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Bible Commentaries

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible

Lamentations 3

 

 

Verses 1-33

I am about to read a portion of Holy Scripture which may seem very strange to some of you, but it belongs to a part of the congregation, and I hope it may be the means of giving them comfort. I read it as a picture of the suffering of a soul under a sense of sin. I think it is a most graphic portrait of a heart that is aroused and made to feel its lost estate. If there are any such here, they will be sure to see themselves in the picture.

Lamentations 3:1. I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath.

It is a mistake that most souls make when in trouble, to suppose that no others ever felt as they do. John Bunyan describes Christian as being very much comforted by hearing someone quoting Scripture as he went through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, for then he perceived that there were others in like case with his own. Do not think, poor troubled soul, that no one ever was so broken in pieces as you are; your path of sorrow is a well-trodden one.

Lamentations 3:2. He hath led me, and brought me into darkness, but not into light.

A Hebrew method of saying that it was a thick darkness without any light, either star-light or moon-light. You who have passed through this state of conviction know what it means;--no comfort from ordinances, no comfort from God’s Word, no comfort from your daily mercies. Every stream of comfort seems dried up to you, and sin lies heavily upon you.

Lamentations 3:3. Surely against me is he turned; he turneth his hand against me all the day.

As if, when a man is about to strike, he smites not with his open hand but turns his hand, so the prophet says God did with him. He felt that he was being smitten with the heaviest blows that God seemed able to give.

Lamentations 3:4. My flesh and my skin hath he made old; he hath broken my bones.

As men through excessive grief sometimes appear to grow prematurely aged, so the prophet says he had done through grief. He felt as if his bones were broken. The sore vexations of his spirit had dashed the solid pillars of the house of Manhood from their place.

Lamentations 3:5. He hath builded against me, and compassed me with gall and travail.

That is to say, as the besiegers erected a mound against a city, and threw up earthworks, so, the prophet says, God seemed to have thrown up earthworks from which he might fire off the great guns of the law against him.

Lamentations 3:6. He hath set me in dark places, as they that be dead of old.

As though he had to live in a tomb, where neither life nor light could come to him.

Lamentations 3:7. He hath hedged me about, that I cannot get out: he hath made my chain heavy.

“My way seems blocked up, nothing prospers with me.” As the convict sometimes drags about his chain, and has a ball at his foot, so the prophet felt as if God had clogged him with a heavy chain, so that he could not move because of its terrible weight.

Lamentations 3:8. Also when I cry and shout, he shutteth out my prayer,

Which was the worst trial of all.

Lamentations 3:9. He hath enclosed my ways with hewn stone; he hath made my paths crooked.

It was believed that hewn stones made the strongest wall as the joints would the more closely fit into one another. Jeremiah seems to speak as if God had taken care and trouble to build, not as men do, roughly with common stones, but with polished and well-shapen troubles built like strong barriers in his way.

Lamentations 3:10. He was unto me as a bear lying in wait, and as a lion in secret places.

He felt as if the justice of God was about to spring upon him. He was afraid to move, lest the couchant lion should leap upon him, and tear him in pieces. John Bunyan, in his Grace abounding to the Chief of Sinners, describes in his own experience precisely what the prophet here speaks of.

Lamentations 3:11-13. He hath turned aside my ways, and pulled me in pieces: he hath made me desolate. He hath bent his bow, and set me as a mark for the arrow. He hath caused the arrows of his quiver to enter into my reins.

And all this while, to aggravate his grief, he found no comfort anywhere.

Lamentations 3:14. I was a derision to all my people; and their song all the day.

It is just so with a man who is under a sense of sin. His companions ask him why he is so melancholy; he has an attack of the mopes, they say. They do not want his society, they will chase him from their midst. I marvel not that they want not his company, for well do I know that he wants not theirs, but this adds much to his grief, to find that they make derision and laughter of his woe.

Lamentations 3:15. He hath filled me with bitterness, he hath made me drunken with wormwood.

What a strong expression the prophet uses! As a drunken man hath lost his wits, and staggereth he knoweth not where, even as is a sinner when he really begins to taste the bitterness of sin. He does not act as if he were endowed with reason; despair and sorrow have driven his senses away.

Lamentations 3:16. He hath also broken my teeth with gravel stones, he hath covered me with ashes.

