Scriptures

Lamentations 3

Introduction

Take a moment to read the background for Lamentations 3, where you will read about the events in Jeremiah’s life, Jeremiah 20 / Jeremiah 38. Lamentations 3:40-47, expresses the feelings of an individual.

‘I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of the LORD’s wrath. He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light; indeed, he has turned his hand against me again and again, all day long. He has made my skin and my flesh grow old and has broken my bones. He has besieged me and surrounded me with bitterness and hardship. He has made me dwell in darkness like those long dead. He has walled me in, so I cannot escape; he has weighed me down with chains. Even when I call out or cry for help, he shuts out my prayer. He has barred my way with blocks of stone; he has made my paths crooked. Like a bear lying in wait, like a lion in hiding, he dragged me from the path and mangled me and left me without help. He drew his bow and made me the target for his arrows. He pierced my heart with arrows from his quiver. I became the laughingstock of all my people; they mock me in song all day long. He has filled me with bitter herbs and given me gall to drink. He has broken my teeth with gravel; he has trampled me in the dust. I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is. So, I say, ‘My splendour is gone and all that I had hoped from the LORD.’ Lamentations 3:1-18

Notice that this chapter begins with the words, ‘I am the man’, which refers to Jeremiah himself. We can see that because he loved his people so much, their pain became his pain, their sorrow became his sorrow, Romans 12:15.

Every single emotion Jeremiah expressed was an expression of a nation who were suffering. As the nation, Jeremiah bore the burden of the tragedy, and so the griefs of all the people.

Notice that God had turned the brightness of life into a dim and hopeless future, in other words we could describe it as ‘the great depression’, which took place back in the 1930’s, but instead of it being a worldwide depression, this was a national one. Jeremiah thought that because the future was so dark it was as if he was actually dead, Psalm 143:3 and I guess as a nation they were dead.

God’s punishment was so destructive that it literally removed any joy from His people, they were now captives in a foreign land with no reason to rejoice. Although God was using the Babylonians to punish them, the Babylonians took advantage of this to such an extent that they wanted Israel to bow down to them and worship their gods, Job 16:13.

Israel cried out whilst in Babylon, but they were going to have to stay there for seventy years, Leviticus 25:4 / Jeremiah 29:10-14 / Jeremiah 25:12.

In their dilemma of captivity, God remained against them as a fierce bear or lion. As Jeremiah during his ministry was mocked by the people, now the nations mocked the captives, in other words, they were now reaping what they had sown.

As you can imagine if you move home and live in another country, at first you constantly think about what life was like back there but as time goes by you begin to think about it less than you did at first. The Israelites were the same, they forgot what it was like to live in that great land which was flowing with milk and honey. Sadly, the only people who would have a chance to return would be their children and grandchildren because everyone else would die in captivity.

‘I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The LORD is my portion; therefore, I will wait for him.’ The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young. Let him sit alone in silence, for the LORD has laid it on him. Let him bury his face in the dust— there may yet be hope. Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him and let him be filled with disgrace. For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone. To crush underfoot all prisoners in the land, to deny people their rights before the Most High, to deprive them of justice—would not the Lord see such things? Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come? Why should the living complain when punished for their sins?’ Lamentations 3:19-39

Jeremiah has just poured out his heart in despair and now he’s waiting on some kind of response from God. He asks God to remember his affliction, that is the affliction of all the people. The people had been humbled because they recognised they had abandoned God and they were humiliated in captivity because they lost their identity as God’s people.

And it’s in this humiliation that Jeremiah remembers that God doesn’t hate people who are broken. He remembered that God is compassionate, and because He is compassionate he found hope in the fact that a compassionate God wouldn’t leave him and His people in a state of hardship, he remembers that God is faithful, Isaiah 45:7 / Amos 3:6.

Just like God fed the Israelites in the wilderness daily with manna, Exodus 16:34, just like our daily bread, Matthew 6:11, He gives us enough for each day, nothing more, nothing less, ‘they are new every morning.’

Notice he says that God is his ‘portion’, in other words, God is the fullness of all our desires and because He is the fullness of our desires, this helps us see that god Himself is indeed, our only hope.

We all remember what it was like growing up being disciplined by our parents and when we grow up that discipline actually helps us discipline ourselves. Jeremiah says that Israel would remember the discipline of God in her youth, which would help her disciple herself in the future and it was only through discipline could Israel be set free from captivity.

The idea of ‘offering your cheek’ was a sign of humility, in other words if they just accepted what was happening to them in captivity, they would eventually be blessed when they are set free to return home, Isaiah 50:6 / Matthew 5:36.

As difficult as it is, even today, when we go through some kind of suffering, we like the Israelites, need to see that God is working in our suffering, 2 Corinthians 12:8-9.

Although some people believe God is some kind of evil taskmaster, Jeremiah tells us that God isn’t a ‘mean’ God, He doesn’t look at the here and now but looks to the future. His punishment on Israel was for the purpose of restoring them back to His ways, this is the same purpose for us going through trials and suffering today, James 1:1-2.

