Chapter 3 - Renewed Hope in Affliction
"Wherefore doth a living man
"I am the man that hath seen affliction!" said Jeremiah as he
now takes up his lament, placing himself in the position of his erring brethren
-- just as Christ would do (Introduction to ch. I): "Whom the Lord loveth He
chasteneth" (Heb 12:6). The same process of correction which Jeremiah and the
faithful of his countrymen had to undergo is designed for the faithful of
all ages. But throughout all affliction is this one overriding thought:
"Great is Thy faithfulness... The Lord is good unto them that wait for Him" (vv
23, 25). God's faithfulness is seen in this chapter in two different ways: in
mercy and sustenance now, and in a sure reward in the
Verses 1-18: Darkness, Affliction, Derision
"The Lord is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any
should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2Pe 3:9). In each of the
first four chapters, the early verses chronicle great affliction. However, these
early verses serve only as a preliminary feature -- to introduce to us the
greatness of God's mercy upon His chastened children.
In the phrase "I am the man" (v 1), Jeremiah speaks for his
nation Israel -- God's "firstborn" (Exo 4:22), who is afflicted, with the
purpose of calling back the wicked (Ezek 33:11). Yahweh is touched by this as
well (v 33; Isa 63:9). He will pity those who learn from their sufferings and
return to fear Him (Psa 103:13). In speaking of himself, Jeremiah speaks for
Jesus as well -- and as a type of him and all the saints, for whom Jesus is the
primary example to follow. Jesus was the only-begotten of the Father (John 1:14,
3:16) -- and thus the "firstborn". He was afflicted (Isa 53:4), and he learned
obedience by the things he suffered, even to death (Heb 5:8; Phi 2:5-8), being
rewarded by his Father in becoming the "firstfruits of them that sleep" (1Co
The "rod" of God's wrath (v 1) is an expression for correction
(Job 37:13), and tribulation:
"He turned His hand against Me all the day" (v 3) is similar
in thought to "I will turn My hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross,
and take away all thy sin..." (Isa 1:25). The pure metal, salvaged through the
long purging process, is to be kept for use; the dross will be cast away as
worthless. Dross is the refuse of smelting of precious metal through intense
heat. Figuratively it is used of what is base or worthless (Ezek 22:18, 19; Psa
119:119). The "furnace" of affliction is purging us -- we will either come out
of this furnace reflecting the brightness of the pure metal, that is, the image
of Christ; or we will be cast away as unfit for future use.
- God used Babylon as His rod to punish Israel, just as He had previously
used Assyria as the "rod of His anger" (Isa 10:5, 15).
- Christ suffered and
died because, like all of Adam's descendants, he was of flesh, with all the
susceptibilities of the flesh. Federally, he died for all men (by "crucifying
the flesh" even before his physical death, he demonstrated endurance in
affliction, seeking not his own will and desires but those of his Father) if
those men will identify with this man of affliction by a life of "dying". But
the "rod" of God's correction was not used upon him, since he never sinned --
never violated the purpose which was entrusted in him. If we will accept the
affliction of chastisement and training and character building, the "rod" of the
affliction of God's "wrath" will not be
The phrase "He hath set me in dark places" (v 6) can have a
threefold interpretation: (1) The grave, as in a political death (Ezek 37:2);
(2) A dungeon, as where Jeremiah was placed (v 53; Jer 37:16); and (3) Christ's
death and burial (Mat 27:66).
The phrase "As they that be dead of old" can be rendered as
"they that have been dead since ancient times". Perhaps the idea that he is
trying to convey is that he has been forgotten, as though he had been dead a
long time. This brings to mind Ezekiel 37 and the national resurrection of
Israel. From 586 BC to the present, Israel has not had a king reigning upon the
throne of David. The kingdom has been "dead" a very long time.
Verses 19-21: The Desired Effect: A Remnant Saved
It is surely no coincidence that in the first 18 verses of
black despair, God's name is not mentioned at all until the end of the last
verse. (The nearest Jeremiah comes is to refer to God with "He" and "His" --
until v 17 when God is addressed as "Thou"). But it is at this point of despair
that hope rises, and comfort and consolation strengthen the prophet. It was
surely the mention of God's Memorial Name in v 18 that effected the
transformation. For "Yahweh" is a God who remembers His promises, and will one
day fill the earth with His glory (Num 14:21; Isa 11:9), no matter what
interruptions may prevail in the meantime.
To fulfill God's purpose, a repentant and forgiven remnant
must be saved.