The Easterns usually baked their cakes on the hearth, and very frequently there would be in the cakes pieces of grit, perhaps large lumps of cinder, and sometimes small gravel stones, which would break the teeth. “So,” the prophet seems to say, “ when I went to try to get some nourishment by the eating of bread, I was disappointed; my teeth were broken with gravel stones.” I remember when I used to go up to the house of God to try to get comfort; but, instead thereof, I came away more wretched than I went, for sin, that great devouring dragon, still followed me everywhere.

Lamentations 3:17-21. And thou hast removed my soul far off from peace: I forgot prosperity. And I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the LORD: remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall. My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me. This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.

Notice the gracious change that has taken place, as if the sun had risen after the blackness and gloom of the night. Now the birds of joy begin to sing, and the flowers of hope begin to open their golden cups.

Lamentations 3:22. It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassion fail not.

Bad as our state is, we are not yet in hell; we are not yet beyond the reach of hope.

Lamentations 3:23. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

We had new mercies this morning, and we have had fresh mercies this evening. God has not forgotten us. The very breath in our nostrils is a proof of his goodness to us; let us, therefore, dear friends, still hope for yet further favors from him.

Lamentations 3:24-25. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.

Can you get a hold of this blessed truth, any of you troubled ones who are here? Broken-hearted sinner, can you get a grip of this comforting assurance? If so, there will soon be peace for you.

Lamentations 3:26-27. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.

For this yoke, though it may seem to be very heavy for a time, when it has humbled us, and brought us to Christ, will bring us innumerable blessings.

Lamentations 3:28-33. He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him. He putteth his mouth in the dust if so be there may be hope. He giveth his cheek to him that smiteth him: he is filled full with reproach. For the LORD will not cast of for ever: but though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies. For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.

Unless he has some gracious motive for it, he never afflicts or grieves them, and when he doth act thus, it is as when a father smites his child. It is because it must be done and not because he loves to do it. See, then, the great mercy of God. May it lead the sinner to repentance, yea, and lead us all to put our trust in the Lord!

This exposition consisted of readings from Lamentations 3:1-33; and Jeremiah 31:22-37.


Verses 1-36

The first part of this chapter is one of the saddest in the whole Book of God; yet I expect it has ministered as much consolation as some of the brightest pages of Holy Writ, because there are children of God who are the subjects of great suffering and sorrow, and when they turn to such a passage as this, they see that one of the Lord’s own prophet has gone that way before them; and when they see the footprints of another of God’s people in the dark and gloomy valley that they are themselves traversing they are encouraged. Besides, the chapter does not end as it begins. There is daylight for the poor sufferer after all, so we shall read the sad utterances of the prophet in the hope that, if we have ever known experiences similar to his, we may learn where to find comfort even as he did.

Lamentations 3:1-2. I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath. He hath led me, and brought me into darkness, but not into light.

This seems to be the hardest part of our lot,-that God should lead us into darkness: “He hath led me, and brought me into darkness.” Yet dear brethren, that is, on the other hand, the sweetest thing about our trial; because, if the darkness be in the place where God has led us, it is best for us to be in the dark. A child in the dark should derive much comfort from the thought, “My father brought me here, and he loves me so much that he would not bring me where I should be in danger, he must have had some good end and object in view in what he has done.” Surely, there is something comforting to the tried child of God in that thought.

Lamentations 3:3-5. Surely against me is he turned; he turneth his hand against me all the day. My flesh and my skin, hath he made old; he hath broken my bones. He hath builded against me, and compassed me with gall and travail.

“I am like a besieged city that has strong forts built all round it to shut it in on all sides.”

Lamentations 3:6-7. He hath set me in dark places, as they that be dead of old. He hath hedged me about, that I can not get out: he hath made my chain heavy.

Ah, dear friends, it is easy for some people to read such a passage as this, but there are others who have read it with aching brows and eyes red with weeping; and often, I doubt not, as they have read the prophet’s descriptions of just such sorrows as they are themselves feeling, they have said, “Then after all, we are not alone in our griefs, and we may yet be delivered even as Jeremiah was”

Lamentations 3:8. Also when I cry and shout, he shutteth out my prayer.

What a sorrow is this,--to feel that even prayer itself is unavailing! Yet this suppliant was no graceless sinner, he was a dear child of God, one of the noblest of the Lord’s ancient prophets, one of the most faithful of his ministers. You must not think, because sometimes your prayers seem to be unheard or unheeded, and you are allowed to continue in sorrow, that therefore the Lord does not love you. “Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth;” and that word “scourgeth” is a very strong one, meaning much more than just an ordinary whipping.

