Read Lamentations Three
The first metaphor used of God in Lamentations 3 is God as shepherd. Today, we will look at the second.
Read Lamentations 3:7-9. What metaphor is used here of God?
How does the Man of Suffering describe God?
How is God’s character depicted?
As the metaphor about God shifts from shepherd, we are now shown a picture of God as divine jail-keeper. The Man tells us that God has closed him in so that he cannot escape. The Man finds thick, iron-like chains on his wrists – the kind historically reserved for criminals prone to running away. More than that, the walls of this divine prison are so thick that when the imprisoned cries for help, his voice can’t be heard – and this is intentional! God seems to sit on the other side of that prison wall and blocks out the prayers of the one inside. The stones that make up the prison walls aren’t uneven stones that are held together with mortar (which would commonly have been found on the battlefield when a make-shift prison or shelter was needed). No, these are blocks of stones that have been carefully made and assembled. They have a laid foundation. They are not easily knocked over or cut through. The Man of Suffering finds himself in a divine prison with a divine jail-keeper.
Consider Israel’s situation and circumstances. When you think about this prison metaphor, what are some interpretive values it could have?
On the one hand, the Man might be referencing Israel’s exile. He could be describing the prison into which the Babylonians have taken them. It was common practice for nations to take prisoners of war whom they would make their slaves or their servants. This is one of the options for interpreting the prison metaphor.
Another option is to understand this metaphor in light of divine judgment. Even when the nation has been driven into national exile and prison, God has also imprisoned them. On top of their physical trappings, God has also trapped them in His own net.
Consider both translation options. What are the implications on God’s character in each translation option?
Which do you think is most fitting?
My personal interpretation (and that of several scholars) is the latter. God has crafted a divine prison for Israel in addition to the prison that physically surrounds them. Even as Babylon trapped them in their siege, God has trapped them in His own net. God, in His divine mercy and abundant grace, is not letting Israel run any farther from Himself! Like a parent trying relentlessly to keep her toddler from touching the hot stove, God scoops Israel up and places her where she can run no farther. He places the heavy chains on her wrists not because He is unkind but because she is a flight risk! Given the opportunity, as history has revealed, she will run away from God and to her ruin. God has trapped Israel in by His power and authority, and in HIs grace and mercy.
Has God ever trapped you in so that you could not run further into sin?
How can you look back and see God’s mercy and grace where you once only saw His wrath?
PRAY & REFLECT
Thank God that He will not let you persist in your sin. Thank Him that He will not let you go your own way but that He will relentlessly call His own back to repentance.