MONOLOGUE SPOKEN BY AN INDIVIDUAL BELIEVER
WHOSE FATE IS BOUND UP WITH THAT OF THE NATION;
OR PERHAPS BY THE NATION PERSONIFIED (vs. 1-21)
1 “I AM the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of His wrath.”
Seen. “To see” in Hebrew often means “to experience;” e.g. Jeremiah 5:12;
Psalm 16:10; Ecclesiastes 8:16. By the rod of His wrath. The idea is, not that
Babylon has humbled Israel as Jehovah’s instrument, but that God Himself has
brought these troubles upon His people. “He had led me, hath hedged me about,”
The Man That Has Seen Affliction (v. 1)
In the first and second chapters of Lamentations the desolation of the city
of Jerusalem is described and deplored. The third chapter brings the picture
to a focus by giving us the plaint of a single individual — either one typical
or exceptionally distressed citizen, or the city regarded imaginatively as an
afflicted man. Our sympathy is most moved by individual appeals. We are
horrified by disasters that affect thousands; but we are more touched by the
details of the suffering of one person. Nearness is requisite for sympathy, a
nearness of view, at least, that enables us to see the humanity of the
sufferer. Statistics of public distress do not so affect us as the sight of a few
severe cases that are brought under our own eyes. We cannot pity “the
masses;” we pity this man and that woman. Therefore we should bring
ourselves into contact with the sufferers of our own neighborhood, and
not be content to follow only such promptings of benevolence as may arise
from a distant survey of large fields of distress afforded by the formal
reports of charitable institutions.
THE CONSIDERATION OF HIS FELLOW MEN. The sufferer of
Jerusalem arrests our attention. He has a right to do so. Great distress is
by itself sufficiently important to demand our notice. Moral merit will
add to the force of the appeal of suffering. But even where the merit is
lacking the suffering itself still has claims upon us. But we must remember
that charity is not limited by merit. Like the mercy of God to sinners, it
should flow out to those whose only claim upon it is their want and woe.
Great sorrow does not atone for sin, especially where it leaves the
sufferer impenitent. But it does call for pity.
REGARDING HIS SUFFERINGS AS WITHOUT PARALLEL.
He feels his own trouble more acutely than that of his neighbor. Thus he
comes to regard himself as exceptionally distressed. Pain is a good school
in which to learn sympathy with others in similar trouble. But the
sympathy is commonly attained after one’s own agony is lulled. It comes
with the recollection of it called up by the sight of the present distress
outside us. But while pain is being endured, especially if it is very acute,
it tends to make the sufferer selfish for the time being. At least it wraps
him up in himself and makes him magnify the severity of his own lot in
comparison with that of other people. Let us be on our guard against
this illusion, and the unkindness to others and murmuring and despair
of ourselves which may come out of it.
KNOWLEDGE OF SOME OF THE DEEPEST FACTS OF LIFE.
We do not know life till we have felt pain. Suffering opens the eyes
to the facts of life and breaks up many idle dreams. Mere show and
pretence are then felt to be vain and mocking. True friends are
discriminated from idle acquaintances. The value of inward things is
A VALUABLE DISCIPLINE. This is a useful “means of grace.” It may
be sent to punish sin and check the thoughtless sinner on his road to ruin.
Or it may be to remind the careless Christian of his declension. Or it may
Be like the pruning of the fruitful branch, a stimulus to make the fruitful
Christian more fruitful. Various ends may be served. But in all cases the
suffering is meant for our good. Nevertheless, the enjoyment of the
advantage aimed at in the providential arrangement depends on the use we
make of our trouble. We may receive this grace in vain. If we harden our
heart under it it wilt be useless to us. Such a result is doubly disappointing,
for we do not escape the pain, yet we come out of the ordeal worse instead
of better. (Adversity is said to make better or more bitter!)
CHRIST. Like “the Servant of the Eternal,” in the latter part of Isaiah,
this unnamed sufferer of the Lamentations seems to foreshadow the unique
distress of the Man of sorrows. Christ claims our attention by His suffering,
and the more that He suffered for us. He did not simply imagine His
distresses to be great. He never posed for pity. But never was sorrow like
unto HIS SORROW! He entered deeply into human experience by His
sufferings, and became a High Priest touched with the feeling of our
infirmities. (Hebrews 4:15) Made perfect by suffering, He gives to us the
fruits of His cross and passion as more than a “means of grace” — as bread
of life and blood of redemption.
2 “He hath led me, and brought me into darkness, but not into light.”
3 Surely against me is He turned; He turneth His hand against me all
the day.” - rather, He turneth again and again.
4 “My flesh and my skin hath He made old; He hath broken my bones.”
Made old; more literally, worn away, as a garment (compare Isaiah 50:9; 51:6).
Broken my bones. So Job complains, “His wrath teareth and persecuteth me”
(Job 16:9); and, a still closer parallel, Hezekiah, “As a lion, so will He break
all my bones” (Isaiah 38:13). Compare Psalm 51:8, “The bones which thou
5 “He hath builded against me, and compassed me” - .A figure from the
siege of a town. “with gall and travail.” Gall. For the true meaning of the
word, see on Jeremiah 8:14. We need not trouble ourselves about it here, for the
word is evidently used as a kind of “ideograph” for bitterness. Travail;
6 “He hath set me in dark places, as they that be dead of old.”