Lamentations 3:9. He hath inclosed my ways with hewn stone,

“The Lord has shut me right up, as if he had built a wall around me on every side.”

Lamentations 3:9-13. He hath made my paths crooked. He was unto me as a bear lying in wait, and as a lion in secret places. He hath turned aside my ways, and pulled me in pieces: he hath made me desolate. He hath bent his bow, and set me as a mark for the arrow. He hath caused the arrows of his quiver to enter into my reins.

The King’s arrows had wounded him to the very quick. Perhaps some of you may know what it is to go to the Bible, and yet to find no comfort in it for the precious promises have seemed to be too good to be true to you, and you seem to have hunted out every dark and threatening passage at once, and you have said, “Ah, that belongs to me!” You have written bitter things against yourself, and have thought that surely you were the target at which God was shooting his sharpest arrows.

Lamentations 3:14-17. I was a derision to all my people; and their song all the day. He hath filled me with bitterness, he hath made me drunken with wormwood. He hath also broken my teeth with gravel stone, he hath covered me with ashes. And thou hast removed my soul far off from peace: I forgat prosperity.

“It seems so long since I have had any prosperity that I have forgotten it. I have become so accustomed to trouble and sorrow that it seems as if I had never known what joy was.” The original is even more sad, “I forget good.”

Lamentations 3:18-21. And I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the LORD: Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall. My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me. This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.

And as long as your afflictions, poor troubled souls, have really humbled you, you may have hope. Recall to your mind the fact that God’s chastising blows have brought you down to his feet in humble submission, and ended all your boastings, and therein you may have hope.

Lamentations 3:22. It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.

See where Jeremiah gets his comfort; he seems to say, “Bad as my case is, it might have been worse, for I might have been consumed, and I should have been consumed if the Lord’s compassions had failed.” Ah, brethren and sisters, and we too might have been in hell at this very moment! Amidst the hottest flames of that hopeless place we might have been enduring the wrath of God, but we are not there, and blessed be his name for that! “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.” He still has compassion upon us; if he had not, he would have given us up altogether; but there is love in his heart, even while there is a frown upon his brow, and while his hand is smiting us, his heart is loving us still.

Lamentations 3:23. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

If every day brings its trouble, every day also brings its mercy. Up to this day, at all events, we have not perished. The Lord has chastened us, but he has not crushed us. We have been cast down, but we have not been destroyed. “Great is thy faithfulness.” No man can say that so truly as the one who has known what it is to prove that great faithfulness in great affliction. But when there has been a great trial, the believing soul has cast itself upon the ever-faithful God, and so has been able to set its seal to this truth, “Great is thy faithfulness.”

Lamentations 3:24. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul;

What! With his mouth full of gravel stones, and made drunken with wormwood, overwhelmed with sorrow, yet he says, “the Lord is my portion.” Oh, yes, beloved, whatever else we have lost, we have not lost our God. The thieves have robbed us of our little spare cash, but they could not get at the gold that we have in the bank; They could not break into the great treasure-house of everlasting love. John Bunyan says, “Little-Faith lost his spending-money, but the thieves could not find his jewels.” Nor can they find ours; they are all safe. “The Lord is my portion, saith my soul;” —

Lamentations 3:24. Therefore will I hope in him.

If I cannot cast the anchor of hope anywhere else, I may “hope in him;” and what better hope do I want than that?

Lamentations 3:25. The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.

Do not be in a hurry; do not expect to be delivered out of your trouble the first time you begin to cry unto God. Oh, no: “the Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.”

Lamentations 3:26. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation, of the LORD.

God’s time is always the best time. To deliver you just now might be to deprive you of the benefit of the trouble. You must bear it till it produces “the peaceable fruit of righteousness.” When the doctor puts on a blister, we are not to take it off the next minute. No; patience must have her perfect work, that we “may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

Lamentations 3:27-28. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him.

When it makes a man get alone, to contemplate and meditate, affliction is already doing him good.

Lamentations 3:29. He putteth his mouth in the dust; if so be there may be hope.

That is the way to find it;-not lifting your mouth up to defy the Lord, or to murmur at him, nor yet opening your mouth in boastfulness; but putting your mouth in the dust, that is the way to find hope. A humble, penitent, resigned, silent, submissive spirit will soon find hope.

