Remembering God’s Faithfulness

Posted: November 12, 2014 in Lamentations

Lamentations 3, “Remembering God’s Faithfulness”

What do you do when your hand is caught in the cookie jar?  Remember when you were a child, and you were caught by your parents doing something wrong?  How did you respond?  If you were like me (and probably most kids), the first thing you did was deny it (even though you were caught red-handed), but after that, three things happened: you were disciplined – you turned back to your parents – you were sorry.  Repentance rarely takes place prior to consequences; generally we have to experience a bit of discipline as the result of our sin before we do anything about it.

What is true with children in general is also true of the children of Israel, specifically the kingdom of Judah, as will be exemplified through the words of the prophet Jeremiah.  The Jews had sinned terribly against the Lord God, and God had repeatedly warned them of the consequences that would come.  Jeremiah was one of the prophets God used to tell the Jews of the approaching Babylonian conquest, and to plead with them to repent – but the Jews never did it.  They doubled-down on their sin, and they faced the full onslaught of the wrath of God.  The Babylonians came, and they did everything that God had said that they would.  Men and women were slaughtered in brutal battle – they experienced famine and hardship – they were taken away as slaves to a land that they did not know, and to a people whose language they did not understand.  God had warned early on of these consequences…even spelling it out in the initial covenant laid out by Moses.  Yet (like many of us) the Jews were stubborn in their rebellion, and were caught red-handed by God time and time again.  Because God is righteous, God had to act – and He did.

What Jeremiah writes in Lamentations 3 is the response of the people to the actions of God.  Remember that the entire book of Lamentations is basically a series of funeral dirges.  They are alphabetical arrangements of mourning over Judah’s fall to the Babylonians, and Jeremiah voices these cries in such a way as to help the people grieve over their sin from A-Z.  In Chapter 1, Jeremiah described the desolation of the city, and the cause of its desolation from the Lord.  In Chapter 2, Jeremiah wrote of the righteous anger of God, showing how Jerusalem’s desolation was deserved.  In Chapter 3, the prophet lifts up his own voice of anguish, seemingly speaking not just for himself, but on behalf of all the people.  Jeremiah’s anguish takes him to a place that seems hopeless, when all of a sudden hope returns as God’s faithfulness and covenant mercies are remembered.  That changes everything.  God can be trusted, because God is trustworthy.

Chapter 3 is the high point of the book of Lamentations.  Whereas Chapters 1, 2, and 4 are all acrostic (alphabetical), giving one line for each Hebrew letter, Chapter 3 is still acrostic but gives 3 lines for each letter.  Chapter 3 is where the loyal love and compassions of God is proclaimed.  Chapter 3 is where true repentance is seen.  The mourning will pick up again in Chapters 4&5, but Chapter 3 lies sandwiched between two extremes of grieving.  This is Jeremiah’s way of highlighting what is most important in the book.  And what is it?  The faithfulness of God.

Lamentations 3

  • Jeremiah’s suffering, on behalf of the people (vss. 1-21)

1 I am the man who has seen affliction Because of the rod of His wrath. 2 He has driven me and made me walk In darkness and not in light. 3 Surely against me He has turned His hand Repeatedly all the day.

  • Jeremiah knew the wrath of God.  If there is one thing a person would NOT want to experience first-hand, it would be the rod of God’s wrath.  Yet that is what fell upon Jerusalem when the Babylonians came in to destroy it.  When God’s wrath falls, nothing can stand in its way, and truly affliction and tribulation rises in its wake. 
    • Keep in mind that this is what fell upon Jesus as He hung on the cross.  It wasn’t the physical pain that Jesus wanted to avoid when praying in the Garden of Gethsemane; it was the wrath and anger of God.  Jesus knew exactly what it would be like, and He sweat great drops of blood in response.
  • And there was no doubt that this came from the Lord.  It was God that caused Jeremiah to walk in darkness – “HE has driven me…”  The Babylonians were the physical people that stormed over the wall of Jerusalem, but it was the will of God that brought them there.  The life of Jeremiah (and all the Jews) was in the hand of God, and God had taken him to a place of darkness.  (I.e., His wrath and anger.)
  • Question: had God truly turned against him?  No doubt it seemed like it, as it happened repeatedly.  In a sense, yes – the God who was the Protector of Israel turned away from His own people and actually turned against them as if He was their enemy.  But at the same time, no – God would not forever oppose the Jews.  It may have felt like it at the time, but no discipline feels good at the time, and it always feels like it will go on forever.  Jeremiah will come to that realization later on in Ch. 3, but for now he simply writes his honest feelings.
    • BTW – we can be honest with the Lord.  Sometimes we get the idea that it is somehow sinful to pray to the Lord using anything but words of praise.  As if we have to always pretend everything is “OK” and that we always have the “right” answer for whatever is going on.  Thankfully, that’s not the example we have in the Bible.  The Bible is filled with all kinds of realistic prayers from the people of God.  There are certainly times that God’s people are filled with praise, and there are other times that God’s people are depressed and they have more questions than answers.  May we follow the Biblical example.  We don’t have to put on a “church face” when we pray to God; we can be real & honest with our feelings as we pour our hearts out to the Lord.

