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A Study in Lamentations 3 Wednesday Writings

Broken, Grieving, Hopeful, Praying: Lamentations 3 for the Chronically Ill, Part 4

Over the past three weeks, we’ve studied Jeremiah’s personal lament over Jerusalem’s destruction and Israel’s captivity, his intentional journey from hopeless to hopeful, and his humble introspection and call to repentance. This week we look at the rest of Jeremiah’s lament and some general considerations for us in chronic illness.

Note: I studied this section less than the others, because I felt the first two thirds of the chapter held the most theological meat and practical application.

Part 4: Verses 43-66

SAMEK
43 You have covered Yourself with anger
And pursued us;
You have slain and not pitied.
God’s righteous anger against sin and His holy, necessary judgment of that sin
44 You have covered Yourself with a cloud,
That prayer should not pass through.
 
45 You have made us an offscouring and refuse
In the midst of the peoples.
God’s precious people, His prized possession, become the garbage and the throw-away
AYIN
46 All our enemies
Have opened their mouths against us.
47 Fear and a snare have come upon us,
Desolation and destruction.
48 My eyes overflow with rivers of water
For the destruction of the daughter of Jerusalem.
PE
49 My eyes flow and do not cease,
Without interruption,
50 Till the LORD from heaven
Looks down and sees.
51 My eyes bring suffering to my soul
Because of all the daughters of my city.
TSADDE
52 My enemies without cause
Hunted me down like a bird.
True experiences from Jeremiah’s life as well as common figurative language used in the psalms to depict suffering
53 They silenced my life in the pit
And threw stones at me.
 
54 The waters flowed over my head;
I said, “I am cut off!”
 
QOPH
55 I called on Your name, O LORD, From the lowest pit.Psalm 61:2
56 You have heard my voice:
“Do not hide Your ear
From my sighing, from my cry for help.”
 
57 You drew near on the day I called on You;
And said, “Do not fear!”
I love this memory of God’s voice to Jeremiah (as it speaks to all of us), “Don’t be afraid.” Matt 14:27
RESH
58 O Lord, You have pleaded the case for my soul;
You have redeemed my life.
Vv 57-58, what God has done in the past Ps 77
59 O LORD, You have seen how I am wronged;
Judge my case.
Jeremiah trusts God to avenge him and doesn’t take vengeance or the law into his own hands (Ro 12:19)
60 You have seen all their vengeance,
All their schemes against me.
God sees and knows every adversity we face (Deut 2:7)
SHIN
61 You have heard their reproach, O LORD,
All their schemes against me,
Vv 60-61 God KNOWS
62 The lips of my enemies
And their whispering against me all the day.
 
63 Look at their sitting down and their rising up;
I am their taunting song.
Vs 14
TAU
64 Repay them, O LORD, According to the work of their hands.Jeremiah trusts God to work and doesn’t take matters into his own hands
65 Give them a veiled heart;
Your curse be upon them!
 
66 In Your anger,
Pursue and destroy them
From under the heavens of the LORD.
 

Now that we’ve finished reading and meditating on the chapter, here are a few things for us to consider from the entire chapter:

The Names of God

It’s always fascinating–and beneficial–to look at the ways God is addressed and/or described in a passage. In this chapter, here are the names used:

  • LORD (13 times): Jehovah, relational/covenant God of Israel
  • the Lord (3 times): master, ruler, supreme authority
  • Most High (2 times): deity, over all, also used in Daniel and Isaiah

What do these descriptions say about God’s character? How can we apply these truths to our living and our worship in the valley of chronic illness?

The Role of Prayer

Lament is, ultimately, a type of prayer directing our pain, sorrow, and grief to God. Within this book of lamentations, we see how much Jeremiah leaned on prayer as he wrestled with the suffering of his nation and his own soul.

As Wiersbe points out, “chapters 1, 2, and 3 end with prayers and that all of chapter 5 is a prayer” (153).

Hence, the laments are shot through with prayer; and prayer leads to hope in a situation in which hope appears meaningless.

Expositor’s, 698

Are we praying by directing the emotions of our hearts to God? Within and along with this expression, are we giving our requests to Him with supplication and thanksgiving (Phil 4:6)?

The Heart of the Study

In this passage and others, we see God’s chosen people asking two questions as they watched the destruction of their holy city and traveled in captivity to a foreign land:

  1. Why is this happening?
  2. What do we do?

We know why God brought the Israelites such desolation and loss: to punish them for their ongoing rebellion, with the goal of restoring them to Himself.

We also know why God allows trials in our lives: to clean impurities from our hearts, grow us closer to Himself, and make us more like Christ.

Now we ask the questions for ourselves: What do we do? In the middle of the valley, while we wait for the fulfillment of God’s promises, while we’re staggering through the suffering, what do we do?

1. We stay faithful to God.

The Lord would not discipline His people forever; He would eventually restore those who waited on Him.

Nelson Study Bible, 1320

Who were “those who waited on Him”? They were the Jews in captivity who, despite their circumstances, kept their faith in God, held onto His promises of future deliverance, and waited for the fulfillment of those promises. They were the Jews who kept their eyes on God–as opposed to the Jews who ignored God, rejected His Word, didn’t believe His promises, and lived their own way, eventually assimilating with the culture of their captors until their bloodline was lost.

Jeremiah wrote to remind his brethren that God would restore those who were faithful to Him during their time of trial.

Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

James 1:12

Are we faithful to God in our valleys? When the night ends and dawn brings new hope and new life, will He find us still among His chosen, hoping in Him, or will He have to look for us among those who turned their back on God?

2. We trust in God.

I think we can learn a lot from how Jeremiah ends this lament:

You have seen all their vengeance,
All their schemes against me. . . .
Repay them, O LORD,
According to the work of their hands.

vv 60, 64

Jeremiah knows what his enemies have done is wrong, and He asks God to serve justice upon them. He doesn’t take matters into his own hands. He doesn’t become a vigilante or lead a coup. He prays for God to work and keeps his hands off the wheel, trusting his wiser, more powerful God to serve perfect justice at the perfect time.

Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.

Romans 12:19

What does this have to do with chronic illness? Some months ago I was talking about contentment with a friend and asked her thoughts on how to pray, hope, and take steps toward change while being content in the present. She said (and I paraphrase, because I didn’t write it down), “I think contentment is doing what you can but, at the end of the day, leaving it in God’s hands.”

Trusting in God does NOT mean not going to doctors, not taking medicine, or not exercising and eating healthily in order to help our bodies toward healing. What trusting in God DOES mean, however, is recognizing that our healing will come from Him when He decides it’s the right time, whether while we’re still on this earth or once we reach His presence in Heaven.

So we do what we can–we obey God’s command to be good stewards of our resources, including our bodies–while, at the end of the day, we leave our health and our healing in His hands, trusting Him to do what He knows is good according to His perfect plan.

Do we trust God’s plan, even if it doesn’t line up with ours (Is 55:8-9)? Can we keep our hands off the wheel of control as we do our part and He does His?

3. We wait on God.

What does it mean to wait on God? This is the meat of the chapter and one of the themes of the whole book, and it deserves a post of its own to do it justice. Come back next week!

Gæbelein, Frank E., editor. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Zondervan, 1986.
Nelson’s NKJV Study Bible. Nelson, 1997.
Wiersbe, Warren W. The Bible Exposition Commentary: Prophets. Victor, 2002.

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