This verse is verbally reproduced in Psalm 143:3. In dark
places; i.e. in Hades (compare Psalm 88:6). As they that be dead of old.
A strange comparison; for what difference can it make whether the dead
are men of the ancient or the modern world? The rendering, however,
though perfectly admissible, is less suitable to the context than as they that
are forever dead; who have entered “the land from which there is no return”
(an Assyrian title of Hades). Compare “the everlasting house,” i.e. the grave
(Ecclesiastes 12:5), “the everlasting sleep” (Jeremiah 51:39, 57).
Dark Places (v. 6)
The sufferer feels as though he were in the dark places of the dead, in the
everlasting house which no tenant ever quits.
permits the light of gladness to fade and the vision of truth to be dimmed
and the conscious brightness of His presence to be lost, so that the soul is
plunged in black depths of sorrow, doubt, and loneliness. Then the
dismayed sufferer feels himself lost, well nigh dead. But he is not dead,
nor even deserted by God. The very fact that he admits that God has set
him in the dark place is a confession that the hand of God has been with
him. Real death and utter desolation come from the desertion of the soul
by God; the chastisement that He directly imposes evidences His presence
and energy, and it therefore promises life.
DARK PLACES. We stumble in the dark, and are terrified and
Confounded by it because we do not know it and are not in readiness
for it. But because we expect the night and know that a new day will
follow, we can contemplate the deepening gloom of evening without
apprehension. The miner, prepared for the darkness of his subterranean
work, takes his lamp with him. (He should keep it trimmed – Matthew
25:6-7 – CY - 2011) Every soul should be warned that it is likely some
day to be plunged into spiritual darkness. If ready with the quiet inward
light of faith, it need fear nothing. While we know that God’s rod and
staff are with us to comfort us, we shall not be dismayed, though we
shall be saddened, at being called to walk through the valley of the
shadow of death.
deep well the stars above are visible at noon. In deep humiliation
heavenly light is seen that is lost in the garish show of earthly
commonplace life as well as on the heights of pride and presumption.
Tears of sorrow purge the vision of the soul. It is well sometimes to
be alone in the dark with God.
ARE MORE AWFUL THAN THE ABODE OF DEPARTED
SPIRITS. To the old world view Hades was a realm of sinless gloom.
But worse than the darkness of this Hades is the darkness of those
who are dead in trespasses and sin. Such men carry hell within their
own breasts. The blackness of death broods over their spiritual natures
so that they feel no qualms of conscience, and are awake to NO
VOICES FROM HEAVEN! These darkest places are never assigned
by God to His creatures. If they are found in them it is because they
have plunged into them of their own will.
Next, (vs. 7-9), we have three figures, interrupted by a literal statement of the ill
success of prayer:
· A traveler who finds himself suddenly caged up by a
high thorn hedge (compare Job 3:23; Hosea 2:6).
· A prisoner with a heavy chain.
· Again, a traveler suddenly shut up by solid stone walls.
7 “He hath hedged me about, that I cannot get out: He hath made my chain
heavy.” My chain; literally, my brass (compare Judges 16:21; II Kings 25:7).
Hedged About (v. 7)
hedges all of us about. Some have a narrow field of freedom and others a
wider field. But every man’s field is fenced in. Within certain limits we
have scope for choice and will. Yet even there choice is fettered. For there
is not only the hedge that bounds our area of action, there is the chain on
our own person that hampers our movements. (I read somewhere that
“the chains of habit are to light to be felt until they are too strong to be
broken.” - CY – 2011) Free will is far from being unlimited. Or, if the
will is not fettered, the execution of it is. Note some of the things that
make up the hedge which God plants about us.
Ø Physical limitations, laws of nature, circumstances of our habitat,
The measure of our bodily powers, special hindrances in external
events that go contrary to us, and, with some, disease, maiming,
or other bodily impediment beyond our control.
Ø Mental limitations. There is a limit to what we can think of, imagine,
Or desire. Our knowledge is limited - As one who finds himself a
stranger in a mountainous country is shut in on all sides because he
does not know the passes, our ignorance fetters us and hinders us.
Ø Moral limitations. God fences our way with his Law. There are
forbidden fields which no material barrier shuts off, yet from
which the mysterious, invisible bands of righteousness keep us
back. Thus the man whose conscience is awake is often aware of
being hedged in and chained down where one of duller
spirituality feels free to roam at pleasure.
US WHEN OUR WILL IS IN CONFLICT WITH GOD’S WILL. All
finite beings must be hedged about by their natural limits. Angels must be
within the fence of their powers and rights. Pure spirits are under the law
of God. But to these beings the barriers cannot be irksome. They must be
submitted to with meek and happy complacency. No wistful gaze is cast
beyond into forbidden pasture, no covetous greed vexes with longings for
the unattainable or the unlawful But we men on earth live in frequent
conflict with our heavenly Father’s will. We find the walls to be hard
because we fling ourselves upon them. Our chain galls us because we
chafe and fret ourselves against it. The wandering sheep is torn by the
hedge, while the quiet obedient sheep knows nothing of the briars. When
we rebel against God we murmur at His restraints. The most subtle
spiritual temptation of the devil tempts to the most wicked sin — rebellion
against God for its own sake. And it is a delusion. Far the highest
obedience is not the restraint of our will before God’s will, but the
assimilation of the two. We learn to will what God wills. Then we keep
within the Divine limitations, and yet they cease to be limitations to us.
