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Sunday, June 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
Lamentations 3

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-66

Chapter 3

In this third lamentation he begins from the depth of depression and despair. He begins with hopelessness, and hopelessness is always the experience behind depression. Depression is the loss of hope, no way out, nothing I can do. Hopelessness leads to depression.

I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath. He has led me, and brought me into darkness, but not into light ( Lamentations 3:1-2 ).

It seems like God has turned against the prophet. "I have seen the wrath of God. God's brought me into darkness, not into light."

Surely against me is he turned; he's turned his hand against me all the day. My flesh and my skin hath he made old: he hath broken my bones. He's built against me, and circled me with gall and travail. He has set me in dark places, as they that be dead of old. He hedged me about, that I cannot get out: he has made my chain heavy. Also when I cry and shout, he shuts out my prayer ( Lamentations 3:3-8 ).

God isn't listening to my prayer. God seems to have closed every door of escape. There is no way out. I'm in the hole and there is no place to go. I'm in this darkness, and God isn't listening to my prayers.

[It's like] he has enclosed me with hewn stone ( Lamentations 3:9 );

That is, he's built a wall around me.

and he's made my paths crooked. He was unto me as a bear lying in wait, and as a lion in secret places. He has turned aside my ways, and pulled me in pieces: he has made me desolate. He has bent his bow, and set me as a mark ( Lamentations 3:9-12 ).

I'm a target for God's arrows.

He has caused the arrows of his quiver to enter into my reins. I was a derision to all my people; and their song all the day. He has filled me with bitterness, he has made me drunken with wormwood. He has also broken my teeth with gravel stones, he has covered me with ashes. You have removed my soul far off from peace: I forgot prosperity. And I said, my strength and my hope is perished from the LORD: Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall. My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me ( Lamentations 3:9-20 ).

Boy, that is about as low as you can get. That's the bottom, that's the pits. He's down, just the bottom. And out of the depths of his despair and depression, suddenly there is a dramatic change. That dramatic change is explained; the reason for it is explained in verse Lamentations 3:21 . In the midst of his hopelessness, in the midst of his despair, when it seems that all is forsaken, there is no way out, that God isn't even listening, and God isn't ready to help me, in the midst of this place of total despair, he said,

This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope ( Lamentations 3:21 ).

He changed his whole mindset. The Bible speaks about our renewing our minds. The Bible speaks about our bringing every thought into captivity unto the obedience of Jesus Christ. And we can think ourselves into a miserable mood. 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.

And that's what Jeremiah did. He changed the thought patterns from, "Oh, woe is me. Oh, this is the end. Oh, there is no hope. Oh, I've had it. Oh, there's no one to help. Oh, I'm boxed in," to thinking about the Lord. As we think about ourselves, we often become depressed, because none of us are all of what we would like to be.

We, each of us, have a divergence between our ego and our super ego, the real me and the ideal me. Oh, but you see yourself in an ideal way. "This is what I really am," providing everything is all right. It's only because of these other factors that you see me like this, this nastiness isn't the real me. I'm very sweet, and generous, and kind, and benevolent, and loving, and marvelous, and a very lovable person. The person that you see is what has happened to me, because of, you know, what you've done. But that's not the real me, you see. So, there is this idealization, the ideal me, the super ego, and then there's the real me.

Now if there is a vast difference between your super ego and your ego, then you're going to have real problems of mental instability. The more well adjusted a person is, is in measure to the distance between his ego and super ego. If your ego is close to your super ego, then you're a well adjusted person. If there is a wide divergence between your ego and super ego, then you're very maladjusted in your life. Now the psychologist says, "Bring your super ego down. You've got too high of ideals. You've got too high of standards. No one can live to those. You've got to lower your ideals." The Lord says, "Bring your ego up, through the power of the Spirit, through My help. Become the person that I want you to be. Receive My strength, receive My ability, and I will make you that person that is pleasing and glorifying unto God. That person who is loving, who is kind, who is compassionate, who is filled with joy."

So, he came to a change of mental attitude. No longer thinking about himself, but now thinking about the Lord. It made such a great difference. Oh, if we could only get our minds off of ourselves and onto the Lord. In the times of discouragement, in the times of defeat, in the times of depression, if we could only get our minds off of ourselves and onto the Lord. That's the secret of the way out. Rather than wallowing in this self pity. Just get our minds and hearts... "Thou will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee" ( Isaiah 26:3 ). Keep your minds stayed on the Lord and God will keep you in perfect peace. Get your mind on yourself and you're going to have all kinds of turmoil and depression.

