The words of the weeping prophet in this chapter are somewhat more general than those in the foregoing one, in order to make them suitable for the use of various individuals in their prayer-closet, as well as for the public assembly of the Lord’s people. The words are easily adaptable to the various situations of trouble that the children of God may find themselves in. In these complaints, Jeremiah stands not only as an intercessor for Israel, but also as a picture of the Lord Jesus; for He, above all others, was the Man of sorrow Who was often in tears – and to Him, many of the passages herein may be very properly applied.
This third song consists of three parts. In the first of them (verses 1-18), the prophet describes personal sufferings. He saw great trials, and experienced terrible misery; and he states that his afflictions were a result of the rod of the Lord’s wrath, which only added bitterness to the affliction. The Lord does sometimes send chastisements upon His people; however, they do not take the form of a sword to cut off, but only that of a rod to correct. Although this rod of chastisement may seem grievous for the present, the result will be much more to our profit than we could ever imagine. And it is a comforting thought when we remember that the Lord’s anger is mild and His affliction is mixed with mercy. But as we meditate upon the many things that are here said in this first section of the chapter, we consider how Jeremiah truly was a mournful Prophet; but Jesus, as the Head and Representative of His people, is the only One Who could ultimately say, “I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath!” (See Psalm 22:1-31; Psalm 69; Hebrews 5:7.) He is the One Who endured the wrath of the Almighty God, which was due to us for the sins that we had committed. Although Jeremiah’s words here may be interpreted as coming from the lips of the people of God; yet Jesus, as the Head of His Church, is eminently the primary mourner here.
In the second part of this poem of lament (verses 19-41), the prophet begins to pray. The morning-light dawns in his soul, and the day of hope in Divine mercy gradually rises upon his sorrowful mind. How beautiful is his language! “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness!” (verses 22-23) These sublime verses hardly need any commentary upon them! We can only join our voices with the prophet as he speaks them, and bow our heads in gratitude and amazement as we contemplate their meaning.
But what was it that caused such a change in the prophet’s thoughts? What caused his thoughts to shift from meditations upon his afflictions, to contemplations of the Lord’s faithful love and mercy? The answer is found in verse 21: “This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope!” All too frequently, memory is the slave of despondency. Despairing minds call to remembrance every dark foreboding in the past, and dilate upon every gloomy feature in the present. However, there is no necessity for this, for wisdom can easily transform memory into an angel of comfort! That same recollection which brings so many gloomy thoughts in its left hand may also be trained to bear in its right a wealth of hopeful anticipations. She need not wear a crown of iron; for she may encircle her brow with a tiara of gold, all spangled with stars. As a general principle, if we wish to use our memories more wisely, we might – in our very darkest distress – strike a match which would instantaneously kindle the lamp of comfort. If we would turn to the Book of truth and the throne of grace, our candle would soon shine as brightly as in previous times. Let us remember the lovingkindness of the Lord, and rehearse His deeds of grace! Let us open the Volume of recollection, which is so richly illuminated with memorials of mercy; and we shall soon be happy.
But now the prophet rises into a moment’s rapture! He acknowledges Jehovah as the portion of his soul, and declares that He is good to all those who seek Him (verses 24-25). “Therefore,” he says, “it is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord” (verse 26). How lofty is this thought, and how full of consolation it is to the believer in all ages! Nothing higher is to be found, even in the Psalms; and if the sorrowful prophet could have kept his foot upon this elevated mountain, he would have soon forgotten the calamities of his times.
The rest of this chapter (verses 42-66) contains the prophet’s prayer. Verse 42 begins with emphatic confession, but then Jeremiah declares how it seemed that the Lord had not pardoned His people; He had poured out His anger upon them, and He had allowed them to be oppressed and slain. To the human eye, it seemed as if He had covered Himself with impenetrable clouds, which no prayer could pass through. Then follows another strain of the most sorrowful lamentations. Very piteous indeed are some of the expressions which are found in this section. But it is not only to his personal sufferings that Jeremiah refers – not even in verses 52 and 53. He is also referring to those miseries that his people were undergoing. And he closes with a prayer for deliverance from their enemies, and for their utter extermination from under the heavens!
Lord, we pray for grace when we are under afflictions, that we may turn from our griefs to behold Your compassions and mercies that are new every morning! Amen.
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