Lamentations 3:30-31. He giveth his cheek to him that smiteth him: he is filled full with reproach. For the Lord will not cast off for ever:

Oh, get a grip of that blessed truth! I pray you, O ye sons of trouble, lay hold of it, and never let it go! The Lord may, to all appearance, cast off for a little while, but he will not cast off for ever.

Lamentations 3:32-34. But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies. For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men. To crush under his feet all the prisoners of the earth,

That is not God’s way of acting. Tyrants may do so, but the tender, compassionate God, our gracious, loving Father, will never do that. If you lie in the dust before him, he will not tread on you.

Lamentations 3:35-36. To turn aside the right of a man before the face of the most High, To subvert a man in his cause, the Lord approveth not.

Again I say, that is not God’s way of acting.


Verses 1-66

We are about to read a chapter which is very full of sorrow; while you are listening to it, some of you may be saying, “We are not in that condition.” Well then, be thankful that you are not, and while you hear of the sorrows of others, bless God for the joys you yourself experience. At the same time, remember that there is a way of sorrow which leads at last to rest and peace. There is truth in the words of the poet Cowper, —

“The path of sorrow, and that path alone,

Leads to the land where sorrow is unknown.”

If you have never known the sorrows of the weeping prophet, or anything like them, I am not sure that you should congratulate yourselves, for there is a brokenness of heart that is worth more than the whole world, there is a crushed and bruised spirit in which the Lord delights, and which is a token for good to the one who possesses it.

Lamentations 3:1-2. I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath. He hath led me, and brought me into darkness, but not into light.

Some of us recollect when we used to go into our own room, and shut the door, and read such a chapter as this, and say, “Here is a description of my true condition.” We were once broken in pieces, torn asunder, through a terrible sense of sin. Our thoughts were like a case of knives perpetually pricking us, and, at such a time, these were our words as well as the words of Jeremiah, “He hath led me, and brought me into darkness, but not into light.”

Lamentations 3:3-4. Surely against me is he turned; he turneth his hand against me all the day. My flesh and my skin hath he made old: he hath broken my bones.

Conviction of sin seems to dry up the very sap of our life till we become withered with age. Worse than the agony of a broken bone is the pain of a broken heart. When the Holy Spirit convinces of sin, believe me, it is no child’s play; in the case of some of us, it was sore wounding.

Lamentations 3:5. He hath builded against me, —

“As if he deliberately built walls to stop up my way, and erected castles from which to attack my soul, ‘He hath builded against me,’” —

Lamentations 3:5. And compassed me with gall and travail.

“He has shut me up in a circle of bitterness.”

Lamentations 3:6-7. He hath set me in dark places, as they that be dead of old. He hath hedged me about, that I cannot get out: he hath made my chain heavy.

Like a prisoner in his dungeon, who has to wear manacles and fetters.

Lamentations 3:8. Also when I cry and shout, he shutteth out my prayer.

That is the worst trial of all, for there is comfort in prayer; but when even that seems denied you, into what a terrible state of sorrow is your heart brought!

Lamentations 3:9-11. He hath enclosed my ways with hewn stone, he hath made my paths crooked. He was unto me as a bear lying in wait, and as a lion in secret places. He hath turned aside my ways, and pulled me in pieces: he hath made me desolate.

You who remember that experience, bless God that you have passed through it, that you have gone over that rough road into the place of peace and rest in Christ. You who have never known this path, it will be well for you when you do, trying as you may find it.

Lamentations 3:12. He hath bent his bow, and set me as a mark for the arrow.

“Every sermon I hear seems a shot at me, every text of Scripture seems an arrow aimed at me.”

Lamentations 3:13. He hath caused the arrows of his quiver to enter into my reins.

“They are not merely shot at me, but they have actually hit me; they have wounded me; they have pierced me in vital parts.”

Lamentations 3:14-17. I was a derision to all my people; and their song all the day. He hath filled me with bitterness, he hath made me drunken with wormwood. He hath also broken my teeth with gravel stones, he hath covered me with ashes. And thou hast removed my soul far off from peace: I forgat prosperity.

“It seems so long ago since I was prosperous that I forget what it was like. I have been so troubled that I do not remember what it was to be at ease.”

Lamentations 3:18-21. And I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the LORD: Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall. My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me. This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.