They never touch us because we never attempt nor wish to cross them.
Here lies the secret of peace as well as of holiness. So lofty an attainment
can only be reached through that oneness with Christ of which He speaks
when He prays that His disciples may be one with Him and the Father,
as He is one with the Father (John 17:21).
8 “ Also when I cry and shout, He shutteth out my prayer.” There is a kind
of barrier through which these futile prayers cannot penetrate (compare on v.44).
9 “He hath inclosed my ways with hewn stone, He hath made my paths
crooked.” Inclosed; or, walled up; the participle of this verb is rendered
“masons” in the Authorized Version of II Kings 12:12. Made my paths crooked;
i.e. hath compelled me to walk in byways (compare margin of the Authorized
Version, Judges 5:6). But this hardly seems appropriate to the context. Render,
therefore, turned my path upside down (compare Isaiah 24:1). An analogous
expression in Job 30:13 is rendered in the Authorized Version, “they mar my
path.” Compare Isaiah 59:8.
10 “He was unto me as a bear lying in wait, and as a lion in secret
places.” Was; rather, is. As a bear...as a lion. The comparison of the
enemy to a lion is not uncommon; see e.g. Jeremiah 4:7; 5:6 (see note);
49:19; 50:44; Psalm 10:9; 17:12; Job 10:16. The bear is only once mentioned
in such a context (Hosea 13:8). The two latter passages may possibly have
been in the mind of the writer, as Jehovah is in both the subject of the
11 “He hath turned aside my ways, and pulled me in pieces: He hath
made me desolate.” Hath turned aside my ways; i.e. hath caused me to go
astray. Compare Psalm 146:9, “The way of the ungodly he maketh
crooked,” i.e. He leadeth them to destruction. Made me desolate; or,
made me stunned (“astonied,” Ezra 9:3 in our Bible). So ch.1:13,16.
12 “He hath bent his bow, and set me as a mark for the arrow.” Precisely
as Job complains of Jehovah, “He hath set me up for his mark” (Job 16:13).
13 “He hath caused the arrows of His quiver to enter into my reins.”
This verse seems strangely short — it consists of only four words in the Hebrew,
Probably something like “His weapons,” or “the weapons of death” (Psalm 7:13),
has fallen out. Restore them, and the verse becomes a two-membered one, like
its companions. To enter into my reins. So Job 16:13, “He cleaveth my reins
asunder.” “Reins,” equivalent to “inward parts,” like “heart,” with which it is
often combined; e.g. Jeremiah 11:20; 17:10; 20:12.
14 “I was a derision to all my people; and their song all the day.”.
Their song. A reminiscence of Job 30:9.
15 “He hath filled me with bitterness, He hath made me drunken with
wormwood.” With bitterness; literally, with bitternesses; i.e. bitter troubles.
A reminiscence of Job 9:18. With wormwood; i.e. with a drink of wormwood
(compare Jeremiah 9:15; 23:15). We are slightly reminded of Psalm 69:21,
“They gave me gall for my meat.”
16 “He hath also broken my teeth with gravel stones,” – i.e. he hath (unnatural
as it may seem in Israel’s Father) given me stones instead of bread (compare
Matthew 7:9). The Jewish rabbi commonly called Rashi thinks that a historical fact
is preserved in these words, and that the Jewish exiles were really obliged to eat
bread mixed with grit, because they had to bake in pits dug in the ground.
“He hath covered me with ashes.” He hath pressed me down into ashes. A
Figurative expression for great humiliation. So in the Talmud the Jewish nation
Is described as “pressed down into ashes” (‘Bereshith Rabba,’ 75).
17 “And thou hast removed my soul” – rather, thou hast rejected my
soul. The words look like a quotation from Psalm 88:14 (Hebrew, 15),
where they are undoubtedly an address to Jehovah. But there is another
rendering, which grammatically is equally tenable, and which avoids the
strangely abrupt address to God, viz. My soul is rejected (from peace).
“far off from peace: I forgat prosperity.” 18 “And I said, My strength
and my hope is perished from the LORD:”
Strength and Hope Perished (v. 18)
The sufferer feels as though his strength, or rather in the expressive word
of the Hebrew, his “sap” were destroyed, and with it his hope also; and he
attributes this desperate condition to the action of God, it is a condition of
spiritual affliction the pathology of which demands careful investigation,
for it is symptomatic of a great progress of inward trouble.
PRODUCED INTERNAL DISTRESS. Every calamity assails the
soul. But for a while the citadel holds out. Without the storm beats
furiously. Within there is security and comparative quiet. At length,
after a certain force of trouble is attained, in the addition of wave
upon wave as in Job’s case, or in the access of some one overwhelming
disaster as in the destruction of Jerusalem, the defense fails, the enemy
enters the breach and pours in a flood over the whole fortress. Sorrow of
heart follows the loss of wealth, sickness, or other trouble of outer life.
THE POWERS OF ENDURANCE. The “sap” perishes. For a time a
man holds on bravely, though with bleeding heart. But as the grief grows
upon him he “breaks down,” he can stand it no more, he says, like Cain,
he cannot bear it (Genesis 4:13). In one sense he can bear any amount of
trouble that does not extinguish his being. (The secular man, the macho
man, sooner or later succumbs – CY – 2011) and wild and reckless
anguish takes the place of sober, patient grief. The strength of soul is
gone. The spirit that bore up against the blast is broken. Crushed and
helpless, the sufferer no longer contends with the storm, but permits
himself to be tossed and dashed about at the sport of the cruel waves.
