Jeremiah is lamenting some things which are surprising to me. Upon reflection, they actually connect most clearly as contradictions to the experience of the person who is following God with all of themselves. In fact, we don’t think God works this way at all…
1 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.
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.
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.
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.
Lamentations 3:1-3, 7-9, 25-27, 31-33
Jeremiah says that God has made his path crooked. Interesting, considering that when we trust in the Lord with all our hearts and lean on his understanding instead of our own, he will make our paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6). Lamentations is a study in contradictions. We don’t normally think that the discipline of God could look like this – or that it is actually real.
We are rocked gently to sleep thinking only of the grace and love and mercy of God.
We are not totally wrong. God is all of those things, as Jeremiah acknowledges in chapter 3. All those things and more, it turns out. We are used to seeing the wrath of God poured out on the bad guys. We think we are the good guys…
Jeremiah describes being walled in by God, rather than describing the blessing of being hemmed in under God’s protection (Exodus 14). What a difference. In one case we are in the shadow of God’s protection, safe from all harm and calamity. In the other, we are unable to escape his hand of correction.
You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave… Walled in.
The insight into God’s working, however; the gem of understanding of God’s perfect ways, is found in verse 33. God unwillingly exerts this force of discipline and correction on his children. He does not revel in his action.
If our lament is loud in the exile of our affliction, I get the impression that God’s lament for his precious children is deafening.
Where does this leave us? Compelled. I think it leaves us compelled. We ought to embrace the compulsion to live in ultimate trust and faith in our God who loved us first. This will place us in the position of the blessing and protection the Lord, and it will spare our loving God the grief of our wandering and the need to correct our steps…