The Word Made Fresh
1I am one of those who has seen the damage God’s wrath has done.
2God has driven me into darkness. There is no light.
3All day long God’s hand has been turned against me.
4God has made my body waste away. God has broken my bones.
5God has attacked me and surrounded me with bitterness and tribulation,
6and has caused me to sit in darkness like those long dead.
7God has chained me inside secure walls, and I cannot escape.
8I plead for help, but God refuses to listen to my prayer,
9and has surrounded me with stones and made my path crooked.
10God is like a bear waiting for me, or like a lion in hiding,
11leading me off my path and tearing me to pieces. I am ruined.
12God’s bow is bent and aimed directly at me.
13The LORD shot arrows into my vital organs.
14All the people laugh at me and taunt me with songs all day.
15God has made me bitter and filled me with foul things to eat.
16My teeth grind on gravel and I cower in ashes at God’s attack.
17Peace is emptied from my soul. I don’t remember happiness.
18That is why I say, “My glory is gone, and also my hope from the LORD.”
19The very thought of my problems is like wormwood and gall.
20My soul can’t stop thinking of my trials and is bowed down within me.
21But there is one thing I remember that gives me hope:
22Steadfast love and mercy from the LORD never ends,
23but is new every morning. “Great is your faithfulness.”
24My spirit repeats every morning, “You are my portion and my hope.”
25The LORD is good to those who wait, and to the searching soul.
26The good wait quietly for the LORD’s salvation.
27It is good for us when we learn to bear burdens while we are young,
28to sit alone silently when the LORD places a burden upon us,
29or to lay on our face in the dirt, knowing there may still be hope,
30or to turn the cheek to the one who strikes it and to accept insults.
31For the LORD will not reject us forever.
32And God may cause grief but will be compassionate with steadfast love.
33God does not willingly afflict or cause grief to anyone.
34When all those in prison are crushed under foot,
35when our rights are perverted in the presence of the Most High,
36or when justice has denied us in the courts, doesn’t the LORD see?
37Who can give an order and expect obedience if it isn’t from the LORD?
38Good and bad both come from the mouth of the Most High;
39why should anyone alive complain about the LORD’s punishment?
40Let us examine ourselves and our habits, then come to the LORD.
41Let us raise our hearts and our hands to God in heaven,
42for we have transgressed. We have rebelled and you have not forgiven us.
43You pursue us, filled with anger and killing us without pity.
44You have wrapped yourself in a cloud no prayer can penetrate.
45You have made us appear like trash and filth among the nations.
46All our enemies have testified against us.
47We are overwhelmed with panic, problems, destruction and devastation.
48My eyes shed a flood of tears because my people are destroyed.
49My eyes will weep unceasingly and without relief
50until the LORD in heaven looks down and acknowledges my tears.
51My eyes weep for the fate of the young women in my city.
52My enemies, who had no cause to be my enemies, hunted me like a bird.
53They have flung me into a deep hole and covered me with stones.
54They covered my head with water until I said, “I am lost.”
55From the depths of the pit I called on your name, LORD.
56You heard me beg you, “Don’t close your ears to me, but help me!”
57And you approached me when I called, saying, “Do not be afraid.”
58You have defended my cause, LORD, and redeemed my life.
59You have seen the evil done to me.
60You have witnessed their evil plots against me.
61You have heard them taunting me, LORD, with all their plots.
62My enemies whisper and murmur against me all day long.
63Sitting or standing they sing taunting songs against me.
64Repay them for what they have done, LORD, and punish their deeds.
65Let their hearts languish, knowing your curse is upon them.
66Pursue them in anger and destroy them from under your heavens.
1-18: The Hebrew word here is an emphatic masculine noun, and it is very clear that the opening words are “I am a man who …” It might also be rendered, “I am a soldier who…” In other words, the voice we are hearing is the voice not of the city, nor even of a representative anonymous person within the city, but of a specific individual telling his personal story. He realizes his plight is at the hand of God. The destruction of Jerusalem has left him bereft of pride, of health, of property, and of freedom; and it is all God’s doing.
19-30: But he is not bereft of faith or of hope. God’s steadfast love is everlasting. God is good; faith waits for God. God punishes, but not forever. Faith waits.
31-45: He enters into a rather lengthy argument in which he seems to be trying to justify God’s actions. He acknowledges the people’s guilt, but also accuses God of ignoring their prayers.
46-54: The despair and destruction are catastrophic. He is so completely demolished that he has lost all hope, at least temporarily.
55-66: But hope springs eternal for every believer. “I called on your name” is reminiscent of Psalm 116:4 and 118:5, where utter calamity evokes a fervent cry for help, and God answers. Our citizen/soldier does indeed find a ray of hope in that he believes he hears God saying, “do not fear.” He is encouraged then to lay his complaint before the LORD and plead for justice, which he clearly believes must involve retaliation against his enemies.
In times of distress, people have a tendency to look for someone to accuse rather than simply accept responsibility for their own contribution and determine to work for the good of all. Retaliation against those who are responsible for our troubles is not the way God wants us to respond. Our response should be faith and trust that God is moving in the center of every situation to protect and renew God’s people.