4 He has caused my flesh and my skin to waste away, He has broken my bones. 5 He has besieged and encompassed me with bitterness and hardship. 6 In dark places He has made me dwell, Like those who have long been dead.

  • Jeremiah experienced physical affliction. Like all of the people of Jerusalem, Jeremiah had endured the Babylonian siege which lasted over a year.  A famine had gone through the people, and they were physically broken long before a single Babylonian soldier breached the city wall.
  • Jeremiah experienced emotional affliction.  He was filled with “bitterness and hardship.”  The Bible says “hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Prov 13:12), and no doubt a year-long siege is a long deferment of hope.  Instead of joy among the people of God, there was bitterness.
  • Jeremiah experienced spiritual affliction.  His soul was left in “dark places,” just as his physical body had been as he languished in prison.  For Jeremiah, it was as if he were already “dead.
  • If it sounds like Jeremiah was depressed, he was.  Keep in mind Jeremiah was a prophet of the Lord, actively used by God over a period of decades.  No one could accuse Jeremiah of being in sin, or not having enough faith in God – and yet he still experienced depression.  Depression can come to God’s people, and it doesn’t make anyone a bad or inadequate Christian; it makes them human.  The key to depression is dealing with it in the Lord; not running away from Him.
  • Specifically for Jeremiah, he was experiencing these things because of the sin of the people.  The voice he lifts up personally seems to be representative of the people as a whole.  They had all suffered in this way, and Jeremiah speaks up as their representative.

7 He has walled me in so that I cannot go out; He has made my chain heavy. 8 Even when I cry out and call for help, He shuts out my prayer. 9 He has blocked my ways with hewn stone; He has made my paths crooked.

  • He is trapped and imprisoned.  He is burdened without a method of escape.
  • He doesn’t even seem to have the ability to pray.  Jeremiah will come back to this thought later on in Chapter 3.  There was a time that even his prayers seemed useless, as if they were wasted air.  Keep in mind that at this point, Jeremiah is writing from the perspective of the nation of the Jews who were actively experiencing the wrath of God.  They were in the middle of God’s discipline, so it’s no wonder that they felt as if their prayers didn’t matter.  When a child is getting spanked, he doesn’t think his father hears him as he cries out “Stop!” – it’s as if his cries are shut out (like Jeremiah).  God had begun His process of discipline with the Jews, and God was going to see it through.

10 He is to me like a bear lying in wait, Like a lion in secret places. 11 He has turned aside my ways and torn me to pieces; He has made me desolate. 12 He bent His bow And set me as a target for the arrow. 13 He made the arrows of His quiver To enter into my inward parts.

  • This is a terrifying thought, isn’t it?  God is shown as ready for an ambush.  Jeremiah pictures Him as a wild and terrible beast waiting to pounce upon him.  He pictures God as a sniper lying in wait, ready to loose His holy arrows upon Jeremiah to destroy him.
  • This all makes God sound extraordinarily cruel, but remember that these are just honest thoughts.  Jeremiah knows the truth about God’s character, and that God never does anything unjustly.  That head knowledge about God didn’t always feel that way in hearts of the people – especially not when they were in the middle of God’s wrath.  It’s a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God (Heb 10:31), and that’s exactly what the Jews were experiencing.

14 I have become a laughingstock to all my people, Their mocking song all the day. 15 He has filled me with bitterness, He has made me drunk with wormwood. 16 He has broken my teeth with gravel; He has made me cower in the dust. 17 My soul has been rejected from peace; I have forgotten happiness. 18 So I say, “My strength has perished, And so has my hope from the LORD.”

