“And I said, my strength and my hope is perished from the Lord: Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall. My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me. This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. 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. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.” (Lamentations 6:18-26)
BACKGROUND TO THE TEXT
The Lamentations of Jeremiah give us an account of a man enduring the wrath of God because of the sin of the people. It is not as though we have a great history of Jeremiah’s sins, yet he partakes of the Lord’s chastening without justifying himself or condemning God. Rather, with his lamentations he partakes of the blessedness of they “that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst” of Jerusalem (Ezek 9:4).
His lamentations are not because he feels that the people are being unjustly afflicted. He is not “blaming God” or merely complaining – as is common among those living after the flesh. He, like our Lord will years later, is mourning the state of the people in their devotion to God. Furthermore, he does not hide his sorrow but makes it known that the people too would behold their own condition and repent.
The Lord is righteous; for I have rebelled against His commandment: hear, I pray you, all people, and behold my sorrow, my virgins and my young men are gone into captivity. (Lam 1:18)
The Lamentations of Jeremiah show us just how indignant God is with sinful people. He tells of how God has become as an enemy; how His bow is bent and the people are a target for His arrow; he God has even destroyed His own sanctuary and His own people.
The Lord was as an enemy: he hath swallowed up Israel, he hath swallowed up all her palaces: he hath destroyed his strong holds, and hath increased in the daughter of Judah mourning and lamentation. And he hath violently taken away his tabernacle, as if it were of a garden: he hath destroyed his places of the assembly: the Lord hath caused the solemn feasts and sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion, and hath despised in the indignation of his anger the king and the priest. The Lord hath cast off his altar, he hath abhorred his sanctuary, he hath given up into the hand of the enemy the walls of her palaces; they have made a noise in the house of the Lord, as in the day of a solemn feast. The Lord hath purposed to destroy the wall of the daughter of Zion: he hath stretched out a line, he hath not withdrawn his hand from destroying: therefore he made the rampart and the wall to lament; they languished together. Her gates are sunk into the ground; he hath destroyed and broken her bars: her king and her princes are among the Gentiles: the law is no more; her prophets also find no vision from the Lord. The elders of the daughter of Zion sit upon the ground, and keep silence: they have cast up dust upon their heads; they have girded themselves with sackcloth: the virgins of Jerusalem hang down their heads to the ground. (Lamentations 2:5-10)
In the Lamentations we also what it looks like to confess your sins and plea for forgiveness.
…Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord. Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens. We have transgressed and have rebelled: thou hast not pardoned. Thou hast covered with anger, and persecuted us: thou hast slain, thou hast not pitied. Thou hast covered thyself with a cloud, that our prayer should not pass through. Thou hast made us as the offscouring and refuse in the midst of the people. All our enemies have opened their mouths against us. Fear and a snare is come upon us, desolation and destruction. Mine eye runneth down with rivers of water for the destruction of the daughter of my people. Mine eye trickleth down, and ceaseth not, without any intermission. Till the Lord look down, and behold from heaven. Mine eye affecteth mine heart because of all the daughters of my city. Mine enemies chased me sore, like a bird, without cause. They have cut off my life in the dungeon, and cast a stone upon me. Waters flowed over mine head; then I said, I am cut off. I called upon thy name, O Lord, out of the low dungeon. Thou hast heard my voice: hide not thine ear at my breathing, at my cry. Thou drewest near in the day that I called upon thee: thou saidst, Fear not. O Lord, thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul; thou hast redeemed my life. (Lamentations 3:40-58)
It is good for us to be acquainted with this kind of grief; grief over sin and it’s horrific effects. Righteous men will be broken as they behold the infirmity of their own flesh and the offensiveness of their sin toward God. This, too, is a blessed condition for the broken and contrite heart will never be refused by our merciful God. His compassions fail not!
HOPE KNOWS THERE IS A BETTER DAY COMING
In all of this affliction, hope is still able to rise up and overcome. Hope does not just look for better days, it knows that the Lord is good and will reward those who call on His name. Faith and hope both trust in the righteousness of God who brings both calamity and relief. He alone is the One with Whom men have to do. Knowing Him is critical in the time of chastening – otherwise we would despair.
Jeremiah wasn’t the only prophet who knew that of the tender mercies of God. He was not the only man living by hope. Consider these expressions:
“O Lord, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.” (Hab 3:2)
“…in my wrath I smote thee, but in my favour have I had mercy on thee.” (Isa 60:10)
“For the Lord hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God. For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer.” (Isa 54:6-8)
Humility Precedes Hope. The psalmist exhorted his own soul, that was cast down and disquieted, to hope in God (Ps 42:5,11). This state of being cast down is a sort of prerequisite to hope (at least initially). Hope is convinced of something better up ahead. So, of necessity the current state is inferior to the one to come. This understanding; this humility precedes the ministry of hope. Where men are proud or perceive their current state to be the echelon of their existence…to make this a bit more contemporary…if they think they are living their best life NOW, hope will have no ministry. Hope ministers to us when we are convinced that God will bring the remedy to our current state.
We are currently living in “the body of our humble state” (Php 3:21, NASB). That is, what we are now is not the final product of God’s work – and we know it. So, as a result of this and in strict accord with God’s purpose, we are saved by hope (Rom 8:24).
“For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of Him who hath subjected the same in hope” (Rom 8:20).
Until we put on immortality and are caught up in the air to be forever with the Lord, we are in a state of humility. Embrace it. Now is a day of hope. For when we do put on incorruption, we will no longer hope, “for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?”
