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The Metre changes here. The letters of the Hebrew alphabet, twenty two in number, begin three hemistichs, which make sixty six verses. It would look better, and read more poetically, if the hemistichs formed distinct lines, as in other poetry. The prophet commences with the idea of a prisoner, sitting in darkness, and bound with a chain. As Jeremiah intended this poem to be set to music, it was proper to preserve the rhythm and spirit of poetic composition.
Lamentations 3:1 . I am the man that hath seen affliction. God had made him the first of prophets to Israel, and the adjacent nations; by consequence, as a shepherd, he had charge of the sheep. In him therefore the phrases are proper, My children my virgins are gone into captivity. The strokes of his burning wrath have often been repeated, and Psalms 102:0. contains similar sentiments. Sanctius notes here, that Jeremiah was a type of Christ, which many of the fathers had noted before. But our unitarian philosophy cautions us against this imbecility, that Jeremiah in all his book never once refers to Christ. Why should he? If “Jesus,” as Dr. Priestley says, “was the legitimate son of Joseph and Mary,” such a Jesus could do nothing for him, neither for us. See Henry Scougal’s sermon on Lamentations 1:12; and the notes on Jeremiah 23:6; Jeremiah 31:22.
Lamentations 3:15 . He hath made me drunk with wormwood. This is a frequent figure, but mostly applied to the wicked; as when the Moabites slaughtered one another to escape from Gideon. In the crisis of impetuous passions, the understanding is borne away with the torrent.
Lamentations 3:22-23 . It is of the Lord’s mercies, that the remnant is not consumed. These are new every morning. As the return of day makes us a new present of creation, so after a dark cloud he lifts upon us the light of his countenance.
Lamentations 3:26 . It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord. Our anchor is sure, the cable will never part by strong gales. Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness. Zion was rebuilt, a favour which Babylon could not boast. The Jews returned with all the vessels of gold and silver, which the Chaldeans had taken away.
Lamentations 3:31-32 . The Lord will not cast off for ever. Here is the reason why the church should hope and quietly wait. Men’s words are but breath, but the promises of God are realities. He will have compassion, according to the multitude of his mercies, and according to the fulness of his promises.
Lamentations 3:33 . He doth not afflict willingly. He could not allow the Jews to go on in full revolt. Think of this, oh thou who canst prostitute all his mercies to satiate thy lusts. Thy day shall surely come.
Lamentations 3:39 . Wherefore doth a living man complain. His punishment is always less than his sins. Perhaps his afflictions check him from other crimes, which might complete his ruin.
Lamentations 3:41 . Let us lift up our hearts with unity to God. Let us quarrel no longer with his rod; then all heaven will be engaged in our defence; and like the soaring eagle, we leave all dangers far behind.
Lamentations 3:44 . Thou hast covered thyself with a cloud, that our prayers should not pass through. The French refugees, weeping in exile for their martyrs, and for their demolished temples, often quote these words in their sermons; but after a lapse of years the cloud which brightened on Zion, has brightened on them also. Napolean gave them a college at Montauban, and a seat in the senate.
Lamentations 3:58 . Oh Lord, thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul. Thus hope opened for Zion at last. No man cries to God in vain; for though the prophet could not then have the favour he asked, he got a new pledge of it in his heart.
Lamentations 3:61-66 . Thou hast heard their reproach, oh Lord. The men that obstructed my ministry, cast me into prison, and sought my life. Requite them, oh Lord, according to their works. Though St. Paul cites these words against Alexander, who sought to destroy him; yet from Jesus, full of truth and grace, we hear the voice, “bless and curse not.”
Here we have another most beautiful and impressive poem. It discovers a wounded and pensive mind, highly impressed with the deep ways of providence. It opens with a general view of Jeremiah’s persecution in the ministry, and with his prison-thoughts. I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath; which marks that he had been severely treated while bearing testimony against his country.
As the darkness presedes the breaking of the morning, so good men glean hope while others reap despair. It is, says he, of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed. His mercies and compassions are new every morning. Thus unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness. Like the woman of Canaan, they gather an answer of peace, while others augur a flat denial.
Men who have experienced mercies are the best qualified to comfort others. It is good, says the prophet, that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of God. When praying for the comforts of the Holy Spirit we are to expect present blessings; but when praying for providential mercies, we must quietly wait the Lord’s time. Joseph waited two years in the prison, and David almost seven years in exile; then the Lord did wonders for them both. The vision is for an appointed time, till the wheels of providence bring all things round; then it shall surely speak, and shall not lie.
Numerous other observations seem suggested in this chapter, but we must hasten to say that he was resolved to weep on, and to pray on, till the Lord arose in vengeance to redeem his remnant from their long captivity. Thus joining his faith with an extended hand to the hand of the Messiah, he joined also, if I may so speak, his sorrows to those of the Saviour’s, that in due time the Lord might turn them all to joy. Thus afflictions, which consume the wicked, brighten the saints in the furnace; for by sadness the heart is made better. Thus faith anticipates salvation before it comes: it sees the dark clouds already clearing up: hence we often find the prophets composing songs of deliverance for the church, while in the preseding verses they have been foretelling her sorest afflictions. Confidence in God is more to be desired than a thousand worlds.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Lamentations 3". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26