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Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Friday, April 3, 2020

LAMENTATIONS: GRIEF, COMFORT AND HOPE

"I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath; 2 he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light... 17 my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; 18 so I say, 'My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the LORD.'  19 Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! 20 My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.  But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:  22 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  24 'The LORD is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I will hope in him. The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.  26 It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.  26 It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.'"
Lamentations 3:1-26



The LORD Jehovah had to tread the winepress of His wrath in Jerusalem. He had crushed them as grapes are crushed to give up their lifeblood. Was this the end for the people of God? Most of them were dead with their bodies strewn about as carrion for the vultures to devour. Jeremiah grieved not just for their loss, but because he knew they deserved it. God was righteous. He was vindicated. But, Jeremiah knew something else about God: He is a God of mercy and grace. The prophet's job now was to comfort the survivors and their children who would return someday. They had to know there was hope so that they might endure the harsh trials and humiliation of their exile. Let us examine the short message of the Lamentations of Jeremiah.

The Book of Lamentations is God’s book about pain, despair, and grief. It is a book about the lament (a cry) uttered when life is falling apart. The book is composed of five poems.  The first poem of The Lamentations of Jeremiah is a cry to the LORD for comfort, for there was no comfort.  The second poem of Lamentations shows a dramatic shift in Jeremiah's message to God's people. The intensity of this poem reveals the anger (wrath) of the LORD. But it also reassures us that we can wail with a broken heart to God.  So there is no need to restrain our emotions, for we may speak with raw honesty to God. The third poem affirms that we can trust the LORD amid our pain and distress because of God’s faithfulness. God's mercies are new every day, and with each new day, there is another opportunity for God's refreshing to carry us through. We can rest assured that He will get us through today. The fourth poem teaches us to reflect on what is happening.  The only way we can “count it all joy” and “be gold refined amid our fires of pain and despair” is by reflecting on what has happened, choosing to learn from our difficult times.

Hardship transforms our lives and keeps us faithful to God.  Finally, in the fifth poem, we learn that we can pray for restoration, knowing that God keeps His word to forgive us of our sins, placing us back into a relationship with Him.  Christ is the fulfillment of God’s Word to save the world and give us what we need to avoid the wrath of God.


I.   COMFORT FROM THE BOOK OF LAMENTATIONS:  (Lamentations 1)
  • Lack of Comfort, Grief, and Hope:  

The first poem of The Lamentations of Jeremiah is a cry to the Lord for comfort, for there was no comfort.
    1. “She has none to comfort her” (1:2). 
    2. “She has no comforter” (1:9). 
    3. “My eyes flow with tears for a comforter is far from me” (1:16). 
    4. “Zion stretches out her hands but there is none to comfort her” (1:17). 
    5. “They heard my groaning, yet there is no one to comfort me” (1:21). 

Jeremiah declares the lack of comfort for the city of Jerusalem and its inhabitants three times (1:2,9,17). However, he refers to himself (notice the switch to the first person) and his own lack of comforters in his grief (1:16, 21).  The word "groaning," which occurs five times in this poem, is closely tied to it (1:4,8, 11, 21, 22). The city, its people, and of course, Jeremiah are groaning.  These words of groaning and lack of comfort ring like the gong of a funeral bell throughout the poem.
"Jerusalem remembers in the days of her affliction and wandering all the precious things that were hers from days of old.  When her people fell into the hand of the foe, and there was none to help her, her foes gloated over her; they mocked at her downfall" (Lamentations 1:7).

Verse 7 depicts complete helplessness and hopelessness. The city is in profound misery, sorrow, and despairAll that is left is a memory of the former days of happiness. Disaster and despair do the same thing in our own lives. Our grief, fear, despair, and pain become so overwhelming that life seems helpless and hopeless. All that is left for us to do is to remember the good days in the pastWe lose hope for the future because it seems that the good days are gone and will never come back.  It is hard to find hope for the future!
"Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?  Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow, which was brought upon me, which the Lord inflicted on the day of his fierce anger" (Lamentations 1:12).

Verse 12 continues this thought with the cry.
 “Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow.”  

This mindset intensifies our grief and despair.  We often deceive ourselves feeling like no one else has gone through what we are going through. We say, "No one is sorrowful like me! No one is sorrowful like us!"  We wonder why we are in agony while trying to be righteous when we look and see the joy of the wicked.  So we are frustrated and say there is no one to comfort.  It is indeed a sign of grief and pain.  As much as we enjoy the sympathy of others, when we get down to it, it is not comfort.  It does not matter how wonderful it is that we have many friends and family to care for us; we still feel like there is nothing that a person can do for us.  Indeed when we are going through pain and grief, there are no words that can help. There are no quick fixes. There is no comfort.

“She has none to comfort her.” (1:2)


Jerusalem had many who were supposed to be her allies and supporters, yet they turned their backs on her.  When we put our hope in people instead of God, our hope is a false one.  Why?  Because people are going to let us down. They cannot be our comforters.  They do not have the power to do so. They cannot help. They are just as helpless as we are.  So we must turn to God amid our pain, grief, and despair, for He is always faithful.

Jeremiah describes his pain and the pain of those who lived in Jerusalem. Their physical grief and despair are intense and overwhelming!
"From on high he sent fire; into my bones he made it descend; he spread a net for my feet; he turned me back; he has left me stunned, faint all the day long" (Lamentations 1:13).

In verse 13, he describes the pain as fire in his bones. The intensity of his grief caused his body to ache all over.  He was stunned and faint.
“For these things I weep; my eyes flow with tears; for a comforter is far from me, one to revive my spirit; my children are desolate, for the enemy has prevailed” (Lamentations 1:16).

In verse 16, he is crying, and his eyes flowing with tears.  When I see despair and pain around me, my pain is so great that my eyes just overflow with tears!  Have you been afflicted with pain so great that your eyes just overflow with tears?  Sleepless nights filled with tears.  Jeremiah's body hurt with the grief he was enduring.
“Look, O LORD, for I am in distress; my stomach churns; my heart is wrung within me, because I have been very rebellious.  In the street the sword bereaves; in the house it is like death" (Lamentations 1:20).

In verse 20, he says that because of his distress, his stomach churns, and his heart is wrung within him. He feels like his insides have been twisted and turned over. When we are enduring grief and distress, we often begin to think that God has done something wrong. We must never forget that God is always in the right, whatever happens to us. We are the ones who are not in the right. Jeremiah is so disturbed and distressed that in his pain, he asked God, exclaiming, “How could God do this?”  But we also see him declaring, “The LORD is in the right.”  And though at times, like Jeremiah, we do not understand the purpose of our suffering and pain, there is one thing we must know: our God is always right in all that He does. So we must hold on to this truth amid our pain, despair, and grief.
"O LORD, behold my affliction!” (1:9)
“Look, O LORD, and see.” (1:11)
“Look, O LORD, for I am in distress.” (1:20)
In times of grief and distress, our first response must be to cry to God in prayer, knowing that only He can comfort us even when we don't find the words to express our need.

Grief is physically painful. Grief hurts.  Jeremiah declares a truth that is his first anchor in his grief.

“The LORD is in the right” (1:18). 

God is always in the right.  Deuteronomy 32:4 declares this truth.
"The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he."

