III. Words of Anguish, Words of Hope (Lamentations 3:1-66)
III. Words of Anguish, Words of Hope (3:1-66)
3:1 Not only were things dark for the nation, but also for Jeremiah. I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of God’s wrath is a reminder that he had experienced a double load of grief. In addition to the pain of Jerusalem’s destruction, Jeremiah had physical and emotional scars from decades of prophetic ministry to people who’d refused to listen. He was the most hated man in Judah, the person everyone wanted gone.
3:2-20 Yet, Jeremiah sees his suffering as coming from the Lord. It was God who had appointed him as a prophet (see Jer 1:1-10), and it was God who’d told him that the people would “not listen to” him (Jer 7:27). God had set him on his path, and he had forced the prophet to walk in darkness (3:2), pounced on him like a bear waiting in ambush (3:10), made him a laughingstock among the people (3:14), and filled him with bitterness (3:15). Thus, Jeremiah is depressed (3:20). This detail brings us to the low point of the book, but it also leads us to a springboard for Jeremiah’s great testimony of God’s faithfulness: verses 21-23.
3:21-23 In 3:18 Jeremiah confessed that his hope was lost, but in 3:21 he declares, I have hope. So where did he find hope in the midst of his affliction? What caused the sudden reversal? Hope returned when he took control of his mind and turned his thoughts in a Godward direction (3:21). I call this to mind . . . Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for his mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness! Interestingly, the magnificent hymn, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” takes its title from Lamentations 3:23. The lyrics are a testimony to the constancy of God’s love and mercy.
The Lord is faithful. His character is unchanging, and he keeps his promises. As Scripture proclaims repeatedly, he is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love (see Exod 34:6; Num 14:18; Ps 103:8; Neh 9:17). So though his people rejected him, God remains faithful to his covenant with them. Therefore, his mercies are new every morning (3:22-23).
God could be merciful because he knew what he would do through his Son. Jesus Christ satisfied God’s wrath against sin so that he can deal with us in mercy—which is exactly what we need. When you’re guilty, you don’t demand justice; you throw yourself on the mercy of the court.
Against the dark background of a lost nation and Jeremiah’s personal agony, the light of God’s faithfulness to his covenant and his people gave Jeremiah new hope. He didn’t deny his pain, yet he was assured that despair never has the last word when God is our hope.
3:24-42 God’s mercies are real, but they are only mine if I appropriate them, as Jeremiah did: The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in him (3:24). Putting your hope in God isn’t passive—it’s active. Those who hope in God wait for him, seek him, and receive his discipline (3:25-30).
Jeremiah knew of God’s covenant love; he knew God would not reject [his people] forever. Although he causes suffering if necessary, he will show compassion according to the abundance of his faithful love (3:31-32). God did not approve of the injustices of the Babylonians, but he used them for his purposes—to punish his people for their sins (3:34-39). God’s people are to hope in his mercy by examining their ways, confessing their sins, and turning back to him (3:40-42).
3:43-66 Jeremiah returns to lament in these verses, serving as a spokesman for Judah’s devastated people who realize their agony is the Lord’s doing (3:43-47). Then the prophet switches to the first person to describe his own suffering and rejection (3:48-54). His reference to being tossed in a pit by his enemies and almost drowning acknowledges a low point of his life, the moment he thought he would die (3:53; see Jer 38:1-6). But Jeremiah’s distress turned to a prayer for deliverance and God answered (3:55-66).