After looking at Jeremiah’s personal lament and his journey from hopeless to hopeful, both of which provide great encouragement for those of us in chronic illness, we come to a part of the chapter that continues the God-focused, hope-giving theme while introducing a more somber note of introspection.
Part 3: Verses 31-42
|31 For the LORD will not cast off forever.||Here is the promise that gives all of us hope; God’s anger will not endure forever Is 54:7-10|
|32 Though He causes grief,|
Yet He will show compassion
According to the multitude of His mercies.
|His chastisement will not last forever |
Again the pairing of God’s mercy and compassion
|33 For He does not afflict willingly,|
Nor grieve the children of men.
|HERE is the true likeness of our Heavenly Father; He doesn’t enjoy chastening His own but it’s a necessary part of the relationship|
A judge punishes a criminal in order to uphold the law, but a father chastens a child in order to build character into the child and assure the child of his love.Wiersbe, 151
|34 To crush under one’s feet|
All the prisoners of the earth,
|35 To turn aside the justice due a man|
Before the face of the Most High,
|36 Or subvert a man in his cause—|
The Lord does not approve.
|All things that Israel’s enemies were doing to them; God isn’t condoning their sin or taking pleasure in their role in His punishment of His people II Samuel 7:14 |
Also things God is NOT doing to Israel
|37 Who is he who speaks and it comes to pass,|
When the Lord has not commanded it?
|Nothing happens without God’s permission; everything is part of His plan, nothing is outside His control or the jurisdiction of His good hands and His power||“This section of the lament stresses the almighty power of God, which makes the acceptance of his will necessary. He is behind both good and calamity (v.38; cf. Isa 45:7); so why should a man complain when he suffers for his sins? So long as he is alive, things can change (v.39).” Expositor’s, 721|
|38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High|
That woe and well-being proceed?
|Job 1:21, 2:10, Eccl 7:14|
|39 Why should a living man complain,|
A man for the punishment of his sins?
|We have life, life = gratitude|
We shouldn’t complain about the just correction of our sins but should rather contemplate, search ourselves, repent, and ask God’s forgiveness
|40 Let us search out and examine our ways,|
And turn back to the LORD;
|Spiritual Depression: need to examine selves for why chastening/hardship is happening, what sin does God want us to recognize and turn from? how is He sanctifying us? how can we grow?|
|41 Let us lift our hearts and hands|
To God in heaven.
|Focus not on circumstances or ourselves but on God in worship and humility|
|42 We have transgressed and rebelled;|
You have not pardoned.
|Ez 18:25 This is where God wants us to end up, humbly recognizing our sin before Him and His justice in dealing with that sin|
But for hope, the heart would break. To save the heart from being quite broken, here is something called to mind, which gives ground for hope (v. 21), which refers to what comes after, not to what goes before. I make to return to my heart (so the margin words it); what we have had in our hearts, and have laid to our hearts, is sometimes as if it were quite lost and forgotten, till God by his grace make it to return to our hearts, that it may be ready to us when we have occasion to use it. “I recal it to mind; therefore have I hope, and am kept from downright despair.” Let us see what these things are which he calls to mind.Henry, 728-730
I. That, bad as things are, it is owing to the mercy of God that they are not worse.
II. That even in the depth of their affliction they still have experience of the tenderness of the divine pity and the truth of the divine promise.
III. That God is, and ever will be, the all-sufficient happiness of his people, and they have chosen him and depend upon him to be such.
IV. That those who deal with God will find it is not in vain to trust in him.
V. That afflictions are really good for us, and, if we bear them aright, will work very much for our good.
VI. That God will graciously return to his people with seasonable comforts according to the time that he has afflicted them.
VII. That, when God does cause grief, it is for wise and holy ends, and he takes not delight in our calamities.
VIII. That though he makes use of men as his hand, or rather instruments in his hand, for the correcting of his people, yet he is far from being pleased with the injustices of their proceedings and the wrong they do them.
A Moment of Reflection
At the heart of this passage is the distinction between pride and humility. Pride says, “I have no sin,” while humility says, “I’m a sinner and my sin affronts God and brings His chastisement into my life.” We’re all sinners, and while God’s mercies are always new and His faithfulness is great, these attributes of God should only increase our awareness of our own unworthiness.
Here Israel had reached the point where God was not willing to hold off His punishment anymore–the time had come for Him to finally bring upon His children their just desserts for consistently disobeying His laws. He was as faithful in keeping the punishment part of His promises as He was in keeping His promises of blessing (see Deuteronomy 28).
His ultimate goal for this destruction and captivity, however, was the restoration of His people to Himself, just like it is for us. We have the promise that if we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive us, always (1 Jn 1:9). God doesn’t punish our sins–He did that on the cross in perfect justice–but He does chastise us in perfect love as part of our sanctification.
[Chastisement] means to train. . . . the essential object of chastisement is, to train and develop the child so as to produce a grown person.D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression
We’ve talked before about God’s chastisement and what it may look like for His children. I can’t tell you if your valley is part of God’s chastising (it may not be) or if there’s a specific sin you need to address (sometimes there isn’t)–I don’t know, and that’s business between you and God anyway.
What I CAN tell you is what Romans 8:29 says: “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” The ultimate goal of everything in our life–both hard times and easy times–is Christlikeness.
So whether we’re suffering or celebrating, we should constantly be looking for ways to grow, faults to yield to the Spirit’s control, traits of Christ to emulate. Guest writer Rebekah expressed this process–and the heart of God behind it–beautifully in her post The Branch and the Husbandman.
I also love what Frances Ridley Havergal writes in her book Kept for the Master’s Use:
The Lord always does His own work thoroughly if we will only let Him do it; if we put our case into His hands, He will search and probe fully and firmly, though very tenderly. Very painfully, it may be, but only that He may do the very thing we want–cleanse us and heal us thoroughly, so that we may set off to walk in real newness of life. . . .
The heart that is not entrusted to Him for searching, will not be undertaken by Him for cleansing; the life that fears to come to the light lest any deed should be reproved, can never know the blessedness and the privileges of walking in the light.
A valley season is just one tool God uses to purge our sin and develop our Christian character, a time of life that perhaps more than any other calls us to “search out and examine our ways, and turn back to the LORD.” As Jeremiah for all of Israel demonstrates here, may God use our valleys–as well as our mountaintops–to make us more like Him.
Do you praise God for His goodness in light of your unworthiness? Have you taken time to search your soul and your life for sins He might be trying to root out? How can you take intentional steps of growth toward Christlikeness?
Gæbelein, Frank E., editor. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Zondervan, 1986.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, D. Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure. Eerdmans, 1965.
Matthew, Henry. Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. IV–Isaiah to Malachi. MacDonald, 1985.