When I was a kid, sometimes we played a game where a Bible verse was quoted, and we would guess the book and chapter. Want to play?
He has walled me in so I cannot escape; he has weighed me down with chains. Even when I call out or cry for help, he shuts out my prayer. He has barred my way with blocks of stone; he has made my paths crooked.
Like a bear lying in wait, like a lion in hiding, he dragged me from the path and mangled me and left me without help. He drew his bow and made me the target for his arrows.
Any guesses? Doesn’t sound familiar…
Answer: Lamentations 3
Okay, how about this one?
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’
The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.
Where is this one from? This one we have heard for sure….
Answer: Lamentations 3
The second set of Scripture has been made into music, is written on greeting cards, brings us much comfort in prayer meetings, and therefore is very familiar to us.
And the first set? How can it be written by the same person, much less quoted only a breath away from the second set? Was Jeremiah confused? Having a really bad day? Fighting back and forth between his flesh and his spirit?
As I read this chapter recently, I was struck with a different thought. I believe Jeremiah was just being honest, speaking authentically from his heart, his experience, and his personal knowledge of the Most Holy. And, he was speaking from his prophetic gifting.
Jeremiah was not describing the Lord in the verses that are happy and then his enemies in the painful ones. If you go back and read it, you will see that,
“Bear lying in wait” =’s…. God
You might have also noticed that not only is God represented by the wild animal, but also by the hunter. Except in this case, the hunter is not pointing the arrows at the animal, but at the person trying to escape! In other words, Jeremiah was hopelessly surrounded by God using some very negative word pictures. Why are we so good at lifting out the one or two verses that we like out of a chapter of, say, sixty-six verses, and ignoring the rest?
It’s a little like eating just the middle out of your favorite cream cookie. Of course, it would be a better analogy if the cookie on either side was made out of something bitter and distasteful. But if we eat the Word of God like this, our view of God is self-serving and distorted. High sugar content, and no substance.
I have been challenged to quit praying for God to get me out of painful circumstances, and instead submit to the One who has allowed or arranged them. There is always the good part to be experienced when I receive his “new compassions” every morning, but am I going to only accept the good things from Him, or all of what He has for me?
If you are being challenged in the same way, you will find that your view of God suddenly goes from one-dimensional to many-dimensional, both mysterious and amazing, personal and overwhelming.
Have another cookie. Just food for thought….