  • Jeremiah had been ridiculed and disgraced.  His enemies laughed at time when he preached of Jerusalem’s destruction, and they mocked him when he was thrown into the prison.  But it wasn’t just Jeremiah.  After the Babylonians came, truly all the people of Jerusalem had been disgraced.  They all suffered, and were filled with “bitterness.”
  • How bad was their suffering?  It was so bad that they forgot what true peace and happiness was like.  All they knew at this point (and for the next 70 years) was heartache and grief because of the destruction of their homeland.
  • It was so bad that they virtually forgot what faith was like.  Their strength failed as their hope in the Lord dwindled.  Thankfully for Jeremiah (and the rest) it didn’t stay that way, but there was definitely a time when Jeremiah’s faith hit a low point.  Things had become so bitter and so painful that he didn’t know what to believe any longer.
    • Have you ever been in a similar place?  What did you do?  How did you get through it?  For Jeremiah, it was the realization that his hope in the Lord was failing that served as his prompting to get his attention back ON the Lord.  Vs. 19…

19 Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness. 20 Surely my soul remembers And is bowed down within me. 21 This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope.

  • If Jeremiah was forgetting the experience of peace, he called out to God to remember it for him.  As he did, he remembered God…and that was where he found hope.  Typically, we lose hope in God and our faith in God dwindles when we get our eyes off of God.  Think about it: at those points that our faith is at its lowest is typically because of some disappointment.  We don’t see God acting in the way that we want, and we begin to turn away from Him.  That’s not the time to turn away from God; that’s the time to turn TO God.  That’s the time we need to most affirm our trust in Him.  It’s easy to trust God when things are going well – we just naturally assume everything is due to His blessing.  But when things don’t go well, we think that God has turned His back on us, and thus we turn our back on Him.  Be careful!  That is when we will lose hope.  If you want to regain hope, then let your soul remember the Lord, and turn to Him once more.
  • Faith in God’s faithfulness (vss. 22-42)

22 The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. 24 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.”

  • Once Jeremiah gets his eyes back on the Lord, he sees God for who He truly is…and He is wonderful!  God is abundant in His “lovingkindnesses…compassions…faithfulness.
  • First, God is full of lovingkindness.  For all the sufferings they endured, the Jews should have vanished.  But they didn’t.  Why?  Because of the “lovingkindnesses” of God.  Hebrew “hesed” = loyal, faithful, covenantal love.  God had a loyal love that He would never take from His people.  He reached out in the abundance of His mercies, and lavished His love on a people that never deserved it.  What was the proof of God’s hesed?  The fact that the Jews survived!  They should have been destroyed many times over, but they didn’t.  God had made a promise to Abraham, Moses, and David, and He would not break His own word.  He loved His people, even while disciplining them in His righteous anger.  It may not have seemed like it at the time, but it was the absolute truth – and it was something that Jeremiah could affirm.
  • Second, God has unfailing “compassions.”  As with the Greek equivalent, the Hebrew word could also speak of a person’s inner bowels – or more specifically for the Hebrew, the womb of a woman.  The idea here is that God’s inner being is moved for His people.  When God has compassion upon us, it’s not that He feels a bit of pity; it’s that entire being is moved.  We have done nothing to experience the compassions of God; in fact we’ve done everything to experience His wrath!  But God DOES show us His compassions, just like He showed it to the Jews.  Again, the Jews should have been consumed, but they were not.  God would not allow His people to be blotted out of existence.  He loved them too much to let them continue in their sin, but He also loved them too much to allow them to perish because of it.  He compassions for His people would not fail – and neither do they for us.
  • Third, God has great “faithfulness.”  God is true to His word.  Again, God had made a promise to Abraham that through his lineage all of the nations of the world would be blessed (Gen 22:18).  God had made a promise to David that someone from his lineage would sit on the throne forever (2 Sam 7:13).  Those are the fervent promises of God – how could they possibly be broken?  They can’t!  God is faithful to His word.  What God has said, God will do.  Let God be true and every man a liar (Rom 3:4).  For Jeremiah, what was the proof of God’s faithfulness?  Again, it is their existence.  The Jews were able to wake up in the morning & breathe.  They suffered, but they survived. How often can the faithfulness of God be seen?  “Every morning.
    • Every single morning we awake is a new day to praise God for His faithfulness.  It’s a new day to praise God for His mercies.  It’s a new day to start with a clean slate, knowing the forgiveness we have in Christ Jesus and the opportunities we have to serve Him this day.  Did you fail yesterday?  Confess it to the Lord Jesus, receive His forgiveness, and start again today.  God has new compassions and faithfulness this morning.  Walk in the gift of grace that He has given you!
    • BTW – It’s never too late to start walking in that grace.  If you’ve been given a new day, then God has allowed your life to continue.  That itself is a demonstration of His compassion and mercy.  Don’t waste the opportunity you’ve been given today to know the love of Jesus for you!
  • Once Jeremiah saw the Lord, he saw what he had in the Lord: his “portion.”  God was his inheritance.  The city of Jerusalem may have been taken from him.  The freedom of the Jews may have been taken from them.  But in the end, they still had the promises of God, and He Himself was their inheritance.  (Spurgeon) “It is not "The Lord is partly my portion," nor "The Lord is in my portion"; but He Himself makes up the sum total of my soul’s inheritance. Within the circumference of that circle lies all that we possess or desire. The Lord is my portion. Not His grace merely, nor His love, nor His covenant, but Jehovah Himself.”  When we have the Lord Jesus, what else do we need?  All else can be taken from us.  We do not desire illness, or other hardships, but should they come, so be it.  If we have the Lord as our inheritance, we have the grace of God, and God’s grace is sufficient for every need.
  • And because of this, Jeremiah had “hope.”  The hope he had nearly lost was regained as his eyes were fixed upon the Lord and God’s character.  Remembering the goodness and faithfulness of God was exactly what Jeremiah needed to renew his hope and faith.  It didn’t take the troubles away, nor the grief (as we’ll see), but it did help Jeremiah endure those things.

