I am the man who has seen affliction
by the rod of the Lord’s wrath.
2 He has driven me away and made me walk
in darkness rather than light;
3 indeed, he has turned his hand against me
again and again, all day long.
4 He has made my skin and my flesh grow old
and has broken my bones.
5 He has besieged me and surrounded me
with bitterness and hardship.
6 He has made me dwell in darkness
like those long dead.
7 He has walled me in so I cannot escape;
he has weighed me down with chains.
8 Even when I call out or cry for help,
he shuts out my prayer.
9 He has barred my way with blocks of stone;
he has made my paths crooked.
10 Like a bear lying in wait,
like a lion in hiding,
11 he dragged me from the path and mangled me
and left me without help.
12 He drew his bow
and made me the target for his arrows.
13 He pierced my heart
with arrows from his quiver.
14 I became the laughingstock of all my people;
they mock me in song all day long.
15 He has filled me with bitter herbs
and given me gall to drink.
16 He has broken my teeth with gravel;
he has trampled me in the dust.
17 I have been deprived of peace;
I have forgotten what prosperity is.
18 So I say, “My splendor is gone
and all that I had hoped from the Lord.”
19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke
while he is young.
For many years, in churches across our land, we have sung the beautiful worship song: ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases’. But we have no doubt rarely considered the context in which these verses are found in ‘Lamentations.’ Up to verse 21ff, the mood of the chapter is one of deep gloom. Jeremiah had (prophetically) foreseen the judgment to fall on Judah; and then he had seen it at close hand – all of the death and destruction. He felt like a man whose prayers were not answered (8,9).
In verses 19,20 I note that what we focus on affects our emotions and attitudes. ”For as he thinks within himself, so he is’ (Prov.23:7).
But I also observe that in the middle of dire circumstances:
- Jeremiah chooses to remember differently (21-23). Everything in the chapter turns on the little word ”Yet.” When he thought about negative things it did not do him any good. But then he decided to remember the truth about God;
- Jeremiah decides to adopt a one day at a time perspective: ”They are new every morning” (23a);
- Jeremiah preaches to himself (24-27). He counsels himself. As the psalmist often does, he speaks to his own soul.
What are you fixating on today that is ruinous to your mental, emotional and spiritual health? What truth do you need to speak into your own soul – and believe?!!