Coming To The Lord

1. 'I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath.
2. He hath led me, and brought me into darkness, but not into light.
3. Surely against me is he turned; he turneth his hand against me all the day.
4. My flesh and my skin hath he made old; he hath broken my bones.
5. He hath builded against me, and compassed me with gall and travail.
6. He hath set me in dark places, as they that be dead of old.
7. He hath hedged me about, that I cannot get out: he hath made my chain heavy.
8. Also when I cry and shout, he shutteth out my prayer.
9. He hath inclosed my ways with hewn stone, he hath made my paths crooked.
10. He was unto me as a bear lying in wait, and as a lion in secret places.
11. He hath turned aside my ways, and pulled me in pieces: he hath made me desolate.
12. He hath bent his bow, and set me as a mark for the arrow.
13. He hath caused the arrows of his quiver to enter into my reins.
14. I was a derision to all my people; and their song all the day.
15. He hath filled me with bitterness, he hath made me drunken with wormwood.
16. He hath also broken my teeth with gravel stones, he hath covered me with ashes.
17. And thou hast removed my soul far off from peace: I forgat prosperity.
18. And I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the LORD:
19. Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall.
20. My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me.
22. This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.
23. It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
24. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
25. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.
26. The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.
27. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.
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.
29. He putteth his mouth in the dust; if so be there may be hope.
30. He giveth his cheek to him that smiteth him: he is filled full with reproach.
31. For the Lord will not cast off for ever:
32. But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies.
33. For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.
34. To crush under his feet all the prisoners of the earth,
35. To turn aside the right of a man before the face of the most High,
36. To subvert a man in his cause, the Lord approveth not.'

In this third chapter of the book of Lamentations, we have, in the words of John Gill, '...a complaint and lamentation like the former, and on the same subject, only the prophet mixes his own afflictions and distresses with the public calamities; or else he represents the church in her complaints; and some have thought him to be a type of Christ throughout the whole; to whom various things may be applied.' It also contains spiritual principles which can be seen in the life of an individual who is brought into a position of reconciliation with the Lord through salvation. Let us look at this in some detail.

We see from verse one that this is an individual who has been dealt with severely by God. The phrase 'his wrath' refers back to the final verse of chapter two. It is the lord's wrath that is spoken of. This individual has felt the affliction of 'the rod.' 'What is this rod,' one may ask? It is the rod of the law. One who would come to God must first be confronted by the law. Notice how this comes about.

This individual has been 'led' by God, and 'brought' to a place. This is a work initiated by God, not the individual. We are told in Philippians 1:6, that God begins a work in man, and Philippians 2:13 states that it is a work that makes one willing and able to do of His good pleasure.

It must be noted that this work of God leads into a place of darkness rather than light. This is a picture of the work of the law in several respects.

First, the work itself is a dark work, as it is one which reveals the demands of a holy God and these demands are such as cannot be performed by the natural man. Isaiah 45:7 states, 'I form the light, I create darkness: I make peace and I create evil. I the LORD do all [these] things.' The work of the law is a place of conviction and it is bringing death to the individual, as pictured in Psalm 107:10-14, and stated in Romans 7:7-13 and 2 Corinthians 3:6. Mount Sinai, where the law was given, was a mountain covered in smoke, and Deuteronomy 5:22-23 says it was a 'thick darkness.'

Also, the work of the law is a dark work because the natural man 'cannot understand the things of God, for they are spiritually discerned,' (1 Corinthians 2:14), nor can the natural man perform the commandments, so it is a place of seeming hopelessness.

This is a place of darkness as well, in the sense that God is hidden by the law. It is not that He cannot be seen, but He is unapproachable because of the law. The law becomes a barrier, if you will. God is shut up, so to speak, in the law. Referring again to Mount Sinai, no one could approach the mountain test they should 'break through' (Exodus 19:21-24) and be destroyed. If we look at Exodus 20:18, we can see that the people 'removed, and stood afar off.' So it was dark due to distance. Since God is light, one who is removed from Him must, of necessity, be said to be in darkness.

As a result of this work of the law, in the eyes of the individual coming to the Lord, God is against him. Not only does God seem to be against this one, it is a continual thing. Note the phrase in verse three - 'all the day.' This speaks not of the whole of one day, but all day, every day. The Hebrew word is translated 'daily,' 'ever,' 'continually,' and 'always,' as well. Verses three through seventeen give a great detailed description of the condition of this individual.

