Sometimes, there are chapters in scripture that–well–are autobiographical.
Maybe not literally–we have to use much caution in reading scripture, to not “read into” scripture what is not there. And we have to be very careful in studying scripture, to not bend it like hot metal, to make it “fit” what we seek to explain out of our own minds, or souls, or lives.
And, we have to be so very careful, to let scripture interpret scripture, and to keep things in context. We must pay attention to the intended audience, the historical and cultural surroundings, the author’s purposes.
That said, there are times that we read scripture, and it is like reading our life.
And–as long as we keep the above things in mind, I think that is how we are intended to read scripture. It is history, yes. It is literature, absolutely. It is poetry and laws and prophecies and stories and parables and biographies and so many other literary genres.
But—it is also so personal.
Sometimes….sometimes it seems to be too personal. Too close to home. Too accurate.
But, if it were not that way, then really would we experience fully the truly personal nature of our relationship with God….our Father? With Jesus….our Savior? With the Holy Spirit….our comfortor?
Lamentations 3 is one of those chapters–at least, I’ve found that is the case, for me.
When I come upon Lamentations 3 in both my paper version of the Bible, and in my Bible study software, it is marked up. Lined. Noted. Stuff written in the margins. Notes linked to the verses. Sermons linked to the verses. It is smudged. The page is even torn, in my paper Bible. I’ve been on that page, a lot.
So many things, in these 66 verses, shout loudly in my mind and soul.
The book of Lamentations–as a whole–is devastating. The ESV Study Bible describes it as a “formal expression of grief in a high literary style.” It is not an “emotional outburst”. There is a preciseness to it; a methodical-ness to it, a rhythm to it. It is raw and honest, but not uncontrolled without reasoning and thorough thinking.
I can appreciate that. I can relate to that.
Here’s the interesting thing, though, about chapter 3—
The subject of the book, overall, is Jerusalem. God’s punishment on Jerusalem, to be precise. The grief of Jerusalem, to press in a bit deeper.
But Lamentations 3 comes at these things from a different bent. Lamentations 3 presents a sudden “narrowing” of focus. From the wide view of the grief of Jerusalem, down to the narrow and very personal grief of the author.
It is, undoubtedly, intense.
Not out-of-control, lack-of-reasoning, wildly abandoned grief. No, rather a laying bare of the griefs this man has seen and known and experienced and is experiencing and is knowing and is seeing.
Because life can be intense.
I won’t write tonight about what I see in here, that is so close-cutting. I can’t bear too; nor is it necessary. Those are the things that are poured out before my seeing and knowing God.
I know these words, intensely. On many levels.
And you do, too.
God’s sovereignty, at times, can feel so very heavy.
But here’s the key, in the midst of this very autobiographical lament, that we all can relate to–His sovereignty which extends over the wide focus of the world, and in this passage, over Jerusalem, and in this third chapter, over the personal experience of the author–and the experiences of us and the experiences of me–is the very same sovereignty that gives hope.
The sovereignty that causes grief, also has compassion, and provides mercies new every morning:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
Life is hard. This I know, to be truth.
God is good. This truth I know, to be my saving grace.