Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Let us search . . .—Warnings against murmurs are followed by counsels which point to a more excellent way. Suffering calls a man to self-scrutiny. We should seek to know the sins which it is meant to punish and correct.
To the Lord.—The preposition is an emphatic one: even to the Lord. There is to be no halting half-way in the work of conversion.Lamentations 3:40-41. Let us search and try our ways — This will be a more reasonable and profitable employment than that of complaining and murmuring against the providence of God. Let us search what our ways have been, and try whether they have been right and good or not. Let us examine our tempers, words, and works, and consider what they have been, whether agreeable or contrary to the holy will of God. Let us try our ways, that by them we may try ourselves: for we are to judge of our state and character, not by our faint wishes, good intentions, transient resolutions, or even warm affections, but by our steps; and not by one particular step, but by our ways, our whole conduct; the ends we aim at, the rules we go by, and the agreeableness or contrariety of the temper of our minds, and the tenor of our lives to those ends and those rules. When we are in affliction it is peculiarly seasonable to consider our ways, (Haggai 1:5,) that what is amiss may be repented of, and amended for the future, and so we may answer the intention of the affliction. We are apt, in times of public calamity, to reflect upon other people’s ways, and lay blame upon them, whereas our business is to search and try our own ways: we have work enough to do at home; we must each of us say, What have I done? what have I contributed to the public distress? That we may each of us mend one, then we shall all be mended. And let us turn again to the Lord — Namely, by a sincere conversion, even to him who is turned against us, and from whom we have turned; to him let us turn by repentance, reformation, and faith, as to our owner and ruler. This particular must accompany the former, and be the fruit of it; therefore we must search and try our ways, that we may turn from the evil of them to God; this was the method David took, who says, Psalm 119:59, I thought on my ways, and turned my feet into thy testimonies. Let us lift up our heart, &c. — Let us apply ourselves unto God by prayer, without which we shall attempt in vain to take the preceding advice. Without supernatural light from him we shall search and try our ways to little purpose: we shall still remain unacquainted with ourselves, and shall pass a false judgment on our character and conduct; and without his renewing grace we shall not be turned to him effectually. Now for these blessings we must make application to him in fervent prayer, lifting up our hearts with our hands, and pouring out our souls with our words, in confident expectation of receiving what we ask.
search—as opposed to the torpor wherewith men rest only on their outward sufferings, without attending to the cause of them (Ps 139:23, 24).Isaiah 55:7;
and turn again to the Lord; by repentance, as the Targum adds; let us turn out of our sinful ways, upon a search and examination of them; and turn to the Lord, his ways and worship, from whom we have departed, and against whom we have sinned; acknowledging our iniquities, who receives graciously, is ready to forgive, and does abundantly pardon.Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)40–42. Let us search] As it is through our sins that this evil is come upon us, let us (40) seek out what has been amiss in us and repent, (41) place ourselves before God in prayer, (42) confess our sin.Verses 40-51. - Confession of sin, followed by sighs and groans. Verse 40. - Let us search. Our troubles being caused by our sins, let us search them out and correct them. 1 Samuel 16:7, האדם יראה לעינים ויהוה יראה. In the three infinitival clauses three modes of unjust dealing are set forth. The treading down to the earth of all prisoners under his (the treader's) feet, refers to cruel treatment of the Jews by the Chaldeans at the taking of Jerusalem and Judah, and generally to deeds of violence perpetrated by victors in war. This explains כּל, which Kalkschmidt and Thenius incorrectly render "all captives of the land (country)." Those intended are prisoners generally, who in time of war are trodden down to the earth, i.e., cruelly treated. The other two crimes mentioned, vv. 35 and 36, are among the sins of which Judah and Israel have been guilty, - the former being an offence against the proper administration of justice, and the latter falling under the category of unjust practices in the intercourse of ordinary life. "To pervert the right of a man before the face of the Most High" does not mean, in general, proterve, et sine ull numinis inspectantis reverenti (C. B. Michaelis, Rosenmller); but just as הטות משׁפּט is taken from the law (Exodus 23:6; Numbers 16:19, etc.), so also is נגד פּני עליון to be explained in accordance with the directions given in the law (Exodus 22:7, Exodus 22:9), that certain clauses were to be brought before האלהים, where this word means the judge or judges pronouncing sentence in the name of God; cf. Psalm 82:6, where the judges, as God's representatives, are called אלהים and בּני אלהים. "Before the face of the Most High" thus means, before the tribunal which is held in the name of the Most High. "To turn aside a man in his cause" means to pervert his right in a dispute (cf. Job 8:3; Job 34:12, etc.), which may also be done in contested matters that do not come before the public tribunal. The meaning of the three verses depends on the explanation given of אדני לא ראה, which is a disputed point. ראה with ל, "to look on something," may mean to care for it, be concerned about it, but not to select, choose, or to resolve upon, approve (Michaelis, Ewald, Thenius). Nor can the prophet mean to say, "The Lord does not look upon the treading down of the prisoners, the perversion of justice." If any one be still inclined, with Rosenmller and others, to view the words as the expression of a fact, then he must consider them as an exception taken by those who murmur against God, but repelled in Lamentations 3:37. Moreover, he must, in some such way as the following, show the connection between Lamentations 3:33 and Lamentations 3:34, by carrying out the idea presented in the exhortation to hope for compassion: "But will any one say that the Lord knows nothing of this - does not trouble Himself about such sufferings?" Whereupon, in Lamentations 3:37, the answer follows: "On the contrary, nothing happens without the will of God" (Gerlach). But there is no point of attachment that can possibly be found in the words of the text for showing such a connection; we must therefore reject this view as being artificial, and forced upon the text. The difficulty is solved in a simple manner, by taking the words אדני לא as a question, just as has been already done in the Chaldee paraphrase: fierine potest ut in conspectu Jovae non reveletur? The absence of the interrogative particle forms no objection to this, inasmuch as a question is pretty often indicated merely by the tone. Lamentations 3:38 must also be taken interrogatively. Bצttcher and Thenius, indeed, think that the perfect ראה is incompatible with this; but the objection merely tells against the rendering, "Should not the Lord see it?" (De Wette, Maurer, Kalkschmidt), which of course would require יראה. But the idea rather is, "Hath not the Lord looked upon this?" The various acts of injustice mentioned in the three verses are not set forth merely as possible events, but as facts that have actually occurred.
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