I don’t know of a single parent who actually enjoys punishing their children, and I don’t believe for one moment that God gets any pleasure out punishing His children. Notice that God won’t allow them to suffer forever but when they abandoned God, He punished them, but it broke His heart in doing so.

‘Let us examine our ways and test them and let us return to the LORD. Let us lift up our hearts and our hands to God in heaven and say: ‘We have sinned and rebelled and you have not forgiven. ‘You have covered yourself with anger and pursued us; you have slain without pity. You have covered yourself with a cloud so that no prayer can get through. You have made us scum and refuse among the nations. ‘All our enemies have opened their mouths wide against us. We have suffered terror and pitfalls, ruin and destruction.’ Lamentations 3:40-47

Jeremiah here places himself with the people, and so he speaks as a third person. It’s so easy to look at others around us, but here Jeremiah asks the people to examine themselves, in other words before any kind of repentance can come about we fist need to see and admit our own sinfulness.

After recognising and admitting their own sinfulness, comes their confession. There was no way that Israel could get back to being right with God until they realised that they had moved far away from God and keeping His commands.

Now remember that one reason they were destroyed as a nation was simply because they didn’t know themselves that they had abandoned God, and so, how could they repent of something they weren’t aware they had done? Isaiah 1:25. Sinners can’t repent if they’re not aware of their need for repentance, Jonah 3:5-10.

God did what He promised to Israel, and He brought destruction on the people because they broke their covenant relationship with Him. In their abandonment of God, they disobeyed the conditions of the covenant.

Notice Jeremiah says that they have ‘covered themselves with a cloud’,

this is simply a way of saying they enveloped themselves with their sinfulness to such an extent they couldn’t see properly. They left God and didn’t live according to His will and as a result God wouldn’t hear their prayers, remember that our prayers today are only answered when they are in agreement with the will of God, Psalm 66:18 / 1 John 5:14.

‘Streams of tears flow from my eyes because my people are destroyed. My eyes will flow unceasingly, without relief, until the LORD looks down from heaven and sees. What I see brings grief to my soul because of all the women of my city. Those who were my enemies without cause hunted me like a bird. They tried to end my life in a pit and threw stones at me; the waters closed over my head, and I thought I was about to perish.’ Lamentations 3:48-54

Here we read about Jeremiah making intercession for the destruction of the people. He cries out to God because of his remorse over the immoral living of the people, and the destruction that resulted from God’s punishment of the people. He never stops pleading until the Lord took notice of the difficulty His people were in, Matthew 15:21-28 / 1 Thessalonians 5:17, in other words, he wouldn’t stop praying until he got some kind of an answer from God.

Jeremiah recalls his own experience when he was rejected by own people and thrown into a pit, Jeremiah 38:6-13. It seems now the entire nation was in a pit in their captivity and they too were in desperate need of deliverance, Jeremiah 37:17-19.

‘I called on your name, LORD, from the depths of the pit. You heard my plea: ‘Do not close your ears to my cry for relief.’ You came near when I called you, and you said, ‘Do not fear.’ You, Lord, took up my case; you redeemed my life. LORD, you have seen the wrong done to me. Uphold my cause! You have seen the depth of their vengeance, all their plots against me. LORD, you have heard their insults, all their plots against me—what my enemies whisper and mutter against me all day long. Look at them! Sitting or standing, they mock me in their songs. Pay them back what they deserve, LORD, for what their hands have done. Put a veil over their hearts, and may your curse be on them! Pursue them in anger and destroy them from under the heavens of the LORD.’ Lamentations 3:55-66

Jeremiah recalls the time when God answered his prayer for deliverance from the pit in which his people had thrown him into and now he asks God to remember His people who are in the pit of captivity. The very people who threw Jeremiah into the pit were long gone but the people as a whole didn’t listen to his message, they didn’t listen when he told them they had to accept their punishment by the Babylonians, but if they didn’t accept it, they would die. Sadly, they didn’t listen, they didn’t accept, and many died.

When Jeremiah was writing this, he looks around and sees God’s people as a people who have been thrown into the pit of captivity. He then asks God to render to the captors the same judgment that He had rendered to those who had personally cast him into the pit before the fall of Jerusalem.

Application

In the midst of all this doom and gloom, Jeremiah remembers a glimmer of hope, he remembers the steadfast love of the Lord. Often times when we’re going through difficulties it’s hard to see the love of God because we’re so focused on our problems and trials. We often come to the conclusion that God has abandoned us and left us to it, this simply true.

Ask yourself this question, if God loved us so much BEFORE we became Christians, John 3:16 / Romans 5:8, what makes us think that He will love us less AFTER we decide to obey Him and follow His ways?

This doesn’t make any sense to think that way, He loves us, He cares for us and He promises that He will help us through any difficulties which come our way, 1 Corinthians 10:13.

The next time you feel as though you’re in a pit of despair, try praying more often, read His Word more often, spend time with other Christians who will help you focus not on your struggles but on what really matters, God Himself, Matthew 6:33-34.

Go To Lamentations 4

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Jeremiah 29:11

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