Lamentations 3:1 ¶ I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath.
Lamentations 3:2 He hath led me, and brought me into darkness, but not into light.
Lamentations 3:3 Surely against me is he turned; he turneth his hand against me all the day.
Lamentations 3:4 My flesh and my skin hath he made old; he hath broken my bones.
This chapter opens with the prophet mourning the effect God’s judgment has had on him personally. His misery is a direct result of the wrath of God’s judgment. He feels he is living in darkness. In fact, he feels that God has turned His hand against him; he is now an old and broken man.
Guzik quoting Ryken: “Jeremiah’s personal lament is a reminder that suffering is always personal. When nations go through times of tragedy and tribulation, the greatest suffering always takes place at the individual level.”
Lamentations 3:5 He hath builded against me, and compassed me with gall and travail.
Lamentations 3:6 He hath set me in dark places, as they that be dead of old.
Lamentations 3:7 He hath hedged me about, that I cannot get out: he hath made my chain heavy.
Lamentations 3:8 Also when I cry and shout, he shutteth out my prayer.
Lamentations 3:9 He hath inclosed my ways with hewn stone, he hath made my paths crooked.
The prophet feels that God has surrounded him with a wall of bitterness, distress and trouble. He feels like he is in a dark grave, and he can’t get out. He doesn’t feel like the LORD is listening to his prayers, cry and shout though he might. He has been hedged in so securely that there is no way of escape.
Isn’t that how we feel when tragedy strikes and a time of trial and testing seem to have no end? Even when we are well aware of the promises of God and believe those promises are true, we can be overwhelmed by the circumstances at times and have to fight to stay focused on the truth of God’s word.
Lamentations 3:10 He was unto me as a bear lying in wait, and as a lion in secret places.
Lamentations 3:11 He hath turned aside my ways, and pulled me in pieces: he hath made me desolate.
Lamentations 3:12 He hath bent his bow, and set me as a mark for the arrow.
Lamentations 3:13 He hath caused the arrows of his quiver to enter into my reins.
The prophet continues to paint word pictures of how he feels. He pictures himself as one who had fallen prey to a bear or lion and been pulled to pieces and left to die. He feels like the target of God’s arrows of judgment.
Lamentations 3:14 I was a derision to all my people; and their song all the day.
Lamentations 3:15 He hath filled me with bitterness, he hath made me drunken with wormwood.
Lamentations 3:16 He hath also broken my teeth with gravel stones, he hath covered me with ashes.
Lamentations 3:17 And thou hast removed my soul far off from peace: I forgat prosperity.
Lamentations 3:18 And I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the LORD:
Lamentations 3:19 Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall.
Lamentations 3:20 My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me.
It seems as though the prophet is thinking about all that he has suffered as God’s prophet. We know that Jeremiah was mocked continually by the people for his prophecies. There were times he suffered greatly, doomed to drink a bitter cup. He has suffered to the point of having no peace and forgetting what it was like to live without want. He is in a deep spiritual valley.
Guzik quoting Ellison re v16: “It could be argued that it refers to the type of bread made from the sweepings of the granary floor that Jeremiah must have received toward the end of the siege.”
Clarke: “It is evident that in the preceding verses there is a bitterness of complaint against the bitterness of adversity, that is not becoming to man when under the chastising hand of God; and, while indulging this feeling, all hope fled. Here we find a different feeling; he humbles himself under the mighty hand of God, and then his hope revives,” verse 21.
Lamentations 3:21 ¶ This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.
Lamentations 3:22 It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
Lamentations 3:23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
Having reached the bottom so to speak, the prophet finally begins to look up; and as he remembers, he begins to have hope. He realizes that it is because of the LORD’s mercies, His kindness and compassion, that we are not consumed. His tender love and kindness never fails; there is a new supply every morning. And for that he can praise the great faithfulness of the LORD.
How often do we ever stop to realize that life itself is a gift from the LORD that we do not deserve. Not only does He give us life, He loves us and wants to supply our every need. All He asks is that we trust Him and show that trust through our obedience.
Acts 17:24–25 “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things….”
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Psalm 37:25 “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.”
Philippians 4:19 “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
James 2:17 “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.”
Hebrews 11:8 “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.”
Guzik: “This was one of the things Jeremiah remembered. He remembered that as beat down and defeated the people of Jerusalem and Judah were, they were not yet completely consumed. There was still a remnant, and remnant with a promise of restoration. Wherever God leaves life, He leaves hope….No matter how bad the past day was, God’s people can look to the new morning with faith and hope.”
Ironside: “Only when the soul is out of the presence of God does it seem as if His chastisements were too severe, and in part undeserved. No self-judged believer ever yet failed to own that he was far from receiving the full reward of his deeds. Rather, it seems as though God's grace leads Him to overlook even serious failure, and to correct but in part….The rod is never directed by a cold, indifferent heart. He feels as no other can for the people of His choice, the children He loves. Every morning witnesses fresh evidences of His loving-kindness.”