[So when I recall to my mind,] this I recall to my mind ( Lamentations 3:21 ),

What does he recall to his mind? First of all,

It's the LORD'S mercies that we're not consumed ( Lamentations 3:22 ),

Things are bad, but they could be worse. It's God's mercies that we're still here. The fact that I wake up in the morning is proof that God is merciful. You see, God is under no obligation to keep me around. It's only by His mercies that I've not been consumed. Secondly,

because his compassions fail not ( Lamentations 3:22 ).

In First Corinthians 13, as Paul is describing agape, he said, "Love never fails." God's love never fails. God has never stopped loving you. God does not love you when you are good and hate you when you are bad. God's love for you is unchanging. It doesn't fail. God's love is continually being poured out upon your life. God's love is not contingent upon what you are, but upon what He is. "His compassions they fail not."

Love is not love that alters when it alteration finds. "Oh, I love you. You're my dream come true. I'd swim the Pacific to be by your side. I'd fly to the moon to be close to you. Yikes. You have bad breath. I change my mind." That's not true love. Love is not love that alters when it alteration finds. We have in our minds, again, an idealization, the perfect man, the perfect woman. And we meet someone and fall in love, not with them but with our idealization. And when it comes that they don't meet up to the standards of our idealization, then we're no longer in love. That's ridiculous. You never were in love to begin with. Love is not love that alters when it alteration finds. Therefore, true love is hard to find among men. And that's using it in a generic sense, talking of the Homo Sapien. True love can only really be found with God.

You see, He isn't deceived by an idealization. You haven't fooled Him with your smooth, suave manners: the opening of the doors, and the genteel, gallant ways. Hasn't deceived Him at all. He knows what a rat you are from the beginning. But He loves you; that's the amazing thing. "His compassions they fail not." And God knowing me as well as He knows me, still loving me is one of the great miracles. God's compassions fail not. He never stops loving you. You need to remember that.

Now Jeremiah was thinking that God had forsaken him completely. "God's hedged me in. He's not listening to my prayers." But when he really adjusts his thinking, he knows that God's love is unfailing. God continues, never stops His loving me.

They are new every morning ( Lamentations 3:23 ):

The mercy and the love of God, fresh every day.

oh great is thy faithfulness ( Lamentations 3:23 ).

God is so faithful. As Jeremiah was looking at this devastated city, that desolation was a testimony of God's faithfulness. God had said to those people, "If you continue in your wickedness, if you continue in your idolatry, I am going to bring the Babylonian army against you, and they're going to destroy you, and they're going to break down the walls of this city. And those that aren't killed by the famine will be killed by the sword. And those that aren't killed by the sword will be killed by the pestilence. But I'm going to destroy you out of this holy mountain."

And now God has kept His word and Jeremiah is looking at the faithfulness of God to His word. "Great is Thy faithfulness." God, You said You would do it, and You did it.

Now the faithfulness of God can be a glorious thought and blessing, or it can be a horrendous thought. It all depends on what side you are. If you're a child of God, then God's faithfulness to His promises of that which He is going to do for His children, a believer in Jesus Christ, all that God has promised us. Oh, and we can rest and hope for God is faithful. He will do what He said. If you're not a child of God, then the faithfulness of God is an awesome prospect, because you can be sure that God will do exactly what He said He is going to do to all of the sinners, those that reject Him. "Great is Thy faithfulness." God is faithful in keeping His word.

The LORD is my portion ( Lamentations 3:24 ),

Now he's thinking upon the faithfulness of God, the love of God, the mercies of God, and now, "The Lord is my portion." 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.

The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him ( Lamentations 3:24 ).

Those who do not have the Lord as their portion have very little hope. But my hope is in Him.

The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, the soul that seeks him ( Lamentations 3:25 ).

If you'll wait upon God, if you'll seek God, God is good, so good to those that wait upon Him and seek Him.

It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD ( Lamentations 3:26 ).

What else can I do?

