Icon: Utmost Humiliation
Chapter 3 is the personal testimony of our reporter and mourner (presumably the prophet Jeremiah), whose experience parallels that of the city, or daughter of Jerusalem. I am the man who has seen affliction (3:1). He identifies fully with the city and speaks on her behalf. Here once again we see a foreshadowing of Christ crucified assuming the suffering and shame of His people. We hear numerous echoes of Christ's experience on the cross, including an unanswered cry of prayer (3:8), ridicule and taunting (3:14), and the giving of his cheek to the one who strikes him (3:30).
Furthermore, Jeremiah likens the bitterness of his experience to drinking wormwood and gall (3:15, 19). This is reminiscent of the sour wine (or the wine mixed with gall, Matt. 27:34) that was offered to Jesus on the cross just before His death, after He said,
I thirst (John 19:28-29)
Within John's Gospel, this bookends the first time Jesus asks for a drink, from the woman of Samaria at Jacob's well (John 4:1-45). Given her checkered past, dishonourable reputation (You have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband), her status as an outcast, and the fact that she came from a people who had been exiled, we can perhaps see her as the abandoned, long-lost daughter of Jerusalem from Lamentations. Her six lovers had left her without comfort (Lam. 1:2), but now she meets her seventh: the true and ultimate bridegroom who will give her Sabbath rest. John clearly intends us to see a figurative espousal in this scene because Jesus and the Samaritan woman meet at a well, the place where the Old Testament patriarchs (including Jacob) found their brides (Gen. 29:2).
Jesus proposes to her a continuous, eternal fountain of water springing up into everlasting life (John 4:13-14). In order to fulfill this promise to bring forth the cleansing and refreshing living water of the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39), Jesus Himself had to suffer extreme dehydration on the cross. His thrist was 'sated' with bitterness so that our thirst could be quenched forevermore.
Lamentations 3 offers the only trickle of this renewal and restoration in the entire book:
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” (3:21-24 ESV)
This is the great response to the hitherto unanswered and unconsoled cry from the previous chapter: What can I say for you, to what compare you, O daughter of Jerusalem? What can I liken to you, that I may comfort you, O virgin daughter of Zion? For your ruin is vast as the sea; who can heal you? (2:13 ESV)
Only the LORD's unfailing steadfast love (3:22). The Hebrew word here (hesed) refers to the Lord's great, longsuffering faithfulness to His covenant people. This enduring love and deep devotion stands in stark contrast to the cheap and fleeting attention Jerusalem once received from her lovers (1:4), who have now abandoned her.
A final word on v.22-23: God's mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. One of the mercies God is offering to us in the midst of this pandemic is the opportunity to appreciate the gift of each new day. Our lives have slowed down and have been simplified considerably. Though we may be anxious about the virus, our financial security and the uncertainty of the future, God seems to be saying to us every morning: 'Take stock of today.' In a recent article on living as a Christian in the uncertainty pandemic, Ephraim Radner writes, 'Today, simply because God has given it to us, is filled with grace.' Every day presents us with a new opportunity to discover and experience more of God's love; and now we have more time than ever before to contemplate, cherish and live into this great gift.
So every morning in this pandemic, let us remember and return to the Lord, listen to His voice and receive with thanksgiving the gift of today. And in these upcoming 40 days of Easter especially, may we have eyes to see our lives and all creation transfigured with God's love and resurrection grace.
Truly I say to you: today you will be with me in paradise (Luke 23:43)