II.  GOD'S ANGER REVEALED:  (Lamentations 2:1-10)

"How the LORD in his anger has set the daughter of Zion under a cloud!  He has cast down from heaven to earth the splendor of Israel; he has not remembered his footstool in the day of his anger.  2 The LORD has swallowed up without mercy all the habitations of Jacob; in his wrath he has broken down the strongholds of the daughter of Judah; he has brought down to the ground in dishonor the kingdom and its rulers.  3 He has cut down in fierce anger all the might of Israel; he has withdrawn from them his right hand in the face of the enemy; he has burned like a flaming fire in Jacob, consuming all around.  4 He has bent his bow like an enemy, with his right hand set like a foe; and he has killed all who were delightful in our eyes in the tent of the daughter of Zion; he has poured out his fury like fire.  5 The LORD has become like an enemy; he has swallowed up Israel; he has swallowed up all its palaces; he has laid in ruins its strongholds, and he has multiplied in the daughter of Judah mourning and lamentation.  6 He has laid waste his booth like a garden, laid in ruins his meeting place; the LORD has made Zion forget festival and Sabbath, and in his fierce indignation has spurned king and priest.  7 The LORD has scorned his altar, disowned his sanctuary; he has delivered into the hand of the enemy the walls of her palaces; they raised a clamor in the house of the LORD as on the day of festival.  8 The LORD determined to lay in ruins the wall of the daughter of Zion; he stretched out the measuring line; he did not restrain his hand from destroying; he caused rampart and wall to lament; they languished together.  9 Her gates have sunk into the ground; he has ruined and broken her bars; her king and princes are among the nations; the law is no more, and her prophets find no vision from the LORD.  10 The elders of the daughter of Zion sit on the ground in silence; they have thrown dust on their heads and put on sackcloth; the young women of Jerusalem have bowed their heads to the ground."

The second poem of Lamentations shows a dramatic shift in Jeremiah's message to God's people. The intensity of this poem reveals the anger (wrath) of the LORD.
“How the LORD in his anger has set the daughter of Zion under a cloud!” (2:1). 
“He has not remembered his footstool in the day of his anger” (2:1). 
“In his wrath he has broken down the strongholds of the daughter of Judah” (2:2). 
“He has poured out his fury like fire” (2:4). 
“In his fierce indignation has spurned king and priest” (2:6). 
“You have killed them in the day of your anger, slaughtering without pity” (2:21). 
“On the day the anger of the LORD no one escaped or survived” (2:22). 
  • God's Wrath And Judgment Against Sin:
"How the LORD in his anger has set the daughter of Zion under a cloud!  He has cast down from heaven to earth the splendor of Israel; he has not remembered his footstool in the day of his anger.  2 The LORD has swallowed up without mercy all the habitations of Jacob; in his wrath he has broken down the strongholds of the daughter of Judah; he has brought down to the ground in dishonor the kingdom and its rulers."  (Lamentations 2:1-2)

Verses 1-2 declare God’s anger toward the nation and His devastating judgment. Verse 1 begins declaring that they are no longer in the privileged presence of the LORD.  Israel's splendor has been cast down from heaven to earth. This is a reference to the temple of God and the ark of the covenant that was contained inside (Isaiah 64:11; Psalm 78:60-61). The ark of the covenant was also called God’s footstool (1 Chronicles 28:2). The temple had not been the key to their deliverance. When Solomon completed the temple, the dedication declared that God would hear the people’s prayers for forgiveness if they turned their faces to the temple with repentant hearts. But now the temple is gone, and the sense of doom is great. The city and people are under a dark cloud (2:1).
"He has laid waste his booth like a garden, laid in ruins his meeting place; the LORD has made Zion forget festival and Sabbath, and in his fierce indignation has spurned king and priest.  7 The LORD has scorned his altar, disowned his sanctuary; he has delivered into the hand of the enemy the walls of her palaces; they raised a clamor in the house of the LORD as on the day of festival" (Lamentations 2:6-7).

Verses 6-7 carry the idea further. God has spurned king and priest (2:6), scorned the altar, and disowned the sanctuary (2:7). Spurning king and priest is very serious, for the king was of the Davidic dynasty, and the priest was the legitimate heir of Aaron. It looks like all hope for forgiveness is completely gone. They are spurned, scorned, and disownedGod's people did this first to God, for they spurned, scorned, and disowned God.
"And when you tell this people all these words, and they say to you, ‘Why has the LORD pronounced all this great evil against us? What is our iniquity? What is the sin that we have committed against the Lord our God?’ then you shall say to them: ‘Because your fathers have forsaken me, declares the LORD, and have gone after other gods and have served and worshiped them, and have forsaken me and have not kept my law, and because you have done worse than your fathers, for behold, every one of you follows his stubborn, evil will, refusing to listen to me. Therefore I will hurl you out of this land into a land that neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you shall serve other gods day and night, for I will show you no favor"' (Jeremiah 16:10-13).

They thought that because they had the temple, they were safe. Jeremiah records what they were saying.
"Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD'" (Jeremiah 7:3-4).
"Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—only to go on doing all these abominations?'"  (Jeremiah 7:8-10).

They deceived themselves, thinking that because they had the temple, their sinful behavior was acceptable.  They thought God was with them, and thus God was fine with their sins and lawlessness. But they forgot that sin and rebellion (disobedience) provokes God to wrath!
"Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him" (John 3:36).
"For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience" (Ephesians 5:5-6).

We must be careful and not make the same mistakes they did.
  1. We must not deceive ourselves, believing that because we were baptized and forgiven of our sins and go to church, we can live as we please.  
  2. We must avoid the wrath of God.  Just because we are the people of God does not mean that the wrath of God will not affect us. We must carefully learn from the nation of Israel.  
  3. God’s anger is never explosive, unreasonable, or unexplained. 
  4. We do not begin to understand the restraint and the longsuffering of God. 
  5. God’s wrath is His firm expression of real displeasure because of our sins, lawlessness.  
  6. And though we experience the benefits of God’s patience (which is not to be confused with apathy or complete indifference), His longsuffering or restraint will finally end when we refuse to change our ways, that is, unless we repent
  7. This is the point the writer of Hebrews made to the Christians.
"For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries" (Hebrews 10:26-27).

When we refuse to change our ways, there is no more forgiveness but the fearful expectation of judgment, God's wrath. As Israel was seeing, God carries out His Word.
“The LORD has done what he purposed; he has carried out his word, which he commanded long ago” (Lamentations 2:17).

God has declared He would bring judgment for this behavior back in the book of Deuteronomy. But His people rejected His warnings.   Listen to what they were saying in the days of Jeremiah.
"Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: 'Thus says the LORD, Behold, I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds.' 'But they say, 'That is in vain! We will follow our own plans, and will every one act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart'" (Jeremiah 18:11-12).

God said disaster was coming! The people said that there was no point in changing their ways. They would follow their own plans and stubborn hearts. We must never think that God will not execute judgment.
"But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed" (Romans 2:5).
“But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly” (2 Peter 3:7).
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

When we insist on being stubborn and unrepentant, God will judge our sins.  Thus, we must turn our hearts back to God.   His judgment is to bring us to our knees in our sorrow and brokenness of heart for our sins and the things we have done.  Jeremiah understood that what had happened was because God is right and just, and they deserved it because of their sins and lawlessness.
  • Hope In Grief and Despair:
So what are we to do?
"Their heart cried to the LORD. O wall of the daughter of Zion, let tears stream down like a torrent day and night! Give yourself no rest, your eyes no respite! 19 'Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the night watches! Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the LORD! Lift your hands to him for the lives of your children, who faint for hunger at the head of every street"' (Lamentations 2:18-19).

Like Jeremiah, we must let our tears flow.  We must exhaust every effort to plead with God.  We must rise and cry out to Him in the night. We must lift our hands to Him in prayer.  We must plead to God.
"My eyes fail with tears, My heart is troubled; My bile is poured on the ground because of the destruction of the daughter of my people, because the children and the infants faint in the streets of the city" (Lam. 2:11).

