This article came from:
Dr. Rick Thomas
Founder & Director
Mt. Carmel Ministries & Biblical Counseling Education
Author: Probably Jeremiah although others have been suggested.
Date: Sometime around the final fall of Jerusalem in 587 BC
Purpose: Lamentations means “lamenting,” “sorrow.” The author is greatly saddened, grieved, and in painful anguish over the spiritual and physical condition of Jerusalem because of the lifestyle of its inhabitants. The devastation and destruction of Jerusalem was a direct result of divine chastisement for their willful rebellion against God. Although warned, they pursued headlong after their lust, immorality, greed; and abuse of the elderly and poor, and intermarriaged.
Outline Summary: Lamentations 1 mourns the misery resulting from the destruction of Jerusalem and explains that the desolation was God’s judgment for the nation’s sin. Lamentations 2 continues the lament over the ruin wrought by divine anger and calls the people to prayer. While Lamentations 3 further extends the mourning over Jerusalem’s destruction, it also declares that God’s steadfast love gives reason to hope that He will extend mercy in the future. In light of that hope the author calls for repentance. Lamentations 4 vividly pictures the horrors of the siege and fall of Jerusalem and places part of the blame for the judgment on the immoral prophets and priests of the city. Lamentations 5 summarizes the calamitous situation and closes with a prayer for restoration.
Diving into Lamentations 3
It is very easy for someone living under the consequences of others sinful choices to lose hope, to become fatalistic and despair – even resign living holy and pure. The condition Jeremiah remembers is because of what others did, not what he did. He was not a participant in their wicked and abominable lifestyle. He was a polluted patron by Judah’s sin.
In verses 19-20 Jeremiah REMEMBERS his poverty (affliction) and the fact that he is homeless (wanderings) as a result of the sins of his people he prophesied to. Their actions are pictured by Jeremiah as wormwood and bitterness. These two words are being used synonymously. The usage of “surely” is a resounding affirmative! “Yes,” Jeremiah proclaims, “my soul remembers.” This bending low is in part because of the tremendous weight and burden for my people, but I believe also because of what Jeremiah is about to proclaim to himself and any others that might listen. He is bowed down by the mind-staggering fact that God has not broken His promise to Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob; nor any of their descendants. God was, is, and always will be faithful to a faithless blood-soaked redeemed people! This truth, in the mist of being homeless and bankrupt, is humbling!
In verses 21-24 Jeremiah recalls the nature of God in the mist of his poverty and homelessness.
What is Jeremiah recalling to mind that gives him hope? Jeremiah says he deliberately turns his mind around. It is easy to get stuck in the quagmire sinking in the quick sand. But Jeremiah says he takes hold of his mind and turns it away from the problems to the nature of God. This is his hope!
The Hebrew concept of hope is not our English trivia of “hope-so.” Neither is it out-of-reach futuristic, not in my lifetime “hope.” Jeremiah uses a Hebrew word that means regardless if my situation changes as quickly as I desire or as I desire, I will await expectantly for the nature of God to show Himself in my situation.
Notice the five attributes of God Jeremiah sets his sights on regarding his homelessness and poverty. By doing so, he re-enters into his wealth. Jeremiah recalls the Lord’s loving-kindness. Jeremiah says this hesed (loyal + love) will never cease. Regardless, God will still love. The Lord is compassionate. This active choice of God to step into the world of poverty and homelessness never fails. Each morning brings a new opportunity for God to display His compassion. This compassion is God’s mercies. God’s mercies are endless, ceaseless, boundless, infinite, interminable, uninterrupted, unbroken; constant, perpetual, continuous, and incessant!
The nature of God that Jeremiah recalls is loving-kindness, compassion, and faithfulness. He adds portion and concludes with hope.
The Hebrew understanding of portion means part of, a share of land, a piece of tract, possession, or award. God is and remains a rightful part of the believer’s life regardless. Ephesians reminds us that we are God’s inheritance. To have God as your portion in the mist of great difficulties means you are not alone, you are not bankrupt, and you are not homeless! He has not abandoned you. You are not forsaken. He is with you. He will never leave you.
To be a bit crude, when God births you He develops stretch marks! God can prove you are His!
In verses 25-66, Jeremiah rehearses the unassailable characteristics of God.
Jeremiah knows that God is good. God’s goodness – His full extended goodness – requires the recipient to wait on Him and seek Him. God is not one of many different venues for deliverance. God cannot be incorporated into an amalgamated potpourri of solutions. There must be singular-ness of focus. Instead of looking toward the horizon to see who or what may change my situation, I must not look to the hills from where my help comes. I must look to the Lord. While waiting (looking) I must be seeking.
Closely akin to waiting, the word seek means to avoid looking into other possible alternatives. The verse does not say that “such n such” is good to those who wait and to the person who seeks. It clearly and emphatically says THE LORD.
