A Study in Lamentations 3 Wednesday Writings

Broken, Grieving, Hopeful, Praying: Lamentations 3 for the Chronically Ill, Part 2

Last week we introduced Lamentations 3 and read Jeremiah’s personal lament in verses 1-18. Today we’ll see a significant shift in tone as we look at the next section of the chapter.

Part 2: Verses 19-30

From 1:1 to 3:18, Jeremiah has described “hopelessness,” but verses 19-39 focus on the hope that we have in God, no matter how desperate our situation might be. Jeremiah speaks for himself, but as he does, he also reflects the feelings and faith of the godly remnant of Jews who heard God’s Word and sought to obey Him. . . .
Jeremiah turned from contemplating his misery to remembering God’s mercy. He still experienced pain and sorrow, but he also called to mind the faithfulness of the Lord, and this gave him hope (vv. 19-21).

Wiersbe, 157
19 Remember my affliction and roaming,
The wormwood and the gall.
LXX indicates “I remember” (Expositor’s)
20 My soul still remembers
And sinks within me.
Still remembering “affliction and roaming”? whatever he remembers doesn’t help 
21 This I recall to mind,
Therefore I have hope.
Here we reach the final, prolonged note of the stanza that has been building, a semi-resolution of the dissonance, a chord progression and a hold that leads into the chorus/the next verse/the climax of the piece, carries us on with the momentum
Recall = effort, self-talk (Spiritual Depression)
“The ‘hope’ that the writer expressed here is not created by denying or minimizing suffering and misery. Rather, these are transformed when the mind is turned to God.” Expositor’s, 720 “A. W. Tozer said it better when he called hope ‘the divine alchemy that transmutes the base metal of adversity into gold.’ (See 1 Peter 1:6-8.)” Wiersbe, 158

Unbelief cause us to look at God through our circumstances, but and this creates hopelessness; but faith enables us to look at our circumstances through the reality of God, and this gives us hope. A radio listener once sent me a little rhyme that has encouraged me on more than one occasion.
Look at yourself and you’ll be depressed.
Look at circumstances and you’ll be distressed.
Look at the Lord and you’ll be blessed!

Wiersbe, 158

Lamentations 3:22-39 is the spiritual heart of the book and records one of the great testimonies of faith found in Scripture.

Wiersbe, 153
22 Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
The grammar emphasizes “through the LORD’s mercies,” which is appropriate, but as a result we can lose sight of the grammatical meat of this sentence, the independent clause “we are not consumed” – that’s where God’s mercies are, in the fact that we’re not dead yet, we’re broken down but not destroyed (II Cor 4:8-9)“The very fact of awakening to a new day is in itself a renewal of God’s mercy. Man has passed safely through the night, a foreshadowing of death. So the verse ends with ‘faithfulness,’ the counterpart of hesed, with which the previous verse started.” Expositor’s, 720
“The Targum, probably the Syriac, and one Hebrew MS read, ‘they are not at an end’; i.e., the tokens of the Lord’s love are not completed).” Expositor’s, 721
23 They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
Faithfulness = loyalty, steadfastness, firmness 
24 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him.”
Portion, possession, lot, sustenance

