Lamentations 3:55-66 If A…then B. Always

First off, please read our text today, which is Lamentations 3:55-66

If we go back a few verses to verses 48-51 we’ll see that Jeremiah made a promise that his eyes would not stop tearing up, the pain he felt for these people would not relent, that his cries unto God would not stop until God, upon his throne, would look down and bring relief to the grief of his soul. What grief? The pain of the people from the evil work of those around them (amongst other things from verses 59-63).  So it is here, in these closing verses of chapter 3, that Jeremiah not only declares that he called upon the name of the Lord from the depths of the pit but that God heard him and responded with care, relief, and redemption to his pleas. But hold up – is this a reflective plea from Jeremiah as he’s already through the pit? Maybe Jeremiah is jumping around in different periods of time in all of these verses as he speaks from the past to the present to the future and then back to the present? I ask because what we read in the first 5 verses seem to be a “present-tense” plea that APPEAR to sound like God has already acted and yet verses 60-66 appear to reflect that nothing has taken place. So what’s the deal Jeremiah?

What we’re getting in verses 55-60 is Jeremiah living into his current situation (with the mocking of his enemies placed upon him) all-the-while reminiscing and holding to the hope of the God who redeems (has and will redeem). So he’s in full-on “enemy surrounding me” mode and yet because of what God has done in the past he knows that his future is secure. So verses 55-58 is Jeremiah’s declaration that God hears him and has heard him before with a response of “Do not fear” (vs 57) AND BECAUSE OF THAT Jeremiah knows he can go to God in the future (and present) when he finds himself in the “depths of the pit” (vs 55) once more. So no, there is no time-hopping going on in this text. It’s simply Jeremiah, once again, finding himself in the pits of a hellish situation and finding comfort and peace knowing that he has turned to God in his past times of need and that God has always responded, and BECAUSE GOD ALWAYS RESPONDS he turns to God yet again.

There are two things that strike me in these 12 closing verses: Jeremiah’s peace and affirmation in times of trouble and God’s consistent response. Which in truth are tied together as one is only here because of the other.

I hate math. There…I said it (glad I got that off my chest). Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate it because I’m terrible at it I just hate it because I hate it. I was in “upper” math classes in High School and did well in them (“well” is relative as I did “well” enough to pass and yet didn’t try any harder than that) but it was just never my cup of tea (which, in all honesty, is why I only took enough math to graduate HS and then get IN to college and nothing more) – and now that my son, who is an incoming Sophomore and is already taking higher math classes than I ever took or wanted to take, I’m being reminded that I still don’t like math (which is helpful because he knows it and doesn’t ask me to help – which is probably better for both of us). And since we’re on this “I hate _____” moment let me also declare that I also hated the philosophy and logic courses I had to take in college for my major (which is probably why I changed majors halfway through my freshman year). I bring these up not because they’ve been weighing heavy upon my chest and I needed to release them, I bring them up because they relate to our text. What we have in verses 55-60 can be found in either a mathematical equation or deduced by logic. This is an “if A then B” type of situation. Stick with me here, and again, I’ll apologize for my math and logic inability which MAY translate out in my lack-of-ability to explain said logic/math (did I say I hated these courses?):

A=God always responds

B= Jeremiah’s prayer requests/needs

So, following this logic, if God always responds (“A”) then Jeremiah will always lift up his prayers and needs to God (“B”). Why? Because Jeremy has realized, and remembered, that every time he was in need (B) (or a “pit” in this case) he lifted his needs/plea to God (we read he “called” and sent up a “plea” to God) and God has always responded (“A”). It’s simple logic and math – and while I hate both of those subjects God’s consistent response to our needs is the peace Jeremiah has, the one he clings to in all times, and the one you and I must consistently remember as well.

So let’s review: when in need…God responds.

So here we find Jeremiah, once more in the “depths of the pit” (in Hebrew what this term means is “hell” but not literal hell – more like “hellish”) because his enemy not only hurls insults at him, they not only plot against him, they not only whisper and mutter relentlessly all day long, they not only mock him, but they seek to end his life. And so it is in this “hellish” pit that he cries out to God and pleads with him to relieve him of this misery and deal with them in a kind of “vengeful” way (the closing verses from Jeremiah are not really what we should do – but he’s being honest with his feelings so we cannot blame him there). And God’s response? God not only hears his plea, God not only comes near, but God tells him to “Do not fear.” Three powerful words that is not meant as a means of telling Jeremiah that he’s being overly dramatic and that this situation isn’t as bad as he thinks. On the contrary, its God’s telling Jeremiah that he hears him, sees what’s going on, and he will remove him from the pit and suffering he is enduring. What we get in verse 58 is Jeremiah remembering that God will redeem his life.

