Verses 12–22

The complaints here are, for substance, the same with those in the foregoing part of the chapter; but in these verses the prophet, in the name of the lamenting church, does more particularly acknowledge the hand of god in these calamities, and the righteousness of his hand.[ 47a5 /P]

I. The church in distress here magnifies her affliction, and yet no more than there was cause for; her groaning was not heavier than her strokes. She appeals to all spectators: See if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, Lam. 2:12. This might perhaps be truly said of Jerusalem’s griefs; but we are apt to apply it too sensibly to ourselves when we are in trouble and more than there is cause for. Because we feel most from our own burden, and cannot be persuaded to reconcile ourselves to it, we are ready to cry out, Surely never was sorrow like unto our sorrow; whereas, if our troubles were to be thrown into a common stock with those of others, and then an equal dividend made, share and share alike, rather than stand to that we should each of us say, “Pray, give me my own again.”

II. She here looks beyond the instruments to the author of her troubles, and owns them all to be directed, determined, and disposed of by him: “It is the Lord that has afflicted me, and he has afflicted me because he is angry with me; the greatness of his displeasure may be measured by the greatness of my distress; it is in the day of his fierce anger,” Lam. 2:12. Afflictions cannot but be very much our griefs when we see them arising from God’s wrath; so the church does here. 1. She is as one in a fever, and the fever is of God’s sending: “He has sent fire into my bones (Lam. 2:13), a preternatural heat, which prevails against them, so that they are burnt like a hearth (Ps. 102:3), pained and wasted, and dried away.” 2. She is as one in a net, which the more he struggles to get out of the more he is entangled in, and this net is of God’s spreading. “The enemies could not have succeeded in their stratagems had not God spread a net for my feet.” 3. She is as one in a wilderness, whose way is embarrassed, solitary, and tiresome: “He has turned me back, that I cannot go on, has made me desolate, that I have nothing to support me with, but am faint all the day.” 4. She is as one in a yoke, not yoked for service, but for penance, tied neck and heels together (Lam. 2:14): The yoke of my transgressions is bound by his hand. Observe, We never are entangled in any yoke but what is framed out of our own transgressions. The sinner is holden with the cords of his own sins, Prov. 5:22. The yoke of Christ’s commands is an easy yoke (Matt. 11:30), but that of our own transgressions is a heavy one. God is said to bind this yoke when he charges guilt upon us, and brings us into those inward and outward troubles which our sins have deserved; when conscience, as his deputy, binds us over to his judgment, then the yoke is bound and wreathed by the hand of his justice, and nothing but the hand of his pardoning mercy will unbind it. 5. She is as one in the dirt, and he it is that has trodden under foot all her mighty men, that has disabled them to stand, and overthrown them by one judgment after another, and so left them to be trampled upon by their proud conquerors, Lam. 2:15. Nay, she is as one in a wine-press, not only trodden down, but trodden to pieces, crushed as grapes in the wine-press of God’s wrath, and her blood pressed out as wine, and it is God that has thus trodden the virgin, the daughter of Judah. 6. She is in the hand of her enemies, and it is the Lord that has delivered her into their hands (Lam. 2:14): He has made my strength to fall, so that I am not able to make head against them; nay, not only not able to rise up against them, but not able to rise up from them, and then he has delivered me into their hands; nay (Lam. 2:15), he has called an assembly against me, to crush my young men, and such an assembly as it is in vain to think of opposing; and again (Lam. 2:17), The Lord has commanded concerning Jacob that his adversaries should be round about him. He that has many a time commanded deliverances for Jacob (Ps. 44:4) now commands an invasion against Jacob, because Jacob has disobeyed the commands of his law.

III. She justly demands a share in the pity and compassion of those that were the spectators of her misery (Lam. 2:12): “Isa. it nothing to you, all you that pass by? Can you look upon me without concern? What! are your hearts as adamants and your eyes as marbles, that you cannot bestow upon me one compassionate thought, or look, or tear? Are not you also in the body? Isa. it nothing to you that your neighbor’s house is on fire?” There are those to whom Zion’s sorrows and ruins are nothing; they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph. How pathetically does she beg their compassion! (Lam. 2:18): “Hear, I pray you, all people, and behold my sorrow: hear my complaints, and see what cause I have for them.” This is a request like that of Job (Job 19:21), Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O you my friends! It helps to make a burden sit lighter if our friends sympathize with us, and mingle their tears with ours, for this is an evidence that, though we are in affliction, we are not in contempt, which is commonly as much dreaded in an affliction as any thing.