25 The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him. 26 It is good that he waits silently For the salvation of the LORD. 27 It is good for a man that he should bear The yoke in his youth.

  • Notice the three-fold repetition of the word “good.”  Jeremiah is highlighting something for us here.
  • God is “good.”  Specifically, “the LORD” – Yahweh, the Ever-existent Covenant-Keeping I AM God of Israel – that is Who is truly good.  He is not merely better than others; He alone is good.  He is the very definition of God.  When the Jews called Jesus a “Good Teacher,” Jesus wanted them to think about what they were saying, because there is none good but God (Mt 19:17).  He is the supreme good, and we only have a concept of what goodness is when we look to Almighty God.
    • Specifically, God is good to whom?  “To the person who seeks Him.”  God is good to those who have faith.  That’s not to say that God is evil to those who don’t believe, but those who don’t believe certainly don’t experience the goodness of God in the same way as those who belong to Christ Jesus.  It is the born-again Christian who truly knows God’s goodness, if for no other reason than that they have been born-again.  The true goodness of God’s blessing is not found in material prosperity and earthly riches, but in true spiritual riches of the gift of eternal life.  If you have been forgiven by God through Jesus Christ, then you have personally experienced how “the LORD is good to those who wait for Him.
  • It is good to wait for the “salvation” of God.  For Jeremiah and the Jews, they were currently suffering the discipline of God, and they had to wait for God’s salvation and deliverance.  It would not be immediately coming, but it would come.  They needed to look to God in faith, and wait on Him until He came for them.  For us, we can receive the salvation of God in Christ Jesus immediately – the very moment we ask for Jesus to come into our lives as our Lord and Savior.  That said, we still wait on His salvation in another sense because we’re waiting upon His return.  One day, Jesus will come again and receive us to Himself, and we will be forever delivered from the very presence of sin.  So yes, we wait upon the Lord.  The Jews waited silently in repentance; we wait joyfully for the Lord’s return.
  • It is good to “bear the yoke.”  The Jews had been taken captive, and they were quickly learning what a yoke felt like, and it was a burden.  Is Jeremiah saying that it is good to be burdened?  No.  He’s saying that it’s good to serve God – it’s good to be owned by God.  An ox would wear a yoke from its owner as the farmer plowed the field.  To wear a yoke from the Lord God is a symbol of belonging to the Lord God.  It is good to be a servant/slave of the Lord.  They may have been taken captive by the Babylonians, but it all happened according to the will of God.  The very safest place in the world to be is smack-dab in the middle of God’s will.  Finally, the Jews were there – even if it had to happen because of the wrath of God.
    • Our yoke is different – the one Jesus offers is easy, and His burden is light.  But it is still a burden that we need to have placed upon us.  To be a slave of God is the most liberating thing in all the world.  We will never know freedom from sin if we never become a slave of Jesus.  Take His yoke & experience it!

