Print this article


  Replenishing our Resources Lamentations 3:19-40: “It is because of the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning; great and abundant is Your stability and faithfulness.” (vv. 22-23)

We are still on the phrase, ‘He leads me beside still waters’. We said last week that because sheep are at times anxious and inflamed near fast-flowing water: a shepherd tries to lead his sheep to a well or a cistern where they can drink in peace and quietness without fear. Today we ask ourselves: what is the spiritual parallel? How, in an age of turmoil and tension, can we discover those ‘still waters’ of which the Bible so eloquently speaks? The answer is found in the Quiet Time. A Quiet time, also stated as heart-to-heart time, or one-on-one time with the creator, is a regular individual session of Christian spiritual activities whereby a true Christian goes into his or her closet (heart or mind) to have a heart to Heart talks with our Lord God Almighty. A Quiet Time –a concept that seems to be missing in the lives of many Christians –is a time preferably at the beginning of the day, when we meet with God in prayer and the reading of the Scriptures. It gives room for divine meditations and to reflect on certain things of life based on our thinking, our desires, our decisions, and our actions relative to God’s Word. One of the things that concern me about much Church life today is the fact that often we are not taught to begin the day with God. Much of this, I know, is a reaction against the legalism that pervaded the Church a couple of decades ago, when many Bible teachers suggested that if you often missed your daily Quiet Time –for any reason at all –you were in danger of losing your soul because it is obvious our soul is always at war and open to bombardments from the enemy of our soul the devil and as such it is only through our quiet time with our God that we can be taught, guided, directed or divinely shielded from the danger of losing our soul. Today, generally speaking, we seem to have swung to the extreme in virtually everything of life, regarding a Daily Quiet Time with God as unimportant and even completely irrelevant, because as soon as we wake up from sleep, only the pursuit of our daily bread is paramount in our mind and most of us will even deceive ourselves with just few minutes of what we call prayers that seem to take the place of our quiet time with our God. A completely absurd way of life that requires urgent divine attention in the life of all of us! The simple truth is that if we do not provide for a Quiet Time with our Lord Jesus Christ during the day, we will most likely have to provide for an unquiet time throughout the day. A diver who is too busy to make sure his air supply is working before he descends into the depths is no more unprepared than the Christian who descends into the murky waters and broken cisterns of the world without getting his spiritual breathing apparatus connected up with the pure air of the kingdom of God supplied by Christ. So let us know all these vital aspect of life and make sure we try to make out time for them and also to strictly make sure that we adhere to these principles of life. Remember that our God said, ‘come let us reason together’, make your case known…so there is no other special time left for us to tell God how we feel, what we want and seeking for our daily guidance than when we make out time to be with God!

  Expressing Your Grief to God, Lamentations 3:19-40:

Now let us read Lamentations 3:19-40; 19 [O Lord] remember [earnestly] my affliction and my misery, my wandering and my outcast state, the wormwood and the gall. 20 My soul has them continually in remembrance and is bowed down within me. 21 But this I recall and therefore have I hope and expectation: 22 It is because of the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning; great and abundant is Your stability and faithfulness. 24 The Lord is my portion or share, says my living being (my inner self); therefore will I hope in Him and wait expectantly for Him. 25 The Lord is good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly for Him, to those who seek Him [inquire of and for Him and require Him by right of necessity and on the authority of God’s word]. 26 It is good that one should hope in and wait quietly for the salvation (the safety and ease) of the Lord. 27 It is good for a man that he should bear the yoke [of divine disciplinary dealings] in his youth. 28 Let him sit alone uncomplaining and keeping silent [in hope], because [God] has laid [the yoke] upon him [for his benefit]. 29 Let him put his mouth in the dust [in abject recognition of his unworthiness]—there may yet be hope. 30 Let him give his cheek to the One Who smites him [even through His human agents]; let him be filled [full] with [men’s] reproach [in meekness]. 31 For the Lord will not cast off forever! 32 But though He causes grief, yet will He be moved to compassion according to the multitude of His loving-kindness and tender mercy. 33 For He does not willingly and from His heart afflict or grieve the children of men. 34 To trample and crush underfoot all the prisoners of the earth, 35 To turn aside and deprive a man of his rights before the face of the Most High or a superior [acting as God’s representative], 36 To subvert a man in his cause—[of these things] the Lord does not approve. 37 Who is he who speaks and it comes to pass, if the Lord has not authorized and commanded it? 38 Is it not out of the mouth of the Most High that evil and good both proceed [adversity and prosperity, physical evil or misfortune and physical good or happiness]? 39 Why does a living man sigh [one who is still in this life’s school of discipline]? [And why does] a man complain for the punishment of his sins? 40 Let us test and examine our ways, and let us return to the Lord!