(Unfortunately, at the end he is like the self-help fellow in Matthew
12:43-45 who “goeth…and taketh with himself seven other spirits
more wicked than himself”
IN DESPAIR. Hope also perishes. A broad line must be drawn between
sorrow that is lightened by hope and sorrow without hope. So long as the
faintest ray still glimmers on the horizon the prospect is not utterly dark.
When hope goes the soul is indeed abandoned to its distresses. Now and
again we meet with a soul that has lost hope; we see it drifting on the
wild sea of life without rudder or compass, a mere wreck of its former self.
If God our Father sends trouble, it is well. He will surely bring good out of it. For
one who has faith in Christ NO DISTRESS SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO
END IN DESPAIR!
The next three verses prepare the way for a brief interval of calmness and
19 “Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and
the gall.” Remembering; rather, remember. It is the language of prayer.
his lips than the sufferer comforts himself with the assurance that God
does remember his affliction. Thus speedily is the prayer answered, even
in the very act of uttering it. Nevertheless, it is not to be thought that
God did not remember the affliction till he had been implored to do so.
We should rather understand that it was always under the pitying eye
of God, only the Divine compassionate recognition of it was not
discovered until prayed for. Thus we often pray to God to do for us
what He is already doing, and receive an answer to our prayers in the
opening of our eyes to see the Divine action that has been hitherto
unobserved. We pray that God will he merciful to us. He answers our
prayer, not by becoming merciful, but by showing us that He is and
has been merciful all along.
20 “My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me.”
My soul, etc. This rendering is difficult. In the next verse we read, “This I
recall to my mind, therefore I have hope,” which seems inconsistent with
v. 20 as given in the Authorized Version. An equally grammatical and still
more obvious translation is, Thou (O God!) wilt surely remember, for my soul
is bowed down within me. The latter part of the line is a reminiscence of
Psalm 42:5, at least, if the text be correct, for the closing words do not
cohere well with the opening ones
21 “This I recall to my mind,” – viz. that thou wilt remember me, or, thy
faithfulness (v. 20). Here again there appears to be a reminiscence of Psalm
42:4 - “therefore have I hope.”
RESIGNATION AND HOPEFULNESS (vs. 22-36)
22 “It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His
compassions fail not.” - literally, The Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed.
But the “we” is difficult, especially considering that in v. 23 (which is clearly
parallel) the subject of the sentence is, not “we,” but “the Lord’s mercies.”
Hence it is probable that the reading of the Targum and the Peshite is
correct, “The Lord’s mercies, verily they cease not” (tammu for tamnu).
[Nevertheless, this and the next five verses, vs. 22-27, as in the King James
Version, have always been an encouragement to me since the days of my youth,
because they are certainly true – CY – 2011] 23 They are new every morning:
great is thy faithfulness.’
The Unceasing Mercies of God (vs. 22-23)
It would seem, according to the best authorities, that we ought to read the
first of these two verses thus: “The Lord’s mercies, verily they cease not,
surely his compassions fail not.” Thus we are assured of the enduring
character of God’s mercies. How striking is this assurance, coming where
it does after monstrous dirges of despair! In the Lamentations we meet
with one of the richest confessions of faith in the goodness of God. The
black clouds are not universal; even here there is a break, and the brightest
sunlight streams through, all the more cheering for the darkness that
precedes it. This is a remarkable testimony to the breadth and force of
Divine grace. No scene is so terrible as absolutely to exclude all vision of
it. Its penetrating rays find their way through chinks and crannies of the
deepest dungeon. Were our eyes but open to see it, every one of us would
have to confess to indications of its presence. Surely it is a great
consolation for the desponding that even the exceptional sufferer of the
Lamentations sees the unceasing mercies of God!
Ø We have no claim upon their continuance. Mercies are to the
undeserving. It is much that such as we receive any. We could
have no right to complain if they all ceased. The least of them is
beyond our merit.
Ø We have dose much to provoke the cessation of them.
o By ungratefully accepting them;
o by complainingly ignoring them;
o by sinfully abusing them.
Ø They sometimes appear to cease. They are not always equally
visible. But as the moon which seems to wax and wane never
changes in itself, the grace which appears to us to fluctuate,
and even at times to be extinguished, is never lessened, much
less is it destroyed.
Ø They change their form. The morning light varies from the evening
light. Yet both come from the same sun. God’s mercy is sometimes
cheery, at other times it seems to frown upon us. But the wrath is
mercy in disguise; and not only so, but under the circumstances that
make it necessary it is more merciful than gentleness would be.
There may be more mercy in the surgeon’s knife than in the bed of
mercies will not last forever. They are gifts and acts for a definite time.
What suits one age does not agree with another. God adapts His grace to
the immediate needs of the hour. His mercies are not statuesque and
immobile. They are living and suitable to need. They are never
anachronous. They are never stale. God gives to each of us new mercies.
He is living and acting in our midst every day and at each immediate
moment. We read of God’s mercies in writings of David and John. But
we have not to exhume the antique mercies that were bestowed on these
men of the olden times. OUR OWN MERCIES ARE FRESH TODAY!