In verse 11, Jeremiah declares that he has cried until the tears no longer come. His heart is broken. And this is exactly what God wants, even in our sins. Whatever the cause for our grief, let our tears flow to God.  Let our pleas rise to God.  How wonderful it is that we can articulate our sorrows and grief to God! Not only are we privileged to do this, but we are commanded to do it.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).
“Because he cares for you.”  


We must listen to those words in our grief and distress. God cares for us. Even when we are disobedient, God cares for us.
“Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable? 8 Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time? 9 Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” (Psalm 77:7-9).

No, God is still compassionate even though His anger is right and due upon us!  Jeremiah exclaims the final words of this poem in verses 20-22.
"Look, O LORD, and see!  With whom have you dealt thus?  Should women eat the fruit of their womb, the children of their tender care?  Should priest and prophet be killed in the sanctuary of the LORD?  21 In the dust of the streets lie the young and the old; my young women and my young men have fallen by the sword; you have killed them in the day of your anger, slaughtering without pity.  22 You summoned as if to a festival day my terrors on every side, and on the day of the anger of the LORD no one escaped or survived; those whom I held and raised my enemy destroyed"

Look and see what has happened. He wants God to see it, for he wants God's compassion to look on them with mercy and steadfast love.  So pour out your heart like water to God when you are in trouble, pain, despair, and grief (2:19). Be persistent in prayer.  Jesus called for us to continue in prayer and not lose heart (Luke 18:1)!  Why not pray in your grief and despair without stopping?  Why not tell God what is happening and distressing your heart? God is a God of compassion who loves His children.  So why not turn your heart to Him!


III.   GREAT IS YOUR FAITHFULNESS:  (Lamentations 3)
  • Hope Lost:  (Lamentations 3:1-20)
"I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath; 2 he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light; 3 surely against me he turns his hand again and again the whole day long.  4 He has made my flesh and my skin waste away; he has broken my bones; 5 he has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation; 6 he has made me dwell in darkness like the dead of long ago.  7 He has walled me about so that I cannot escape; he has made my chains heavy; 8 though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer; 9 he has blocked my ways with blocks of stones; he has made my paths crooked.  10 He is a bear lying in wait for me, a lion in hiding; 11 he turned aside my steps and tore me to pieces; he has made me desolate; 12 he bent his bow and set me as a target for his arrow.  13 He drove into my kidneys the arrows of his quiver; 14 I have become the laughingstock of all peoples, the object of their taunts all day long.  15 He has filled me with bitterness; he has sated me with wormwood.  16 He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes; 17 my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; 18 so I say, 'My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the LORD.'  19 Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! 20 My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.'"

The third poem in Lamentations is the pinnacle of this book.  In the first 20 verses of this poem, we see the intensity of the author’s pain.  His grief is so great that he is physically ill and in physical pain.

“He has made my flesh and my skin waste away; he has broken my bones” (3:4). 
Now his flesh was not falling off of him, nor were his bones literally broken, but he is using a metaphor to describe the physical anguish he felt because of the pain he was experiencing. Broken bones picture loss of hope in the future. In the Old Testament, the bones of the righteous are not broken; that is, they have hope in God for the future and what He will do (cf. Psalm 34:20; contrast Isaiah 38:13). Further, the writer Jeremiah is swallowed up in bitterness (3:5). He feels walled in, chained down, and blocked off (3:7-8).  He felt as if God had shot arrows through his body, even into his bowels, crushing his emotions (3:10-13). His pain is so great that he says, “I have forgotten what happiness is” (3:17). The crowning statement is in verse 18
"So I say, 'My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the LORD.'" (3:18)

Has life ever made you feel this way?  Often, when we go through much turmoil, our grief and sorrow seem to destroy us from within.  We tend to forget what happiness is.  The darkness that surrounds us takes away our hope. So our strength and endurance perish, and our hope is gone.  As we read this book, we can see the devastation that Jeremiah is feeling.  His grief is boundless, his strength is gone, and his hope is lost. But this is not the end of the poem, nor is this the end of the book. Too many times, people are consumed by grief and wallow in their pain and sorrow. But we must not stop and wallow in our circumstances.  And even though our days might seem to be filled with bitterness and tears, we must not end our day on this note.  We must learn from Jeremiah, who though he found himself amid great pain and devastation, did not allow his emotions and feelings to rule him but chose to put his hope in God alone.
  • Hope Renewed:  (Lamentations 3:21-24)
"But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:  22 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  24 'The LORD is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I will hope in him.'"

Verse 21 helps us to handle our times of deep despair and grief.

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope.”


Jeremiah did not give up in hopeless despair amid his pain and distress.  He chose to hope or trust in God (verses 22-24).  He reminded himself of God's steadfast love that never ceases, for His mercies never come to an end.  They are new and fresh every morning.  Great is God's faithfulness!  Thus he said,
"The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  24 'The LORD is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I will hope in him.'"

The first thing Jeremiah did was to remind himself of God's steadfast love that never ends, and so must we.  God's faithfulness never stops.   His compassion and His mercies never come to an end. They never fail.  Jeremiah recalls God's multiple proofs of His steadfast and faithful love.  He calls to mind how God’s love never ends. When I think about God's faithfulness to me and how good He has been to me over and over in the past, I cannot stop thanking Him with all of my heart and soul for His unfailing love!  His love never fails. So we must remind ourselves of His steadfast love and His faithfulness toward us in our times of grief, uncertainty, and despair.

The steadfast love and mercies of God are renewed every morning.  Every day brings a new set of opportunities and a new fresh outpouring of God’s great love and compassion!  Because of God's compassion, each day offers new hope for our lives.  While the future might seem dark and hopeless, each day God gives us is another day to see His steadfast love.  So we must learn to live one day at a time and appreciate God's mercy for today.  Choose not to worry about tomorrow’s difficulties and concerns or problems.  Why not live in the compassion and mercy of God today? Great is the faithfulness of God! He will get us through our storms of doubt, despair, and difficulty today, for we are only promised today.  God is faithful to us each and every day!  Don't forget that! 

Jeremiah reminds himself in verse 24, saying,

“The LORD is my portion.” 


A portion implies the land allotted by God to each Israelite.  Jeremiah declares his dependence on God for his provisions and his survival.  He is acknowledging and reminding himself that God will take care of him, and so must we.  Thus his conclusion is:

“Therefore I will hope in him.” 


There is a saying, “Hope springs eternal.”  When our focus is God, our hope will spring eternally.  As we focus on God, it will give us the hope and the courage that we need so much in our times of pain, fear, doubt, and grief.
  • Hope Proclaimed:  (Lamentations 3:25-39)
"The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.  26 It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.  27 It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.  28 Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him; 29 let him put his mouth in the dust— there may yet be hope; 30 let him give his cheek to the one who strikes, and let him be filled with insults.  31 For the LORD will not cast off forever, 32 but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; 33 for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men.  34 To crush underfoot all the prisoners of the earth, 35 to deny a man justice in the presence of the Most High, 36 to subvert a man in his lawsuit, the LORD does not approve.  37 Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the LORD has commanded it?  38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?  39 Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins?"

Jeremiah takes his hope in God and proclaims it to those who are in grief, pain, and despair.
“The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.  26 It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. 

Verses 25-26 urges us to wait for the LORD and seek  Him.  Wait for His deliverance and salvation.  For God to help us, we must seek Him and wait for Him.
"It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.  28 Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him; 29 let him put his mouth in the dust— there may yet be hope; 30 let him give his cheek to the one who strikes, and let him be filled with insults."

