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19

The thought of my affliction and my homelessness

is wormwood and gall!

20

My soul continually thinks of it

and is bowed down within me.

21

But this I call to mind,

and therefore I have hope:

 

22

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,

his mercies never come to an end;

23

they are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.

24

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,

“therefore I will hope in him.”

 

25

The Lord is good to those who wait for him,

to the soul that seeks him.

26

It is good that one should wait quietly

for the salvation of the Lord.


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The verb may be considered as an imperative; it is an infinitive mood, but it is often taken in Hebrew as an imperative. Thus, many deem it a prayer, Remember my affliction and my trouble, the gall and the poison This might be admitted; but what others teach I prefer: that this verse depends on the last. For the Prophet seems here to express how he had almost fallen away from hope, so that he no longer found strength from God, even because he was overwhelmed with evils; for it is very unreasonable to think, that those who have once experienced the mercy of God should cast away hope, so as not to believe that they are to flee to God any more. What seems then by no means congruous the Prophet here in a manner excuses, and shews that it was not strange that he succumbed under extreme evils, for he had been so pressed down by afflictions and troubles, that his soul became as it were filled with poison and gall. 181181     The verb “remember” is rendered as an imperative by the Targ., the Vulg., and the Syr.; and it is so rendered by Henderson. — Ed.

But in the meantime, he shews by the word remember, how such a trial as this, when it comes, lays hold on our minds, that is, when we think too much of our evils. For the faithful ought to hold a middle course in their afflictions, lest they contract a torpor; for as hence indifference and stupidity arise, they ought to rouse themselves to a due consideration of their evils; but moderation ought to be observed, lest sorrow should swallow us up, as Paul also warns us (2 Corinthians 2:7.) They then who fix their minds too much on the remembrance of their evils, by degrees open the door to Satan, who may fill their hearts and all their thoughts with despair. The Prophet then describes here the fountain of evils, when he says, that he remembered his affliction and trouble; and suitable to this is what immediately follows, —

The Prophet seems in other words to confirm what he had said, even that the memory of afflictions overwhelmed his soul. For the soul is said to be humbled in or upon man, when he lies down under the burden of despair. It is the soul that raises man up, and as it were revives him; but when the soul is cast as it were on man, it is a most grievous thing; for it is better to lie down a dead body than to have this additional burden, which makes the case still worse. A dead body might indeed lie on the ground without strength and motion, but it may still retain its own place; but when the soul is thus cast down, it is said to press down man, though lifeless, more and more. This then is what the Prophet means. And yet he says that he was so occupied with this remembrance, that he could not thence withdraw his mind.

There is no doubt but that he also intended here to confess his own infirmity, and that of all the faithful; and the reason of this we have already explained. Then relying on this doctrine, even when all our thoughts press us down, and not only lead us to despair, but also hurry us on and cast us headlong into it, let us learn to flee even then to God and to lay before him all our complaints, and let us not be ashamed, because we see that this mode of proceeding is suggested to us by the Holy Spirit. It follows, —

We see here what I have already stated, that if we struggle against temptations, it will be a sure remedy to us, because our faith will at length emerge again, and gather strength, yea, it will in a manner be raised up from the lowest depths. This is what the Prophet now shews. I will recall this, he says, to my heart, and therefore will I hope How can despair produce hope from itself? This would be contrary to nature. What then does the Prophet mean here, and what does he understand by the pronoun this, זאת, zat? Even that being oppressed with evils, he was almost lost, and was also nearly persuaded that no hope of good anymore remained. As then he would recall this to mind, he says that he would then have new ground of hope, that is, when he had recourse to God; for all who devour their own sorrows, and do not look to God, kindle more and more the hidden fire, which at length suddenly turns to fury. Hence it comes that they clamor against God, as though they were doubly insane. But he who is conscious of his own infirmity, and directs his prayer to God, will at length find a ground of hope.

When therefore we recall to mind our evils, and also consider how ready we are to despair, and how apt we are to succumb under it, some hope will then arise and aid us, as the Prophet here says. 182182     The pronoun “this” is by most referred to what the next verse contains; but as a clause intervenes, this can hardly be the meaning. The Lamentations 3:19, 20, and 21, I render thus,
    

   19. Remember my affliction and my abasement,
The wormwood and the gall.

   20. Remembering thou wilt remember them,
For bowed down within me is my soul:

   21. This I recall to my mind;
Therefore will I hope.

   He prays, then he expresses his confidence that God would hear his prayer; and “this” refers to the assurance he felt that God would remember his afflicted state, and on this ground he entertained hope. In the next verse he states what confirmed this hope: — Ed.