Smith: “We can think ourselves into despair and hopelessness. You can think yourself into the grave. Or, by setting your mind upon the Lord, renewing your mind in Him, you can come into a whole new state of consciousness. No longer one of total despair and hopelessness, but one now of victory and hope.”
Lamentations 3:24 The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.
Lamentations 3:25 The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.
Lamentations 3:26 It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.
Finally, the prophet’s eyes are fixed on the LORD in faith, in confident expectation of his inheritance in the LORD. The LORD is always good to those that are bound together in expectation (from Hebrew for “wait”) of His faithfulness, to those that worship (from Hebrew for “seeketh”) Him. To “hope and quietly wait” for the LORD’s salvation is to stay at peace in the spirit and put to silence any impatience, discontent or worry.
If only this were the description of the “church” today!
Clarke: “Hope is essentially necessary to faith; he that hopes not, cannot believe; if there be no expectation, there can be no confidence.”
Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Ironside: “…waiting upon God is largely a ‘lost art’ among Christians nowadays. The rush and hurry of the age; ‘the lust of other things;’ in a word, the worldliness so characteristic of the present momentous period in the Church's history, effectually shuts out all inclination to wait upon God, it is to be feared, for a large number of those who confess the name of Jesus as Saviour and Lord. Consequently, little or nothing is known, in a practical way, of His goodness in meeting felt need, and of His ability to satisfy the soul that seeks His face.”
Smith re verse 24: "Everything else has been taken away. My house is destroyed. All of my possessions are gone. I’ve been stripped, but I have the Lord. And if I have the Lord, that"s all I really need.”
Lamentations 3:27 It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.
Lamentations 3:28 He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him.
Lamentations 3:29 He putteth his mouth in the dust; if so be there may be hope.
Lamentations 3:30 He giveth his cheek to him that smiteth him: he is filled full with reproach.
To “bear the yoke” would be a reference to submission and obedience—to one’s parents would be implied, I think, but ultimately to the LORD. It is when one is young that one is most easily taught. When one is able to submit in obedience without complaining, it shows promise for his future. Such a person is not easily provoked; he has learned it is better to return good for evil.
1 Thessalonians 5:15 “See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.”
1 Peter 3:8–9 “Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.”
Lamentations 3:31 For the Lord will not cast off for ever:
Lamentations 3:32 But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies.
Lamentations 3:33 For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.
From the perspective of God’s people, He does not reject them forever when He judges them. Though he may cause grief and sorrow, He will still show them His love and kindness in accordance with His abundant kindness and pity. It isn’t in the LORD’s heart to afflict or deal harshly with men; but as a loving Father, He must chasten and discipline them, hoping to save them.
Hebrews 12:6–7 “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?”
Lamentations 3:34 To crush under his feet all the prisoners of the earth,
Lamentations 3:35 To turn aside the right of a man before the face of the most High,
Lamentations 3:36 To subvert a man in his cause, the Lord approveth not.
The wording is awkward, but I think the prophet is listing three things that the LORD disapproves and of which the leaders of Judah were guilty.
EBC Abridged: “A contrast to God’s gracious and loving dealing is offered in three pictures of man’s inhumanity.”
Lamentations 3:37 ¶ Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not?
Lamentations 3:38 Out of the mouth of the most High proceedeth not evil and good?
Lamentations 3:39 Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?
This is yet another statement of God’s sovereignty over the affairs of men. No one can thwart God’s will. Though hard to understand from our perspective, God decrees both good and bad things to happen. None of us have a just reason for complaining because as sinners, we deserve judgment; it is only by God’s grace and mercy that we are not destroyed. Not only are we not destroyed, we are allowed to experience many of His blessings, even when we are in rebellion and disobedience.
Lamentations 3:40 Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD.
Lamentations 3:41 Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.
Lamentations 3:42 ¶ We have transgressed and have rebelled: thou hast not pardoned.
Lamentations 3:43 Thou hast covered with anger, and persecuted us: thou hast slain, thou hast not pitied.
Lamentations 3:44 Thou hast covered thyself with a cloud, that our prayer should not pass through.
Lamentations 3:45 Thou hast made us as the offscouring and refuse in the midst of the people.
At this point, it is clear that the prophet is speaking to the people. He urges them to make a personal assessment of their lives, to admit their sin and turn back to the LORD in faith and repentance. To lift up their heart and hands to the LORD is a picture of submission. He admits to sin and rebellion on behalf of the people. God could not pardon their sin any longer. They needed to experience His anger and the resulting persecution that caused many to die, with the hope of bringing them to their knees before Him. The prophet paints a picture of God using a cloud to keep their prayers from getting through to Him until judgment had been executed. He pictures the people as useless trash scattered among the nations.
God had been so longsuffering with the people, but there comes a time when judgment can no longer be postponed. At that point, prayers are no longer effective. God’s grace and mercy should keep us on our knees in gratitude before the LORD; sadly, many choose to take advantage of those very attributes of God and become even more entrenched in their sin to the point that their hearts are hardened beyond hope of change. Why is God so longsuffering? Because He is not willing that any should perish.
2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
Lamentations 3:46 All our enemies have opened their mouths against us.