Notice that, in all his sorrow, this man still had hope. His soul was humbled, and therefore he had hope. I think that, in the New Zealand language, the word for hope is “swimming thought” — the thought that swims when everything else is drowned. Oh, what a mercy it is that hope can live on when all things else appear to die!

Lamentations 3:22. It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.

Hear that, troubled heart; you are not yet destroyed, you are still in the land of the living, — as we say “on praying ground and pleading terms with God.” “It is of Jehovah’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.”

Lamentations 3:23-24. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.

“With all my troubles, and losses, and griefs, I still have a God; therefore will I hope in him.”

Lamentations 3:25. The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.

Even though it be out of the depths of the utmost distress that you seek God, you shall find him to be good to you. He is hard to none, unkind to none. Only go thou, and test him and try him, and thou shalt find that it is even as I say.

Lamentations 3:26-27. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.

And it is not bad for him if he keeps on bearing it in his old age. Our shoulders ever need the yoke; we are such uncertain creatures that we cannot bear too much freedom, even from sorrow.

Lamentations 3:28-31. He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him. He putteth his mouth in the dust; if so be there may be hope. He giveth his cheek to him that smiteth him: he is filled full with reproach. For the Lord will not cast off for ever:

What music there is in that line! He may put thee away for a while, and seem to leave thee; but “the Lord will not cast off for ever.” God may seem to put us away from him, but it is written, “He hateth putting away.” There is no divorcement between Christ and the soul that is once espoused to him. Their separation shall not be perpetual, for nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Lamentations 3:32-33. But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies. For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.

Now notice in the 55th verse, what came to the prophet after all this sorrow.

Lamentations 3:55-56. I called upon thy name, O LORD, out of the low dungeon. Thou hast heard my voice: hide not thine ear at my breathing, at my cry.

Sometimes our prayers get to be so very weak that they are only a breathing; yet we must never forget that, “Prayer is the breath of God in men, returning whence it came,” and “Praying breath is never spent in vain.”

Lamentations 3:57-58. Thou drewest near in the day that I called upon thee: thou saidst, Fear not. O Lord, thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul;

What a comfort it is that Christ in heaven is our great Advocate, and that he has pleaded the causes of our soul before the throne of God!

Lamentations 3:58. Thou hast redeemed my life.

He who is our Advocate is also our Redeemer, and therefore we are doubly safe. Glory be to his name!


Verses 52-58

Lamentations 3:52-55. Mine enemies chased me sore, like a bird, without cause. They have cut off my life in the dungeon, and cast a stone upon me. Waters flowed over mine head; then I said, I am cut off. I called upon thy name, O LORD, out of the low dungeon.

He said, “I am cut off,” yet he called upon the name of the Lord out of the low dungeon into which his enemies had cast him. What a mercy it is that God’s servants are often as graciously inconsistent as Jeremiah was just then! They are afraid that the Lord will not hear them, yet they continue to pray unto him. They are afraid that they are cast off for ever, yet they will still use the privilege of a child of God, and cry unto him, though they doubt whether they have a child’s right to do so. Go on, beloved, with that blessed inconsistency, and the Lord will bless you in it.

Lamentations 3:56. Thou hast heard my voice: hide not thine ear at my breathing, at my cry.

Is not that a beautiful description of prayer, when the soul cannot find words, nothing but a “breathing”? Did I say nothing but a breathing? Why, that is the very essence of prayer.

“Prayer is the breath of God in man,

Returning whence it came.”

Vocal sounds in prayer can be given forth by hypocrites. Our children have their dolls or their little animals that they press to make them squeak, but there is no life in them; so there may be a sound, yet no life, but I never heard of anything that really breathed, and yet had not life. And when your soul breathes itself out before God in prayer, although it cannot utter any articulate sound by reason of the sorrow of your heart, there is spiritual life in you.

Lamentations 3:57. Thou drewest near in the day that I called upon thee:

Oh, sweet experience! Cannot you, beloved, say that these words suit you as much as they did Jeremiah? I am inclined to say to him, “They are mine, Jeremiah, they certainly were yours, but I am sure that they are equally mine.”

Lamentations 3:57-58. Thou saidst, Fear not. O Lord, thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul; thou hast redeemed my life.

Blessed be his holy name for ever and ever!

 


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Bibliography Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Lamentations 3:4". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/spe/lamentations-3.html. 2011.

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