3 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.
28 Let him sit alone in silence,
for the Lord has laid it on him.
29 Let him bury his face in the dust—
there may yet be hope.
30 Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him,
and let him be filled with disgrace.
31 For no one is cast off
by the Lord forever.
32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love.
33 For he does not willingly bring affliction
or grief to anyone.
34 To crush underfoot
all prisoners in the land,
35 to deny people their rights
before the Most High,
36 to deprive them of justice—
would not the Lord see such things?
37 Who can speak and have it happen
if the Lord has not decreed it?
38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
that both calamities and good things come?
39 Why should the living complain
when punished for their sins?
40 Let us examine our ways and test them,
and let us return to the Lord.
41 Let us lift up our hearts and our hands
to God in heaven, and say:
42 “We have sinned and rebelled
and you have not forgiven.
43 “You have covered yourself with anger and pursued us;
you have slain without pity.
44 You have covered yourself with a cloud
so that no prayer can get through.
45 You have made us scum and refuse
among the nations.
46 “All our enemies have opened their mouths
wide against us.
47 We have suffered terror and pitfalls,
ruin and destruction.”
48 Streams of tears flow from my eyes
because my people are destroyed.
49 My eyes will flow unceasingly,
50 until the Lord looks down
from heaven and sees.
51 What I see brings grief to my soul
because of all the women of my city.
52 Those who were my enemies without cause
hunted me like a bird.
53 They tried to end my life in a pit
and threw stones at me;
54 the waters closed over my head,
and I thought I was about to perish.
55 I called on your name, Lord,
from the depths of the pit.
56 You heard my plea: “Do not close your ears
to my cry for relief.”
57 You came near when I called you,
and you said, “Do not fear.”
58 You, Lord, took up my case;
you redeemed my life.
59 Lord, you have seen the wrong done to me.
Uphold my cause!
60 You have seen the depth of their vengeance,
all their plots against me.
61 Lord, you have heard their insults,
all their plots against me—
62 what my enemies whisper and mutter
against me all day long.
63 Look at them! Sitting or standing,
they mock me in their songs.
64 Pay them back what they deserve, Lord,
for what their hands have done.
65 Put a veil over their hearts,
and may your curse be on them!
66 Pursue them in anger and destroy them
from under the heavens of the Lord.
(Lamentations 3:1-66 NIV)
Like its two predecessors, Chapter 3 is a Hebrew poem that uses an acrostic structure to express the author’s thoughts. Unlike Chapters 1 and 2, Chapter 3 is not a funeral song.
Chapter 3 also has a slightly different acrostic form than chapters 1 and 2. While the number of words in Chapter 3 is about the same as each of its predecessors, the format is different. Chapters 1 and 2 had 22 verses (one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet). Each verse began with the Hebrew letter but had three phrases or thoughts. Chapter three has only one phrase or thought in each verse, but has 66 verses. The acrostic form in Chapter 3 is still present but applies to groups of three verses: verses 1, 2, and 3 each start with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, verses 4, 5, and 6 each start with the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and so on.
While chapters 1 and 2 had multiple voices speaking, Chapter 3 has one voice expressed through the poet as part of the community. Remember that these lamentations were to be used as part of a public worship, commemoration, or ritual. Hence, the usage of both “I” and “we” in the poet’s expression.
Chapter 3 has four distinct sections:
- Verses 1 – 20: The Lord is responsible for the calamity they are experiencing.
God’s people are experiencing His judgment and righteous wrath over their sins.
- Verses 21-39: The Lord is the only One who can help and can be trusted.
God’s people can trust God’s grace, mercy, and His loving heart toward His own.
- Verses 40 – 51: The Lord is the healer and forgiver of sins.
Tears and repentance are the appropriate response from the people for their sins.
- Verses 52 – 66: The Lord is the protector of His people.
The people ask God to provide justice and retribution against their enemies.
May we see God’s righteousness, holiness, and abhorrence of sin as well as His grace, mercy, and love toward His redeemed ones. Jesus is the living essence of all these.
The writer of Hebrews captures the heart of God and our redemption in Christ:
15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
(Hebrews 4:15-16 NIV)