The fourth and final aspect of our topic in discussion is ‘God’s faithfulness in His proven goodness to His waiting people.’ For a start, Lamentation 3:25 is a confirmation of verse 24.
The Lord’s being our portion speaks to us of His sheer goodness. ‘The Lord is good to all’ (Psalm 145:9), but especially, our text affirm, is He ‘good to those whose hope is in him’- good to His own. And a mark of ‘those whose hope is in Him’ is that they seek Him (3:25) and ‘wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord’ (3:26). The word ‘salvation’ here means His deliverance or coming to their aid.
What is it, in the context, to seek Him? Surely it is to acknowledge how greatly and continually we need His mercy, to go directly to Him when temptation assaults us and to flee to Him for aid in the face of every trouble and danger.
Matthew Henry remarks, ‘It is good (our duty, and will be our unspeakable comfort and satisfaction) to hope… and wait… though the difficulties that lie in the way of it seem insupportable… though it be delayed; and while we wait to be quiet and silent, not quarrelling with God nor making ourselves weary, but acquiescing in the divine disposals.’
And George Barlow makes the further important practical point: ‘Murmuring begets murmuring, and we are apt to blame everyone but ourselves. The more we grumble, the farther are we away from goodness. It is only when we are silent and abstains from complaining that we begin to see that our deliverance must come from God.’ Hope in God, the apostle Paul reminds us, ‘does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us’ (Romans 5:5).
Here, then in verses 22-26, are some approved texts and rich cordials for all the stricken hearts of God’s people. Learn them by heart. Meditate upon them and all they assured us of: the goodness of the Lord, the great love of the Lord, the unfailing compassions of the Lord, the faithfulness of the Lord. These are the comforts of God’s people in an evil day.
The following are further encouragements from the Scriptures, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope’ (Romans 15:4). Let us cultivate for ourselves and towards one another that lovely ministry of Jonathan to David who, when David was on the run from Saul and under great pressure from enemies on every side, went to him, met with him and ‘helped him find strength in God’ (1 Sam.23:16).
The message of Lamentation 3: 27-30 is simple, though more easily said than learned: afflictions are good for us! Moreover, says Jeremiah, ‘It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young’ (Jer. 3:27). Calvin wonders whether the yoke of instruction, or teaching, is intended rather than the yoke of chastisement, or scourges. While you can trace the teaching and the discipline harnessed together in, say, Ephesians 6:4, it is generally agreed, and certainly suits the context, to take it here as the yoke of God’s afflictions. It is His yoke that we are to bear, and it will add greatly to our support under and profit from our afflictions to see and acknowledge His sovereign hand and power upon us.
Why especially in the days of youth? There are various reasons. One is that youth is proverbially a time of freshness, vigour and strength, all of which speak of a greater ability to bear the yoke. But there is a more important set of reasons. It develops humility and seriousness at an early age, when there can be a great natural tendency to flippancy and light heartedness.
It weans the young believer from the world and teaches him/her from the start to set his afflictions on things above, even upon Christ Himself, in whom our life is hid. It is greatly glorifying to God to see young people living for eternity, and gripped by the assurance that ‘Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal’ (2 Cor.4:17-18).Youth is that time when people are most susceptible to instruction and when there is the greatest danger of being corrupted (2 Tim. 2:22); it is the time when temptations to sin may be strongest.
And it renders the bearing of burdens easier in later life. The one who has known what it is to bear the yoke while he/she is young should be less likely to sink into despair and unbelief or to collapse under the weight of the yoke in later years. That is why the psalmist could testify, ‘It was good for me to be afflicted,’ in order that ‘I might learn your decrees’ (Psalm 119:71). Here is not some super-spirituality or false piety, but the genuine testimony of one who had not only been brought to know the Lord while he was young but had also learned to bear the Lord’s yoke while he was young.
It is an important observation from the historical context of Lamentations. Many of the young men had been carried off into captivity in exile. We have noticed a number of times and the sad refrain concerning the death or exile of the young men and women. ‘To make them easy in it, Jeremiah tells them that it was good for them to bear the yoke of the captivity, and they would find it so if they would but accommodate themselves to their condition and labour to answer God’s ends in laying that heavy yoke upon them.’ And it is worth noting that Jeremiah himself bore the yoke in his youth. Jeremiah was young when God called him to be a prophet, and from the very beginning he experienced much opposition and many trials (Jer. 1:6). Having himself learned to bear the yoke early in life, he was the better able to do so later in life, and to encourage others as they, too, had to bear it.
By Rev. Eric D. Maefonea