Study Bible: “The verb hope suggests the idea of a ‘waiting attitude’ (v. 21).”
“If the Lord is ‘our portion’ (Ps. 73:26; 142:5), then we are strengthened by that which cannot be used up or destroyed. . . . To build life on that which is always changing is to invite constant unrest and disappointment, but to build on the changeless and the eternal is to have peace and confidence.” Wiersbe, 158
25 The LORD is good to those who wait for Him,
To the soul who seeks Him.
Isaiah 40:31, 1 Chronicles 16:11, Hebrews 11:6, Deut 4:29, Matt 7:7, 5:6
Study Bible: “those who wait: The idea here is the acceptance of God’s will and His timing (see Ps. 40:1; Is. 40:31). The Hebrew word for hope here translates another verb meaning ‘to hope’ or ‘to wait,’ not the same one as in v. 24 (see Ps. 40:1; Is. 40:31).”
Daniel 3
“These three verses begin with ‘good.’ The significance of this word in Hebrew may escape the modern reader. For us it tends to mean that which conforms to our concepts, but in the OT it is above all that which expresses God’s will and purpose. Here there is the acceptance of God’s time and God’s will (v. 25), faith expressing itself in quiet hope and the learning of discipline (v. 26).” Expositor’s, 270
26 It is good that one should hope and wait quietly
For the salvation of the LORD.
Study Bible: “hope and wait quietly: A quiet confidence in the salvation of the LORD is always in order.” The Israelites had been carried into captivity that God had prophesied would last for 70 years; the Israelites couldn’t reverse God’s plan, couldn’t change the outcome/prophecy He’d given; they had no choice but to wait quietly for their God to save them when it was time for them to return to their land 
27 It is good for a man to bear
The yoke in his youth.
Study Bible: “Youth here refers not to age, but the sense of still-unbroken strength, as opposed to diminished vitality.”Hebrews 12:-7-11, Expositor’s 270
28 Let him sit alone and keep silent,
Because God has laid it on him;
God as the agent of our suffering – Psalm 88:6, Aslan in The Horse and His Boy“Silence implies both an acceptance of God’s will and a refusal to complain to men.” Expositor’s, 721
29 Let him put his mouth in the dust—
There may yet be hope.
Study Bible: “Put his mouth in the dust is a figure of speech for conquest. The phrase pictures a captive lying face down with the conqueror’s foot on his back. Hope refers to the confident expectation that the Lord will deliver (v. 26).”
Five times “hope” is mentioned since verse 18
30 Let him give his cheek to the one who strikes him,
And be full of reproach.
Embrace the humiliation  

As I hope you’ve seen, this section is rich in theological statements and practical implications that we’ll parse out later. For now, I’d like to zoom in on Jeremiah’s emotional and spiritual journey from grief, despair, and even despondency to hope in, confidence in, and praise to God.

Hopeless to Hopeful

Jeremiah started this chapter broken, grieving, and weeping. Now he’s citing God’s promises and extolling God’s virtues. How did he get from Point A (pit of despair) to Point B (praising God)?

How do WE get from Point A to Point B?

I believe the key is found in the simple phrase in verse 21: “This I recall to mind.”

The Hebrew word for “recall” is the verb sub, which translates into the phrases turn back, bring back, come back, return, restore, refresh, cause to return or bring back, answer, and bring back to mind. These terms suggest an intentional act. Effort. (Ro 12:2, Eph 4:23)

Sometimes when we’re in despair God provides the encouragement for us: the text from a friend, the song on the radio, the verse that the Holy Spirit slips into our mind.

Sometimes, however, He wants us to take action, to exercise the spiritual discipline of what D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones calls “self-talk” that the psalmist models for us in Psalm 42.

I say that we must talk to ourselves instead of allowing ‘ourselves’ to talk to us! . . . You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself . . . And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do.

pp. 20-21

This “self-talk,” under the influence of the Holy Spirit and with the power of the Word, is what brings us back to hope. I think of it like this: I don’t have hope? Well, I’m not going to sit in the pit of despair and do nothing. I’m going to move, I’m going to call out to God, I’m going to take action to leave. I ask God for help (action #1), and then I start “recalling to mind” His Word (action #2).

It’s important to note that this recalling, this climbing out of the pit, is often a process. We don’t speak to ourselves a word of hope and suddenly we’re in the sunlight again. We have to keep pulling ourselves up hand over hand, step after step, word after word, promise after promise until we finally leave behind the darkness of despair.

And God will help us. He’s the One holding the rope at the top, and His Spirit is right beside us–literally beside our spirit–to boost us up. Yes, it’s perfectly human, natural, and valid for us to find ourselves in the pit of despair–Jeremiah shows us that. He also shows us, however, that we have the choice whether to stay there or not.

So I ask you, gently, with the love of Christ and the truth of God’s Word, from one sister in the valley to another:
If you don’t have hope, what are you going to do about it?

Gæbelein, Frank E., editor. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Zondervan, 1986.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, D. Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure. Eerdmans, 1965.
Nelson’s NKJV Study Bible. Nelson, 1997.
Wiersbe, Warren W. The Bible Exposition Commentary: Prophets. Victor, 2002.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s