The Lamentations of Jeremiah Chapter 3
Lessons from the text
The Lord Is My Portion
Jeremiah, despite all the despair he felt, was able to say that “The Lord is my portion… therefore will I hope in him,” and “It is good that man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord” (v. 24-26). He understood that no matter what he felt, God is good. You can always count on the Lord to give fresh mercies every day. Regardless of what happened yesterday, God is willing to start fresh with mercy and grace today. Such is how Jeremiah and the Christian can have hope for the future, praising God, even in the midst of a situation pulling the heart into despair and darkness. If you can just hold on and wait for the circumstance to pass, you will find that God has something prepared for you on the other side of the situation. That something is your portion, the reward waiting for you if you only endure. And what better reward could there be than the Lord Himself, the all-mighty Ruler of the universe who has everlasting storehouses of joy, love, and mercy?
May God be your portion today. If He is not, He can be through Jesus Christ. God becomes your portion when you accept Christ and therefore accept God’s offer of Himself to be there for you in this life and the life to come.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1-20 Jeremiah describes his troubles. He felt as though the Lord had taken and thrown him into a dungeon of despair and bitterness. God is described again as a mighty warrior who has turned His hand against His enemy (Lam. 2:3-4). Notice that Jeremiah perceived that God had taken away his peace, strength, and hope. The key is that this perception is brought about by Jeremiah’s remembrance of his affliction. Instead of being focused on the glory of God, he was consumed with the dire circumstances of his life. That is, a person will lose hope when he forgets the goodness of God and focuses on his circumstances.
21-22 Looking back, Jeremiah is humbled by his experiences. Although at the time he felt hopeless, he now sees that his past experiences are actually a cause for hope for the future; through the darkest times of despair in His life God was sustaining him through His grace and mercy, so he has reason to believe that God will be there for him in times to come.
23-26 Jeremiah expounds on the unfailing compassions of God; every mourning God gives a person a fresh start with a new account of grace and mercy. This is key to understanding how one can have God as one’s inheritance; God is there waiting for one every mourning, ready to walk anew with one through life and eternity. God is right there by one’s side. Whether or not one acknowledges Him, He is ready with unending compassion. This lead Jeremiah to conclude that it is good for a person to quietly wait in faith on the Lord. Although one may not see God moving, one can be assured that God is working all things to one’s good. The only requirement to receiving this blessing from God is to seek Him. God’s unfailing compassion is there for both the righteous and the wicked, but only the righteous will receive good and salvation from the Lord; the wicked will receive wrath and judgment because they have neglected this daily offer for grace and mercy. Also note that while Jeremiah felt that his prayers were being ignored (v. 8), God was actually hearing his prayers; Jeremiah just had to wait for them to be answered.
27-30 Upon reflection, Jeremiah realizes that it was good for him to go through his difficulties. While he was young, these troubles were easier to bear than if they had happened to him later in life. Also, these troubles taught him to be silent; they gave him wisdom. Compare with James 1:2-4. Jeremiah views this reproach as essential to the development of a godly man; if a young adult can learn humility and affliction to the point of learning to hold his tongue, then there is hope for his future.
31-36 Persecution does not continue forever. God will show compassion on all souls at some point in their lives. This is because His desire is not to destroy or subvert His creation but instead to teach wicked men to turn to righteousness. David says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Ps. 111:10). This affliction is God’s way of teaching all humans that they are not sufficient by themselves but need God’s divine power and grace to live.
37-39 All of God’s works and actions are good; man may perceive God’s actions as evil, but such is not the case. God does not issue evil and good, only good.
40-54 Jeremiah brings his audience to the realization that if God is always good and evil has befallen one, is God to blame or is man to blame? Since the fault cannot lie with God, it must lie with man. This means that one is in evil circumstances because of the choices one has made. Therefore, one is to examine one’s way and turn from any wickedness that may have led one into trouble. This turning around begins with praising God, then with confession, and finally with recognition of being under God’s judgment (and therefore in need of salvation). Jeremiah models this by unashamedly describing his situation and emotions to God. When in the midst of a trial, it is proper and even desirable to pour out one’s feelings to God, especially considering that since He sees the inwards of one’s heart already it is pointless to try to hide any feelings of anger or frustration with God.
55 Jeremiah reveals that this time of despair was when he was in the miry dungeon right before the destruction of Jerusalem (Jer. 38:1-6).
56 Despite feeling cut off, God was listening to Jeremiah’s prayers. He delivers His prophet and anyone who honestly seeks to know Him.
57-63 Jeremiah describes the joys of being sought by God. Note that while his circumstances have not changed (he is abused for the entertainment of his captors), he has been redeemed by God. Spiritual redemption is not the same as physical safety. Jeremiah’s soul was redeemed when God meet with him and forgave him of his sins. This did not mean that Jeremiah’s physical circumstances changed.
64-65 Now secure in his relationship with God, Jeremiah prays for vengeance. The Scripture is unclear as to Jeremiah’s motive for this prayer. In one sense, Jeremiah is acknowledging that he should leave judgment in the hands of God; instead of trying to take vengeance himself, Jeremiah puts the situation in God’s hand, submitting his emotions to God’s divine will. This is magnifying to the Lord. In another sense, Jeremiah is outright asking God to take vengeance on his behalf. If Jeremiah’s enemies are fighting against God, then Jeremiah is justified in praying for vengeance on the basis that he is praying for God to be avenged of His enemies. If Jeremiah is merely praying out of spite for his oppressors, then this is unjustified for God’s unfailing compassion is applicable to them just as much as it is to Jeremiah. The best conclusion to be drawn from this prayer is that one should always be careful to not pray out of anger or hatred.
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