“The Lord is good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly for Him, to those who seek Him [inquire of and for Him and require Him by right of necessity and on the authority of God’s word.] (Lamentations 3:25, AMPC)
Learning to meditate. “God is good to those who wait on Him, so it is good to wait quietly for the Lord. God is good to those who wait on Him, so it is good to wait quietly for the Lord. God is good to those. . . “
I stood at the counter, unplugging my phone from the charger, glancing at the folded sheet of notebook paper. “God is good to those. . .” I slung my purse over my shoulder, tucked my lunch bag under my arm, walked to the rocker to kiss Barny on his furry head, then stepped out the door and down the stairs. “The Lord is good to. . .? The Lord is good to . . . ? ”
What was that next phrase?” By then I was on the sidewalk and could safely glance at the paper in my hand. “Oh, yes, “to those who wait quietly for Him.” Once in the car, I set the paper on the passenger seat, ready for quick glances at stoplights. By the time I arrived at work, I had it memorized so that in free moments at the copier, walking to the bathroom, and waiting on hold I repeated, “God is good to those who wait on Him, so it is good to wait quietly for the Lord, God is good. . .” Then back home alone with Barny that evening, the truth of God’s Word continued to silence the now-faint echoes of howling sadness and despair that had tormented heart and mind for so long.
“Washing with water through the Word” (Ephesians 5:26, NIV) Three years ago, I was just learning how to “delight in the law of the Lord and meditate on His law day and night” (Psalm 1:2, NIV) as I climbed out of a three-year pit of depression. Through these last three years, the Living Water of the Word has, through constant meditation and delighting in His law, washed away most of the enemy’s grime and mud (though my dusty, dusty feet require daily, thorough washing, as Jesus said in John 13:10!) To learn more about the life-changing habit of meditation that healed my heart of life-long recurring depression, see “Diligent Meditation” on the Books and More page of this website.
In this series of blog posts, we will consider the book of Lamentations, specifically Chapter 3, which is the location of the blessed and well-known truth that:
“It is because of the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great and abundant is Your stability and faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23, AMPC)
Outline of Part One:
- Lamentations – light for the dark affliction of our present world
- Background and context
- Topical outline of Lamentations
- Chapters One and Two
- Chapter Three – Hoping in a special way
- Verses 1- 18 – The afflictions Jeremiah saw “under the rod of God’s wrath” were so terrible that he was weak and had lost all hope
Lamentations – light for the dark affliction of our present world. I have seldom heard sermons on any portion of Lamentations except the well-known Chapter 3:22-23. Nor do I often hear fellow believers speak of Lamentations. Possibly this is because sorrow gushes forth, as the writer wails, moans and weeps over Zion. Who wants to feel sad? However, the light that comes from the truth in Lamentations pierces the darkness of our present world, showing us what steps to take this moment and illuminating the next few steps along the path, God wants us to take. (“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”, Psalm 119:105, AMPC)
Lamentations models a godly attitude toward affliction, whether that affliction comes because of God’s loving discipline, our own sin, the sin of people to whom we are connected, or the sin of our nation and the world. The writer of Lamentations (believed to be Jeremiah) suffered staggering personal afflictions, as did most Old Testament prophets. He lived in the besieged city of Jerusalem, which was eventually destroyed and its inhabitants taken into exile.
Let’s reflect on Jeremiah’s situation then consider the steps that led him to patient waiting and expectant hope, so that we too may abide in that sheltering place of constant peace under the Shadow of the Almighty whose power no foe can withstand – not covid, not stolen elections, not wicked leaders, not inflation, neither “wars and rumors of wars” (Matthew 24:6-8)!
Background and context. The last chapter of the book of Jeremiah gives the background for Lamentations. In Jeremiah 52, Jerusalem fell to King Nebuchadnezzar, and the Temple, every important building and all the walls of Jerusalem on every side were destroyed. Only some of the poorest people were left behind “to work the vineyards and fields” (Jeremiah 52:16, NIV). The rest of the people, 4,600 in all, were carried into exile in Babylon. Below is a one-paragraph summary of the book of Lamentations (Halley’s Bible handbook, page 409):
“This short book is Jeremiah’s lament over the city he had done his best to save. Yet, in his sorrow he also expresses his faith that Jerusalem will rise again from its ruins (3:21, 31-32). Jerusalem did indeed rise and gave its name to the capital of a redeemed world of eternal glory, the New Jerusalem (Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 21:2).”