We must train our eyes to look unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, and no one else and nothing else.
In verse 26, Jeremiah reminds himself that it is good that he waits silently for now because the Lord will bring salvation to his situation. The idea of good means favorable, pleasant. It seems like a contradiction to wait silently when the word also indicates to wait eagerly, but it is not.
When a person’s situation demands waiting eagerly but in silence and that person is eagerly complaining it is a hindrance to the operation of God Almighty. A person’s hope is in God and God does not need to be reminded of our homelessness and poverty! It can be likened to an excited child who immediately asks his parents, “Are we there yet,” and the car just backed down the driveway!
In verse 27, Jeremiah says it is good for a man that he should bear the yoke of his youth. This is a challenging statement to understand. Jeremiah is referring to the sins of one’s youth that now have come home to roost. This is Galatians 6 that records we will reap what we sow. One of the reaping and sowing principles is you always reap in a different season. You sow corn in the spring and reap in the fall. Likewise, that Nations of Judah and Israel sowed a whirlwind of abominations but now the reaping was beginning through Babylon and Assyria.
That is why in verse 28 we read that in our isolation because of our sin we must not forget that the holiness and justice of God lays this upon the man. Sitting alone and in silence is a painful but profitable time for reflection and brokenness. Verse 29 reminds the reader that true humility leads to hope. The afflictions from our sin can be the natural, logical, or divine consequences as God uses others to chastise us. This is what is happening to Judah through Babylon.
However, again verse 31 offers hope. The Lord, in spite of these most difficult times, will not toss up His hands and fling us to the winds of turbulence forever. The discipline of the Lord must run its course. To short change the divine discipline may produce a false endurance towards a false goal of self-reformation. The full course must be completed. There is no partial credit for endurance for endurance must achieve its perfect result (Js. 1:3).
God allows the grief of our decisions. God must balance His attributes. Grief (affliction, suffering, sorrow) here is balanced against His compassion. This compassion flows from His loyal love toward us and our situation.
We must be impressed with the preciseness of Scripture. God’s loving-kindness is not out of but according to. “Out of” means only a measured amount that the giver wants to offer that will not pose any inconvenience. “According to “means what is given is in proportion to what the giver owns. To illustrate this imagine you commute to work from outside one of Chicago’s suburbs. Your train arrives at Union Station, downtown Chicago. Early in the morning on numerous street corners are those asking for money. If you give “out of” your pocket of money you will give that which is of little benefit to the person in need and you will measure what you give so it is not an inconvenience to you. If you have ten dollars (a five dollar bill and five singles) and you give a dollar bill. That is not proportionate to what you have. If you give according to then your gift will be reflective of all you have in whatever you give.
All of God’s blessings and kind intentions are “according to.”
In verses 33-36, people blame God for reckless and unkind abusive behavior. Their accusations infer God is helpless or uncaring. That God is impotent to intervene. Jeremiah says that God DOES NOT:
- Afflict willingly
- Grieve the sons of men willingly (word implied from Hebrew context by association with the first phrase)
- Crush under His feet
- Deprive a man of justice
Jeremiah emphatically declares that OF THESE THINGS THE LORD DOES NOT APPROVE. So why do such actions occur? God must permit these things to transpire to display both is holiness and righteousness with His compassion and mercy.
Jeremiah asks who has the ability to say anything without the Lord’s permission. And those things spoken can be traced back to the Lord who uses these human vessels to spout both good and ill. Since this is true, Jeremiah asks how it is possible for any living mortal or any man to attempt to offer a complaint against God in light of his own sinfulness?
In verses 40-42 Jeremiah declares what we should do in light of the feelings of personal assaults and defamation. First, Jeremiah says we need to examine ourselves and probe our ways. He makes the assumption we will find something that has influenced us to depart from the Lord’s paths of righteousness.
The concept of examine in the Hebrew means to search oneself out, to turn aside and carefully test oneself by asking truthful questions that cause reflection. The idea of probe means to investigate thoroughly. It is the intensity for the action of examination. One can examine something at a superficial or cursory level but when one examines something with the intensity to really investigate what the object is made of real answers can be found because real problems are being identified.
The outcome of such personal, intense, self-examination is brokenness and humility driving us back to the Lord. The “final report” clearly shows how we have deliberately moved away from God. Recognizing this awful truth, we want to return, come back to the Lord who is faithful, loving, and compassionate.
Verse 41 reflects how a Jew demonstrated brokenness and humility. Hebrew culture displayed its sorrow and contrition of heart by lifting up their hands toward God. This symbolized spiritual poverty and emptiness and a refocus on the only One who could do anything about their situation.