It’s actually quite simple and beautiful really as we read in our Bibles of humanity’s relentless need of God and God’s relentless redeeming response has always been at play. We, since that fateful day in the Garden, have needed God to respond to our needs. For Adam and Eve it was clothing and forgiveness. For the people of Israel it was not only God’s covenantal choosing of them as his people, removing them from the hands of Pharaoh, providing food, clothing, shelter, and water for 40 years in the desert, bringing them to the Promised Land, but a whole host of other redemptive things. For the individual, as seen in the psalms, it was God’s restoration, hope, peace, and comfort as their every need was provided for. As we move out of the OT and into the NT we begin to understand that the times didn’t change (or even to this day) as our needs have remained the same as has God’s response. We find ourselves in need and we turn to God in prayer and petition, because God answers in his redeeming way. And God’s redeeming way is to not only say “Do not fear” but to back it up by sending Jesus Christ – his all-redeeming, life-giving, depths-of-pit smashing, wrong-righting, Satan-kicking, sinful plot-destroying Son.

So what we see in Jeremiah’s closing verses of chapter 3 is yours and my pleas to the depths of the pit that we find ourselves in too. Be it sin of our own accord or the sin of others – we are in a situation that we, on our own, cannot get out of. And so we fall into the logical math of “If A then B” or because of “A” we “B”. God hears our prayers, our needs, and has responded with Jesus – the only Son of God who left his throne on high to redeem a fallen people who were lying in the pits of hell. Literally and figuratively.

THAT is a logical math-redeeming problem I can get on board with.

3 Questions for you to think through

  1. What stands out for you in this text? Why?
  2. My kids like to play the “what if” game. And while I find it completely annoying I DO sometimes wonder “what if” scenarios. So shall we play? What if God didn’t answer prayers? What if our needs were not heard and our cries were ignored?
  3. One thing we didn’t talk about is the last 3 verses and Jeremiah’s desire for vengeance. What I find comforting is not Jeremiah’s staunch desire for an “eye for an eye” but his laying those desires at the feet of God and upon God’s work…not his. How do you feel about this honesty of Jeremiah?

First off, please read our text today, which is Lamentations 3:55-66

If we go back a few verses to verses 48-51 we’ll see that Jeremiah made a promise that his eyes would not stop tearing up, the pain he felt for these people would not relent, that his cries unto God would not stop until God, upon his throne, would look down and bring relief to the grief of his soul. What grief? The pain of the people from the evil work of those around them (amongst other things from verses 59-63).  So it is here, in these closing verses of chapter 3, that Jeremiah not only declares that he called upon the name of the Lord from the depths of the pit but that God heard him and responded with care, relief, and redemption to his pleas. But hold up – is this a reflective plea from Jeremiah as he’s already through the pit? Maybe Jeremiah is jumping around in different periods of time in all of these verses as he speaks from the past to the present to the future and then back to the present? I ask because what we read in the first 5 verses seem to be a “present-tense” plea that APPEAR to sound like God has already acted and yet verses 60-66 appear to reflect that nothing has taken place. So what’s the deal Jeremiah?

What we’re getting in verses 55-60 is Jeremiah living into his current situation (with the mocking of his enemies placed upon him) all-the-while reminiscing and holding to the hope of the God who redeems (has and will redeem). So he’s in full-on “enemy surrounding me” mode and yet because of what God has done in the past he knows that his future is secure. So verses 55-58 is Jeremiah’s declaration that God hears him and has heard him before with a response of “Do not fear” (vs 57) AND BECAUSE OF THAT Jeremiah knows he can go to God in the future (and present) when he finds himself in the “depths of the pit” (vs 55) once more. So no, there is no time-hopping going on in this text. It’s simply Jeremiah, once again, finding himself in the pits of a hellish situation and finding comfort and peace knowing that he has turned to God in his past times of need and that God has always responded, and BECAUSE GOD ALWAYS RESPONDS he turns to God yet again.

There are two things that strike me in these 12 closing verses: Jeremiah’s peace and affirmation in times of trouble and God’s consistent response. Which in truth are tied together as one is only here because of the other.