It must still be observed, that we ought to take heed lest we grow torpid in our evils; for hence it happens that our minds become wholly overwhelmed. Whosoever then would profit by his evils, should consider what the Prophet says here came to his mind, for he at length came to himself, and surmounted all obstacles. We see then that God brings light out of darkness, when he restores his faithful people from despair to a good hope; yea, he makes infirmity itself to be the cause of hope. For whence is it that the unbelieving east away hope? even because security draws them away from God; but a sense of our own infirmity draws us even close to him; thus hope, contrary to nature, and through the incomprehensible and wonderful kindness of God, arises from despair. It follows, —

The first clause may be explained in two ways: The view commonly taken is, that it ought to be ascribed to God’s mercy that the faithful have not been often consumed. Hence a very useful doctrine is elicited — that God succors his own people, lest they should wholly perish. But if we attend to the context, we shall see that another sense is more suitable, even that the mercies of God were not consumed, and that his compassion’s had not failed The particle כי, ki, is inserted, but ought to be taken as an affirmative only, surely the mercies of God are not consumed; 183183     So the Targ. and all the versions, except the Vulg; they read תמו. “The mercies of Jehovah” is the nominative case absolute, —
    

   22. The mercies of Jehovah, verily they have no end,
For his compassion’s never fail.

   23. Renewed (are they) in the morning;
Great is thy faithfulness.

   “Renewed” refers to “mercies,” i.e., blessings, the fruit of mercy; and God’s mercies have no end, because his compassion’s ever continue. “In the morning,” that is, after a night of affliction. If the rendering be made literal, “in the mornings,” the meaning is the same; they follow the previous nights of trouble. Blessings, being as it were suspended or withheld during the night, are again renewed in the morning. — Ed.
and then, — surely his compassion’s have not failed. And he afterwards adds, —

This verse confirms what I have said, that the same truth is here repeated by the Prophet, that God’s mercies were not consumed, nor had his compassion’s failed. How so? Because they were new, or renewed, every day; but he puts morning, and that in the plural number. I am surprised at the hour striking so soon; I hardly think that I have lectured a whole hour.

The Prophet intimates in this verse that we cannot stand firm in adversities, except we be content with God alone and his favor; for as soon as we depart from him, any adversity that may happen to us will cause our faith to fail. It is then the only true foundation of patience and hope to trust in God alone; and this is the case when we are persuaded that his favor is sufficient for our perfect safety. In this sense it is that David calls God his portion. (Psalm 16:5.) But there is in the words an implied contrast, for most men seek their happiness apart from God. All desire to be happy, but as the thoughts of men wander here and there, there is nothing more difficult than so to fix all our hopes in God so as to disregard all other things.

This then is the doctrine which the Prophet now handles, when he says, that those alone could hope, that is, persevere in hope and patience, who have so received God as their portion as to be satisfied with him alone, and to seek nothing else besides him. But he speaks emphatically, that his soul had thus said. Even the unbelieving are ashamed to deny what we have stated, that the whole of our salvation and happiness is found in God alone. Then the unbelieving also confess that God is the fountain of all blessings, and that they ought to acquiesce in him; but with the mouth only they confess this, while they believe nothing less. This then is the reason why the Prophet ascribes what he says to his soul, as though he had said, that lie did not boast, like hypocrites, that God was his portion, but that of this lie had a thorough conviction. My soul has said, that is, I am fully convinced that God is my portion; therefore will I hope in him. We now understand the meaning of this passage.

It remains for us to make an application of this doctrine. That we may not then fail in adversities, let us bear in mind this truth, that all our thoughts will ever wander and go astray, until we are fully persuaded that God alone is sufficient for us, so that lie may become alone our heritage. For all who are not satisfied with God alone, are immediately seized with impatience, whenever famine oppresses them, or sword threatens them, or any other grievous calamity. And for this reason Paul also says,

“If God be for us, who can be against us? I am persuaded that neither famine, nor nakedness, nor sword, nor death, nor life, can separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ.”
(Romans 8:31, 35-39.)

Then Paul lays hold of the paternal favor of God as a ground of solid confidence; for the words in Christ sufficiently show that those are mistaken interpreters who take this love passively, as though he had said, that the faithful would never cease to love God, though he exercised them with many afflictions. But Paul meant that the faithful ought so to fix their minds on God alone, that whatever might happen, they would not yet cease to glory in him. Why? because God is their life in death, their light in darkness, their rest in war and tumult, their abundance in penury and want. It is in the same sense our Prophet now says, when lie intimates that none hope in God but those who build on his paternal favor alone, so that they seek nothing else but to have him propitious to them. It afterwards follows, —

He continues the same subject: he however adds now something to it, even that God always deals mercifully with his servants, who recumb on him, mid who seek him. We hence see that the last verse is confirmed, where he said that he was content with God alone, while suffering all kinds of adversity: How so? for God, he says, is good to those who wait for him. 184184     There is more authority for the word for “wait” being in the singular than in the plural, as it is given in the Syr. Ed. It might have been objected and said, that adversities produce sorrow, weariness, sadness, and anguish, so that it cannot be that they retain hope who only look to God alone; and it is no doubt true that, when all confess that they hope in God, they afterwards run here and there; and the consequence is, that they fail in their adversities. As, then, this might have been objected to the Prophet, he gives indirectly this answer, that God is good to those who wait for him, as though he had said, that the confidence which recumbs on God alone cannot disappoint us, for God will at length shew his kindness to all those who hope in him. In short, the Prophet teaches us here, that the blessings of God, by which he exhilarates his own children, cannot be separated from his mercy or his paternal favor. Such a sentence as this, “Whatever can be expected is found in God,” would be deemed frigid by many; for they might object and say, as before stated, that they were at the same time miserable. Hence the Prophet reminds us here that God’s blessings flow to us from his favor as from a fountain, as though he had said, “As a perennial fountain sends forth water, so also God’s goodness manifests and extends itself.”