28 Let him sit alone and be silent Since He has laid it on him. 29 Let him put his mouth in the dust, Perhaps there is hope. 30 Let him give his cheek to the smiter, Let him be filled with reproach.

  • This gets to the idea of true humble repentance.  When the yoke/burden comes from God, there is still hope.  The Jews could take their discipline in quietness because they could know it came from the Lord.  It didn’t matter what others did because their hope wasn’t in others; it was in God. When sufferings come through the hand of God, we can still hope.  We can freely submit ourselves to it because we are ultimately trusting in the Lord.

31 For the Lord will not reject forever, 32 For if He causes grief, Then He will have compassion According to His abundant lovingkindness. 33 For He does not afflict willingly Or grieve the sons of men.

  • Because of God’s faithfulness, loyal love, and compassions, Jeremiah was assured of this much: God will not forever “reject” His people.  There was a time God cast off His people, but it was only for a time – it was strictly temporary.  He had an ultimate plan for the Jews, and He still does.  God will have compassion, and just as He brought His people to a place of repentance and restoration in the past, so will He do so again one day in the future.  Today, the Jews are under the discipline of God once more because they rejected Jesus as their Messiah – but one day they will see Him in faith, and they will be restored as a nation in God’s plan.  How do we know?  Again, because of “His abundant lovingkindness” – His “hesed,” – His loyal love.
  • God will not willingly afflict or grieve us.  He may have to discipline us as a father disciplines His children, but that doesn’t mean it makes God happy to do it.  We’ve all heard from our parents, “This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.”  As a child, we never believed it, but the moment we had to first discipline our own kids we understood exactly what our own parents meant when they said it.  It’s no different with our Father God.  He WILL afflict us, if need be, but He doesn’t want to do it.  He takes no pleasure in our affliction – He doesn’t even take pleasure in the death of the wicked, much less the pain of His own children.
    • He may not like it, but He will do it.  Why force God’s hand?

34 To crush under His feet All the prisoners of the land, 35 To deprive a man of justice In the presence of the Most High, 36 To defraud a man in his lawsuit— Of these things the Lord does not approve.

  • When reading of all of the suffering of Jeremiah earlier in Ch. 3, one might wonder if God was unjust.  The answer is no.  God “does not approve” of injustice.  He himself would not crush the helpless, nor does God approve of others mercilessly crushing His people, depriving them of justice.  God may have used the Babylonians, but God did not approve of everything the Babylonians did.  They would answer for their own crimes.
  • God is good (vs. 25) – He is righteous.  This is part of His basic character; we dare not forget!  Doing so leads us to hopelessness and despair.

37 Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, Unless the Lord has commanded it? 38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High That both good and ill go forth? 39 Why should any living mortal, or any man, Offer complaint in view of his sins?

  • God has all power and authority.  Jeremiah knew that the only reason the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem was because God willed it.  They could not have set a single foot beyond the city wall if God had not allowed them to do so.  Yet He did.  The Jews had been the ones in rebellion, and they had no right to complain against God for discipline and wrath He brought upon them.
  • God is sovereign over all things.  That which is good passes through His hands, as does that which is “ill.”  This is something Job affirmed in his own life before he started going through his own crisis of faith.  Job 2:9–10, "(9) Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” (10) But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips." []  This may be a hard truth, but it’s truth nonetheless.  We’re quick to praise God for the things we perceive as blessings, but what about the things that we wish were otherwise?  Obviously we don’t want to fake a smile and pretend that we’re happy about something that is tragic – but neither do we want to sacrifice our theology to the whims of our circumstances.  God is not on His throne one moment pouring out blessings, and then off His throne the next when things take a turn for the worse.  No – God is on His throne the entire time, and faith is trusting God the entire time.  Our circumstances may be difficult to understand, but the one things we CAN know about them is that God has allowed them. 
    • That in itself ought to be of great comfort.  At the very least, we know to Whom we can turn, because He has allowed it to be.