IV. She justifies her own grief, though it was very extreme, for these calamities (Lam. 2:16): “For these things I weep, I weep in the night (Lam. 2:2), when none sees; my eye, my eye, runs down with water.” Note, This world is a vale of tears to the people of God. Zion’s sons are often Zion’s mourners. Zion spreads forth her hands (Lam. 2:17), which is here an expression rather of despair than of desire; she flings out her hands as giving up all for gone. Let us see how she accounts for this passionate grief. 1. Her God has withdrawn from her; and Micah, that had but gods of gold, when they were stolen from him cried out, What have I more? And what is it that you say unto me? What aileth thee? The church here grieves excessively; for, says she, the comforter that should relieve my soul is far from me. God is the comforter; he used to be so to her; he only can administer effectual comforts; it is his word that speaks them; it is his Spirit that speaks them to us. His are strong consolations, able to relieve the soul, to bring it back when it is gone, and we cannot of ourselves fetch it again; but now he has departed in displeasure, he is far from me, and beholds me afar off. Note, It is no marvel that the souls of the saints faint away, when God, who is the only Comforter that can relieve them, keeps at a distance. 2. Her children are removed from her, and are in no capacity to help her: it is for them that she weeps, as Rachel for hers, because they were not, and therefore she refuses to be comforted. Her children were desolate, because the enemy prevailed against them; there is none of all her sons to take her by the hand (Isa. 51:18); they cannot help themselves, and how should they help her? Both the damsels and the youths, that were her joy and hope, have gone into captivity, Lam. 2:18. It is said of the Chaldeans that they had no compassion upon young men nor maidens, not on the fair sex, not on the blooming age, 2 Chron. 36:17. 3. Her friends failed her; some would not and others could not give her any relief. She spread forth her hands, as begging relief, but there is none to comfort her (Lam. 2:17), none that can do it, none that cares to do it; she called for her lovers, and, to engage them to help her, called them her lovers, but they deceived her (Lam. 2:19), they proved like the brooks in summer to the thirsty traveller, Job 6:15. Note, Those creatures that we set our hearts upon and raise our expectations from we are commonly deceived and disappointed in. Her idols were her lovers. Egypt and Assyria were her confidants. But they deceived her. Those that made court to her in her prosperity were shy of her, and strange to her, in her adversity. Happy are those that have made God their friend and keep themselves in his love, for he will not deceive them! 4. Those whose office it was to guide her were disabled from doing her any service. The priests and the elders, that should have appeared at the head of affairs, died for hunger (Lam. 2:19); they gave up the ghost, or were ready to expire, while they sought their meat; they went a begging for bread to keep them alive. The famine is sore indeed in the land when there is no bread to the wise, when priests and elders are starved. The priests and elders should have been her comforters; but how should they comfort others when they themselves were comfortless? “They have heard that I sigh, which should have summoned them to my assistance; but there is none to comfort me. Lover and friend hast thou put far from me.” 5. Her enemies were too hard for her, and they insulted over her; they have prevailed, Lam. 2:16. Abroad the sword bereaves and slays all that comes in its way, and at home all provisions are cut off by the besiegers, so that there is as death, that is, famine, which is as bad as the pestilence, or worse—the sword without and terror within, Deut. 32:25. And as the enemies, that were the instruments of the calamity, were very barbarous, so were those that were the standers by, the Edomites and Ammonites, that bore ill will to Israel: They have heard of my trouble, and are glad that thou hast done it (Lam. 2:21); they rejoice in the trouble itself; they rejoice that it is God’s doing; it pleases them to find that God and his Israel have fallen out, and they act accordingly with a great deal of strangeness towards them. Jerusalem is as a menstruous woman among them, that they are afraid of touching and are shy of, Lam. 2:17. Upon all these accounts it cannot be wondered at, nor can she be blamed, that her sighs are many, in grieving for what is, and that her heart is faint (Lam. 2:22) in fear of what is yet further likely to be.

V. She justifies God in all that is brought upon her, acknowledging that her sins had deserved these severe chastenings. The yoke that lies so heavily, and binds so hard, is the yoke of her transgressions, Lam. 2:14. The fetters we are held in are of our own making, and it is with our own rod that we are beaten. When the church had spoken here as if she thought the Lord severe she does well to correct herself, at least to explain herself, but acknowledging (Lam. 2:18), The Lord is righteous. He does us no wrong in dealing thus with us, nor can we charge him with any injustice in it; how unrighteous soever men are, we are sure that the Lord is righteous, and manifests his justice, though they contradict all the laws of theirs. Note, Whatever our troubles are, which God is pleased to inflict upon us, we must own that therein he is righteous; we understand neither him nor ourselves if we do not own it, 2 Chron. 12:6. She owns the equity of God’s actions, but owning the iniquity of her own: I have rebelled against his commandments (Lam. 2:18); and again (Lam. 2:20), I have grievously rebelled. We cannot speak ill enough of sin, and we must always speak worst of our own sin, must call it rebellion, grievous rebellion; and very grievous sins is to all true penitents. It is this that lies more heavily upon her than the afflictions she was under: “My bowels are troubled; they work within me as the troubled sea; my heart is turned within me, is restless, is turned upside down; for I have grievously rebelled.” Note, Sorrow for our sin must be great sorrow and must affect the soul.

VI. She appeals both to the mercy and to the justice of God in her present case. 1. She appeals to the mercy of God concerning her own sorrows, which had made her the proper object of his compassion (Lam. 2:20): “Behold, O Lord! for I am in distress; take cognizance of my case, and take such order for my relief as thou pleasest.” Note, It is matter of comfort to us that the troubles which oppress our spirits are open before God’s eye. 2. She appeals to the justice of God concerning the injuries that her enemies did her (Lam. 2:21, 22): “Thou wilt bring the day that thou hast called, the day that is fixed in the counsels of God and published in the prophecies, when my enemies, that now prosecute me, shall be made like unto me, when the cup of trembling, now put into my hands, shall be put into theirs.” It may be read as a prayer, “Let the day appointed come,” and so it goes on, “Let their wickedness come before thee, let it come to be remembered, let it come to be reckoned for; take vengeance on them for all the wrongs they have done to me (Ps. 109:14, 15); hasten the time when thou wilt do to them for their transgressions as thou hast done to me for mine.” This prayer amounts to a protestation against all thoughts of a coalition with them, and to a prediction of their ruin, subscribing to that which God had in his word spoken of it. Note, Our prayers may and must agree with God’s word; and what day God has here called we are to call for, and no other. And though we are bound in charity to forgive our enemies, and to pray for them, yet we may in faith pray for the accomplishment of that which God has spoken against his and his church’s enemies, that will not repent to give him glory.