In verses 27-30, Jeremiah is declaring that the yoke of suffering and pain is instructive and helpful to us. The earlier we learn this yoke, the more valuable it will be for us later in life. So we must accept God’s will and refuse to complain (3:28). We must humbly bow before God in heart and mouth (3:29).  As we humbly submit to God as His servants (3:30), the more hope we will have to endure life's difficulties.

Jeremiah's message is to build our faith (verse 31-32).
 "For the LORD will not cast off forever, 32 but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love." 

Even in grief and distress, God will have compassion on us because of His abundant steadfast love.  Such a thought is beautiful beyond words! 
"Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea" (Micah 7:18-19).

What an amazingly beautiful picture of the character of God!
“For he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men” (3:33).

God's punishment for our sins is not willingly from His heart.  And though He does not want to judge us, He must because God is just and righteous.
"To crush underfoot all the prisoners of the earth, 35 to deny a man justice in the presence of the Most High, 36 to subvert a man in his lawsuit, the LORD does not approve."

Verses 34-36 stress this for us. God is just and does not approve of our sinful ways. God is always right.

Who are we to complain against God? (verses 37-39).
"Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the LORD has commanded it?  38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?  39 Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins?"

We are full of sins! God is righteous and just.  God is pure and holy. We receive what we rightfully deserve. In fact, we are not receiving what we deserve because of our sins and because of the steadfast love of God toward us. We must maintain the right frame of mind. It must keep us humble and lowly in heart ( humility).  Why?  Because we deserve nothing and everything that we have in life comes from God's Grace poured out on us.
  • Hope In Prayer! (Lamentations 3:40-51)
"Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the LORD!  41 Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven:  42 'We have transgressed and rebelled, and you have not forgiven.  43 'You have wrapped yourself with anger and pursued us, killing without pity; 44 you have wrapped yourself with a cloud so that no prayer can pass through.  45 You have made us scum and garbage among the peoples.  46 'All our enemies open their mouths against us; 47 panic and pitfall have come upon us, devastation and destruction; 48 my eyes flow with rivers of tears because of the destruction of the daughter of my people.  49 'My eyes will flow without ceasing, without respite, 50 until the LORD from heaven looks down and sees; 51 my eyes cause me grief at the fate of all the daughters of my city."'

Jeremiah, inspired by God, urges us to honestly examine our ways and ourselves, and pray to the LORD. Every time we examine our lives and ourselves with a sincere and honest heart, it must compel us to pray.  Why?  Because as we do this, we become aware that we have woefully fallen short of God’s glory. So we must turn to God, tearing our hearts before Him (cf. Joel 2:13). We must continue to pour out our tears and prayers to God until He looks down and sees us from heaven.  Remember, this must always be our cry to God!   We must unite our voices with Jeremiah and say,

“Look, O LORD.”   

We can rest assured that in doing this, we will continue to pray, having hope in the steadfast love of the LORD whose mercies are new each morning.
  • Hope For Restoration:  (Lamentations 3:52-66)
“I have been hunted like a bird by those who were my enemies without cause; 53 they flung me alive into the pit and cast stones on me; 54 water closed over my head; I said, ‘I am lost.’ 55 “I called on your name, O LORD, from the depths of the pit; 56 you heard my plea, ‘Do not close your ear to my cry for help!’ 57 You came near when I called on you; you said, ‘Do not fear!’ 58 'You have taken up my cause, O LORD; you have redeemed my life.  59 You have seen the wrong done to me, O LORD; judge my cause.  60 You have seen all their vengeance, all their plots against me.  61 'You have heard their taunts, O LORD, all their plots against me.  62 The lips and thoughts of my assailants are against me all the day long.  63 Behold their sitting and their rising; I am the object of their taunts.  64 'You will repay them, O LORD, according to the work of their hands.  65 You will give them dullness of heart; your curse will be on them.  66 You will pursue them in anger and destroy them from under your heavens, O LORD.”

In Lamentations 3:52-66, we cannot help but observe Jeremiah's feelings of despair springing out of his broken heart. His despair is so great that it is as if he is drowning because water has closed over his head. He says that he is lost. But amid his deep despair, he cries to God, and God hears his plea, his supplication (3:55-57).  God came near when he cried out to Him.  The LORD gave him the hope and courage he needed. Hope comes from calling on the name of the LORD, turning to Him in prayer without ceasing.  God sees and cares when His children cry out to Him! God sees the evil of those who afflict us! (3:58-63).  His steadfast love for us is mind-blowing!

Here is Jeremiah's hope:

  1. God will repay (3:64-66). 
  2. God will take care of all of our suffering, pain, and grief one day. 
  3. Because God is just, faithful and compassionate toward those who wait for Him and seek Him, He will act faithfully against those who bring pain and distress to us, as in the case of Jeremiah.


IV.   TIME TO REFLECT:  (Lamentations 4)

The fourth poem of Lamentations brings us back to a crashing and painful truth even though chapter 3 gives us hope and assurance.  Indeed, this book of Lamentations is not a book of sunshine and rainbows. It is a book about real pain and despair and how it invades the life of God's children.  In the fourth poem, things are not better at all.  Though Jeremiah hopes in God, his anguish and despair are real because of the devastation of his beloved city of Jerusalem and her people.
  • God’s Wrath Poured Out:   (Lam. 4:1-11)
"How the gold has grown dim, how the pure gold is changed!  The holy stones lie scattered at the head of every street.  2 The precious sons of Zion, worth their weight in fine gold, how they are regarded as earthen pots, the work of a potter's hands!  3 Even jackals offer the breast; they nurse their young; but the daughter of my people has become cruel, like the ostriches in the wilderness.  4 The tongue of the nursing infant sticks to the roof of its mouth for thirst; the children beg for food, but no one gives to them. 5 Those who once feasted on delicacies perish in the streets; those who were brought up in purple embrace ash heaps.  6 For the chastisement of the daughter of my people has been greater than the punishment of Sodom, which was overthrown in a moment, and no hands were wrung for her.  7 Her princes were purer than snow, whiter than milk; their bodies were more ruddy than coral, the beauty of their form was like sapphire.  8 Now their face is blacker than soot; they are not recognized in the streets; their skin has shriveled on their bones; it has become as dry as wood.  9 Happier were the victims of the sword than the victims of hunger, who wasted away, pierced by lack of the fruits of the field.  10 The hands of compassionate women have boiled their own children; they became their food during the destruction of the daughter of my people.  11 The LORD gave full vent to his wrath; he poured out his hot anger, and he kindled a fire in Zion that consumed its foundations."

As I read the description of the destruction of God’s people, it is almost too much for me to bear.  Can you imagine witnessing such devastation as this prophet did? The whole population has been discarded as broken pottery is tossed to the ground by the potter. Verse 3 describes the abandonment as ostriches that abandon their eggs.
"3 Even jackals offer the breast; they nurse their young; but the daughter of my people has become cruel, like the ostriches in the wilderness."

The infants and children are starving and thirsting in the streets (4:4).
"4 The tongue of the nursing infant sticks to the roof of its mouth for thirst; the children beg for food, but no one gives to them." 

The rich are now perishing in the streets. (4:5)
"5 Those who once feasted on delicacies perish in the streets; those who were brought up in purple embrace ash heaps."

Their punishment is greater than Sodom.  (4:6)
"6 For the chastisement of the daughter of my people has been greater than the punishment of Sodom, which was overthrown in a moment, and no hands were wrung for her."

Many are left to suffer in the streets of Jerusalem until they die (4:6, 9).
"9 Happier were the victims of the sword than the victims of hunger, who wasted away, pierced by lack of the fruits of the field."