Jeremiah’s expressions were not only for his time and experience, they are for all them that believe. All those who will inherit the kingdom of God will endure their own measure of suffering as a result of sin. But they will also be able to fellowship in the full assurance of hope because God is working salvation in the midst of this corrupt earth. Therefore sayeth the leaders of God’s people, “Let Israel hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption” (Ps 130:7)
YOUR MEMORY IS A STEWARDSHIP
The memory is vital to godly living. Men must remember the promises of the Lord in order to walk by faith. They must remember the wages reaped from iniquity in order to not follow after the flesh as in times past. And they must remember the provisions of the Lord in order to hope in His faithfulness. It is right that men to “set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments” (Ps 78:7)
In Lamentations chapter 3, Jeremiah speaks of remembering his “affliction…misery…wormwood…and gall.” While this is necessary to maintain a necessary humility, it could also cause unnecessary despair if it was all that he remembered. But alas, his memory served him well. He, like all the household of faith did not only remember his frailty but was also able to “recall to…mind” that the Lord is merciful and abundant in goodness and truth. The memory of the promises of God will cause you to withstand the evil day and be hopeful for the brightness of tomorrow.
In view of the ministry of remembrance consider some these things that the people of God have been called upon to “Remember”
- “Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy” (Exod 20:8)
- “Thou shalt remember the Lord thy God; for it is He that giveth thee power” (Deut 8:18)
- “Remember, and forget not, how thou provokedst the Lord thy God to wrath” (Deut 9:7)
- “Remember Lot’s wife” (Lk 17:32)
- “He is not here, but is risen: remember how He spake unto you…” (Lk 24:6)
- “These things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember” (Jn 16:4)
- “Remember the poor” (Gal 2:20)
- “Remember my bonds” (Col 4:18)
- “Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead” (2 Tim 2:8)
- “Remember them which have the rule over you” (Heb 13:7)
- “Remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles” (Jude 17)
- “Remember…from whence thou art fallen and repent” (Rev 2:5)
- “Do this in remembrance of Me”
All of these things and more are given as things to remember in order to provoke holy living. The memory serves as a tool of reasoning from the past in order to rightly navigate the present day. In the words of the Spirit, “experience works hope” (Rom 5:4)!
JEREMIAH: NOT “POSITIVE THINKING” BUT PERCEPTIVE OF REALITY
When Jeremiah is able to see that “it is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed,” he is expressing the truth of the matter. The flesh is tempted to “look on the bright side” or “find something positive” in our circumstances. And while we are not opposed to this, I think this is a misrepresentation of the case. This is nothing more than the application of psychological terms and reasoning to spiritual realities.
Here is the truth: all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The fact that any of us have remained on the earth long enough to receive the atonement is a product of the abundant mercies of our righteous God. Jeremiah perceived this and perceived that the Lord is good to those of a broken and contrite heart that is penitent and hopeful in this quality of God.
By way of contrast, no unbelievers see God this way. They do not see God as merciful. Instead they blame God as if He is unrighteous to allow them to feel any discomfort.
THE DAILY PROVISIONS OF MERCY
“…they are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness”
Like the manna preserved in the ark of the covenant was a reminder of the provision of God in the wilderness, so the daily compassions and patience of the Lord is a reminder of His faithfulness and purpose to save. We can wake up every morning hopeful that we are alive and God is working in us both to will and do of His good pleasure.
With God, the fountain of compassion never fails; but let us be hopeful and not presumptuous. Hope, remember, is the commodity of the humble and contrite. The proud will not find a God who is willing to give grace but rather a God who is ready to cast them down. “Humble yourselves,” therefore, “under the mighty hand of God and He will exalt you in due time.”
The Gospel: Enemies Because of Sin – Reconciled by Christ. Remembering your affliction will bring despair while remembering God will bring hope. The gospel is a reminder not of your work but of God’s. The gospel is a message of hope. It is a message of pardon, forgiveness, and acceptance. It is the announcement that sin has been forever taken away and as a result, God is righteously pleased with believing men. The manner of the people is no longer mourning, lamentation and woe, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Where once we had the words of Jeremiah, “The joy of our heart is ceased; our dance is turned into mourning” (Lam 5:15); David’s words are now more appropriate, “Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness to the end that my glory may sing praise to the and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto Thee for ever” (Ps 30:11-12).
God is not our enemy anymore. He is not wroth with us anymore. Instead, He is our Savior and the Savior of all men, being merciful beyond comprehension. And in all of this God has not changed – rather, Jesus has taken away our sin.
For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (Romans 5:10)
THE LORD IS GOOD TO THEM…
Them That Wait for Him. Hope provokes holiness. It knows that the Lord is good to those that wait for HIm. Those who believe on the Lord do not make haste. They do not go out in their own reasoning and their own strength. They suffer with patience; trusting that the Lord’s direction will, in the end, turn out for their salvation. He is good to these people.
The Soul that Seeks Him. Many times we do not know the specific direction that God has given us or is leading us in a matter. But those who wait for Him must also seek Him; for this always promises to be beneficial.
It is good for men to seek the Lord and even to ask Him what to do. Remember, King Jehoshaphat said, “We don’t know what to do but our eyes are on you.” He was waiting and seeking the Lord.
Those that Hope and Quietly Wait for Salvation. True hope is not in future events or a change in circumstance. True hope is in God. It is a persuasion that HE will bring salvation. The hope of remembrance is the remembrance of God. When all around you seems chaotic, tumultuous and justly difficult; Remember the Lord – HE is good to those who wait for Him, seek Him and are convinced of His salvation.
“Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear Him, upon them that hope in His mercy; to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waiteth for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in Him, because we have trusted in His holy name. Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, according as we hope in Thee.” (Psalm 33:18-22)