The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday, the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, is from Jeremiah’s book of Lamentations. The text is Lamentations 3:22-33 and is one of the few texts in the pericopal system from this writing. Lamentations, as the name indicates, is full of laments and woes. However, our text for this Sunday has a strong message of hope and confidence in the LORD. In the overall context of Lamentations this text stands out as a breath of fresh air, or perhaps more accurately, words of relief after so much dismal lamenting!
Jeremiah is a well-known, even famous, “lamenter” in Holy Scripture. His prophetic book, Jeremiah, breaks into lament on a regular basis. It is important to remember that “lament” does not demonstrate a lack of faith. In fact, the opposite is true. Lament is an act of faith! One does not complain to the One they do not believe in. Truthfully, one does not complain/lament to the One who has no power to change the course of things either. After all, what would be the point? For a Hebrew, lamenting is considered an act of faith. Here in chapter 3:22-33, Jeremiah follows a long litany of lament with beautiful words of Gospel/grace. In Hebrew, the word used to express all of this is חֶסֶד (kheh-sed) “Grace; mercy; steadfast love; undeserved forgiveness; covenantal faithfulness,” all wrapped up in one word. Obviously, a very significant concept!
It is important to remember that “lament” does not demonstrate a lack of faith. In fact, the opposite is true.
3:22 חַסְדֵי יְהוָה (chas-Dei Yah-weh) “The steadfast love of the LORD” In the Hebrew Old Testament writings this is the most Gospel-orientated phrase.
תָמְנוּ (Ta-me-nu) root: תמם (taw-mam) Qal: “to cease; come to an end” The understanding in Hebrew as well as the Aramaic of this verse is: “Because of the steadfast love of the LORD, we will not be cut off/come to an end.” The “cutting off” language invokes the covenantal promise the LORD has made with Israel.
רַחֲמָיו (ra-cha-Mav) from: רַחֲמִים (rakh-am) “mercy; a feeling of love; compassion”
3:23 חֲדָשִׁים (cha-da-Shim) from: חָדָשׁ (khaw-dawsh) “fresh; new”
אֱמוּנָתֶךָ (e-mu-na-Te-cha) from: אֱמוּנָה (em-oo-naw) “faithfulness; steadfastness; trustworthiness”
3:24 חֶלְקִי (chel-Ki) from: חֵלֶק (khay-lek) “portion; share (of possessions)”
אוֹחִיל (o-Chil) root: יחל (yaw-chal) Hiphil: “to wait; hope”
3:25 לְקוָו (le-ko-Vav) root: קוה (kaw-vaw) Qal, infinitive: “to wait for; hope; await”
3:26 וְיָחִיל (ve-ya-Chil) from: יָחִיל (ya-Chil) “hope; waiting”
וְדוּמָם (ve-du-Mam) from: דּוּמָם (doo-mawm) “in silence; silently”
לִתְשׁוּעַת (lit-shu-At) from: תְּשׁוּעָה (tesh-oo-aw) “help; deliverance; salvation”
3:27 לַגֶּבֶר (lag-Ge-ver) from: גֶּבֶר (gheh-ber) “man; one; one who”
יִשָֹּא (yis-Sa) root: נשֹא (naw-saw) Qal: “to lift up; bear; carry”
עֹל (ol) “yoke”
בִּנְעוּרָיו (bin-u-Rav) from: נָעוּר (naw-oor) “youth; early life”
These are powerful words of Gospel comfort in the midst of the laments. In the Book of Jeremiah, the prophet prophecies and then, almost without warning, he descends into lament for a short section. He does this over and over again. Here in Lamentations, Jeremiah seems to do the opposite. He laments and then ascends into Gospel comfort for a short section.
3:28 בָּדָד (ba-Dad) “alone”
וְיִדֹּם (ve-yid-Dom) root: דמם (daw-man) Qal: “to be silent; keep silent”
נָטַל (na-Tal) “to lay upon; impose; lift up upon”
3:29 אוּלַי (u-Lai) “perhaps; maybe”
תִּקְוָה (tik-Vah) “hope”
3:30 לְמַכֵּהוּ לֶחִי (le-mak-Ke-hu Le-chi) “his cheek for striking”
יִשְֹבַּע (yis-Ba) root: שֹבע (saw-bah) “to be full; satisfied; satisfy oneself”
בְּחֶרְפָּה (be-cher-Pah) from: חֶרְפָּה (kher-paw) “insults; shame; disgrace”
3:31 יִזְנַח (yiz-Nach) root: זנח (zaw-nakh) Qal: “to reject; expel; cast off/away”
3:32 הוֹגָה (ho-Gah) root: יגה (yaw-gaw) Hiphil: “to cause torment; cause grief/sorrow”
וְרִחַם (ve-ri-Cham) root: רחם (raw-kham) Piel: “to have compassion; greet with love; take pity”
חֲסָדָיו (cha-sa-Dav) “steadfast love” Note the return to the theme of “steadfast love” from verse 22.
3:33 עִנָּה (in-Nah) root: ענה (aw-naw) Piel: “to oppress; afflict”
וַיַּגֶּה (vai-yag-Geh) root: יגה (yaw-gaw) Piel: “to grieve; torment”
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Lamentations 3:22-33.
Text Week-Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Lamentations 3:22-33.