As God keeps the old world green by renewing it every spring, so He
refreshes and invigorates His people by spring times of grace. Moreover,
it is well to see how He does this daily, and to wake in the morning with a
joyous thankfulness in prospect of the entirely new mercies of the new day.
Ø It is the fulfillment of His promise that He will never leave nor
forsake His people. (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5)
Ø It is also a sign that He is still acting according to His ancient word.
For the mercy, being not only continued, but also renewed, shows us
that God is fulfilling His promise in the immediate present. The
friend who builds us a house may be considered to be faithful to his
promise to shelter us as long as the house stands. But He who
promises daily bread gives an additional proof of faithfulness BY
VISITING US EVERY DAY! The manna showed that God
was daily present to fulfill His purposes of grace. Daily mercies
are recurrent reminders of the faithfulness of God.
24 The LORD is my portion,” - A reminiscence of Psalm 16:5 - (compare
Ibid. ch. 73:26; 119:57; 142:5) - “saith my soul; therefore will I hope in Him.
The Secret of Hope (v. 24)
The reader of the psalms is familiar with the utterance, “The Lord is my
Portion.” The characteristic peculiarity of the adoption of this confession
of faith by the sufferer of the Lamentations is his taking it as a ground of
hope. The present is so dark that he can have little joy even in God. Earthly
things are so unpropitious that he can hope little from them. But with God
for his Portion he can look forward from the troubles of the present and
the threatenings of earthly calamities to an unearthly joy in the future. Let
us endeavor to see how to have God for our Portion is the secret of hope.
Ø Consider how God can be an Object of hope. We hope in God
when we hope to enjoy, His presence, to bask in the sunshine of
His love, to enter into the life of communion with Him. To know
God is satisfaction to the intellect. To have fellowship with God
through love is to have rest and joy in the heart. To be reconciled
to God is to have the trouble of conscience allayed. All the deepest
longings of the soul find their end and satisfaction in God.
Ø Consider how God is the one perfect Object of hope. The greatest
disappointment of an earthly home is when the thing anticipated
is given to us and yet the joy expected from it is not forthcoming.
We clasp our treasure and find it to be dross, or we see it to be
gold and we find that it will not stay the hunger of our souls. We
are larger than the biggest earthly hope. Our aspirations soar above
the highest of them. But God is higher and deeper and greater
than the largest desire of any soul. He is just what we all need
for rest and gladness. HE CANNOT DISAPPOINT US.
If money is our portion it may be lost, or it may not buy ease
of heart. If power, pleasure, success, or any other common end
be our portion, we may be most wearied when we have gained
most, God is the Portion to satisfy hope, and HE ONLY!
Ø He is good.
Ø He is faithful.
Ø Because he is Almighty.
25 The LORD is good unto them that wait for Him, to the soul that seeketh
Him. 26 It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait” - rather,
should wait in silence. “Silence’’ is an expression of the psalmist’s (the
Lamentations are psalms) for resignation to the will of God; compare
Psalm 62:1 (Hebrew, 2); 65:1 (Hebrew, 2), and see Authorized Version, margin.
The thought of the verse is that of Psalm 37:7 -“for the salvation of the LORD.”
Quiet Waiting (v. 25-26)
We are here first reminded that God does not disregard those who seek
Him. Though His grace may be delayed, it will come in due time. Then we
are told that this waiting for God’s response to our prayers is for our good,
provided it be patient.
THEY MAY HAVE TO WAIT FOR HIM.
Ø He expects to be sought after. To wait for God implies attention
and watchfulness. But direct effort to find grace in God is involved
in seeking Him.. The act of seeking develops a trustfulness and
brings about a preparedness which would not be found without it.
We have the invitation of Christ to “seek that we may find”
Ø He may delay His response to our appeal. He may make us wait.
The reason for this cannot be any reluctance or indifference on
God’s part. But it may be that the time is not ripe for our receiving
the response, or that we shall be disciplined into preparedness by
waiting, or that, other interests beyond our own being concerned,
the answer must tarry on account of them.
Ø He will surely respond in due time. God is good to all who truly
wait for and seek Him. He is not a capricious, partial, respecter of
persons. Nor does He require a certain amount of merit in the
petitioner. Our want is our sole claim, and the most unworthy
are the most needy. But observe:
o we must truly seek God Himself,
o though God is good to all who thus seek Him, His goodness
does not take the same form to each. To some it is healing balm,
to others purging hyssop.
SEEK HIM, WHO SEEK HIM QUIETLY.
Ø God permits them to wait for their own profit.
o By testing faith.
o By requiring submission. One of the most essential
conditions of profiting by Divine grace is willingness to
submit to the will of God.
o By affording us opportunity for consideration. While we
wait we can think.
o In order that this waiting may be profitable it must be quiet.
Impatience wrecks faith and submissiveness and obedience,
and all the graces that are necessary for a right reception of
Divine salvation. It is difficult to be quiet while waiting.
We grow restless and fret ourselves as the weary hours drag
past. It is harder to wait than to work, because work occupies
us as waiting does not. Yet we lose much for lack of patience.