Lamentations 3:47 Fear and a snare is come upon us, desolation and destruction.
Lamentations 3:48 Mine eye runneth down with rivers of water for the destruction of the daughter of my people.
Lamentations 3:49 Mine eye trickleth down, and ceaseth not, without any intermission,
Lamentations 3:50 Till the LORD look down, and behold from heaven.
Lamentations 3:51 Mine eye affecteth mine heart because of all the daughters of my city.
The prophet bemoans the fact that their enemies are mocking them. They are filled with fear like a trapped animal facing devastation and ruin. The prophet is weeping uncontrollably with a broken heart over the destruction of his people. He feels he won’t be able to stop until he feels God looking down from heaven with favor toward them again.
Jeremiah was in a difficult position. He had been warning the people for many years of coming judgment if they did not repent. He had been a faithful and obedient servant of God. Even though he knew that the people deserved God’s judgment, his heart was still empathetic toward them. He took no joy in their suffering. As Christians in the world today, we should be just as faithful in declaring God’s word and warning of the judgment to come. Though we have the promise of not being appointed to suffer God’s wrath in that judgment to come, we should still grieve over the thought of so many choosing to reject the LORD and having to experience it. It should be our motivation to do everything we can to spread the gospel message.
Lamentations 3:52 Mine enemies chased me sore, like a bird, without cause.
Lamentations 3:53 They have cut off my life in the dungeon, and cast a stone upon me.
Lamentations 3:54 Waters flowed over mine head; then I said, I am cut off.
Lamentations 3:55 ¶ I called upon thy name, O LORD, out of the low dungeon.
Lamentations 3:56 Thou hast heard my voice: hide not thine ear at my breathing, at my cry.
There is much in this chapter that seems to verify the prophet Jeremiah as the writer. He was certainly treated like an enemy, and he was thrown in the dungeon to die. Once that dungeon was an empty cistern in which he sank deeply into the muck. He would probably have died had he not been rescued by one who evidently believed Jeremiah and feared the LORD.
Jeremiah 38:6–13 “Then took they Jeremiah, and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah the son of Hammelech, that was in the court of the prison: and they let down Jeremiah with cords. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire: so Jeremiah sunk in the mire. Now when Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, one of the eunuchs which was in the king’s house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the dungeon…Ebedmelech went forth out of the king’s house, and spake to the king, saying, My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they have done to Jeremiah the prophet, whom they have cast into the dungeon; and he is like to die for hunger in the place where he is: for there is no more bread in the city. Then the king commanded Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, saying, Take from hence thirty men with thee, and take up Jeremiah the prophet out of the dungeon, before he die….So they drew up Jeremiah with cords, and took him up out of the dungeon: and Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison.”
Trapp re verse 56: “As breathing is a proof of animal life, so is prayer, though never so weak, of spiritual. If therefore you cannot speak, weep - fietu saepe agitur non affatu, tears also have a voice; [Psalm 39:12] if you cannot weep, sigh - a storm of sighs may do as much as a shower of tears; if you cannot sigh, yet breathe, as here. God feels breath; and happy is he that can say, In te spero et respiro, In thee I hope, Lord, and after thee I breathe or pant.”
Lamentations 3:57 Thou drewest near in the day that I called upon thee: thou saidst, Fear not.
Lamentations 3:58 O Lord, thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul; thou hast redeemed my life.
Lamentations 3:59 O LORD, thou hast seen my wrong: judge thou my cause.
Jeremiah remembers how God answered his prayer by send Ebedmelech to intercede before the king on his behalf. How often we read in scripture that God encourages His people that they have nothing to fear when they trust in Him. Jeremiah acknowledges how the LORD had protected him and given him back his life. He asks for and yields to the LORD to judge those that oppressed him, acknowledging God’s omniscience in the process.
Lamentations 3:60 Thou hast seen all their vengeance and all their imaginations against me.
Lamentations 3:61 Thou hast heard their reproach, O LORD, and all their imaginations against me;
Lamentations 3:62 The lips of those that rose up against me, and their device against me all the day.
Lamentations 3:63 Behold their sitting down, and their rising up; I am their musick.
Lamentations 3:64 Render unto them a recompence, O LORD, according to the work of their hands.
Lamentations 3:65 Give them sorrow of heart, thy curse unto them.
Lamentations 3:66 Persecute and destroy them in anger from under the heavens of the LORD.
As this chapter closes, Jeremiah again notes that he knows the LORD has seen how the people acted against him with anger and revenge in response to his prophecies. He knew that God had heard how they shamed him and plotted against him, continually speaking out against him. They even composed satirical poems that criticized and abused him. Again Jeremiah asks for the LORD to punish them accordingly. He wants them to suffer with a curse from the LORD that executes a judgment of destruction against them.
Jesus set a brand new directive in how we are to react towards our enemies. We are to love them and pray for them.
Matthew 5:44 “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you….”
That so goes against our natural instincts in the flesh. It takes a true desire to be obedient to the LORD and to want to be more like our Saviour. That is what God desires for us.
John 14:15 “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
Romans 8:29 “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”
“conformed” = similar, like unto