God is nowhere to be found for this individual. The heavens are as brass when he tries to pray, he is physically affected to some degree, and barren and empty inside. He is a reproach to those around him due to his condition, and any goodness he saw in life previous to this time is perished from sight. Life is vain and empty. He comes to a place where all strength is gone and any hope of getting out is perished. This is LOSTNESS.

The work of the law does not produce this condition in an individual, but rather manifests it to him. That is, it becomes evident to this individual that such is his true state. It becomes undeniably clear. Man in his natural state is lost, and may even acknowledge the fact when taught spiritual truths. But mere knowledge of this truth and the confession of one's belief in the fact, is a far different place than where the individuals who truly find themselves described in these verses in the third chapter of Lamentations find themselves.

Many in our Baptist churches, even those who have been members for years, have given assent to the fact that all mankind is lost apart from Christ, but that assent alone is not sufficient to produce salvation and reconcile one to God.

We also see in this passage that the individual led by God through the work of the law is humbled by the affliction he has been put through. It is significant to note how much space is given to the description of this work compared to what follows in the conciliatory work of God. This is due to man's pride and resistance to the Holy Spirit and spiritual things. It is only almighty God who is able to overcome man's pride. Some men may be able to mask their pride, and even suppress it to some degree, but no man can defeat pride totally. Until one has truly been broken and humbled by the work of the Holy Spirit, there will be no salvation granted.

When the individual who is coming to the Lord is humbled as the one in our text, and when all hope of ever being relieved is taken away, a miraculous shift takes place within him. Verse twenty-one states that something comes to mind at that point, and, according to verse twenty-two, it is the knowledge that only the 'LORD's mercies' and 'compassion' prevent us all from being consumed. Deuteronomy 4:24, and Hebrews 12:29, state that God is a 'consuming fire.' It is a blessing of God that He has hidden His countenance from the natural man lest he perish in an instant. Affliction becomes a blessing when one discovers that the alternative is destruction without remedy!

Verse twenty-three must be taken in tandem with verse three. It is true that God puts the lost one through great affliction,, but at the same time it is not so severe as to destroy that individual. Note verse thirty-two - '...though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies.' This thought, according to verse twenty-one, produces hope in the individual being brought to God, despite the affliction he has had to endure. Where there was no hope in verse eighteen, this miraculous shift due to correct thinking, or repentance, brings a confidence that God may indeed be found.

When one arrives here, he realizes, as Paul stated in Romans 2:4, '...the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance.' God is actually being good by convicting the individual of sin and showing him his true condition, for it is only then that one will have sufficient desire to properly seek a Saviour. It is the goodness of God that produces a correct mind-set. It is God who works in one to cause him to 'will and to do of his good pleasure.' The hope that God has given the one pictured in the text is born not out of a confidence in God's mercy and compassion alone, but also in the knowledge that the Lord is faithful, and will be good to all who wait on Him. God wants to be the 'portion,' of those who seek Him. The word portion means 'share, award, inheritance,' or 'possession.' David understood this, for he said in Psalm 142:5, 'I cried unto thee, O LORD: I said, Thou [art] my refuge [and] my portion in the land of the living.' Notice David said the LORD was his portion 'in the land of the living.' When salvation is granted, one has been awarded God!

As a result of the confidence worked in the individual coming to the Lord, he is then satisfied to 'both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD,' and even to confess that '[it is] good' to do so.

One might ask at this point, 'Why must one wait on salvation?' Several things account for this.

First, as we have already pointed out, there has to be a lot worked into and out of an individual before he is ready to be saved. Until all that has to be worked has been completed, the individual must endure that which is causing grief. Salvation depends, in part, on how strong one's will is and how much they resist the work of God.

Timing is also important to salvation. Time means little to the Lord, and one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. But we need only look at Acts 17:25-26 to see that timing is critical to God. This verse tells us that God '...hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:'

Here we see that much planning and work has gone into getting individuals to the place where they are to be saved. Space prohibits giving great detail in this regards, but the reader is encouraged to look at Ephesians 1:3-14, Hebrews 1:1-2, Romans 5:6, to see how God has worked to bring individuals to salvation. Also look at 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, regarding setting individuals in the local church, and Romans 10:15, regarding a God sent preacher, and it becomes clear that there are other reasons salvation must be waited on.