  Introduction:

Regardless of how people of different cultures express their sorrows the fact is grief, pain, loss, and sorrow is part of every person’s experience. Every one of us is going to spend a fair bit of time in our lives in the valley. Death is but one of the valleys of life. This is why God gave us His Scripture and His Gospel to intimate us of these facts and principles and to prepare us so that we are not taken unawares with the issues of life. The book of Lamentations provides for us precious counsel for those who are in one of life’s valleys. First the book of Lamentations makes us to know that according to the Igbos ‘Ihe n’eme anyi si anyi na aka’ meaning that whatever comes our way (good or bad) in one way or the other, we are responsible for them! Critically, the perspective and lessons of Lamentations come from one who is in the valley and not from an armchair theologian in an ivory tower. The historical setting for the book of Lamentations is the days following the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon in 586 B.C. As you may remember, for decades God had sent His prophets to warn the people of Jerusalem and the Southern Kingdom of Judah to turn from their wicked ways and return to following the ways of our Lord God Almighty. The people turned a death and deaf ear to God’s warnings and as God always does, He kept His Word and punished them for their rebellion. So it is, there is no disobedient to God’s warning that does not have a consequence, this is why because we lack ways of evaluating so we do not know that most of the things we suffer in life are direct consequence of our misdeeds! As we do our study today it is also important to note that the sufferings described, were, as the author confesses because of sin, our errors of life. This contrasts with the sufferings of Job who was not stricken because of sin but instead was being tested and tried to prove his commitment to the Lord. So from here we also see that apart from sin, another thing that will bring you face to face with the trials of life is when our God wants to test your fidelity to God. Lamentations is a series of laments (obviously). The author(s) has lost everything in the final destruction of Jerusalem just as it is happening in Lagos and just as it happened during the civil war of Nigeria and Biafra. He has watched his friends and neighbors be carted off or killed. Everything he has known and loved -- including the temple of God -- has been destroyed. And worst of all, he knows that this is all a consequence of sin, our sins. It's real, and it's raw. This is why today all of us must be at alert because our sins is currently drawing down upon us unavoidable consequence some of which we have already started seeing hence the warning of avoiding venting points of our day and time. This book is about coming to grips with and expressing our grief to God. You see the problem with us is that we do not know how to grip with our grief and we do not also know how to express them to our God so that He will help us. You might not be in a particularly grief-stricken place right now. I'm glad! But you have been there, you will be there again (someday), and you have friends and relatives who might be experiencing grief right now just as it is happening in Imo State, how it just recently happened in Uli and Ihiala in Anambra State and how it is happening in so many parts of the North. The tools given to us in Lamentations will be useful to you -- store them away for when you need them. The problem is that we do not know that there is nothing that our God have not given to us with regard to how we can solve our earthly problems but we ignorantly always fail to make use of them in time of needs! Getting Started: Things to Think About: I have three ideas for you Your Most Comforting Song of Worship; "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" verse. I know how comforting it is to many because it is regularly requested to be sung at a funeral. It is truly a marvelous text: Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father, There is no shadow of turning with Thee. Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not. As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be. Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness. Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided. Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me. (Thomas Chisolm) How about you? When your soul cries out to God, what song text does it use? Can you tell? [Aside: not everybody has songs in their heart like this any way. A very interesting exercise -- for a very different day -- would be to investigate why songs come to our minds in times like these.] The Lesson You Wish You Learned Younger; We all have lessons that we learned just a bit too late. Maybe it was the dangers of smoking. Or that you paid better attention in shop. Or that you had listened a little more closely to that sermon on resolving conflict. The irony of it today is that these habits are no longer seen in us due to our lackadaisical (lacking enthusiasm and determination; carelessly lazy) way of life these days! For me, it's