It is good for a man that he bears the yoke of his youth. He sits alone and keeps silence, because he has borne it upon him. He puts his mouth in the dust; if so be there may be hope. He giveth his cheek to him that smiteth him: he is filled full with reproach ( Lamentations 3:27-30 ).

A prophecy of Jesus Christ in the midst of this, even as Christ always is there in the time of suffering to bear the burdens and the reproach that we bear for Him.

The Lord will not cast off for ever ( Lamentations 3:31 ):

This judgment isn't going to last forever. This forsaking of the people by God isn't going to last forever.

But though he has caused grief, yet he's going to have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies ( Lamentations 3:32 ).

God will change in His actions towards us.

For he does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men ( Lamentations 3:33 ).

In other words, it doesn't really please God to have to deal in such stringent ways with his children. I've often said, you can make it easy on yourself or make it hard on yourself. And any time you fight God, you're making it hard on yourself. That's the lesson that Jonah learned. He fought God and ended up in the belly of a whale in a miserable condition. Three days and three nights in that hot mammal. Ninety eight degrees with high humidity. He talks about the waves rolling over his head and the seaweed twined around him. Probably stinky at that. And when he came out of that horribly miserable experience, he shared the lesson that he learned.

They that observe lying vanities, forsake their own mercies. If you think you can run from God or hide from God, you're only making it hard on yourself. You're heading for trouble. You're heading for misery. He thought he could hide from God. He thought he could run from God, that he could escape the call of God. It's a lie. There is no way. You're just going to be miserable, friend. Try to fight God; you're heading for misery. He doesn't afflict willingly. He doesn't want to lay the rod on you. He gets no delight in the chastising of His children, but because He loves us. He is faithful and will chastise.

To crush under his feet all the prisoners of the earth, To turn aside the right of a man before the face of the Most High, To subvert a man in his cause, the Lord approves not. Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commanded it not? Out of the mouth of the Most High proceeds not evil and good? ( Lamentations 3:34-38 )

God doesn't talk out of both sides of His mouth. James speaks about the double minded man, unstable in all of his ways. Jesus speaks of how the same fountain cannot bring forth bitter and sweet waters. God doesn't speak both good and evil.

Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins? ( Lamentations 3:39 )

Rather than complain of the chastisement.

Let us search and try our ways, and turn again unto the LORD. Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto the God in the heavens. For we have transgressed and have rebelled: and you have not pardoned. You have covered with anger, and persecuted us: and you have slain, and you have not pitied ( Lamentations 3:40-43 ).

And now he goes back into the dirge. You see, he came out for a while into the light.

You have covered yourself with a cloud, that our prayers should not pass through ( Lamentations 3:44 ).

It seems like, you know, people say, "Well, it seems like, you know, the ceilings were of brass." But Jeremiah sees the, you know, like the prayers are just being closed off by a cloud between God and me.

Thou has made us as the offscouring and refuse in the midst of the people. All of our enemies have opened their mouths against us. Fear and a snare is come upon us, desolation and destruction. My eye runs down with rivers of water for the destruction of the daughter of my people. My eye trickles down, and ceases not, without any intermission, Till the LORD looks down, and beholds from heaven. My eye affecteth my heart, because of all of the daughters of my city. My enemies chased me sore, like a bird, without cause. They have cut off my life in the dungeon, and cast a stone upon me. Waters flowed over my head; then I said, I'm cut off. And I called upon thy name, O LORD, out of the low dungeon. And you have heard my voice: hide not your ear at my breathing, at my cry. For you drew near in the day that I called upon thee: and you said, Fear not. O Lord, thou has pleaded the causes of my soul; thou hast redeemed my life. O Lord, thou has seen my wrong: judge thou my cause. For thou has seen all their vengeance and their imaginations against me. You heard their reproach, O LORD, and all of the imaginations against me; The lips of those that rose up against me, and the device against me all the day. Behold their sitting down, their rising up; I am their music. Render unto them a recompense, O LORD, according to the work of their hands. Give them sorrow of heart, thy curse unto them. Persecute and destroy them in the anger from under the heavens of the LORD ( Lamentations 3:45-66 ).

Here again is sort of a David type of a prayer against his enemies. Jeremiah doesn't ask God to bless his enemies, but to really do them in. It is in the New Testament that Jesus taught us to bless those that curse you. Bless and curse not. "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Lamentations 3". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/lamentations-3.html. 2014.
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