Lamentations 3

 

 

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,”

 (vs. 2,7)

 

 

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

discovered.

 

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

 hast broken.”

 

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;

literally, weariness.

 

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

comparison.

 

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

resignation.

 

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

down.

 

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.

 

FAITHFULNESS.

 

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”

(Matthew 7:7)

 

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

ones.

 

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

in youth.

 

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

life.

 

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

people.”

 

 

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

can heal.

 

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 pleadthou 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

“Advocate.”

 

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

LORD.”

 

 

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