Sermons : 2015 : June 28, Modern Day Lamentations - Lamentations 3:22-33

I’m quite sure many Christians live their entire lives in the faith without reading through the entire book of Lamentations. Honestly, the sound of that title is somewhat depressing. Lamentations? It’s the opposite of how we believe our lives in the faith should be. We’d rather hear of how God enlarged David’s Kingdom in Samuel or how God grew the church by thousands in the Book of Acts or how God says He has plans to prosper us in Jeremiah. We’re not sure we want to read an entire book called Lamentations.

But each of the scriptures does have a purpose and there is much to be gained from this four chapter masterpiece written by the prophet Jeremiah. It’s actually called Lamentations because it was written after the fall of Jerusalem in 587 BC. As you may remember, the city was conquered by the Babylonians and most of the people there were marched off into exile. So they had lost their precious holy land and their Temple and their homes. Of course they would be lamenting.

But the value of this book isn’t limited to our ancient counterparts. There are many times in the life of faith when we find ourselves lamenting because we also experience loss in this life. We experience suffering. We experience lamentation. And really, the purpose that we can find in all of this is the strengthening of our faith and the reminder that our relationship with God in Christ is of utmost importance.

The Book of Lamentations actually consists of several poems, which can be prayed or recited by believers to capture the depths of our sentiments. Such words are also directed at God as He is the One whom we call upon to reverse our circumstances. In fact, prayers offered up in Lament often ask God for that very thing.

See, when you pray, you are basically asking God to be God. You are asking Him to act within His character. During your times of suffering, it seems as though God is acting out of character, that He is not being Himself. When you suffer, it feels as though He does not love you. It seems as though He has forgotten you or abandoned you. As the Psalmist asks in 13:1, “How long will you forget me, O Lord, forever?” But how can this be if God is good? How can this be if you are one of His children?

We often times attribute suffering to our circumstances or to our own poor choices or to misfortune or to the devil and in doing so, we fail to see that suffering’s ultimate author is God Himself. This is a hard thing for us to understand or accept. Does God bring suffering upon His own people? A positive answer to that question frightens us because it seems to be the opposite of how we understand God’s love. To us, love consists only of benefits and blessings. It is always associated with happiness and kindness. Surely, love from God means that He has all these things in store for us.

But lost in all of this, is the fall into sin that corrupted our human nature. From our side, we do not love perfectly. In fact, our love is far from perfect. Our nature tempts us to be selfish and to insist on our own way. Our nature tempts us to be mistrustful and even vengeful when those we love bring hurt upon us.

When it comes to our love for God, we are prone to wander. When our lives with God do not go the way we believe they should, we stray and chase after our emotions which can lead us to things of which God does not approve. Apart from the Holy Spirit, the temptation to be happy is the most controlling influence in your life and you will chase it wherever it leads. And for some, that means leaving God behind or remaking Him into a god who approves and blesses all your choices. So instead of climbing out of the hole, we dig it even deeper.

Suffering really becomes a way in which God brings us to the realization that on our own, we are destined to becoming lost eternally. Suffering takes our attention off of happiness and brings us to the only place in life where we can see what is truly important and that is our relationship with God through Christ.

We do know that God loves us, that He sent His Son to die for us and brings us eternal life; that our sins are forgiven and transgressions atoned for. We know that God loves us and so when we pray in our sufferings, we make appeals to God based on these beliefs. In the midst of their lamentations after the fall of Jerusalem, the people said, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Prayer in the midst of suffering means reminding God of His promises by in effect, reminding Him of His character. Not that God needs reminding, but we are saying back to Him what He has already said to us. And in doing so, we are saying to Him that we know that He is a God rich in mercy and kindness. We know Him to be a God who loves us and who forgives us. Despite the wretched existence in which we may find ourselves, our belief in God’s character is stronger than the belief in our circumstances.

And so we call to mind God’s promises as a way of expressing our faith in Him. We will not abandon Him like so many others do who fall away when trouble comes. We will not forsake Him during trials and times of despair. In fact, such things can bring us even closer to Him, as we come to see that life is both fragile and beyond our ability to control.

Happiness can often lead us to being too caught up in circumstance and emotion. So many good things happening and we start to plan for more and we just expect the snowball to get even bigger as it rolls further down the hill. But in suffering, our focus is limited to the pain or the difficulty and we know the only place we can go is to Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. Jeremiah 17:8 says, “They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."

Faith that abides in God’s Word runs deep. It does not crumble because of changing circumstance. It trusts that God will ultimately bring deliverance because He has sent His Son to conquer sin and death for us. He has already sent His Son to suffer. Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet he did not sin.” Christ knows our plights and He hears our lamentations. He has lived this life the same as we have and knows first hand all the trials and afflictions we face.

You know, 2500 years ago, that exile in Babylon came to an end. Some 70 years after Jerusalem’s fall, the exiles were led back home to the Promised Land and they rebuilt the city and even rebuilt the Temple. Their lamentations were heard and God answered them with His mercy. He reaffirmed to them yet again that He is truly the God of forgiveness and restoration.

And those promises are for us too. “For the Lord will not cast out forever,” it says in verse 31 of our reading today. “But though He cause grief, He will have compassion according to His steadfast love.” And so our hope in His goodness and mercy remains. Christ has conquered sin and death for you. He has given you reasons to hope even in the darkest times of your life. You are never forgotten and all of your prayers are heard for the sake of Christ. Lamentation and suffering are always just for a time, but life with God, forgiveness and deliverance are forever.

And so the Book of Lamentations still has meaning for us today. Laments are ways in which we reach up to God using His own Spirit inspired words. We know that for the sake of Christ, He hears us and for the sake of His Son’s sacrifice promises to deliver us. With God in Christ, there is confidence that we have been delivered from our greatest foe and no tragedy in this life can ever change that. In eternity, God rights all wrongs and He brings justice to the righteous and healing to the afflicted. In your darkest moments, He does not forget you. The Book of Lamentations reminds us that others have traveled this same road, but were sustained by God’s promises. And so we too have confidence in the God who promises that someday, at the very least on the Last Day, we shall be delivered and face affliction no more. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Download PDF for offline viewing.