Thursday, April 25, 2013

Lamenting in Lamentations

When was the last time you read Lamentations? I just read it this week. Amazing little book. It was written by Jeremiah and boy can you tell it! He writes, "They have flung me alive into the pit and cast stones on me; water closed over my head; I said, 'I am lost.'" (Lamentations 3:53-54 ESV) Many will avoid Lamentations because it sounds too depressing. We live in an age when we want to hear how wonderful everything is and when it isn't, we question God. We ask, "Why"?

Lamentations sharpens your focus. upon your own sinfulness and the grace/mercy of God. It leaves no room for confusion. Why are the people suffering? Why is Jerusalem in a state of terror and despair? It is because of the sins of the fathers and the sins of the people. God had warned of the punishment for idolatry and wickedness. He had sent prophet after prophet to call the people back from their sins. And they had refused. What they were suffering was not to be blamed on God but on themselves. As they lamented over their situation, they were focused on their own sinfulness.

We need to realize too that the power of the law stands against us. Our sins bring about consequences. Yes, we can be forgiven but we still face the consequence of our sins. If you are in prison because of your sinful action, just because you have been forgiven does not mean you should go free. You still must face the consequence of that sin. The people of Israel was learning that. We need to learn it as well.

(All right, just a side note here. There are times when things happen to us not because we have done something wrong but because we are sinners living in a fallen world. A terrible illness may come upon you out of the blue. Why? Did you do something wrong? Not directly. It is not a punishment from God for your actions. It is the result of the fallenness of this world, the fallenness of your life, being a sinner in a sinful world. We face those terrors because of who we are and where we live.)

Yet Lamentations also brings into sharp focus the grace of God. Jeremiah writes, "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." (Lamentations 22-23 ESV) The mercy of God comes to us, not because of our worthiness but because of His love. The focus is totally and completely on the grace of God. He still blesses us. He still loves us. He still cares for us no matter what is taking place. His mercy is new every morning.

What does this mean? God loves you in Christ Jesus. He cares for you beyond what you can imagine. It all comes to you through the cross of Christ - His life, death and resurrection. Do you feel overwhelmed? Great is His faithfulness. Are you scared? His mercy is with you. Are you facing a crisis? The Lord is with you. This isn't a matter of how YOU feel but a matter of what He tells you is true. Don't let the devil, the world or your situation in life cause you to doubt the faithfulness of the Lord.

Jeremiah reminds you of this. And today, I do too.

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