We now, then, understand the Prophet’s meaning. He had indeed said, that we ought to acquiesce in God alone; but now he adds, by way of favor, regarding the infirmity of men, that God is kind and bountiful to all those who hope in him. The sum of what he states is, as I have said, that God’s goodness brings forth its own fruits, and that the faithful find by experience, that nothing is better than to have all their thoughts fixed on God alone. God’s goodness, then, ought to be understood, so to speak, as actual, even what is really enjoyed. As, then, God deals bountifully with all who hope in him, it follows that they cannot be disappointed, while they are satisfied with him alone, and thus patiently submit to all adversities. In short, the Prophet teaches here what the Scripture often declares, that hope maketh not ashamed. (Romans 5:5.)

But the second clause must be noticed: for the Prophet defines what it is to hope in God, when he says that he is good to the soul that seeks him. Many indeed imagine hope to be I know not what — a dead speculation; and hypocrites, when God spares them, go on securely and exult, but their confidence is mere ebriety, very different from hope. We must then remember what the Prophet says here, that they alone hope hi God who from the heart seek him, that is, who acknowledge how greatly they need the mercy of God, who go directly to him whenever any temptation harasses them, and who, when any danger threatens them, flee to his aid, and thus prove that they really hope in God. It now follows, —

It is, indeed, an abrupt phrase when he says, Good and he will wait; for these words are without a subject; but as it is a general statement, there is no ambiguity. The Prophet means that it is good to hope and to be silent as to the salvation, of God. Then the verbs in the future tense ought to be rendered its subjunctives, as though it was said, “It is good when any one hopes in the salvation of Jehovah, and is silent, that is, bears patiently all his troubles until God succors him.” 185185     It may be thus rendered, —
   Good it is when he hopes and waits quietly
For the salvation of Jehovah.

   The ו may often be rendered when. This verse, the preceding, and following, begin with “good,” which renders the passage very striking, —

    

   25. Good is Jehovah to him who waits for him,
To the soul who seeks him:

   26. Good it is when he hopes and waits quietly
For the salvation of Jehovah:

   27. Good it is for man
That he bears the yoke in his youth.

    — Ed

But; the Prophet here reminds us, that we are by no means to require that God should always appear to us, and that his paternal favor should always shine forth on our life. This is, indeed, a condition sought for by all; for the flesh inclines us to this, and hence we shun adversities. We, then, naturally desire God’s favor to be manifested to us; how? In reality, so that all things may go on prosperously, that no trouble may touch us, that we may be tormented by no anxiety, that no danger may be suspended over us, that no calamity may threaten us: these things, as I have said, we all naturally seek and desire. But in such a case faith would be extinguished, as Paul tells us in his Epistle to the Romans,

“For we hope not,” he says, “for what appears, but we hope for what, is hidden.”
(Romans 8:24, 25.)

It is necessary in this world that the faithful should, as to outward things, be miserable, at one time exposed to want, at another subject to various dangers — at; one time exposed to reproaches and calumnies, at another harassed by losses: why so? because there would be no occasion for exercising hope, were our salvation complete. This is the very thing which the Prophet now teaches us, when he declares that it is good for us to learn in silence to wait for the salvation of God.

But to express more clearly his mind, he first says, He will wait, or hope. He teaches the need of patience, as also the Apostle does, in Hebrew 10:36; for otherwise there can be no faith. It hence appears, that where there is no patience, there is not even a spark of faith in the heart of man; how so? because this is our happiness, to wait or to hope; and we hope for what is hidden. But in the second clause he explains himself still more clearly by saying, and will be silent To be silent means often in Scripture to rest, to be still; and here it signifies no other thing than to bear the troubles allotted to us, with a calm and resigned mind. He is then said to be silent to God, who remains quiet even when afflictions supply occasion for clamoring; and hence this quietness is opposed to violent feelings; for when some trouble presses on us, we become turbulent, and are carried away by our fury, at one time we quarrel with God, at another we pour forth various complaints. The same thing also happens, when we see some danger, for we tremble, and then we seek remedies here and there, and that with great eagerness. But he who patiently bears his troubles, or who recumbs on God when dangers surround him, is said to be silent or to rest quietly; and hence the words of Isaiah, “In hope and silence;” for he there exhorts the faithful to patience, and shews where strength is, even when we trust in God, so as willingly to submit to His will, and to be ready to bear his chastisements, and then when we doubt not but that he will be ready to bring us help when we are in danger. (Isaiah 30:15.)

We now perceive what the Prophet means when he says, that it. is good if we wait and be silent as to the salvation of God; even because our happiness is hid, and we are also like the dead, as Paul says, and our life is hid in Christ. (Colossians 3:3.) As then it is so, we must necessarily be silent as to God’s salvation, and cherish hope within, though surrounded with many miseries. It follows, —




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