Their bodies are blackened, and their skin has shriveled to their bones (4:7-8).
"7 Her princes were purer than snow, whiter than milk; their bodies were more ruddy than coral, the beauty of their form was like sapphire.  8 Now their face is blacker than soot; they are not recognized in the streets; their skin has shriveled on their bones; it has become as dry as wood."

The distressed women are eating their own children because the situation is so awful (4:10).
"10 The hands of compassionate women have boiled their own children; they became their food during the destruction of the daughter of my people." 

God has indeed poured out His full wrath against His own people (4:11).  Perish the thought that such a thing might ever happen to us!
"11 The LORD gave full vent to his wrath; he poured out his hot anger, and he kindled a fire in Zion that consumed its foundations."
  • Reflecting On Our Pain: (Lam. 4:12-20)
"The kings of the earth did not believe, nor any of the inhabitants of the world, that foe or enemy could enter the gates of Jerusalem.  13 This was for the sins of her prophets and the iniquities of her priests, who shed in the midst of her the blood of the righteous.  14 They wandered, blind, through the streets; they were so defiled with blood that no one was able to touch their garments.  15 'Away! Unclean!' people cried at them.  'Away! Away! Do not touch!'  So they became fugitives and wanderers; people said among the nations, 'They shall stay with us no longer.'  16 The LORD himsel has scattered them; he will regard them no more; no honor was shown to the priests,  no favor to the elders.  17 Our eyes failed, ever watching vainly for help; in our watching we watched for a nation which could not save.  18 They dogged our steps so that we could not walk in our streets; our end drew near; our days were numbered, for our end had come.  19 Our pursuers were swifter than the eagles in the heavens; they chased us on the mountains; they lay in wait for us in the wilderness.  20 The breath of our nostrils, the LORD'S anointed, was captured in their pits, of whom we said, 'Under his shadow we shall live among the nations.'"

Verse 13 is the focal point of this lament.
"13 This was for the sins of her prophets and the iniquities of her priests, who shed in the midst of her the blood of the righteous." 

Jeremiah is reflecting on all that is happening and the reasons why. He says, “This was for the sins of her prophets and the iniquities of her priests.” The reason for this disaster and tragedy is because of the sins of the people.  As he acknowledges the reasons for the circumstances, he can now express his deep emotions to God in prayer and learn from them.  Pain, grief, and suffering affords us an occasion to look at our own life circumstances and learn from them.  There are so many blessings disguised in our trying and difficult times!  We can learn more about God and our relationship with Him. This is what James expresses.
"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."  (James 1:2-4)

There must be a time of reflection to count our trials as joy.   Reflection on what has happened in our trials can produce steadfastness and maturity.  As we accept what has happened to us, we can learn and grow and be transformed spiritually.  In Jeremiah's case, he acknowledges that the disaster and tragedy that has fallen upon them is the wrath of God because of their sins. 
"13 This was for the sins of her prophets and the iniquities of her priests, who shed in the midst of her the blood of the righteous. (Lamentations 4:13)

The sins of the priests and the prophets who shed the blood of the righteous were the supreme problem. Those who were the teachers and proclaimers of God's Laws were the worst violators. Instead of proclaiming and teaching the ways of God, they were soft-pedaling God's message in the way that the people wanted to hear (cf. Jeremiah 2:8; 5:4-5; 6:13; 8:8-12; 23:11-36; 26:7-24; 28:1-17).  You see, inadequate spiritual leadership leads to doom.  Sadly, they had not learned this lesson when Jesus came.  Jesus rebuked the leaders of His day.
“Then the disciples came and said to him, 'Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?' He answered, 'Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”' (Matthew 15:12-14)

The Pharisees and scribes criticized Jesus because His disciples did not wash their hands according to the traditions of the elders. Jesus called them hypocrites whose hearts were far from God. Jesus called them blind guides, for they caused the spiritual ruin of others. God has charged the spiritual leaders with the critical task of proclaiming the pure, clear Word of God, not what people want to hear. God’s Word is what we need to hear to get us back to walking in His light again.  These priests and prophets were blind and unclean, for they had corrupted themselves. They were supposed to be examples of purityWe must revere the Word of God and trust it and nothing else!

Their sins had made them worthless and unprofitable before God, like broken pots cast aside (4:2).  And since their value to God was tarnished, judgment had to come.
  • Sins Will Be Punished:  (Lam. 4:21-22)
"Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom, you who dwell in the land of Uz; but to you also the cup shall pass; you shall become drunk and strip yourself bare.  22 The punishment of your iniquity, O daughter of Zion, is accomplished; he will keep you in exile no longer; but your iniquity, O daughter of Edom, he will punish; he will uncover your sins."

You can rest assured God’s wrath, and judgment will come because of our sins!  We will not get away with our sins. No one will escape! This is precisely the message of verses 21-22. Edom is sitting on the sidelines with glee over the fall of Jerusalem. But verses 21-22 declare that the cup of wrath will come to them also. In verse 22, God will uncover their sins and punish them.  God is just and will judge us for our sins!  Thus, we must reflect on this truth. The apostle Paul said:
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Romans 1:18 )

The wrath of God has been revealed against all ungodliness. But many try to suppress this truth in their own unrighteousness. They do not want to reflect on the wrath of God, so they ignore and suppress that Truth.  When we use carnal tactics, we suppress the Truth and are doomed because of our sins.
“Our eyes failed, ever watching vainly for help; in our watching we watched for a nation which could not save.” (Lamentations 4:17)

No one can save us. We cannot save ourselves.  Others cannot save us.  Only God can save us.  God is the only one who can deliver us from the wrath we deserve because of our sinful ways. Our sins are uncovered before God, for nothing is hidden from His sight. We cannot escape them.  Therefore, we must cry out to God, reflecting on our sinfulness and lawlessness. We must learn from our sins and turn our hearts to God, crying out for mercy. This is what adorns the Gospel!
“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6)

Christ, in our helplessness and hopelessness, came and died for us to spare us the wrath of God.  A wrath that is rightly appointed to us because of our sins. Christ is our hope. In the days of Jeremiah, we see how their earthly kings failed and destroyed their hope of God's blessing because of their unrighteousness (Lamentations 4:20).  Jesus, our perfect and sinless King of righteousness, restores our hope and makes us a blessing to the nations. He comforts and restores us to God. So while we were helpless in our sins, at the perfect time appointed by God, the Father sent Jesus to die for us. Through Jesus, atonement is made for our sins.  Our sins are uncovered before God. But in Christ, we have atonement, that is, our sins are covered, forgiven.
“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.”  (Romans 4:7)

Thus, let us reflect and learn in our times of grief, distress, and pain and count our trials as joy.  Let us reflect on what God has done to carry us through, knowing that our sins are covered in Christ, which will carry us through our times of difficulty and distress.


V.   TIME TO PRAY:  (Lamentations 5)

This excellent book of Lamentations describes the people of Jerusalem and their suffering during the fall of the city and temple.  Their suffering and pain was an opportunity to reflect and examine their hearts.  It was a time to acknowledge that their unwillingness to obey the truth of God’s messengers caused God's judgment on them.  Sadly, the teachers of God's message (the prophets and priests) were committing sins and shedding the blood of the righteous in the streets. Lamentations 4:17 states that there was no one to help deliver and save them but God.   Since the prophets, priests (4:13), and kings (4:20) had failed the people, they were looking for true prophets, priests, and kings to save them.