We are not quiet enough to hear the still small voice that
would bring salvation. In our patience we must possess our
souls if we are to receive into them the richest gifts of the
goodness of God. (Luke 21:19)
27 It is good for a man that he bear the yoke of his youth.” The thought
of this verse reminds us of Psalm 119:71. Youth is mentioned as the time when
it is easier to adapt one’s self to circumstances, and when discipline is most
readily accepted. The words do not prove that the writer is young, any more
than vs. 9 and 100 of Psalm 119 prove that the psalmist was an aged man
(against this view, see vs. 84-87). Many of our trials, like those of Jeremiah
began in early manhood.
Youth (v. 27)
spoken of as a time of pleasure. Older people do their best to damp the
joyousness of the young by telling them that these are their happy days,
soon will come the dark days of trouble, let them enjoy the bright time
while it lasts. Even if such a view of life were correct, the wisdom of
thrusting it forward is not easy to discover. Why spoil the feast by pointing
to the sword of Damocles? Why direct the walk on a fair spring day to the
graveyard? Surely it were wiser to say, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil
thereof.” (Matthew 6:34) But this view is false. It arises from the
disturbed imagination of later years. Grown morose with care, men look
back on the earlier days of their life and imagine them to have been far
brighter than those they now enjoy; but they only do so by that common
trick of memory that selects the pleasant pictures and drops the unpleasant
Ø Youth is a time of restraint. With all their lightness of heart,
Children feel the bonds of authority and long for the time
when they shall be their own masters. It is difficult for grown men
who have the free command of their own actions to understand
the irksomeness of the necessary bonds of childhood. Restrained
in the nursery and in the schoolroom under law and supervision,
liable to ignominious rebuke, many children feel themselves in
slavery. Wiser treatment gives more liberty; but still it necessarily
continues many restraints. And in full grown life, when the
bondage is more galling, young men commonly have to obey
and submit to direction more than older men.
Ø Youth is a time of toil. Men generally have to work hard in their
younger years. The hours of labor are longest; the tasks imposed
are the most disagreeable; the wages paid are the lowest. Most
men as they advance in years work for shorter hours at more
agreeable tasks and for greater rewards.
to regard youth as a time of exceptional pleasantness. For a normal life the
day brightens as it lengthens, at least till the meridian is attained, and even
later the soft light of evening is to many a source of deep, calm joy
unknown in the feverish excitement of youth (see Wordsworth’s poem
below on the superiority of the quiet September songs of the birds to their
wild, restless spring songs). Nevertheless, the very yoke of youth is good.
Departing summer hath assumed
An aspect tenderly illumed,
The gentlest look of spring;
That calls from yonder leafy shade
Unfaded, yet prepared to fade,
A timely carolling.
No faint and hesitating trill,
Such tribute as to winter chill
The lonely redbreast pays!
Clear, loud, and lively is the din,
From social warblers gathering in
Their harvest of sweet lays.
Ø If it must be borne at all, the yoke can be best borne in youth.
The mind is then most supple to shape itself to the unwonted
burden and pressure of it, Then a man can yield to authority
with most pliancy and face hard labor most confidently.
Ø The yoke is necessary for youth. It is a good thing to bear it
o Restraint is then necessary. Liberty would be abused. Until
an independent conscience has been developed, instructed, and
strengthened, the external conscience of authority is needed.
o Work is also good for youth. Even the discipline of unpleasant
tasks is wholesome. It conquers self-will and the idle love of
pleasure, and trains in self-denial.
o Later years are benefited by the yoke of youth. Even if the years
during which it is borne are not so happy as they might be, the
man himself is better in the whole of his life. He profits by the
discipline. He learns habits of self-restraint and industry. He is
able better to appreciate the privileges of advancing stages of
28 “He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he hath born it upon
him.” 29 He putteth his mouth in the dust;” - An Oriental manner of
expressing submission (compare Micah 7:17; Psalm 72:9) - “if so be there
may be hope. 30 He giveth His cheek” - Notice the striking affinity (which is
hardly accidental) to Job 16:10; Isaiah 50:6. The ideal of the righteous man,
according to these kindred books, contains, as one of its most prominent
features, the patient endurance of affliction; and so too does the same ideal,
received and amplified by the greatest “Servant of Jehovah” (Matthew 5:39) -
“to him that smiteth Him: He is filled full with reproach.” The connection is
- since it is good for a man to be afflicted, let him sit still, when trouble is sent,
and resign himself to bear it.
In vs. 31-33, we have two grounds of comfort:
(vs. 31-32); and
31 “For the LORD will not cast off for ever: 32 But though He cause grief,
yet will He have compassion according to the multitude of His mercies.
33 For He doth not afflict willingly” - literally, from His heart -“nor grieve
the children of men.”
The next two triads (vs. 34-39) form a transition to the renewed complaints and
appeals for help. The first triad is probably an amplification of the statement that
“the Lord doth not afflict willingly.” This being the case, the injustice which
darkens human life cannot be approved by Him.
