Friday, June 2, 2017


Reflections on the Old Testament: Lamentations

“I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of His wrath. He has led me and made me walk in darkness and not in light. Surely He has turned His hand against me time and time again throughout the day. He has aged my flesh and my skin and broken my bones. He has besieged me and surrounded me with bitterness and woe. He has set me in dark places like the dead of long ago. He has hedged me in so that I cannot get out; He has made my chain heavy. Even when I cry and shout, He shuts out my prayer. He has blocked my ways with hewn stone; He has made my paths crooked. He has been to me a bear lying in wait, like a lion in ambush. He has turned aside my ways and torn me in pieces; He has made me desolate. He has bent His bow and set me up as a target for the arrow. He has caused the arrows of His quiver to pierce my loins. I have become the ridicule of all my people—their taunting song all the day. He has filled me with bitterness, he has made me drink wormwood. He has also broken my teeth with gravel, and covered me with ashes. You have moved my soul far from peace; I have forgotten prosperity. And I said, ‘My strength and my hope have perished from the LORD.’ Remember my affliction and roaming, the wormwood and the gall. My soul still remembers and sinks within me. This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I hope in Him!’ The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone and keep silent, because God has laid it on him; let him put his mouth in the dust—there may yet be hope. Let him give his cheek to the one who strikes him, and be full of reproach. For the LORD will not cast off forever. Though He causes grief, yet He will show compassion according to the multitude of His mercies. For He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men,”—Lamentations 3:1-33, NKJV.

Observe the prophet’s mode of expression: in the first eighteen verses, he speaks of God as his Oppressor—indeed, presents Him as merciless and cruel—but then, abruptly, we see him speak of God’s mercy, compassion, and faithfulness. Contrary to outward appearances, however, neither God nor the prophet are being inconsistent. Too often, Christians attempt to portray God as being an all-merciful, loving, forgiving Father to whom we may always turn for solace and comfort—and while this may be true to some degree, it is often errantly assumed to be a denunciation of the face of God which is described in Lamentations 1-18. The prophet maintains a view of God which all Christians should aspire to. First of all, it is evident that he is severely afflicted. He does not attribute these afflictions to the sinful actions of human beings or simply to fate, but acknowledges God as his oppressor. He knows that God governs men’s hearts and engineers all circumstances—in short, that God is in control, and therefore He alone has chosen to afflict him. Even so, he does not turn against God in anger at his suffering, but says, in verses 22-24: “Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I hope in Him!’”

Perhaps the most common (and most dangerous) misunderstanding Christians develop is that God’s mercy and faithfulness means we will be spared affliction. The prophet, on the other hand, gives full vent to the fact that God does inflict pain on His children—to the point of cruelty—but in the midst of it all, our feet remain planted on the solid rock and our souls are still held in the Father’s hands. God’s wrath is heavy indeed—but it is momentary.

“The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone and keep silent, because God has laid it on him; let him put his mouth in the dust—there may yet be hope. Let him give his cheek to the one who strikes him, and be full of reproach.”

Jesus described His yoke as “light and easy”—but that depends on our perspective. If we compare our yoke to what we want in this world, or to what others have, we will be gravely disappointed. But if we compare it to “the joy that is set before us,” it becomes insignificant.

“For the Lord will not cast off forever. Though He causes grief, yet He will show compassion according to the multitude of His mercies. For He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.”
“Wait on the Lord, keep His way.”

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