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3. Judah's Complaint

I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath. 2He hath led me, and brought me into darkness, but not into light. 3Surely against me is he turned; he turneth his hand against me all the day. 4My flesh and my skin hath he made old; he hath broken my bones. 5He hath builded against me, and compassed me with gall and travail. 6He hath set me in dark places, as they that be dead of old. 7He hath hedged me about, that I cannot get out: he hath made my chain heavy. 8Also when I cry and shout, he shutteth out my prayer. 9He hath inclosed my ways with hewn stone, he hath made my paths crooked. 10He was unto me as a bear lying in wait, and as a lion in secret places. 11He hath turned aside my ways, and pulled me in pieces: he hath made me desolate. 12He hath bent his bow, and set me as a mark for the arrow. 13He hath caused the arrows of his quiver to enter into my reins. 14I was a derision to all my people; and their song all the day. 15He hath filled me with bitterness, he hath made me drunken with wormwood. 16He hath also broken my teeth with gravel stones, he hath covered me with ashes. 17And thou hast removed my soul far off from peace: I forgat prosperity. 18And I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the Lord: 19Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall. 20My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me. 21This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.

22 It is of the Lord’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. 24The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. 25The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. 26 It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord. 27 It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. 28He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him. 29He putteth his mouth in the dust; if so be there may be hope. 30He giveth his cheek to him that smiteth him: he is filled full with reproach. 31For the Lord will not cast off for ever: 32But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies. 33For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men. 34To crush under his feet all the prisoners of the earth, 35To turn aside the right of a man before the face of the most High, 36To subvert a man in his cause, the Lord approveth not. 37Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not? 38Out of the mouth of the most High proceedeth not evil and good? 39Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins? 40Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord. 41Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens. 42We have transgressed and have rebelled: thou hast not pardoned. 43Thou hast covered with anger, and persecuted us: thou hast slain, thou hast not pitied. 44Thou hast covered thyself with a cloud, that our prayer should not pass through. 45Thou hast made us as the offscouring and refuse in the midst of the people. 46All our enemies have opened their mouths against us. 47Fear and a snare is come upon us, desolation and destruction. 48Mine eye runneth down with rivers of water for the destruction of the daughter of my people. 49Mine eye trickleth down, and ceaseth not, without any intermission, 50Till the Lord look down, and behold from heaven. 51Mine eye affecteth mine heart because of all the daughters of my city. 52Mine enemies chased me sore, like a bird, without cause. 53They have cut off my life in the dungeon, and cast a stone upon me. 54Waters flowed over mine head; then I said, I am cut off. 55I called upon thy name, O Lord, out of the low dungeon. 56Thou hast heard my voice: hide not thine ear at my breathing, at my cry. 57Thou drewest near in the day that I called upon thee: thou saidst, Fear not. 58O Lord, thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul; thou hast redeemed my life. 59O Lord, thou hast seen my wrong: judge thou my cause. 60Thou hast seen all their vengeance and all their imaginations against me. 61Thou hast heard their reproach, O Lord, and all their imaginations against me; 62The lips of those that rose up against me, and their device against me all the day. 63Behold their sitting down, and their rising up; I am their musick.

64Render unto them a recompence, O Lord, according to the work of their hands. 65Give them sorrow of heart, thy curse unto them. 66Persecute and destroy them in anger from under the heavens of the Lord.

This verse admits of two meanings; for the word yoke may be explained as signifying teaching, or the scourges of God. We, indeed, undertake or bear in two ways the yoke of God, even when we are taught to receive his doctrine, or when we are resigned when he chastises us, when we are not obstreperous, but willingly submit to his corrections. As then some take the word עול, for the yoke of instruction, and others for the yoke of chastisement, two explanations, as I have said, are given; and both are admissible. It is indeed truly said, that it is good for man to be accustomed from his youth to God’s corrections; but Jeremiah seems rather to speak of that obedience generally, which the faithful render to God when they submit to his will. It is then our true happiness when we acknowledge that we are not our own, and allow God, by his sovereign power, to rule us as he pleases. But we ought to begin with the law of God. Hence, then, it is, that we are said to bear the yoke of God, when we relinquish our own judgment, and become wise through God’s word, when, with our affections surrendered and subdued, we hear what God commands us, and receive what he commands. This, then, is what Jeremiah means by bearing the yoke.

And he says, in youth. For they who have lived unrestrained throughout their life, can hardly bear to be brought into any order. We indeed know, that, the aged are less tractable than the young; nay, whether we refer to the arts or to the liberal sciences, the youthful age is the most flexible. The aged are also much slower; and added to this is another evil, they are very obstinate, and will hardly bear to be taught the first rudiments, being imbued with a false notion, as though they must have lived long in vain. As, then, the disposition in the old is not easily changed, the Prophet says that it is good for us to be formed from childhood to bear the yoke. And this is also seen in brute animals; when a horse is allowed full liberty in the fields, and not in due time tamed, he will hardly ever bear the curb, he will be always refractory. The oxen, also, will never be brought to bear the yoke, if they be put under it in the sixth or eighth year. The same is found to be the case with men. Jeremiah, then, does not say, without reason, that it is good for every one to be trained from his youth in the service of God; and thus he exhorts children and youth not to wait for old age, as it is usually the case. For it has been a common evil, in all ages, for children and youth to leave the study of wisdom to the old. “Oh! it will be time enough for me to be wise, when I arrive at a middle age; but some liberty must be given to childhood and youthful days.” And for this reason, Solomon exhorts all not to wait for old age, but duly to learn to fear God in childhood. So also our Prophet declares that it is good for one to bear the yoke in his childhood. It then follows. —


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