Although speaking of an earlier captivity, Psalm 137 is
illustrative of this Divine principle. Through bitterness and suffering and
adversity, the Jew learns to turn to God:
"By the rivers of Babylon,
The Jews who returned from the 70 years captivity in Babylon
were a much more disciplined and righteous band than those who had been
originally carried there. The rebels, the half-hearted, the greedy, and the
idolaters had been left behind -- often of their own free will.
there we sat down, yea, we wept,
when we remembered Zion...
How shall we sing the Lord's song
in a strange land?
If I forget thee, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand forget her cunning;
if I do not remember thee,
let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth;
if I prefer not Jerusalem
above my chief joy" (vv 1,4-6).
In the same way, when God brings the Jews back to Israel in
the period after Christ's return, He will purge out the rebels (Ezek 20:38; Zec
13:9). The Jews will return to their homeland with a renewed spirit, cleansed at
last from their heathen associations, and much the better as a nation for their
two millennia spent in division and scattering. Already those Jews who have
returned to the land have begun to demonstrate this renewal and rededication to
Jerusalem, although they still know only to trust in themselves and not in
Again, the lesson to us may be stressed: God is constantly
bringing discomforts and hardships and challenging decisions upon us (but not in
punishment, for the punishment of spiritual Israel has been set aside for a
special time) to instruct us, to turn us in the right direction. His chastenings
upon His children are as gentle proddings. If we will but yield to them, we will
be directed in the right paths. The Book of Lamentations is the ideal
representation of that "godly sorrow which worketh repentance not to be repented
of" (2Co 7:10).
"This I recall in my mind; therefore have I hope" (v 21).
Examination and evaluation are the tools of the man of reason; no matter what
circumstances he finds himself in, he will seek the cause and the desired
effect. How wonderful that God cares enough to remind us of our high calling! It
is a confirmation that He is there; and if He is there, there is always hope.
Jeremiah, the righteous remnant, Christ, and the saints all have known that all
things work together for good to God's elect. What a privilege to be
chastised! For then we are not illegitimate, but we are truly sons!
Verses 22-30: The Lord's Mercies, Service and Separation
These few verses demonstrate the attitude of life for Jeremiah
and the righteous in view of God's hand upon them. In the same sense it is
prophetic of the life which Christ led, and the lives of all true believers in
the ages since -- a reliance upon the Lord's mercies, a patient faith and hope,
and a bearing of God's yoke. These verses form the most sublime of exhortations.
Here is the heart, the core, of Lamentations' comfort and instruction for
"The LORD'S mercies" (v 22) in the Old Testament are
invariably connected with God's promises, or covenants. "Mercy" and "covenant"
are used alongside one another in Psa 89:28. In v 1 of that psalm the author
"I will sing of the mercies of the LORD for ever:
The mercies of God he identifies in vv 3,4 and throughout the
with my mouth will I make known Thy faithfulness to all generations..."
"I have made a covenant with My chosen,
God's covenants of promise (to Adam, to Noah, to Abraham and
the fathers, and to David) were the only channel through which God's forgiveness
and mercy might come to His people. The Law of Moses could only convict man of
his sins for failing to keep it perfectly. But the promise of an everlasting
inheritance in the land of Canaan implied very definitely a forgiveness of past
sins leading to immortality. Law will not in the end bring us life; but
mercy will! All of God's various temporary blessings are only types of
that one great future blessing.
I have sworn unto David My servant,
Thy seed will I establish for ever,
and build up thy throne to all
God's compassions are "new every morning" (v 23) for God
watches over His servants always. Man must sleep, but God is always awake, never
withdrawing His life-giving spirit for the benefit of all flesh. The Angel of
His Presence keeps us (Isa 63:9). Remember the fresh manna from heaven which the
Jews found every morning except the Sabbath, without fail (Exo 16:15,35;
Num 11:9). In the Lord's prayer we are taught to pray, "Give us this day our
daily bread". Like the manna in the wilderness: this daily bread points
to the True Bread from heaven, the Truth of God, His promises which shall
never fail, to give us encouragement each day!
"The LORD is my portion" or "inheritance" is the exact meaning
of the name of Jeremiah's father, Hilkiah. Again, this bears a direct relation
to God's promises:
"The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance
In conjunction with this is seen the hope of a resurrection to
eternal life, first of Christ and then of all those "in Christ".
and of my cup: Thou maintainest my lot...
For Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell;
neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption.