This reflection leads Jeremiah to pray to God because of their grief and pain.  No one can help and comfort except God.
  • Remember:  (Lam. 5:1-18)
"Remember, O LORD, what has befallen us; look, and see our disgrace!  2 Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers, our homes to foreigners.  3 We have become orphans, fatherless; our mothers are like widows.  4 We must pay for the water we drink; the wood we get must be bought.  5 Our pursuers are at our necks; we are weary; we are given no rest.  6 We have given the hand to Egypt, and to Assyria, to get bread enough.  7 Our fathers sinned, and are no more; and we bear their iniquities.  8 Slaves rule over us; there is none to deliver us from their hand.  9 We get our bread at the peril of our lives, because of the sword in the wilderness.  10 Our skin is hot as an oven with the burning heat of famine.  11 Women are raped in Zion, young women in the towns of Judah.  12 Princes are hung up by their hands; no respect is shown to the elders.  13 Young men are compelled to grind at the mill, and boys stagger under loads of wood.  14 The old men have left the city gate, the young men their music.  15 The joy of our hearts has ceased; our dancing has been turned to mourning. 16 The crown has fallen from our head; woe to us, for we have sinned! 17 For this our heart has become sick, for these things our eyes have grown dim, 18 for Mount Zion which lies desolate; jackals prowl over it."
“Remember, O LORD, what has befallen us; look, and see our disgrace! (5:1)

Jeremiah knows that God knows what is happening and has not forgotten.  He reminds God of His covenant promises that He made to them as a nation.  He wants God to act on those promises, for he knows that God is faithful and keeps His promises.  God had made a fundamental promise to David in 2 Samuel 7:13-16.
"He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, 15 but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.'” 

God said that the throne of his kingdom would be forever. He also said that  His steadfast love would never depart even though he would commit sins. God said the house (which is the temple) and the kingdom would be sure and established forever. But now there is no throne, the temple is destroyed, and the people are ruined. So Jeremiah reminds God of His promises and urges Him to take notice of what has happened to them.  Jeremiah is invoking in his prayer the faithfulness of God to keep His word.    In Lamentations 5:7, Jeremiah acknowledges that the ax of judgment should have fallen long ago when their fathers sinned.
"7 Our fathers sinned, and are no more; and we bear their iniquities.

He often declared that they had sinned (5:16).
“Woe to us, for we have sinned!”
The only appeal that we can make before a righteous God is to be merciful in His Grace to us, the sinners (Luke 18:13).
  • The LORD Reigns:  (Lam. 5:19-22)
"But you, O LORD, reign forever; your throne endures to all generations.  20 Why do you forget us forever, why do you forsake us for so many days?  21 Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may be restored!  Renew our days as of old— 22 unless you have utterly rejected us, and you remain exceedingly angry with us."

Verse 19 is the key to Jeremiah's prayer.
“But you, O LORD, reign forever; your throne endures to all generations.”  

He acknowledges that we all are in His hands, for He reigns and exercises sovereign control.  He still reigns and is in control, even in desolation.  The book of Revelation conveys the same message. And though Christians are killed for the cause of Christ. Yet the book of Revelation opens with the Lord on the throne (Revelation 4) and ends with Jesus riding on a white horse, destroying His enemies (Revelation 19). God reigns and is in control!  Thus, Jeremiah cries out to God, asking why He has forgotten them, and His covenant promises to them.  So he asks God to restore them to Himself (5:21).
"20 Why do you forget us forever, why do you forsake us for so many days?  21 Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may be restored!  Renew our days as of old."

What a privilege it is to have access to God's throne in heaven! Through His beloved Son, we receive mercy and find grace in time of need (Heb. 4:16). How wonderful it is that we can go to God in prayer and make our requests known to Him, holding on to His faithful promises!  In Philippians 4, we are urged not to be anxious about anything but instead, make our requests known to God. The purpose of God’s promises is to give us an anchor through life's difficulties, pain, and grief.  So we must hold on to God's faithful promises. 

“The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”  


Do you believe in the power of a righteous man's prayer?  You should!  To pray fervently means to petition God repeatedly, pleading before Him, begging Him for help!  Do we all do this in our prayers?   God is attentive to the prayers of His faithful children (Psa. 35:15). He has given us the promise that He will hear the supplications of His faithful children.  Do you sincerely believe God's promise that He will listen to our prayers? We must! We have been given every assurance, so there is no need to doubt.  The prayer of God's righteous children avails much (James 5:16-18).  God is able to do exceedingly more than we think or ask (Eph. 3:20-21; Matt. 21:20).  Thus we must pray with faith and depend on God's promises to be accomplished according to His will.


CONCLUSION:

The book of Lamentations was written under distressing and painful circumstances.  It describes the fall of Jerusalem and its temple in 586 BC.  During the Babylonians' final siege, about 80% of the towns and villages of Judah were destroyed and abandoned. Their destruction was massive. Jeremiah 52 records Judah's destruction during the 18-month siege.  Those who survived the starvation and slaughter went on a 1,000-mile journey by foot into exile, leaving only a few poor survivors scattered throughout the land. The temple of God was defiled, looted, and burned. It is hard to grasp the severity of this event since we have never experienced anything like this in history.

And though we have experienced perhaps a time of great sorrow in our nation’s history, yet nothing can compare to the painful fall of the temple of God.  Why?  Because the capital of Judah was destroyed, the freedom of the nation was lost completely, a vast number of their people were slaughtered or removed from the land, and the temple was destroyed.  After many warnings through God's prophets, His people did not repent and heed His words.  So God in His wrath appeared to have forsaken His people and was no longer with them. God's people were impacted immeasurably!

Although God is all-merciful and His steadfast love endures forever, He had allowed His people to be conquered and killed by their enemies because of their rebellious and stubborn hearts (Lamentations 2:20-22).  Consider the words of Jeremiah, the prophet, about these horrible events.
"Look, O LORD, and see! With whom have you dealt thus? Should women eat the fruit of their womb, the children of their tender care? Should priest and prophet be killed in the sanctuary of the LORD? 21 In the dust of the streets lie the young and the old; my young women and my young men have fallen by the sword; you have killed them in the day of your anger, slaughtering without pity.  22 You summoned as if to a festival day my terrors on every side, and on the day of the anger of the LORD no one escaped or survived; those whom I held and raised my enemy destroyed."

The book of Lamentations is God’s book about pain, despair, and grief. It is a book about the lament (a cry) uttered when life is falling apart.  The Psalms are also filled with laments, that is, cries and prayers to God.  You see, the people of Judah were distressed and in great despair.  Can we relate to this?  Have you ever felt in great despair?  Have you ever felt like everything is falling apart in your life?  Have you had times of grief and despair?  This book helps us to handle pain and despair.

God wants our pain, despair, and hopelessness directed toward Him. Does a parent want to hear the pain his child is experiencing? Of course! We want to know when our children are hurting.  We also want to know the reason for their pain and despair and how they are coping with it.  Though we might think that suffering and despair lead us into a deeper relationship with God, to the contrary, it often pulls many away from God.   But grief and despair, according to this book, can bring us closer to God, for where there is pain, despair, and hurt, there is God.

Jeremiah suffered extreme loss when Jerusalem fell, friends and family died, and his beloved city was burned.  Hope was gone. God had left.  So what must we do when we go through grief and despair?  We must pray and place our focus on the faithfulness of God to wipe our tears from our eyes (cf. Revelation 21:4). Only in God can we find true comfort. Only in God can we truly find help. Only in God can we find all the answers to our cries.

