In this third chapter of the book of Lamentations,
we have, in the words of 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 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 LORDs 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 107:9-12, and stated in Romans 7:7-13 and II 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.
Then too, the work of the law is a dark work because the natural man cannot understand the things of God, for they are spiritually discerned (I 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, if you will, in the law. Referring again to Mount Sinai, no one could approach the mountain lest 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 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 ones belief in the fact, is a far different place than where the individual who truly finds themself described in these verses in the third chapter of Lamentations is.
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 mans pride and resistance to the Holy Spirit and spiritual things. It is only almighty God who is able to overcome mans 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 LORDs 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 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, they realize, as Paul stated in Romans 2:4, ...the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance. God is actually being good by convicting individuals of sin and showing them their true condition, for it only them 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 them to will and to do of his good pleasure.
The hope that God has given the individual pictured in the text is born not only out of a confidence in Gods mercy and compassion, but 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 it to be performed. Salvation depends, in part, on how strong ones 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 an individual 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 I 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 whales 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 Gods grace. One must wait on salvation because God must grant it, and He first must work a repentant attitude 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 the humbling of this one, 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 fathers 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 Pauls 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-three 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.
If one can trace their testimony experience through this passage, they can be assured it is a result of the work of God in their life and salvation is truly of the Lord. If there is no evidence of this in ones testimony experience, I would advise them to prayerfully examine whether they have really come to a place of genuine salvation. May God bless you. - J.M.G.