Now Jeremiah relates with how God has indeed been stepping into our world to re-capture us to Himself. Jeremiah admits that they have transgressed and rebelled. This pair of words reflects both the outward display of self-centeredness and the inward display. Transgressed means revolted. We saw the signs of righteousness and deliberately crossed those lines. Rebell means the heart attitude of contentious or refactory.
But God did not pardon. God did not forgive. Acknowledgement is not the same as confession and repentance. Judah demonstrated a spiritual cycle of sin, servitude, supplication, and salvation. Even though they offered the appropriate sacrifices their heart was far from God. Even though they heard the pleas of Jeremiah to repent and return, they did not, and God did not pardon.
God loved Judah so much Jeremiah pictures God as someone who disguises himself. God covered Himself in anger. His anger was the cloak of holy righteousness. This was His motivation for pursuing Judah. Not retaliation or revenge but holy love and compassion for those who belonged to Him. God’s anger was thorough. God did what was necessary to bring them to godly sorrow in which they genuinely cried out to God for salvation. God is a jealous God and will not allow His people to share themselves with unrighteousness!
Clouds block out the sun. They may even hinder the release of refreshing rain. Clouds can be a thickness. Here God is not answering their prayers. Why is this? Because God knows their prayers are still self-centered. They only want relief not righteousness.
God’s holy actions were viewed by the nations that surrounded Judah as abandonment. Judah even feels this way. Judah was a byword among the nations. They were looked upon as off scouring and refuse. They were like a piece of trash beat down and discarded; worthless, something to be stepped over or around.
Judah is hearing derogatory remarks by their enemies. Their enemies are taunting them, mocking them. What they are saying, what Judah is hearing is causing panic among the people. They are experiencing devastation and destruction. The enemy’s words are digging pits and Judah is in her fear of running and falling into them. Judah is aimless, disoriented and attempting to continue to manage life apart from God – their very actions that placed themselves in such a position they are now experiencing the results.
Jeremiah lives up to his God-given character as the weeping prophet. He sees all of this and it breaks his heart. He is moved with great sorrow and tears. His grief is overwhelming. He mourns and is distressed with the weight of the people he loves and cares for (verses 48-51).
Jeremiah’s display of wailing and lamenting is ridiculed by his enemies. Jeremiah feels like they have shut him up in a pit and rolled a stone over him. They constantly are haring him, relentlessly adding to his grief and sorrow.
Jeremiah reaches a point that the only thing left for him to do is, “I called on Your Name, O Lord, out of the lowest pit.” There was nothing more he could do but call out to God. This calling out to God is a very strong Hebrew word. It is a word filled with great emotions. It encompasses the idea of pleading with God; even proclaiming to God as a reminder of His loving-kindness, faithfulness, and compassion.
In verse 55, you have the first person personal pronoun “I”. For the rest of chapter three of Lamentations, you read the pronoun “YOU” at least ten times. In verses 56-66 Jeremiah is standing erect on what God has done and stands firmly on what God will do. Notice the past tense phrases and the future tense phrases listed below. All of this because Jeremiah “called on the name of the Lord,” while recognizing all along that his predicament was because of sin and God was just in His dealings.
Verse 56: You HAVE HEARD my voice
Verse 57: You DREW NEAR when I called
Verse 58: You HAVE PLEADED my soul’s cause
Verse 59: You HAVE SEEN MY AFFLICTION
Verse 60: You HAVE SEEN ALL THEIR VENGEANCE
Verse 61: You HAVE HEARD THEIR REPROACH
Verse 64: You WILL RECOMPENSE THEM
Verse 65: You WILL GIVE THEM HARDNESS OF HEART
Verse 66: You WILL PURSUE THEM
When we come to recognize that God is holy and just to withdraw Himself from someone’s deliberate, willful rebellion whose actions are impacting me; and that my present condition is because of another’s acoustic sinfulness against Him; I can remind myself that even in the middle of this chastisement God’s loving kindness, compassion, and mercies are directed toward me; the only thing I must do is cry out to God. By doing such I am renewed in my confidence that God hears, God does not hide from me any longer, that God is drawing near to me, that God is pleading my cause, that God is redeeming my life, that God sees those oppressing me and sees their vindictive spirit; and God will righteously deal with the matter is such a way that this humbling experience will leave an indelible mark on my spirit to eschew evil and follow the Lord God Jehovah Almighty with a renewed fullness of heart, mind, soul, and strength!
 Ephesians 1:18
 Hebrews 12:1-2
 During the book of Judges, Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles
 Book of Ephesians high lights this principles
 A simple exercise will bring this axiom to light. Examine a quarter. Record 10 observations. Examine it again looking for another 10 observations. Again, again, again.
 Book of Judges
 Have you ever driven through a dense fog? Or in the high mountain altitudes in the early mornings?