The main message of Lamentations is that God's children must recognize that their lives are not determined by some cold, impersonal fate or destiny. Our lives are in the hands of the living God.  A God who is good, merciful, and compassionate, who hears our cries and will act on our behalf!  Thus we must be hopeful and motivated!   Our God is good and is faithful, and His goodness is intrinsic to His glory (cf. Exodus 34:6-7; Mark 10:18).  We must acknowledge in our grief and despair God's compassion for us.  His compassion portrays His steadfast love, the depth, and tenderness of His feelings toward His children when they are in need. God's faithfulness and great mercies, which are new every day, are our hope.  This hope must motivate us, even when we feel hopeless and lost.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”  (Hebrews 10:23)

May we always remember that He Who has promised is faithful to all those who seek, wait, obey, and trust in Him.  May we acknowledge that our lives are in the hands of the living God.  May we find comfort and peace in God amid our grief and despair, knowing that He is good, merciful, and compassionate.  May we always remember that God hears our cries and will act on our behalf.  And finally,  may we draw near to the throne of grace and receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Luci

Saturday, March 28, 2020

"GIVE THANKS IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES"

"Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit."  
1 Thessalonians 5:16-19



Being grateful is the key to spiritual victory.  Joy is the result of a grateful heart. A thankful heart is the product of a person who chooses always to give thanks no matter the circumstances.  It is the person who never compares himself to other people but always to Christ.  It is the heart that realizes he is rich beyond measure because he is a child of God and that in Him, he finds His portion. It is the heart that is always looking for reasons to be content and give thanks.

We have so much to be thankful for, even when it seems there is much to complain about.  We must praise God and be always mindful of the many blessings our loving God showers down upon all of us.  When the church first began in Acts 2:46, the disciples broke bread daily from house to house and ate their food with gladness.  They were so thankful to be partakers of God's family that they ate together with joy (gladness and sincerity of heart).

Sadly, life has become mundane for many of us. It is a constant search for thrills in worldly and sinful habits (drinking, drugs, spending, pornography, affairs, and many such as these that make us stumble).  Many refuse to be grateful for what they have. A thankful heart makes the ordinary extraordinary.   We must examine our hearts and focus on gratitude.  The grateful heart is always positive.  Such a heart knows and acknowledges God's manifold ways and blessings.  There is so much that we as His children need to be grateful for since He has blessed us so richly.  The right attitude always leads to a heart of gratitude toward our Jehovah God.

So what does it mean to be thankful, and how does one develop the right attitude (spirit) of gratitude?  How can one overcome an ungrateful heart or spirit?  Let us consider:


I.   DEVELOPING THE RIGHT ATTITUDE, THE SPIRIT OF GRATITUDE:

An ungrateful heart is darkened by human pride, human wisdom, and indulgence (Rom. 1:21; 2 Tim. 3:2).  It refuses to acknowledge God as the Giver of every good and perfect gift (Psalm 103:1-5).  It is God's will that we be thankful for everything (1 Thess. 5:8).  It is a command that is as important as the command to repent and be baptized or to worship correctly (Acts 2:38; John 4:24).  Christians must always be thankful since Christ is our reason for living (Col. 3:3, 10).  A heart that is not thankful will always abound in anxiety (Eph. 5:20).  The grateful heart always acknowledges the benefits received.  Blessings come to us when we are thankful.   When one recognizes the Giver, our God, and that all blessings come from Him, there will never be room for boasting.  We are not worthy of God's blessings, and we do not deserve a single one!  (1 Tim. 1:12-13).

In James 1:17, we are taught that every good and perfect gift comes from above, God the Father of lights.  All that we have and possess (our families, beautiful homes, health, skills, jobs, etc.) God has made them possible for us.  So why not praise our Lord for such blessings and all His marvelous ways?  The problem of ingratitude has been around since the beginning of mankind.  It will be good to remind ourselves frequently what is of real value; that life does not consist in the abundance of things a person possesses (Luke 12:15); that all material things are temporary, no matter how much we enjoy them; that those blessings we enjoy now originated from our heavenly Father; that we must take time to be thankful day in and day out for all physical and spiritual blessings and finally that our God is the fountain from which every blessing flows.

To maintain and develop the right attitude, the spirit of gratitude, we must personally examine ourselves.  
  • Gratitude Requires Counting All of Our Blessings:
In Psalm 103:3-5 we read of God's blessings or benefits toward us.
"Who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, 5 who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's."

This passage reminds us of what our Jehovah God has done for us.  I cannot help but be reminded of John 3:16.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” 

In Psalm 103:3-5, David thanks God for six things which he regards as blessings:
  1. God forgives our sins.
  2. God heals us.
  3. God redeems us from death.
  4. God surrounds us with favor.
  5. God satisfies us with good things.
  6. God renews us with strength.
Undoubtedly, without God on our side, none of these blessings could take place.  We are God's sheep in His pasture (Psalm 79:13).  He cares for us and calls us to put our faith in Him (John 10:27-28). All these blessings are worthy of a lifetime of gratitude and praise toward our God.  So count all of your blessings one by one!

  • Gratitude Requires God's Goodness:
“The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.  He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.  8 The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  9 He will not always chide,  nor will he keep his anger forever.  10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,  nor repay us according to our iniquities.”  (Psalm 103:6-10)

God's goodness is an excellent way of expressing God's righteousness, mercy, and grace.  David was thankful for God's goodness, and so should we.  We need to be grateful for God's righteousness and justice.  Though our lives might be difficult here on earth because of oppression, God will make things right on that Final Day.  He will indeed execute justice for us.  David was thankful for God's longsuffering and for being slow to anger.  He was aware of this since God could have certainly destroyed him after his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband.  But God didn't!! Let's face it if God was not longsuffering, how many of us would still be alive today?  I assure you, none of us.  He does not deal with His children according to their sins.  He does not punish us the way we deserve!  And though He does not ignore sin, out of His goodness, He gives us plenty of time to repent.  So let us be thankful that He is slow to anger, but realize that He does get angry.  His longsuffering and tolerance have a limit.  May we never take that for granted, but rather show gratitude toward Him all the days of our life.

  • Gratitude Requires God's Forgiving Love:
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. 13 As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. 14 For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.  15 As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; 16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.  17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children's children, 18 to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.  (Psalm 103:11-18)

God, in His goodness, manifests His love toward us.  His steadfast love toward those who fear Him is as high as the heavens are above the earth!  From everlasting to everlasting!  What a beautiful picture!  Notice that His steadfast love, His mercy, is only granted to those who fear Him and not to everyone; those who faithfully keep His covenant and obey all of His commandments (Psalm 103;11,17,18).

God, in His steadfast love, removed our sins when we accepted His terms and began to follow Him. As far as the east is from the west!  Notice that He did not say as far as the north is from the south. Now stop for a moment and think about the meaning of Psalm 103:12 and notice the beautiful words of this psalm and be thankful!  Why?  Because our God has removed our sins farther away than we can think or understand!  As far as the east is from the west!!  That is, when God forgives our sins, He washes them away completely and remembers them no more.  What a loving and merciful God we serve!!

Our Father in Heaven is a merciful God toward His children.  He is patient with us not willing that any should perish but that we all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).  He pities His children the way a human father pities his children.  That alone is a good enough reason to be thankful toward Him!

  • Gratitude Requires Faith:
Without faith, it will be impossible to be thankful toward our God for the most precious gift ever given, the sacrifice of His Son, who died for our sins (2 Cor. 9:15).  God cares for the sheep of His pasture and commands us to put our faith in Him (John 10:27-28; Psalm 79:13).