40 Let us examine and probe our ways, And let us return to the LORD. 41 We lift up our heart and hands Toward God in heaven; 42 We have transgressed and rebelled, You have not pardoned.

  • The response to all of this revelation of God’s goodness, righteousness, loyal love, and His general character?  Repentance.  What did that look like?  Jeremiah describes it:
    • The people needed to “examine” themselves.
    • The people needed to “return to the LORD.
    • The people needed to worship and pray.
    • The people needed to confess their sins.
  • Cries of repentance and for justice (vss. 43-66)

43 You have covered Yourself with anger And pursued us; You have slain and have not spared. 44 You have covered Yourself with a cloud So that no prayer can pass through. 45 You have made us mere offscouring and refuse In the midst of the peoples.

  • This is what had happened as a result of their sin.  God’s anger was righteous, but it was still anger.  It was difficult for the Jews to see the love of God because God had “covered” Himself with His anger.  Seems to reference the weighty glory of God…
  • So thick was God’s anger that prayer did no good.  Don’t get the wrong idea.  It’s not that God refused their repentance.  He wanted the people to humble themselves, and turn back to Him in sincere prayer and worship.  It’s just that in the midst of their sin, they hadn’t done that.  The prayers they made were prayers for relief from pain; not from true repentance of the heart.  God would not hear those prayers.  He specifically told Jeremiah at certain points NOT to pray for the people of Jerusalem (Jer 7:16, 11:14, 14:11) – God had determined His will, and He would not turn aside from it.  As long as they continued in sin, God would continue in His punishment.
    • Do you ever feel as if your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling?  Perhaps that might be cause for self-examination.
  • God not only shut Himself off from the people’s insincere prayers, but He also cast His people off.  They became “mere offscouring and refuse.”  IOW, they became unclean.  Like the junk you scrape off the bottom of your shoe, or the stuff you flush down the toilet, that is what the once-honored children of Abraham became.
  • Again, we don’t want to get the wrong idea.  Jeremiah just affirmed that God is mercifully faithful to His covenant promises.  He wrote in vs. 31 how God would not cast off the people forever.  BUT He did cast them off for a time.  The Jews were placed in a 70-year time-out away from Jerusalem, and this was His righteous discipline.

46 All our enemies have opened their mouths against us. 47 Panic and pitfall have befallen us, Devastation and destruction; 48 My eyes run down with streams of water Because of the destruction of the daughter of my people. 49 My eyes pour down unceasingly, Without stopping,
50 Until the LORD looks down And sees from heaven. 51 My eyes bring pain to my soul Because of all the daughters of my city.

  • The people were humiliated & afraid…and rightfully so.  The nations of the world saw the wrath of God poured out upon the Jews, and the Jews weren’t sure what would happen next.  They served as a terrible example of what God would do in His righteous anger.
  • The people (specifically the prophet) wept.  Jeremiah was sincerely grieved for his people.
  • Do we grieve over sin?  Not just our own sin (which is bad enough), but do we grieve over the sins of our neighbors and nation?  It’s easy to get indignant in the face of lies, or at the depravity of our culture…and there is a place for righteous indignation.  But there is also a place for grieving and sorrow, with the realization that so many people are so lost and are putting themselves square in the sights of the wrath of God. 
    • Don’t just get mad at sin; let your heart break over it.  Those with broken hearts are more apt to plead with people to repent than those whose hearts are hardened by anger.

52 My enemies without cause Hunted me down like a bird; 53 They have silenced me in the pit And have placed a stone on me. 54 Waters flowed over my head; I said, “I am cut off!” 55 I called on Your name, O LORD, Out of the lowest pit. 56 You have heard my voice, “Do not hide Your ear from my prayer for relief, From my cry for help.” 57 You drew near when I called on You; You said, “Do not fear!”