34 “To crush under His feet all the prisoners of the earth.” 35 “To turn
aside the right of a man before the face of the most High,” - In ancient
phraseology, to bring a case before the judges was to bring it “unto the deity”
(‘el ha-’elohim), Exodus 21:6; 22:8; or (as the Septuagint in one passage
paraphrases it, “unto God’s judgment place,” i.e. to a sacred spot where judges
held their session. 36 “To subvert a man in his cause, the LORD approveth
not.” 37 “Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass,” – (compare Genesis
1:3; Psalm 33:9)) - “when the Lord commandeth it not? 38 “Out of the mouth
of the most High proceedeth not evil and good?” True, God does not desire
our misfortunes. But equally true is it that they do not happen without his express
permission (compare Isaiah 45:7; Amos 3:6). 39 “Wherefore doth a living man
complain, a man for the punishment of his sins? The God of whom the poet
speaks is the Searcher of hearts. Why, then, should a man complain when he
knows that he deserves his punishment? The close of the verse should run,
(Let) a man (rather sigh) over his sins.
In the next twelve verses, confession of sin is followed by sighs and groans.
40 “Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD.” Our
troubles being caused by our sins, let us search them out and correct them.
Self-Examination (v. 40)
It is interesting to watch the progress of the thoughts and feelings of the
writer who addresses us as a sufferer in the overthrow of Jerusalem. At
first he bewails his lot, then he calls to God for assistance. After doing so
he regains faith, and calls to mind the merciful kindness of God. This helps
him to the assurance that the trouble is but temporary. He feels that since it
comes from God it must not be complained of. It is rather a call to
reflection and self-examination.
It does us little good until it makes us thoughtful. We must sit still under
it and think. Then we should turn our thoughts in upon ourselves. We are
inclined to look anywhere else, to discuss the justice of God, to complain
of the conduct of men, to criticize the course of events. But the one thing
necessary is to look within. (How interesting that modern Hedonistic
philosophy encourages people to look “deep within” but not in a
“spiritual or religious manner” – and therein lies the problem of
our culture! - CY – 2011)
“our ways” that we are to inquire into. (II Corinthians 13:5)
Ø The important question is as to what we do and how we live. People
examine their feelings. The examination is often delusive and
unwholesome. They examine their opinions. But opinions should
not be matters of moral trial so much as questions for calm
intellectual testing. The chief point is as to our behaviour.
Ø The most important questions of conduct are those which concern
our habitual actions. “Our ways” are not isolated deeds, but courses
of action, our everyday conduct. This is what we should
investigate most closely.
SEARCHING AND JUDICIAL.
Ø It should be searching. Evil is subtle. Plausible excuses cover
bad deeds. The hidden evil of our heart must be searched out.
Ø It should be periodical. We must “try” our ways. We want point
and specific charges in our judgment of ourselves — the Law
of God, the voice of conscience, the example of Christian
standards by which to try ourselves. If we find the process
difficult, we may pray that God will carry it on for us. “Search
me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my
thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead
me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24).
OWN CONDUCT SHOULD LEAD US TO REPENTANCE. It is of
no use unless it does this. The mere sense of guilt is depressing and, left to
itself, may lead us to ruin through despair. Repentance should follow. We
are to know that we are in the wrong way only in order that we may turn
from it to the right way. We all sin, and therefore self-examination should
lead all of us through conviction of sin to repentance. Then we can return
to God. He waits only for our confession of guilt. When we own to it
HE WILL PARDON IT!
41 “Let us lift up our heart with our hands” - It is to be sincere prayer;
“spreading out the hands” is not enough by itself - “unto God in the heavens.”
42 “We have transgressed and have rebelled: thou hast not pardoned.”
We… thou. The pronouns are expressed in the Hebrew, and are meant to be
spoken with emphasis.
43 “Thou hast covered with anger, and persecuted us: thou hast slain,
thou hast not pitied.” The clause seems imperfect; perhaps “thyself” has
fallen out of the text (see next verse).
44 “Thou hast covered thyself with a cloud, that our prayer should not
pass through.” So Isaiah 58:4, “Ye shall not fast as ye do at this day, to
make your voice to be heard on high;” and Psalm 55:1, “Hide not. thyself
from my supplication.”
45 “Thou hast made us as the off-scouring and refuse in the midst of the
Here occurs a break in the alphabetic order, as these next three verses (46-48)
begin, not, as they should, with ayin, but with pe (see Introduction).
46 “All our enemies have opened their mouths against us.” - This verse is
almost a verbal repetition of the first line of ch. 2:16.
47 “Fear and a snare is come upon us, desolation and destruction.” An
alliteration in the Hebrew, borrowed from Jeremiah 48:43; compare Isaiah 24:17.
48 “Mine eye runneth down with rivers of water for the destruction of
the daughter of my people.” (compare ch.1:16).
49 “Mine eye trickleth down,” – rather, poureth down. “and ceaseth not,
without any intermission. (compare Jeremiah 14:17). 50 Till the LORD
look down, and behold from heaven.”
Tears Which Only God Can Wiped Away – (vs. 49-50)
Jerusalem is so desolate that one who mourns her sad estate weeps such
tears. But in all ages there have been sufferers in similar trial.
Ø When sorrow is acute. The lighter troubles may be patiently
endured, or resisted, or mitigated, or driven away by sympathy
and brotherly aid. There are troubles which no man can touch,
sores which no balm of Gilead can ease, a secret bitterness
known only to the heart of the sufferer and which only God
Ø When sorrow is chronic. The sudden flood of tears may be
quickly stanched. There are people of mercurial temperament
who seem to be in the depths of despair one moment and elated
with pleasure the next. It is not difficult to stay the tears of these
shallow natures. But when the tears flow on through the bright
day as in the long night, this weeping without intermission passes
the bounds of human aid. The broken heart, the ruined life, hopes
shattered, and joys buried in the grave, open a fountain
of grief that ONLY GOD can stay. Now, it is important to
recognize this fact. If we are only driven to see it by hard
experience, we may lose ourselves in despair before we can
find any consolation in God. It is well to know when
we are in smooth water that storms are coming which our
vessel cannot weather. Then we may be prepared to look
for a haven.