Halley comments that the Hebrew Old Testament placed the book of Lamentations “in a group of books called . . . Writings, to which belong the Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Esther.” These books were read at different feasts and “to this day, the book of Lamentations is read in synagogues throughout the world, wherever there are Jews, on the ninth day of the fourth month, the day of fasting that commemorates the fall of the temple (Jeremiah 52:6).”
I believe one reason God arranged this was so that His people would hear the message of these books at least once a year. These five books speak of the blazing love of God for His people and the sovereignty of His loving providence for those who love and follow Him. Surely, surely we need these reminders now!
Topical Outline of Lamentations. The outline below combines headings for the book of Lamentations from the NASB, NLT and AMP translations.
- Chapter 1 The suffering, ruin, and sorrow of Zion (Jerusalem)
- Chapter 2 God’s anger at Israel’s sin
- Chapter 3 Jeremiah, the suffering representative of afflicted Zion, shares Israel’s affliction but hopes for relief in God’s mercy and faithfulness.
- Chapter 4 God’s anger is satisfied in the horrors of the seige of Zion
- Chapter 5 Jeremiah pleas for restoration and mercy.
Chapters One and Two. Take time now to prayerfully read Chapters One and Two. A shallow reading will cut a shallow furrow and seeds may or may not sprout in the field of your heart. However, attentive, scrutiny of Israel’s and Jeremiah’s afflictions will stir compassion and likely stir thoughts of your own afflictions. I pray that will compel you, like Jeremiah, to cry aloud for understanding, so that you may, like Jeremiah, find strength to wait and hope with confident expectation for your own needs.
In sum, Chapters One and Two, tell of the time of deep sorrow when “. . . the Lord did just as He planned . . . and fulfilled the promises of disaster He made long ago. . . and destroyed Jerusalem without mercy” (2:17) because of her stubborn refusal to turn from her many sins.
As you read, pause and reflect, briefly, on your own needs and the troubles of our present world, which are afflicting us all. Then, step into the blessed hope shining in Chapter 3.
Chapter Three — Hoping – in a special way. In Chapter Three, Jeremiah, the suffering representative of afflicted Zion, shares Israel’s affliction but hopes for relief in God’s mercy and faithfulness. So must we actively hope for relief in God’s mercy and faithfulness—while in the midst of affliction. And this applies whether affliction comes because of God’s loving discipline, our own sin, the sin of people to whom we are connected, or the sin of our nation and the world. The first 24 verses of Lamentations 3 show us that the afflictions Jeremiah saw under the “rod of God’s wrath” (the destruction of Jerusalem) were so terrible that he had become weak and lost all hope. Yet, there was hope of relief in God’s mercy.
As we look at Chapter Three in detail, it will benefit you greatly to read the verses carefully and take time to think about them prayerfully. God’s Word is alive (Hebrews 4:12) and God uses His Word to minister to us individually.
Read Verses 1-18: The afflictions Jeremiah saw “under the rod of God’s wrath” were so terrible that he was weak and had lost all hope. In verses 1-18, Jeremiah says God has put him into darkness, rejected and shattered him, hemmed him in, and made him desolate. These “arrows of His quiver” have become part of his very heart. People mock him, and God has made his soul suffer as if bereaved (which indeed it was as he witnessed utter destruction of the city and people he loved and to whom he had faithfully, earnestly delivered God’s messages to repent). Peace is far from him, he has “forgotten what goodness and happiness are” and he has no strength. He says, “Everything I had hoped for from the Lord is lost” (v. 18b, NLT).
I think most of us, we common, fragile “jars of clay” fashioned by God’s own loving hand (2 Corinthians 4:7) reach this point. I have. So, what does the Word tell us to do? Turn to Him!
In Part Two, we will see that remembering all the past troubles makes Jeremiah sad but recalling God’s mercy and lovingkindness gives him hope so that his heart is strengthened to choose God and that, because of that, Jeremiah can wait.