“For the Lord will not cast off for ever: But though He cause grief, yet will He have compassion according to the multitude of His mercies. For He doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men” (Lamentations 3:31–33).
The five chapters of the unique Book of Lamentations, written by Jeremiah in his grief over the destruction of Jerusalem, are all written as acrostics, with each verse of each chapter beginning with successive letters of the 22-letter Hebrew alphabet. That is, verse 1 of each chapter begins with the letter aleph, verse 2 with beth, etc. (like “A,” “B,” etc. in English). The middle chapter is written in acrostic triplets (the first three verses beginning with aleph, and so on). Thus, chapter 3 contains 66 verses instead of 22.
The three verses of our text are right at the midpoint of this middle chapter, comprising the final triplet of the first half of the book, and thus uniquely constituting its central theme. As such, it could well also be the heart cry of every saint in any age experiencing God’s chastening hand.
Although Jeremiah himself had not sinned, his nation had grievously sinned, and thus all Israel had finally come under the rod. Nevertheless, the prophet could assure his people that God still loved them and would renew His compassion even in the midst of their grief. God does not willingly send affliction, for He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9).
When we suffer, or our nation suffers (as it surely will if it continues its present rebellion against God), it is well to remember His promise. “He will not always chide: neither will He keep His anger for ever” (Psalm 103:9). It is true that “no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Hebrews 12:11). HMM