Friday, June 9, 2017
Daily reading assignment – Lamentations
The Book of Lamentations is only five chapters in length and is as its names suggests, five “laments” (i.e. cries; groanings; howls) over the destruction of Jerusalem and Judah.
The laments, cries and sorrows revealed in Lamentations are those of the prophet Jeremiah who, through the reigns of five successive kings, faithfully warned the people God’s judgment was inevitable if the nation did not repent, turn from her sins and turn to God. Recorded in these five chapters are the laments of the prophet over the devastation suffered by the city, people and nation.
For those who might want to “dig a little deeper”; notice Lamentations chapters 1, 2, 3 and 5 are twenty-two verses in length. There are twenty-two letters in the Hebrew alphabet and each of the verses in chapters 1, 2, 3 and 5 begin with a word using successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet (in other words, like our A-Z in English). Lamentations 4 is sixty-six verses long and the Hebrew alphabet in that chapter begins couplets that are three verses each.
Before moving to a practical spiritual application, I invite you to read Lamentations 1-5 and ponder the laments of God’s faithful prophet as he witnesses the devastation and destruction of the city and nation he loved. The sorrows and disgrace suffered by the people as a consequence of their sins needs no explanation.
Lamentations 1 records the suffering and sorrows of the capital city summed up in this: “Jerusalem hath grievously sinned; therefore she is removed” (Lamentations 1:8a). Lest some dismiss Jerusalem’s plight and credit Nebuchadnezzar and his army, the prophet makes it plain her destruction is the work of God’s judgment. Jeremiah writes:
Lamentations 1:15 – “The Lord hath trodden under foot all my mighty men in the midst of me: he hath called an assembly against me to crush my young men: the Lord hath trodden the virgin, the daughter of Judah, as in a winepress.”
God’s judgment against Judah, the testimony of His wrath against the city of Jerusalem, and the captivity of her king and elders continue in Lamentations 2:1-9. The focus turns from the city and her king to the people, the sorrows they suffer (2:10-14) and their humiliation before their enemies (2:15-16). Jeremiah reminds the people their sins had brought them to this for the “LORD hath done that which He had devised” (2:17).
Jeremiah’s lamentations became personal in Lamentations 3, the longest chapter in this book. Jeremiah expresses his own distress and sorrow for the sufferings of His people and nation. He lived to see all he had prophesied against the nation come to pass; however, the plight of God’s people was his dilemma as well. In Lamentations 3:11-18, Jeremiah expresses his sorrows with the personal pronouns “I” and “me” and identifies the LORD as “He”.
In the midst of his sorrows, Jeremiah gives expression to one of the most beautiful and best-known expressions of worship and hope found in the Book of Lamentations and is the inspiration of the hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness”. Jeremiah writes:
Lamentations 3:22-23 – “It is of the LORD’S [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God] mercies [loving-kindness; grace] that we are not consumed, because His compassions [mercies; tender love] fail not [never ends or ceases].
23 They are [mercy and tender compassions] new every morning: great [sufficient; plenty] is thy faithfulness [steadfastness].”
I close with a brief exposition of three things Jeremiah states as “good” [Lit. – pleasant; pleasing; best; joyful] from Lamentations 3:25-27.
Lamentations 3:25 – “The LORD is good unto them that wait [tarry; patiently wait; hope] for Him [the LORD], to the soul that seeketh [follows; searches; asks] Him” (3:25).
It comes as no surprise that the “LORD is good”; however, notice the twofold condition for experiencing the goodness of the LORD.
1) The first condition: the LORD is good to those who “wait for Him” (3:25a). Counseling others to be patient and wait on the LORD is easy; however, to practice the same is an exercise of faith, hope and trust. Are you willing to wait upon the LORD when you have been hurt? When you are ill? When you have been misused or misunderstood? Are you willing to wait upon the LORD when your spouse or child makes choices that break your heart. Too many of us are where we are today because we were not willing to “wait for the LORD.” “Patience is a virtue” is an old English adage and from my vantage point is in short supply.
2) The second condition for experiencing the LORD’S goodness is “to the soul that seeketh” the LORD (3:25b). To seek the LORD is to read and meditate in His Word; follow in His ways and pray.
Lamentations 3:26 – “It is good that a man should both hope [expectant waiting] and quietly wait [wait and keep silent] for the salvation [help; deliverance] of the LORD.”
We find two things that are good in Lamentations 3:26. It is good for a believer to “hope”. This hope is more than an emotional and mental aspiration; it is a practice; a discipline of heart and soul. It is a hope that waits with expectation for prayers to be answered knowing God is faithful to His Word and promises.
It is also good for a believer to “quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD” (3:26b). Wait without complaining; literally, wait in silence for the LORD to answer prayer and move in His timing. I am afraid the pews of American churches are filled with many who are neither patient nor quiet!
Lamentations 3:27 – “It is good for a man [lit. a man child; son] that he bear the yoke [disciplines; burdens] in his youth.”
Finally, we come to a third good thing and that is, it is good when a son bears the yoke of manhood.
Did you know a majority of 18-35 year olds live at home with their parents in 2017? For the most part, the Millennium generation has yet to grow up and bear the yoke of adulthood with real-life burdens. Too many parents coddle their sons and daughters and the result is a narcissistic, lazy generation ill prepared for the sufferings and trials that inevitably come and require discipline and endurance.
Mom and dad, you rob your teens and young adults of a “good” thing when you fail to make them bear the burdens and consequences of their choices.
Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith