The crying eyes (Lam 3:49-3:51)

Ayin

“My eyes will flow

Without ceasing.

They will flow

Without respite,

Until Yahweh

From heaven

Looks down,

Until Yahweh

Sees them.

My eyes

Cause me grief

At the fate

Of all the young women

In my city.”

The personal lament of this author continues. He was full of flowing, unceasing, and unstoppable tears. He wanted Yahweh to look down from heaven to see him crying. His eyes were causing him grief at what was happening to the young girls of his city. These three verses start with the Hebrew consonant letter Ayin in this acrostic poem.

Yahweh has compassion (Lam 3:31-3:33)

Kaph

“Yahweh will not

Reject forever.

Although he causes grief,

He will have compassion

According to the abundance

Of his steadfast love.

He does not willingly

Afflict anyone.

He does not willingly

Grieve anyone.”

This grieving author talks about the compassion of Yahweh, since Yahweh was not going to reject him forever. Yahweh definitely caused him grief, but he is compassionate with his abundant steadfast love. Then in a strange statement that almost contradicts what was said earlier, this author proclaims that Yahweh does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone. In fact, that had been the main complaint earlier in this poem. These three verses start with the Hebrew consonant letter Kaph in this acrostic poem.

Lamentation over Judah (Jer 8:18-8:20)

“My joy is gone.

Grief is upon me.

My heart is sick.

Hark!

The cry of my poor people

From far and wide in the land!

‘Is Yahweh not in Zion?

Is her King not in her?’

‘Why have they provoked me to anger?

They have their images.

They have their foreign idols?’

‘The harvest is past.

The summer is ended.

We are not saved.’

Jeremiah laments the situation in Judah. His joy is gone. His grief has made him heartsick. The cry of the poor people can be heard far and wide all over the land. Why hasn’t Yahweh helped? Why is the king gone? They have provoked Yahweh to anger with their images of foreign idols. The harvest has past as summer has ended. They are not saved. What can he do?

Do not mourn excessively (Sir 38:18-38:23)

“Grief may result in death.

A sorrowful heart

Saps one’s strength.

When a person is taken away,

Sorrow is over.

But the life of the poor

Weighs down the heart.

Do not give your heart

To sorrow!

Drive it away!

Remember your own end.

Do not forget!

There is no coming back.

You do the dead no good.

You injure yourself.

Remember his fate.

Yours is like it.

Yesterday it was his.

Today it is yours.

Me yesterday!

You today!

When the dead is at rest,

Let his remembrance rest also.

Be comforted for him

When his spirit has departed.”

Sirach did not want a long mourning period because grief could lead to the death of the person grieving. A sad heart can sap your strength. When the person was buried, the period of sorrow should end despite the fact that your heart is still heavy. Drive away sorrow and grief. Remember you own life. There is no coming back from the grave. You can’t do anything for the dead. You may injure yourself. Your fate will be the same as his. He was here yesterday and gone today. Your fate may be the same, here today and gone tomorrow. When the dead are at rest, let their remembrance die with them. Their spirit has departed, since we have the Greek idea of body and spirit.

Discernment (Sir 36:23-36:25)

“The stomach

Will take any food.

Yet one food is

Better than another.

As the palate

Tastes the kinds of game,

So an intelligent mind

Detects false words.

A perverse mind

Will cause grief.

But a person

With experience

Will pay him back.”

Sirach points out that just as your taste buds can tell the difference between various kinds of food, so too the mind should be able to discern the difference between true and false words. Both the stomach and the mind can absorb all kinds of foods and words. However, just as one food is better for you than another, so too the perverse mind can cause grief. The experienced person will be able to verbally payback the false words and the perverse minds.

The son replaces the father (Sir 30:4-30:6)

“When the father dies,

He will not seem to be dead.

Because he has left behind him

One like himself.

While alive

He was looked upon

With joy.

At death,

There is no grief.

He has left behind him

An avenger

Against his enemies.

He has left behind him

One to repay

The kindness of his friends.”

When the father dies, it will not seem like he died, since his son will be like him. Although there was rejoicing in life, there is no grief at death. His son will be an avenger of his enemies and be kind to his friends. Once again Sirach has this repeated theme of friends and enemies.

Wisdom lives with me (Wis 8:9-8:9)

“Therefore I determined to take her

To live with me.

I knew

That she would give me good counsel.

She would give me encouragement in cares.

She would give me encouragement in grief.”

The wisdom author wanted wisdom to live (συμβίωσιν) with him.   She would then provide good counsel and encouragement whenever there were serious cares or in times of grief.

The foolish children (Prov 17:21-17:28)

“The one who begets a fool gets trouble.

The parent of a fool has no joy.

A cheerful heart is a good medicine.

But a downcast spirit dries up the bones.

The wicked accept a concealed bribe.

They pervert the ways of justice.

The discerning person looks to wisdom.

But the eyes of a fool look to the ends of the earth.

Foolish children are

A grief to their father.

Foolish children are

Bitterness to her who bore them.

To impose a fine on the innocent

Is not right.

To flog the noble for their integrity

Is not right.

Whoever spares words is knowledgeable.

Whoever is cool in spirit has understanding.

Even fools who keep silent

Are considered wise.

When they closes their lips,

They are deemed intelligent.”

Foolish children are trouble. There is no joy in dealing with them. A cheerful heart is good medicine for you, while a downcast spirit will dry up your bones. The wicked judges, when they accept a concealed bribe, are perverting justice. A discerning person looks for wisdom, but fools try to go to the ends of the earth in search of something or other. Foolish children are a grief to their father and bitterness to their mother. You should not impose a fine on the innocent ones. You should not flog the noblemen for their integrity. If you do not speak too much you give the impression of being knowledgeable. If you appear cool, people assume you understand things. Thus even fools who keep silent are sometimes considered wise. Some people appear to be more intelligent when they never open their mouth or move their lips.

The wicked (Prov 14:9-14:13)

“Fools mock at the guilt offering.

But the upright enjoy God’s favor.

The heart knows its own bitterness.

No stranger shares its joy.

The house of the wicked will be destroyed.

But the tent of the upright will flourish.

There is a way that seems right to a person.

But its end is the way to death.

Even in laughter

The heart is sad.

The end of joy is grief.”

Although the Hebrew text is difficult, it appears that fools do not see any value in the guilt offering. God scorns the wicked people, but he enjoys the upright ones. The heart knows the bitterness that no stranger can share in. The house of the wicked person will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright will be fine. Sometimes we think that we are on the right path but it may actually lead to death. Even when some people laugh, their heart is sad, since the end of their joy leads to grief.

There is no one like Yahweh (Ps 77:10-77:15)

“I say.

‘It is my grief

That the right hand of the Most High has changed.’

I will call to mind the deeds of Yahweh.

I will remember your wonders of old.

I will meditate on all your work.

I will muse on your mighty deeds.

O God!

Your way is holy!

What god is as great as our God?

You are the God who works wonders.

You have displayed your might among the peoples.

With your strong arm

You redeemed your people,

The descendents of Jacob and Joseph.”

Selah

Asaph, the psalmist, admitted that he was full of grief. He felt that God had changed his right hand over him. Thus he recalled the great works of God that he had performed for him in the good old days. He meditated on his great deeds. There was no other god like his God, who worked wonders. He had redeemed his people with a strong arm. His people were the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. Notice the mention of Joseph, which is rare. This section ends with the meditative musical interlude pause of Selah.