Let him sit alone and keep silence, because he has laid it on him. Let him put his mouth in the dust, if it is so that there may be hope. Let him give his cheek to him who strikes him. Let him be filled full of reproach.
For the Lord will not cast off forever. For though he causes grief, yet he will have compassion according to the multitude of his loving kindnesses. For he does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.
To crush under foot all the prisoners of the earth, to turn away the right of a man before the face of the Most High, to subvert a man in his cause, the Lord doesn’t approve.
Who is he who says, and it comes to pass, when the Lord doesn’t command it? Doesn’t evil and good come out of the mouth of the Most High? Why should a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?
It may be that man’s most significant problem is that He keeps trying to supplant God. An amazing thing that Lamentations shows us is that we can do this even while undergoing suffering. God Himself may be disciplining us, and we will still try to do something to make things better for ourselves. Jeremiah reminds us, here, that the best thing we can do is to “sit alone and keep silence.” He isn’t saying this because all is lost. In fact, the exact opposite is true. “For the Lord will not cast off forever.” Instead of trying and trying to solve our own problem, it’s time to return to simple faith.
So what is the fact that we should consider as we keep our silence in our suffering? Here it is: God “does not afflict willingly.” Eventually, He will save us. Besides, “Why should a living man complain… for the punishment of his sins?” That’s what we are really doing when we get all upset about our suffering for our sin. We are complaining about our punishment, all the while failing to remember that God doesn’t want to be punishing us in the first place! I do recognize that there are times when we suffer when we did not sin, like Job did, but even then, we can trust that God has something good in mind, like Job came to understand.
The simple fact that we can rest our faith on, is that God intends to “have compassion according to the multitude of his loving kindnesses.” May we remember this when we suffer.
Cursed is the day in which I was born. Don’t let the day in which my mother bore me be blessed. Cursed is the man who brought news to my father, saying, “A boy is born to you,” making him very glad. Let that man be as the cities which Yahweh overthrew, and didn’t repent. Let him hear a cry in the morning, and shouting at noontime; because he didn’t kill me from the womb. So my mother would have been my grave, and her womb always great. Why did I come out of the womb to see labor and sorrow, that my days should be consumed with shame?
Jeremiah is one of the men in the Bible that curses his own birthday. Job did the same thing as we read in his book. Both men were chosen by God to suffer persecution at the hands of their own friends. Since we know the end of Job’s story, it’s pretty obvious that Jeremiah is going to be taken care of in the end, but going through persecution is not a good thing. If it were, I’m sure that God would arrange for us all to be persecuted forever in Heaven someday. That doesn’t make any sense does it? Neither does pretending like persecution is good. Jesus did tell us to rejoice when we are persecuted, but He also told us why. Let’s look at that again:
Blessed are you when men shall hate you, and when they shall exclude and mock you, and throw out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake.
Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven, for their fathers did the same thing to the prophets.
Jeremiah didn’t have these words from Jesus yet. These words have been entrusted to us along with the example of Jeremiah’s life. It makes sense that Jeremiah would be given space to complain by God. I’m not sure that Jeremiah and Job were given the knowledge of the fact that there are rewards in heaven. We were told and it is written into the Bible now. We are the ones who know without any doubt that we are going to receive a great reward because we have been treated like Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Job. We have a great deal of good to look forward to, but the pain and suffering we receive here, are not good. Jeremiah’s words remind us of that fact. We should not have a morbid desire to be persecuted, but we should be happy that we are going to be rewarded with men like Jeremiah for what we had to go through.
Woe is me, my mother, that you have borne me, a man of strife, and a man of contention to the whole earth! I have not lent, neither have men lent to me; yet every one of them curses me. Yahweh said, “Most certainly I will strengthen you for good. Most certainly I will cause the enemy to make supplication to you in the time of evil and in the time of affliction. Can one break iron, even iron from the north, and bronze? I will give your substance and your treasures for a plunder without price, and that for all your sins, even in all your borders. I will make them to pass with your enemies into a land which you don’t know; for a fire is kindled in my anger, which will burn on you.”
We are entering one of the passages of the Bible that speaks to me in a very personal way. As a Christian, it’s easy for me to start looking at how I’m being treated by people for my obedience and to start to complain against God. It’s hard when you are being troubled by friends and enemies, because of your unwillingness to avoid your conscience. It’s hard when you are doing what is right and getting paid pain for it. These things are hard but it doesn’t mean that God is making a mistake or that He won’t make things better someday.
In this passage Jeremiah tells God what he feels about having to share a message that makes him unpopular with everyone. They treat him like a scoundrel even though he didn’t do anything that scoundrels do. He said that even his mother is cursed because she bore a son like this. These comments make it pretty obvious that Jeremiah was frustrated and I have been feeling things like this too.
After Jeremiah complains to God, God says some things that are pretty difficult for me to interpret. It’s as if God is telling Jeremiah that when he is taken captive, he will be treated with respect but his property and people are still going to be taken because of God’s anger against Jeremiah and Jeremiah’s people. Now why would God be angry with Jeremiah? That’s what seems confusing to me, but there does seem to be a thread of guilt that God is putting on Jeremiah here that appears to continue on in this chapter.
God was planning to protect Jeremiah as He had already told Him. Jeremiah’s duty was to believe and not doubt. It was good for Jeremiah to come to God with his complaint, but his complaint was still wrong. God was right to allow Jeremiah to be born and God had the right to use Jeremiah to do something difficult. God wasn’t doing anything worthy of his complaint. I need to remember that too. When things aren’t going right, I have the responsibility to trust in God’s choice and not be angered or frustrated by God’s way of doing things.