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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 1–20
Verses 1–20

The title of the Ps. 102:1-28 might very fitly be prefixed to this chapter—The prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and pours out his complaint before the Lord; for it is very feelingly and fluently that the complaint is here poured out. Let us observe the particulars of it. The prophet complains, 1. That God is angry. This gives both birth and bitterness to the affliction (Lam. 3:1): I am the man, the remarkable man, that has seen affliction, and has felt it sensibly, by the rod of his wrath. Note, God is sometimes angry with his own people; yet it is to be complained of, not as a sword to cut off, by only as a rod to correct; it is to them the rod of his wrath, a chastening which, though grievous for the present, will in the issue be advantageous. By this rod we must expect to see affliction, and, if we be made to see more than ordinary affliction by that rod, we must not quarrel, for we are sure that the anger is just and affliction mild and mixed with mercy. 2. That he is at a loss and altogether in the dark. Darkness is put for great trouble and perplexity, the want both of comfort and of direction; this was the case of the complainant (Lam. 3:2): “He has led me by his providence, and an unaccountable chain of events, into darkness and not into light, the darkness I feared and not into the light I hoped for.” And (Lam. 3:6), He has set me in dark places, dark as the grave, like those that are dead of old, that are quite forgotten, nobody knows who or what they were. Note, The Israel of God, though children of light, sometimes walk in darkness. 3. That God appears against him as an enemy, as a professed enemy. God had been for him, but no “Surely against me is he turned (Lam. 3:3), as far as I can discern; for his hand is turned against me all the day. I am chastened every morning,” Ps. 73:14. And, when God’s hand is continually turned against us, we are tempted to think that his heart is turned against us too. God had said once (Hos. 5:14), I will be as a lion to the house of Judah, and now he has made his word good (Lam. 3:10): “He was unto me as a bear lying in wait, surprising me with his judgments, and as a lion in secret places; so that which way soever I went I was in continual fear of being set upon and could never think myself safe.” Do men shoot at those thy are enemies to? He has bent his bow, the bow that was ordained against the church’s prosecutors, that is bent against her sons, Lam. 3:12. He has set me as a mark for his arrow, which he aims at, and will be sure to hit, and then the arrows of his quiver enter into my reins, give me a mortal wound, an inward wound, Lam. 3:13. Note, God has many arrows in his quiver, and they fly swiftly and pierce deeply. 4. That he is as one sorely afflicted both in body and mind. The Jewish state may now be fitly compared to a man wrinkled with age, for which there is no remedy (Lam. 3:4): “My flesh and my skin has he made old; they are wasted and withered, and I look like one that is ready to drop into the grave; nay, he has broken my bones, and so disabled me to help myself, Lam. 3:15. He has filled me with bitterness, a bitter sense of his calamities.” God has access to the spirit, and can so embitter that as thereby to embitter all the enjoyments; as, when the stomach is foul, whatever is eaten sours in it: “He has made me drunk with wormwood, so intoxicated me with the sense of my afflictions that I know not what to say or do. He has mingled gravel with my bread, so that my teeth are broken with it (Lam. 3:16) and what I eat is neither pleasant nor nourishing. He has covered me with ashes, as mourners used to be, or (as some read it) he has fed me with ashes. I have eaten ashes like bread,” Ps. 102:9. 5. That he is not able to discern any way of escape or deliverance (Lam. 3:5): “He has built against me, as forts and batteries are built against a besieged city. Where there was a way open it is now quite made up: He has compassed me on ever side with gall and travel; I vex, and fret, and tire myself, to find a way of escape, but can find none, Lam. 3:7. He has hedged me about, that I cannot get out.” When Jerusalem was besieged it was said to be compassed in on every side, Luke 19:43. “I am chained; and as some notorious malefactors are double-fettered, and loaded with irons, so he has made my chain heavy. He has also (Lam. 3:9) enclosed my ways with hewn stone, not only hedged up my way with thorns (Hos. 2:6), but stopped it up with a stone wall, which cannot be broken through, so that my paths are made crooked; I traverse to and fro, to the right hand, to the left, to try to get forward, but am still turned back.” It is just with God to make those who walk in the crooked paths of sin, crossing God’s laws, walk in the crooked paths of affliction, crossing their designs and breaking their measures. Song (Lam. 3:11), “He has turned aside my ways; he has blasted all my counsels, ruined my projects, so that I am necessitated to yield to my own ruin. He has pulled me in pieces; he has torn and is gone away (Hos. 5:14), and has made me desolate, has deprived me of all society and all comfort in my own soul.” 6. That God turns a deaf ear to his prayers (Lam. 3:8): “When I cry and shout, as one in earnest, as one that would make him hear, yet he shuts out my prayer and will not suffer it to have access to him.” God’s ear is wont to be open to the prayers of his people, and his door of mercy to those that knock at it; but now both are shut, even to one that cries and shouts. Thus sometimes God seems to be angry even against the prayers of his people (Ps. 80:4), and their case is deplorable indeed when they are denied not only the benefit of an answer, but the comfort of acceptance. 7. That his neighbours make a laughing matter of his troubles (Lam. 3:14): I was a derision to all my people, to all the wicked among them, who made themselves an one another merry with the public judgments, and particularly the prophet Jeremiah’s griefs. I am their song, their neginath, or hand-instrument of music, their tabret (Job 17:6), that they play upon, as Nero on his harp when Rome was on fire. 8. That he was ready to despair of relief and deliverance: “Thou hast not only taken peace from me, but hast removed my soul far off from peace (Lam. 3:17), so that it is not only not within reach, but no within view. I forget prosperity; it is so long since I had it, and so unlikely that I should ever recover it, that I have lost the idea of it. I have been so inured to sorrow and servitude that I know not what joy and liberty mean. I have even given up all for gone, concluding, My strength and my hope have perished from the Lord (Lam. 3:18); I can no longer stay myself upon God as my support, for I do not find that he gives me encouragement to do so; nor can I look for his appearing in my behalf, so as to put an end to my troubles, for the case seems remediless, and even my God inexorable.” Without doubt it was his infirmity to say this (Ps. 77:10), for with God there is everlasting strength, and he is his people’s never-failing hope, whatever they may think. 9. That grief returned upon every remembrance of his troubles, and his reflections were as melancholy as his prospects, Lam. 3:19, 20. Did he endeavour as Job did (Job 9:27), to forget his complaint? Alas! it was to no purpose; he remembers, upon all occasions, the affliction and the misery, the wormwood and the gall. Thus emphatically does he speak of his affliction, for thus did he think of it, thus heavily did it lie when he reviewed it! It was an affliction that was misery itself. My affliction and my transgression (so some read it), my trouble and my sin that brought it upon me; this was the wormwood and the gall in the affliction and the misery. It is sin that makes the cup of affliction a bitter cup. My soul has them still in remembrance. The captives in Babylon had all the miseries of the siege in their mind continually and the flames and ruins of Jerusalem still before their eyes, and wept when they remembered Zion; nay, they could never forget Jerusalem, Ps. 137:1, 5. My soul, having them in remembrance, is humbled in me, not only oppressed with a sense of the trouble, but in bitterness for sin. Note, It becomes us to have humble hearts under humbling providences, and to renew our penitent humiliations for sin upon every remembrance of our afflictions and miseries. Thus we may get good by former corrections and prevent further.