Plea to Praise

Walter Brueggemann has said that the plea-to-praise movement in the Psalms is one of the most jarring and shocking of transitions in the bible. This move from lamentation into praise, seemingly from out of nowhere, is a hallmark of the lament psalms and other laments in the Old Testament.

For my part, one of the best examples of the plea-to-praise movement is in Lamentations 3.

When I was in college we used to sing a devotional song that came from Lamentations 3. The words:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.
His mercies never come to an end.
They are new every morning.
Great is Your faithfulness.
"The Lord is my portion," says my soul,
"therefore I will hope in Him."
Those are beautiful words of praise and trust. But do you know what precedes this hymn of praise? One of the most searing and gut-wrenching songs of lament and sorrow. Accusation after accusation is hurtled at God. It's very uncomfortable to read. And then, out of nowhere, a hymn of trust and praise. It's really one of the most startling juxtapositions in all of Scripture.
I am the man who has seen affliction
under the rod of his wrath;

he has driven and brought me
into darkness without any light;

surely against me he turns his hand
again and again the whole day long.

He has made my flesh and my skin waste away;
he has broken my bones;

he has besieged and enveloped me
with bitterness and tribulation;

he has made me dwell in darkness
like the dead of long ago.

He has walled me about so that I cannot escape;
he has made my chains heavy;

though I call and cry for help,
he shuts out my prayer;

he has blocked my ways with blocks of stones;
he has made my paths crooked.

He is a bear lying in wait for me,
a lion in hiding;

he turned aside my steps and tore me to pieces;
he has made me desolate;

he bent his bow and set me
as a target for his arrow.

He drove into my kidneys
the arrows of his quiver;

I have become the laughingstock of all peoples,
the object of their taunts all day long.

He has filled me with bitterness;
he has sated me with wormwood.

He has made my teeth grind on gravel,
and made me cower in ashes;

my soul is bereft of peace;
I have forgotten what happiness is;

so I say, “My endurance has perished;
so has my hope from the Lord.”

Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!

My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.

But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”

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