Thou wilt shew me the path of life:
in Thy presence is fulness of joy;
at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (Psa
"The LORD is good unto them that wait for Him" (v 25). The
righteous are pictured by Isaiah as saying, in their time of deliverance, "We
have waited for Him (Isa 25:9; 30:18). The same thought is found in the New
"Ye turned from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for His
Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us
from the wrath to come..." (1Th 1:9,
More is implied in these verses, however, than a simple
passing of time now in expectation of receiving the promise at Christ's return.
A "watchman" of God was not only to wait, but to observe keenly the signs of the
times, and to watch himself and keep his garments unspotted (Isa 21:7-12; Ezek
33:1-9). He was not to waste his opportunities, but to redeem the time, because
the days were (and are!) evil (Eph 5:16; Col 4:5). And finally, he was to wait
patiently and without complaint (Jam 5:7), not seeking his reward in this world,
but in the age to come.
"Waiting for the Lord" has always implied a separation from
evil. The way of true holiness has always meant a "sitting alone" (v 28).
"Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth
in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful" (Psa 1:1).
Jeremiah -- though preaching to all his neighbors -- was to maintain a distinct
and different lifestyle. The references to separation from the ways of the world
are so numerous throughout Scripture: Deut 22:10; 2Co 6:14, 17; Heb 7:26; Jam
4:4; 1Pe 2:11, 12; 1Jo 2:15-17; 3:1; 4:5; 5:19; Gal 6:14; John 17:6-9.
Verses 31-33: The Central Theme: Chastening is Necessary and Helpful
This fact has been covered sufficiently in previous comments.
Indeed, it seems to be the main message of the entire book:
"Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous:
nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto
them that are exercised thereby" (Heb
"For the Lord will not cast off forever" (v 31). The gospel of
the kingdom is intimately connected with the "hope of Israel", as Paul shows
(Acts 28:20). God's deliverance of the natural Jews from their enemies is
related to, and concurrent with, the deliverance from mortality of His
"For He doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of
men" (v 33). In Isa 28:21 the prophet comments upon a "strange work, a strange
act" of God. The "strange work" is evidently performed upon the Jews ("that
dwell in Jerusalem"-- v 14), and it involves judgments. This work appears
peculiar to the unenlightened Gentile, but it is eminently necessary for the
Jews' preparation. This affliction of His children is necessary, but in itself
it gives God no pleasure. Neither does the death of the wicked give Him pleasure
(Ezek 18:32; 33:11), for He is not willing that any should perish (2Pe 3:9) --
but sadly, it is necessary that many do. God will vindicate His most Holy Name.
He will be gracious at last to those who love Him, but He must of necessity be
vengeful upon those who hate Him, or are indifferent toward Him.
Verses 34-36: "The LORD Approveth Not"
God cannot approve of certain things, and -- much as He may
hate to destroy even the wicked -- it must be done to erase their ways from the
earth; the earth must ultimately be filled with only those things which glorify
Him (Num 21:14; Isa 11:9), and to this end He is working.
Note the things of which God disapproves -- and thus by
implication what pleases Him: These are things that men might regard as
very mundane matters, matters of small consequence one way or the other.
God considers them very important: the simple code of behavior found in
the book of Proverbs, the essential day-to-day acts of goodness and justice
(which often God alone sees). It was the weight of seemingly minor violations of
His law, over a long period, that eventually caused God's mercy to be exhausted.
These sins (vv 34-36) are what brought the horrors of the Babylonian invasion.
"Shall such "minor" offences as gossip and "clever" business practices cause us
also to be driven from God's presence?
Verses 37-41: A Living Man Should Not Complain
Under the hand of God's chastening, the sons are commanded to
"turn again". "Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the
punishment of his sins?" Two examples answer this question:--
- The nation of Israel, once politically dead (v 6), is alive today because
of God's direction of world affairs (Ezek 37:10). All things are for their
- We who were once "afar off" among the Gentiles, dead in
trespasses and sins, have been made "alive" (Eph 2:13; Rom 6:13) in Christ (Gal
2:20), and are now God's sons (1Jo 3:1-3), enduring chastening (Heb 12). Can we
ever complain in view of what we would have been if God had not called us
to the Truth? Let us, as Paul did, glory in tribulation, "knowing that
tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope:
and hope maketh not ashamed..." (Rom
Verses 42-66: Prayer
"We have transgressed" (vv 42-54), but "Judge my cause" (vv
55-66). Two things are essential for us to do before God will hear our prayers
and take our cause for His own:
This prayer is a gradually unfolding realization of the ways
of God, and His boundless love and compassion toward those who trust in
- We must realize our sinful condition, and
- We must repent and seek to
change our ways.