God moves in the affairs of men to get them to the time and place where they fit into His plan. The Bible speaks of this as Sovereignty; some may call it Destiny, others Fate. Whatever one labels it, it is the Lord working all things after the council of His own will.

Verse twenty-six makes it plain, salvation is 'of the LORD,' that is, it is His, and He must give it. Jonah found this out in the whale's belly and proclaimed it in Jonah 2:9. We find in Ephesians 2:8-9, that salvation is a result of the gift of faith given to man by God's grace. One must wait on salvation because God must grant it, and He first must work a repentant altitude as we have seen previously. Jonah repented only after he waited in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, and after he came to the point of death.

How one waits is further shown in verses twenty-eight through thirty of our text. It is said that this individual 'sitteth alone.' On this Gill reflects, '[He] retires from the world, and the men of it, who takes upon him the yoke of Christ; though he is not alone, but God, Father, Son, and Spirit, are with him; and he is with the saints, the excellent of the earth, and has communion with them; and so he is that under the afflicting hand of God bears it patiently, and does not run from place to place complaining of it, but sits still, and considers the cause, end, and use of it. Some render the words in connection with the preceding, it is good 'that he sit alone' it is good for a man to be alone; in his closet, praying to God; in his house or chamber, reading the word of God; in the field, or elsewhere, meditating upon it, and upon the works of God, of nature, providence, and grace:'

The one coming to the Lord 'keepeth silence because he hath borne [it] upon him,' as well. Again, Gill comments, 'or, 'took it on him;' either because he took it upon him willingly, and therefore should bear it patiently; or because he (God) hath put it upon him, and therefore should be silent, and not murmur and repine, since he hath done it.' David spoke of this in Psalm 39:9.

As a result of, and as evidence of, this humbling work, he 'puts his mouth in the dust,' with the hope of reward from God. This is not so much a physical act, as it is a spiritual attitude. The individual coming to the Lord gets low before Him in an attitude of reverence.

There is a 'giving of his cheek to him that smiteth him.' One evidence of a repentant heart is willingness to voluntarily receive reproof and chastisement. Proverbs 13:18 says, 'Poverty and shame shall be to him that refuseth instruction: but he that regardeth reproof shall be honoured.' And Proverbs 15:5 says, 'A fool despiseth his father's instruction: but he that regardeth reproof is prudent.' One meaning of the word regardeth, is to 'celebrate.' If one celebrates a thing, he is giving himself to it. Solomon says this person is prudent and shall be honored. This person, then, is one who is doing the right thing and will be honored or rewarded with that which he seeks.

We read further, that this one coming to the Lord is 'filled full with reproach.' He despises himself and his sinful condition. He loathes the fact that he was an enemy of God; it is said he is 'filled,' and more, he is 'filled full' with reproach. Similarly, if we look to Paul's second epistle to the Corinthians, we see that one result of repentance was an 'indignation,' - not toward God, but self. This is a comparable attitude.

We alluded earlier to verse thirty-two, and the fact that the recollection of this and other things produced hope in the individual. Verses thirty-three and thirty-four affirm that the reason the Lord will have compassion is because His desire is not to afflict and grieve mankind to the extent that they be crushed under His feet. The Lord afflicts men because of their rebellion and sin, but with the desire that they repent and be reconciled to Him.

Verses thirty-five and thirty-six close out this paragraph by pointing out that, even in the worldly realm, God does not approve of one 'turning aside another' in that which is their right to do, or in subverting a man in his cause. The words 'cause,' and 'right,' both have to do with legal proceedings or disputes, and the words 'pervert,' and 'turn aside' both carry the meaning of bending or leading one out of their way in such proceedings and disputes, in other words, God will not thwart the efforts of an individual who wants to settle the proceedings against them, but will do all that is necessary to aid and promote such a settlement to the good of the individual.

All that has been done by the Lord is to actually bring the individual to the place of true salvation and a place of reconciliation. He will perform that which He has purposed to do.

If you can trace your experience through this passage, be assured it is a result of the work of God in your life and salvation is truly 'of the Lord.' If there is no evidence of this in your experience, please prayerfully examine whether you have really come to a place of genuine salvation that is 'of the Lord.'

May the Lord bless you.
J. M. Grapp

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