3:16 – The Rest of the Story – God Reveals His Plan 12: Lamentations

A Bible Study exploring all the 3:16s in the Bible as they illuminate

  • the Human Condition
  • God’s Revelation of His Plan (Current location of study)
  • God’s Fulfillment of His Plan
  • Our Response

“He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes;” – Lamentations 3:16

I wrote an overview and introduction to the book of Lamentations as part of my Chronological Bible Study a few years ago. I encourage you to read that blog post here before continuing.

The Introduction to Lamentations provided with the ESV Study Bible is also very instructive and form the basis for much of what I’ve included below.

The key passage in Lamentations is 3:19–24, which affirms that belief in God’s mercy and faithfulness is the key to a restored relationship with God. Forgiveness is possible even for people who have deserved God’s judgment (1:18). Hope, not despair, is the central theme in Lamentations.

Lamentations was most likely written to be prayed or sung in worship services devoted to asking God’s forgiveness. Such services began as early as the months after the temple’s destruction in 586 B.C. They continued after the temple was rebuilt during Zechariah’s time (c. 520 B.C.). In later years, Lamentations was read and sung as part of annual observances marking the temple’s destruction.

Lamentations presents many key theological realities from an important era in Israel’s history:

  • It includes memorable prayers that confess sin, express renewed hope, and declare total dependence on God’s grace.
  • It is the only book in the Bible written by a person who actually lived through the divine judgment the Bible often refers to as “the day of the Lord”.
  • It provides great insight into the nature of pain, sin, and redemption.
  • Like so many other OT passages, Lamentations teaches that Jerusalem fell:
    1. because of the people’s sins (1:18);
    2. because they rejected God’s word sent through the prophets (2:8, 14, 17);
    3. because their leaders led them astray (4:13).
  • It affirms God’s never-ceasing mercy (3:19–24; compare Deut. 30:1–10). Readers can know that God never gives up on his people, even when they sin greatly.
  • Lamentations agrees with the Psalms that prayer is the way to restore a broken relationship with God. It also shares the Psalms’ emphasis on God’s sovereignty (see Ps. 103:19).
  • Like many of the prophets, Lamentations warns of the “day of the Lord.” This is the day when God judges sin. That day has already occurred in historical events like the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. It will occur again at the end of time as the final “day of the Lord.” People need to take seriously the warnings about such days of judgment.

Now, looking particularly at this week’s 3:16 verse:

He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes; – Lamentations 3:16

The writer at this point has been lamenting how difficult it has been to go through God’s judgment on His people. Israel has been conquered and driven off into exile by the Babylonians. The writer acknowledges that the events that have transpired are a direct judgment from God. However, this verse is at the beginning of a turning point in the writer’s perspective – a turning point that he initiates himself. Read this 3:16 verse in the context of the verses that follow it.

16 He has made my teeth grind on gravel,
and made me cower in ashes;
17 my soul is bereft of peace;
I have forgotten what happiness is;
18 so I say, “My endurance has perished;
so has my hope from the LORD.”

19 Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
20 My soul continually remembers 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 who seeks him.

Do you see what the writer did? He deliberately turned his thoughts around and reminded himself of the confidence that he can have in the “steadfast love” of the Lord.

These verses formed the basis for one of my all-time favorite hymns – “Great is Thy Faithfulness”

The lyrics are shown below and you might also like this YouTube music video of the song by the acapella group Veritas.

“Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

[Chorus]
“Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!”
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
“Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

[Chorus]

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

[Chorus]

Thanks for reading. Next week we’ll study Jeremiah 3:16.

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