  • Scholars debate whether these are the words of Jeremiah, or of the personified nation of Judah.  Either would apply well.  Jeremiah was hated without cause by false prophets in Jerusalem.  His enemies looked for an excuse to get rid of him, and once they found one (a false accusation about Jeremiah defecting to the Babylonians), they had him thrown into a dungeon (a dank cistern) and left him for dead.  Jeremiah was overwhelmed with grief in that place, and what he writes here could easily describe his experience.  At the same time, the words could apply equally to people of Jerusalem once they were enslaved by the Babylonians and deported from their homeland.  They would have felt just as overwhelmed and depressed as Jeremiah had earlier, and likewise they would have cried out to the Lord.  (Quite possibly the words carry both meanings.  Jeremiah’s experience foreshadowed that of the nation of the Jews.)
    • Even beyond Jeremiah and the people of Jerusalem, these same words could apply to Jesus – perhaps better than anyone else.  Jesus was hated without cause as His enemies brought false accusations against Him.  They wrongly convicted Him and sentenced Him to death.  Jesus was killed upon the cross and went into the ultimate pit of death.  From there, God heard Jesus, and drew near as Christ rose again on the third day.
  • God still says “Do not fear!” to those who cry out to Him in faith.  When we have faith in Jesus, then fear has no place.  Faith replaces fear, and vice-versa.
  • At this point, Jeremiah’s faith and hope have been renewed.  He (on behalf of the people) has reaffirmed his trust in the Lord & repentance over sin.  Now he turns to the Lord in faith, crying out for God to act in defense of the nation (and himself) against their enemies.  Vs. 58…

58 O Lord, You have pleaded my soul’s cause; You have redeemed my life. 59 O LORD, You have seen my oppression; Judge my case.

  • As for Jeremiah (and the nation), God defended him.  God was the prophets’ advocate and judge, rising up on Jeremiah’s behalf.  God would neither leave the prophet nor the nation to the whims of their enemies.  Once their role was accomplished, God would deal with them in His righteous judgment.
  • In the end, God “redeemed” him.  God purchased the prophet from slavery and death, and though God allowed the nation to go into slavery, He would bring them out again – just as He had brought the nation out of Egyptian slavery centuries earlier.
    • We have been redeemed in Christ!  We have been purchased away from sin and death.  He has risen up in our defense, pleaded our case, and judged us righteous – not based upon our merits, but upon the merits of Jesus.

60 You have seen all their vengeance, All their schemes against me. 61 You have heard their reproach, O LORD, All their schemes against me. 62 The lips of my assailants and their whispering Are against me all day long. 63 Look on their sitting and their rising; I am their mocking song.

  • God saw Jeremiah’s (and the Jews’) attackers…  God heard their accusations…  God knew their secret conspiracies…
  • God is never ignorant regarding our enemies.  He knows them far better than we do. 
    • Thus we don’t need to rise up in our own defense.  We can trust the Lord to do it!
    • That’s what Jeremiah did. Vs. 64…

64 You will recompense them, O LORD, According to the work of their hands. 65 You will give them hardness of heart, Your curse will be on them. 66 You will pursue them in anger and destroy them From under the heavens of the LORD!

  • Jeremiah called upon God to act in regards to his enemies.  Again, this is also the prayer of the nation of Judah.  They called upon God to judge the Babylonians.
  • We can also think of this in regards to God’s vengeance upon the ultimate enemy of the devil.  Satan, sin, and death itself will be judged for all eternity.  Our enemy will be pursued and destroyed by the Glorious Lord Jesus!

Conclusion:
Jeremiah suffered along with the rest of the nation when God poured His wrath upon Judah, and when Jerusalem was destroyed, Jeremiah despaired.  He was vexed and grieved in his spirit, and it almost caused him to lose hope.  But once he got his eyes back onto the Lord, everything changed.  He saw God for the gloriously good God that He is.  He was reminded of God’s loyal love, His compassion, and His faithfulness.  He remembered the inheritance and hope that he had in the Lord because God had graciously given His promise.  And because of that, Jeremiah could trust in the Lord.  He grieved over the sins of the people, repenting on their behalf, and he entrusted himself to the Lord, knowing that God would be righteous.

The discipline of God never feels good.  God is good, and He loves us enough to chastise us when necessary, but it never feels good in the moment.  Don’t let that cause you to lose heart.  Don’t let your circumstances drive you to a place of despair.  Maybe you’re experiencing some sort of trial right now and it has nothing to do with sin; it’s just because we live in a fallen world with fallen weak physical bodies.  Keep your trust in the Lord Jesus and remember the inheritance you have in Him.

Maybe you’re in a trial right now, and it DOES have something to do with your sin.  Ask God to help you examine your heart, to see if there is any wicked way within you, and then deal with that thing.  Confess it to the Lord, repent, and be sincere.  Sin is grievous, and it is good to sorrow over it.  Let that godly sorrow take you to true repentance, and then find your forgiveness in the Lord Jesus.

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