  • Gratitude Requires Joy and Contentment:
As children of our heavenly Father, we are commanded to rejoice with a grateful heart always despite our circumstances.  You see, rejoicing and gratitude go hand in hand (1 Thess. 5:16-18).  Likewise, joy and giving thanks go together (Psalm 97:10-12).  We must learn to exercise our muscle of joy and contentment that we might be able to praise and honor our God always.  Contentment is not easier to learn, but we must learn it and apply it in every circumstance, whatever it may be (Phil. 4:10-13; 2 Cor. 12:9-10).

The one who is always anxious has a hard time expressing thankfulness amid his anxiety.  It is gratitude (rejoicing always) that nurtures the optimism that replaces anxiety and fear (Matt. 6:33-34; Phi. 4:13).

  • Gratitude Requires Giving:
When one is grateful to be working, he can easily provide for his needs and those of others (Acts. 20:34-35).  Generosity leads to unexpected blessings (Prov. 22:9; 21:13).


CONCLUSION:

Ingratitude is an ugly sin.  It portrays a heart that is blinded by pride, foolishness, and indulgence.  It often repays good with evil (Neh. 9:17; Lk. 6:35).  Ingratitude is always thoughtless toward God and implies that one deserves it all.  Ingratitude thinks about all that one doesn't have.  It never rejoices and always shows a frown.  Never smiles!  It is always unhappy and never finds contentment.  Ingratitude is proud and arrogant rather than humble and gracious (Lk. 14:11).  It focuses primarily on self (Jas. 3:14-16).  Ingratitude is rude, demeaning, demanding, grudging, ungenerous, and thoughtless toward others.  And while thankfulness looks outward, ingratitude looks inward, failing to acknowledge the contributions or good others do for us.  Ingratitude is expressed in the heart of murmuring, complaining, and bitterness.  Have you ever noticed how difficult it is for the complainer and whiner to be thankful?  He is always seeing the wrongs and shortcomings of others and finds pleasure in it (Num. 11:1; 4:6; 21:4-5).   The one who complains forgets that when he's complaining, He is actually grumbling against God. 

When we grumble or complain, our faith is weak. You see, faith is developed and strengthened when one embraces the Word of God heartily, trusting in it as only truth (Romans 10:17).  This was precisely the failure of the Israelites.  Their faith was so weak that they found it difficult to trust God's Word.  They forgot God's promises to them.  They forgot all that God had graciously provided for them, the marvelous works that provided the food, shelter, and clothing that they needed.  We are no different today.  Why?  Because our faith is fickle.  We quickly forget to remember God's blessings and all the ways He pours out blessings on us day in and day out.  We just seem to lack faith, forgetting that He is in control.  We neglect to be strengthened through His Word as we should, and when all is said and done, we end up grumbling instead of trusting.  Some think that God is not all-powerful or all-knowing; they believe He doesn't care, so they feel hopeless and helpless and therefore complain. They forget that our God is great and awesome!  He will take care of His faithful children (Matt. 6:33; Heb. 13:5-6).

The apostle Paul tells us that he learned to be content!  It was a process.
"Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.... I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:11-13). 

Contentment is like a muscle–the more you put it into practice, the stronger it gets. It is an attitude inside our hearts that whispers in our ears saying,
"God, I want to learn to be content, so today, I am going to seek to be grateful to You, for what You have provided and for the eternal life I will share with You, where joys beyond my imagination will be real, will be fulfilled and will be provided by You, because You love me."  

We need to choose to understand this contentment with humility and joy, whatever our circumstances. It is a significant gain in our walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. It is this contentment, this character of heart in us, that will help us battle whatever our circumstances are and ultimately give us victory! 
“57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”  (1 Cor. 15:57). 

We have an abundance of blessings bestowed on us as His children for which we must be thankful. Consider some of the many blessings:  Our families, our good health, freedom to worship God, the Gospel of Christ, the Word of God, our redemption, our hope of eternal life, our many freedoms like being able to home educate our children, air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat, and most of all our Lord and Savior who redeemed us, who cares for us, who sympathizes with our weaknesses, and who has sworn never to forsake us.  Therefore, we are more than rich since we have all these abundances of blessings.

So do you complain about your circumstances, your job, your health, your children, the church, God's commands, your responsibilities, etc.?  Why not choose to be thankful and grateful while there is life?  Be thankful that you are still alive, have medical care available to you, have children (our children are God's heritage to us Psalm 127:3), and finally that you are part of God's kingdom, His church (the church belongs to our Lord Jesus and not to you!).  Remember that blessings bring responsibilities.  Ingratitude deems or regards others with envy and jealousy (Gal. 5:20-21).  Have you ever seen a jealous and envious person full of joy and thankfulness or gratefulness?  So why not start tasting of God's favor in your life that you might be able to dispose of sinful attitudes and actions, 1 Peter 2:1-3?

I want to share a poem that I wrote.  I hope you find meaning in these words.


Thy Excellence Makes Me Glad!
By Luci Y. Partain

O that my heart may always be grateful to Thee, my Lord,
When wintry winds and stormy seas assail me,
When dreary days and troubled times seize me
And peace is hard to find,
When turbulent times come and go
And tears and sorrow abound,
May my heart rejoice in Thee.
When grief and fears surround me,
Let the memory of  sacred strains, Truth eternal and joy divine
Be Thy gifts bestowed upon me, my Lord.
How excellent is Thy name in all the earth!

O that my heart may rejoice and be grateful to Thee
In hope and thanksgiving with a humble heart, my Savior, Lord, and King.
May I always bow before Thee, Lord, in gratitude and gladness
For every gift that Thou hast bestowed upon me.
How excellent is Thy name in all the earth!

Thou hast given me life and breath.
Thou hast blessed me richly with fruit and grain.
Thou hast given light of day and dark of night, sun, moon, and stars on high,
For that, my humble heart will always shout with joy and gratitude.
How excellent is Thy name in all the earth!

The beauty, splendor, and majesty in Thy creation
Always surround me with joy and serenity.
My grateful heart shouts with joy and love.
How excellent is Thy name in all the earth!

I love Thee and praise Thee and will ever exalt Thee,
My Rock and my Anchor in whom my heart will ever trust.
I thank thee for all the blessings of joy and sorrow and 
For the wisdom that they teach me day by day.
How excellent is Thy name in all the earth!

I thank Thee for all my challenges and obstacles,
For rugged mountains to climb.
Thy Truth teaches me courage and abiding faith to keep me strong,
To face my fears on the fields of battle with honor and strength.
How excellent is Thy name in all the earth!

Thy goodness and steadfast love fill  my heart with gladness and thanksgiving,
Thy strong right-hand helps me to walk in Thy straight path of righteousness.
How excellent is Thy name in all the earth!

My heart thanks Thee for the knowledge of Thy presence, Lord,
My heart can be still, For Thou art with me.
Thy lovingkindness and steadfast love comfort me.
Therefore, my heart will ever praise Thee,
How excellent is Thy name in all the earth!

O that my heart may ever praise Thee,
For Thy hand is always beside me to guide me,
Thy hand reaches o'er me..., 
To protect, direct, and secure me all the days of my life.
No matter how bad the tempest might frighten me,
I know that in Thee, my soul is secured and anchored forever.
How excellent is Thy name in all the earth!


May our Lord help us to give thanks always no matter what our circumstances are.  May we live in His peace, trusting in Him with all of our hearts, minds, and souls. May we always have a thankful and grateful heart that we may see the power of God and our faith in Him working in our life.  May we never forget that God is the Giver of all good gifts.  May we never fall into the temptation of complaining but rather learn to be content and grateful while we walk this path of life.  May we keep calm and know that He cares for us.  May we never forget that He is near.  To Him be the glory.

Luci