I hate math. There…I said it (glad I got that off my chest). Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate it because I’m terrible at it I just hate it because I hate it. I was in “upper” math classes in High School and did well in them (“well” is relative as I did “well” enough to pass and yet didn’t try any harder than that) but it was just never my cup of tea (which, in all honesty, is why I only took enough math to graduate HS and then get IN to college and nothing more) – and now that my son, who is an incoming Sophomore and is already taking higher math classes than I ever took or wanted to take, I’m being reminded that I still don’t like math (which is helpful because he knows it and doesn’t ask me to help – which is probably better for both of us). And since we’re on this “I hate _____” moment let me also declare that I also hated the philosophy and logic courses I had to take in college for my major (which is probably why I changed majors halfway through my freshman year). I bring these up not because they’ve been weighing heavy upon my chest and I needed to release them, I bring them up because they relate to our text. What we have in verses 55-60 can be found in either a mathematical equation or deduced by logic. This is an “if A then B” type of situation. Stick with me here, and again, I’ll apologize for my math and logic inability which MAY translate out in my lack-of-ability to explain said logic/math (did I say I hated these courses?):

A=God always responds and

B= Jeremiah’s prayer requests/needs

So, following this logic, if God always responds (“A”) then Jeremiah will always lift up his prayers and needs to God (“B”). Why? Because Jeremy has realized, and remembered, that every time he was in need (B) (or a “pit” in this case) he lifted his needs/plea to God (we read he “called” and sent up a “plea” to God) and God has always responded (“A”). It’s simple logic and math – and while I hate both of those subjects God’s consistent response to our needs is the peace Jeremiah has, the one he clings to in all times, and the one you and I must consistently remember as well.

So let’s review: when in need…God responds.

So here we find Jeremiah, once more in the “depths of the pit” (in Hebrew what this term means is “hell” but not literal hell – more like “hellish”) because his enemy not only hurls insults at him, they not only plot against him, they not only whisper and mutter relentlessly all day long, they not only mock him, but they seek to end his life. And so it is in this “hellish” pit that he cries out to God and pleads with him to relieve him of this misery and deal with them in a kind of “vengeful” way (the closing verses from Jeremiah are not really what we should do – but he’s being honest with his feelings so we cannot blame him there). And God’s response? God not only hears his plea, God not only comes near, but God tells him to “Do not fear.” Three powerful words that is not meant as a means of telling Jeremiah that he’s being overly dramatic and that this situation isn’t as bad as he thinks. On the contrary, its God’s telling Jeremiah that he hears him, sees what’s going on, and he will remove him from the pit and suffering he is enduring. What we get in verse 58 is Jeremiah remembering that God will redeem his life.

It’s actually quite simple and beautiful really as we read in our Bibles of humanity’s relentless need of God and God’s relentless redeeming response has always been at play. We, since that fateful day in the Garden, have needed God to respond to our needs. For Adam and Eve it was clothing and forgiveness. For the people of Israel it was not only God’s covenantal choosing of them as his people, removing them from the hands of Pharaoh, providing food, clothing, shelter, and water for 40 years in the desert, bringing them to the Promised Land, but a whole host of other redemptive things. For the individual, as seen in the psalms, it was God’s restoration, hope, peace, and comfort as their every need was provided for. As we move out of the OT and into the NT we begin to understand that the times didn’t change (or even to this day) as our needs have remained the same as has God’s response. We find ourselves in need and we turn to God in prayer and petition, because God answers in his redeeming way. And God’s redeeming way is to not only say “Do not fear” but to back it up by sending Jesus Christ – his all-redeeming, life-giving, depths-of-pit smashing, wrong-righting, Satan-kicking, sinful plot-destroying Son.

So what we see in Jeremiah’s closing verses of chapter 3 is yours and my pleas to the depths of the pit that we find ourselves in too. Be it sin of our own accord or the sin of others – we are in a situation that we, on our own, cannot get out of. And so we fall into the logical math of “If A then B” or because of “A” we “B”. God hears our prayers, our needs, and has responded with Jesus – the only Son of God who left his throne on high to redeem a fallen people who were lying in the pits of hell. Literally and figuratively.

THAT is a logical math-redeeming problem I can get on board with.

3 Questions for you to think through

  1. What stands out for you in this text? Why?
  2. My kids like to play the “what if” game. And while I find it completely annoying I DO sometimes wonder “what if” scenarios. So shall we play? What if God didn’t answer prayers? What if our needs were not heard and our cries were ignored?
  3. One thing we didn’t talk about is the last 3 verses and Jeremiah’s desire for vengeance. What I find comforting is not Jeremiah’s staunch desire for an “eye for an eye” but his laying those desires at the feet of God and upon God’s work…not his. How do you feel about this honesty of Jeremiah?

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