The sufferer weeps “till the Lord look down, and behold from heaven.”
But when God looks the tears will be dried. Relief comes from God. It
comes in a look from God. It comes when heaven is open to the troubled
soul. One look from heaven is enough. How is this?
Ø When God looks from heaven He manifests Himself. He is always
regarding us. But at times it seems to us that we are forgotten and
deserted by Him. Then again we see that He is observing us. The
newly manifested nearness of God is a consolation,
Ø When God looks He shows compassion. We express compassion
by the eye more than by the voice. The look of pity is its surest,
gentlest, most touching expression. This is the look of God when
He beholds distress.
Ø When God looks at the sufferer He sends help to him. God is
not one who can contemplate suffering and then “pass by on
the other side” (Luke 10:31-32). With Him to see want is to
aid it. It is therefore enough that God regards us. The
rest must follow.
Ø When God looks from heaven He draws the sufferer up to Himself.
He attracts by his wonderful look of loving kindness. The revelation
of heaven lifts the troubled spirit up to heaven. By communion with
heaven earthly tears are wiped away. (Revelation 21:4)
51 Mine eye affecteth mine heart” - rather, paineth me; literally, paineth my
soul, the soul being mentioned as the center of the feelings and emotions -
“because of all the daughters of my city.” The sad fate of the virgins of
Jerusalem oppressed the spirit of the writer (compare ch. 1:4,18; 2:10, 21).
In this last section, vs. 52-66, we have the speaker’s suffering and it ends
with an earnest and believing prayer for deliverance. He speaks as a
representative of the nation; if we should not rather say that the nation
itself, personified, is the speaker. In the first triad some have supposed a
reference to the persecution suffered by Jeremiah at the hands of his
countrymen. The “dungeon,” or rather “pit,” will in this case be the
“dungeon” (“pit”) mentioned in Jeremiah 38:6. But a “pit” is a figure
in the psalms for destruction (Psalm 40:2; 69:15), and there is nothing
recorded in Jeremiah as to the “princes” having cast stones at Jeremiah, or
rolled a stone on to the top of the “pit.” Besides, the “pit” into which the
prophet was cast had “no water, but mire.”
52 “Mine enemies chased me sore, like a bird, without cause.
53 They have cut off my life in the dungeon, and cast a stone upon me.
54 “Waters flowed over mine head; then I said, I am cut off.” Some words
have to be supplied, and Psalm 31:22 suggests which these are: “I am cut off
from before thine eyes,”
55 “I called upon thy name, O LORD, out of the low dungeon.” literally, out
of the pit of the lower parts (of the earth) — a phrase borrowed from <Psalm 88:6
(Hebrew, 7). Sheol, or Hades, is signified.
56 “Thou hast heard my voice: hide not thine ear at my breathing, at my cry.
57 “Thou drewest near in the day that I called upon thee: thou saidst,
Fear not.” The sacred poet tells of Jehovah’s former gracious interpositions.
58 “O LORD, thou hast pleaded” - The reference is still to a former state
of things which CAME TO AN END! It would make this plainer if we were to
alter the rendering, Thou didst plead… thou didst redeem. The speaker
likens his case to that of a poor man who is opposed at law by a rich
oppressor, and who, for want of an advocate, will, to all appearance,
become his victim. Suddenly Jehovah appeared and supplied this want.
Such are God’s “wonders of old time.” - “the causes of my soul; thou
hast redeemed my life.” (I John 2:1 speaks of Jesus Christ as our
59 “O LORD, thou hast seen my wrong: judge thou my cause.” Here the
speaker returns to the present. This is clear from the following words:
Judge thou my cause.
60 “Thou hast seen all their vengeance and all their imaginations against me.
61 Thou hast heard their reproach, O LORD, and all their imaginations
against me; 62 “The lips of those that rose up against me, and their device
against me all the day.” The lips - stand here for “the fruit of the lips;” and the
verb which governs the nouns is “thou hast heard,” in the preceding verse.
63 “Behold their sitting down, and their rising up;” - Elsewhere the
phrase is a comprehensive expression for all a man’s occupations (compare
Psalm 139:2; Isaiah 37:28). “I am their music.” - rather, their song;
i.e. the subject of their taunting songs, p. in the parallel passage, Job 30:9;
compare Psalm 69:12 (Hebrew, 13).
64 “Render unto them a recompence, O LORD, according to the work
of their hands.” Render unto them, etc. The sacred poet is familiar with the
psalms; here we have a condensation of Psalm 28:4. The tone of vs. 64-66 reminds
us of passages in Jeremiah 18:23; 20:12)
65 “Give them sorrow of heart, thy curse unto them.” Sorrow of heart; rather,
a covering of the heart; spiritual blindness, like the “veil upon the heart” in
II Corinthians 3:15. Thy curse unto them. This should rather form a separate
interjectional clause, “Thy curse upon them!”
66 “Persecute and destroy them in anger from under the heavens of the
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