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Lamentations 3:1933, 3739comment (0)

August 25, 2011

By Douglas K. Wilson

Related Scripture: Lamentations 3:1933, 3739


Explore the Bible
Professor of Christian Studies, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile

RELY ON THE LORD’S LOVE
Lamentations 3:19–33, 37–39

The Lamentations are five lilting dirges that mourn Judah’s rebellion against God. Four are acrostic in the original Hebrew, written in alphabetic sequence. Chapters 1, 2 and 4 are single acrostic songs, with each verse beginning with the next sequential letter. Chapter 3 includes three-verse sections, with each verse within a section beginning with the same letter. Holman Christian Standard Bible readers will note that Hebrew letters mark each acrostic verse or series of verses in Lamentations.

Whatever the reason for alphabetic writing, the reader sees a weeping prophet’s broken heart expressed in the songs. The tears shed by Jesus come to mind as He wept for Jerusalem (Matt. 23:37).

Accept God’s Justice (19–20)
Storm clouds were rising and darkness filled the air. Was it rain coming or the thunder of Babylonian troops? Nebuchadnezzar had already shown great political prowess in recent decades, relocating the best and brightest young minds from Jerusalem and later replacing a problematic king with a political ally from the Jewish royal family. But now his puppet king, Zedekiah, was rebelling. This pagan king was going to destroy the city, and Judah faced exile, just as Jeremiah had prophesied.

“Remember” is the key word in verses 19–21. Throughout the Law and the Prophets, God called His people to remember Him, His deliverance and His instructions. In the midst of his own gloom, Jeremiah remembered God’s words of warning.

God was bringing justice to a spiritually rebellious city, and He was using a polytheistic Gentile ruler to do it. Jeremiah represented this time of torment for Judah as “affliction,” “homelessness,” “wormwood” and “poison.” Not only was there a citywide panic but this was also personal to the prophet: my affliction and my homelessness. Yet there was hope.

Remember God’s Faithfulness (21–27)
The heavens grew dark but then a bright ray of sunshine pierced the darkness, bursting through the clouds. “Great is thy faithfulness. … Morning by morning, new mercies I see,” Thomas O. Chisholm wrote, echoing the highlighted passage.

Three words are key to the section titled Khet (22–24, HCSB), and each word begins with that Hebrew consonant. The first word is “chesed,” marking God’s covenant faithfulness that He extends to repentant believers. Second is “chadash” meaning new, reminiscent of Jeremiah 31:31, the promise of a new covenant fulfilled in Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. Finally “chelqi” is identical to the form employed in Psalm 73:26, in which God is described as “my portion.” In the Tet section of verses 25–27, “good” is the key word in each verse: God is good, it is good to wait on Him and it is good for a young man to bear the yoke of servitude.

Recognize God’s Purpose (28–33)
In sections Yod and Kaf, recurring forms are employed for continuity. First command forms of verbs are used, translated as “let him,” referring to the yoked young man of verse 27. Let him sit quietly under the Lord’s discipline. Let him grovel in the dirt, clinging to hope and a future (Jer. 29:11). Let him recognize God’s purpose, even in humiliation. After all, believers are to take on the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5–11). In the latter section, the repeated word is “for.” Let him patiently wait under God’s discipline. For what purpose? The Master will not reject forever. He utilizes suffering and extends compassion. God’s ultimate purpose is covenant fellowship, not suffering.

Acknowledge God’s Power (37–39)
For this lesson’s final section, Mem is the initial letter. Interrogatives “who” and “why” are employed, as well as a preposition translated “from” the mouth. All three verses ask rhetorical questions. The real focus, however, is the powerful God of the universe. In verse 37, He is Lord. Most High (El Elyon) is His apt description in the next verse.
Who is like our Master? No one is. Do we trust that God decrees both adversity and good “from the mouth of the Most High”? Why complain when God repays us according to our sin?

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