fatherly eye and hand. To such heights does the feeling of being forsaken by the Lord sometimes rise that the believers consider themselves shut out entirely from His mercy.
PRAYER FOR DELIVERANCE. V. 55. I called upon Thy name, O Lord, thus overcoming the despair which was trying to paralyze his faith, out of the low dungeon, out of the pit which threatened to become his grave. V. 56. Thou hast heard my voice, so he cries out in the triumphant confidence of his faith; hide not Thy ear at my breathing, at my cry, as he recovered his breath sufficiently to lay his case before Jehovah once more. V. 57. Thou drewest near in the day that I called upon Thee. Thou saidst, Fear not, thus assuring the believer of His merciful interest and assistance. Cp. Ps. 145, 18. V. 58. O Lord, Thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul, being active in all matters pertaining to the believer's welfare; Thou hast redeemed my life, rescuing him from what seemed to be certain destruction. V. 59. O Lord, Thou hast seen my wrong, how his rights were violated by the enemies; judge Thou my cause, securing for him the right which he knew was on his side. V. 60. Thou hast seen all their vengeance and all their imaginations against me, all their vindictive, malicious devices. V. 61. Thou hast heard their reproach, O Lord, and all their imaginations against me, v. 62. the lips of those that rose up against me, with scornful mockery, and their device against me all the day, as they meditated evil. V. 63. Behold their sitting down and their rising up, observing all the conduct and doing of the enemies; I am their music, the object of their derisive songs. V. 64. Render unto them a recompense, O Lord, according to the work of their hands, as they had so plentifully deserved it. V. 65. Give them sorrow of heart, literally, "blindness or covering of heart," a stupidity which shut them out from spiritual understanding, Thy curse unto them! V. 66. Persecute and destroy them in anger from under the heavens of the Lord, so that they would be forever removed from the sphere of Jehovah's kingdom of the world, thereby losing all their opportunity to do any more harm. Christians may well pray that God would foil all attempts of the enemies to take away His honor and to harm the cause of His kingdom in the world.