Charles Simeon Commentary - Lamentations 3:31 - 3:33

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Lamentations 3:31 - 3:33

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Lam_3:31-33. The Lord will not cast off for ever: but though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies. For he doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.

THE Prophet Jeremiah was, perhaps, above all other prophets, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. It is possible, indeed, that in this chapter he may speak in part as a representative of the Hebrew nation; but still there is so much which has an immediate reference to himself, that we cannot but consider it as a record of his own experience [Note: ver. 1–20.]. At all events, the consolations which he administers, whether they refer to himself in his individual capacity, or to the people collectively, are suited to every person under heaven, whilst under the pressure of any trouble. To enlarge upon all the various topics which he adduces, would lead me too far, and would be the work of a large volume rather than of a single discourse. I shall content myself with noticing the subject so far only as it presents itself to us in the words which I have read: wherein you see,

Beyond a doubt, it is “God who causes grief”—

[It is remarkable that the prophet does not merely affirm this (though that would be an ample security for the truth of the position); but he takes it for granted;Though he cause grief (which it must be acknowledged he does), yet will he have compassion.” To this truth the whole Scripture bears record. God expressly asserts it: “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things [Note: Isa_45:7.].” Yea, so plain and undeniable is this truth, that the Prophet Amos appeals to us respecting it: “Is there evil in the city, and the Lord hath not done it [Note: Amo_3:6.]?” Whatever we may imagine, “affliction comes not forth of the dust, neither doth trouble spring from the ground [Note: Job_5:6.]:” but, whoever be the instrument that brings it upon us, God is in reality the Author of it; all creatures being only “as the axe or saw in the hands of Him that uses it,” for the effecting of his own purposes [Note: Isa_10:15.].]

It is no less our duty than our privilege to acknowledge this—

[It is our duty: for we are not to conceive of any thing as left to chance. This would be no better than Atheism. In fact, no man can for a moment indulge such a conceit, but through a total ignorance of God; leading him to imagine, that to attend to such numerous and minute concerns would be a trouble to God: whereas, He is as able to order every thing in heaven and earth, as he was to create the universe at first. And surely to have such a view of him, is an inestimable privilege; because, if nothing be done but by a God of infinite wisdom and goodness, nothing can be done which shall not issue in his glory and his people’s good. Whoever, then, be the immediate agent, it is our wisdom to trace every thing to the first great Cause of all; even as Job did, when, under all his complicated afflictions, he said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away: blessed be the name of the Lord [Note: Job_1:21.]”!]

On this truth depends,

II.      The consolation that is provided for us under it—

This is stated, as it were,

1.       In answer to our fears—

[When our trials are heavy and accumulated, we are ready to fear that they are sent in anger and will issue in our destruction. But God assures us, that “he does not afflict willingly, or grieve the children of men” without necessity. There is, if I may so speak, a “needs be” for them [Note: 1Pe_1:6.]; some evil to be corrected, or some good to be administered. Earthly parents are sometimes led by caprice, and “correct their children for their pleasure:” but God never does it but “for our profit, that we may be partakers of his holiness [Note: Heb_12:10.].”

As for our trials issuing in our destruction, the very reverse is God’s intent in sending them: he sends them “to humble us, and to prove us, and to do us good at our latter end [Note: Deu_8:16.].” Did he intend “to cast us off for ever,” he would rather say, “They are joined to idols: let them alone [Note: Hos_4:17.].” But it is not so that God deals with his people. “He will not cast off his people, because it hath pleased him to make them his people [Note: 1Sa_12:22.].”. “He will visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes: but his loving-kindness will he not utterly take from them, nor suffer his faithfulness to fail: for once has he sworn, by his holiness, that he will not lie unto David,” the great Head and Representative of all his people [Note: Psa_89:32-35.].]

2.       In accordance with our hopes—

[What does the afflicted soul desire but this, that “though God cause grief, yet will he have compassion?” This is what God does in the midst of the very chastisements he inflicts. “His soul was grieved for the misery of Israel,” even when for their iniquities he had delivered them into the hand of their enemies [Note: Jdg_10:16.]. Nor will he measure out his compassion according to our merits, but “according to the multitude of his own mercies.” Nothing less than this, indeed, will satisfy the afflicted soul: nor, indeed, will any thing less satisfy our compassionate God, who “in all our afflictions is himself afflicted; and who, in his love and in his pity, will effect our complete redemption [Note: Isa_63:9.].” The entire view of his dealings with us may be seen in his conduct towards his people of old: “Many times did he deliver them: but they provoked him with their counsel, and were brought low for their iniquity. Nevertheless, he regarded their affliction when he heard their cry: and he remembered for them his covenant, and repented according to the multitude of his mercies [Note: Psa_106:43-45.].” “In a little wrath, he may hide his face from us for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will he have mercy upon us [Note: Isa_54:7-10.].”]


Let us endeavour,

1.       To get just views of the Divine character—

[There can be no comfort to the soul whilst we new God as a vindictive Judge. As long as a we are really desiring his favour, we are authorized to regard him as a loving Father, who seeks only the welfare of our souls. If we see a husbandman prune his vine, or a workman chisel his stone, or a goldsmith put his gold into the fire, we are at no loss to account for their conduct, even though, to the eye of sense, it may appear severe: to improve the vine, to beautify the stone, to purify the gold, to bring forth from the furnace a vessel meet for the Master’s use, are, in our minds, an ample vindication of the apparent severity. Let us, then, conceive of God as wise, and good, and gracious, and as personally interested in our welfare; and then we shall never murmur at any of his dispensations; but shall say, under the most painful trials, “It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good.”]

2.       To make a suitable improvement of afflictive dispensations—

[Every “rod has a voice, which we ought to hear, as well as Him also that has appointed it [Note: Mic_6:9.].” Would we but listen attentively to God speaking to us in the night-season of affliction [Note: Psa_16:7.], verily, we should learn many invaluable lessons. We often acquire a more just and comprehensive and endearing knowledge of God in one hour of adversity, than we had previously gained in whole years of prosperity [Note: Job_36:8-10.]. Those who are accustomed to behold fine paintings, know that there is a point of view, in which if we are placed, we shall see every figure, as it were, standing out of the canvass. Now God is sometimes pleased to call us to this point, that we may have richer views of his Divine character. The ascent to the place may be difficult, and attended with pain; but the subsequent views will richly repay all our labour. Let us then especially seek to improve in our knowledge of God, and in an admiration of his adorable perfections. And if there be in us any evil, which God has discovered to our view, let us put it away, though it be dear to us as a right eye, or apparently necessary to us as a right hand. If our afflictions do but “yield us the peaceable fruits of righteousness, we shall never have reason to complain, however much we may have been exercised by them [Note: Heb_12:11.].” Only let them “purge away our dross and our tin [Note: Isa_1:25.],” and we shall bless God for the furnace by which this blessed change has been effected. “The trials that have been productive of so great a blessing will issue in praise and honour and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ [Note: 1Pe_1:6-7.],” and through the countless ages of eternity [Note: Rev_7:13-17.].]