stuff from my first stint in learning God and His Word. There were a lot of nuggets about dealing with people/staff, finances, and family that I wish I had paid closer attention to. After making a catastrophic mistake, I would sometimes think, "I think someone warned me about this once..." What about you? What lesson do you wish you had taken to heart earlier in life? Or are you amongst those who don’t like to think about their ill stuff of being? Igbos call it Eze Onye Agwala m, meaning a king that does not want nor accept advice! When the Punishment Has Gone on Long Enough; If you're a parent, you have fretted about this deep in your soul. If you're in any kind of disciplinary position, you have dealt with this question a lot. How much punishment is enough punishment? Many people I know have lost sleep over this one, including me. How do you decide when "enough is enough"? In Lamentations, the author(s) acknowledges that sin is the cause of their punishment -- that they are getting what they deserve. How many people see the trials of their life to be a direct consequence of their life errors called sin of life and as such the associated punishment they are getting to be exactly what they deserve, how many? But the author mourns the human cost, especially the children (who bear a disproportionate burden). When will God say that the punishment is over? Here's a key factor: the author trusts that God will do what is right; when we struggle about the punishment we are meted out, it's because we're not sure what's right or do we know what is right. Here's one observation that might be useful to you: God was extremely clear what the punishment for sin would be for breaking the covenant, for going against His law, for going contrary to the right principles of life. And then He laid down that punishment exactly as stated (after giving every chance in the world for the people to get their act together). The Book of Lamentations; Really, the "Big Idea" is processing and expressing grief, but that's baked into the fabric of this book. Tradition says that Jeremiah wrote Lamentations, but some reputable scholars have questioned that (or that only one person wrote the whole thing). Whether or not Jeremiah wrote Lamentations doesn't change the book's meaning or power. The author had experienced the destruction of Jerusalem and was utterly broken by it. Today I do not know how many of us are actually utterly broken by all what we are seeing happening around us and even in the entire world? Our lackadaisical attitude towards reality of things is too bad, let us be real in life! I do not know if all of you like the Bible Project (Book of Lamentations), but I think that a graphical approach to the book makes it much more real. This book is about emotions, not doctrines. (Per se.) That Bible explains the structure, the use of acrostics, and the variations in that structure. The phrase I read a lot with Lamentations is that it teaches us the biblical language of lament. Let's unpack that. We live in a culture that doesn't seem to understand how to deal with anger, grief, or other strong emotions. To cope, people lash out with terrible words or even violence -- things that cause way more harm than good is always how we seem to handle things of lamentation. But grief -- profound and debilitating sorrow -- is a part of the nature of humanity, how God made us. It is an emotion that reflects the image of God in us. God experiences grief from the destructive consequences of man’s sin and sinful activities, and He endures our grief with us, that grief that we caused Him by going contrary to all the things He asked us not to do and thus He in turn allows grief to come to us so that we too will know and realize how it feels with the aim to see if it will help in our feeling sober with a tendency for repentance—as we feel our own grief, because He has felt it before: • The Lord is near the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in spirit. (Ps 34:18, “18 The Lord is close to those who are of a broken heart and saves such as are crushed with sorrow for sin and are humbly and thoroughly penitent.”) • How often they rebelled against Him in the wilderness and grieved Him in the desert. (Ps 78:40, “40 How often they defied and rebelled against Him in the wilderness and grieved Him in the desert!) God doesn't want us to ignore our most raw emotions. He wants us to let them help us see the world as He does. The world God created was very good, and people and created things are priceless treasures to God and must be taken good care of by man since God placed all things under his dominion. The suffering that exists in our world -- caused by our own sin -- is truly tragic and heart aching to our God. In a simple example, do you not see how you feel when someone does something that grieves your heart; that is how God feels too hence He said do unto others as you will want them do unto you. I like the paragraph Bible Project (Book of Lamentations) gave about this: These poems are powerful and raw expressions of confusion, anger, and heartbreak. The poet is unafraid of being brutally honest with God, helping us understand how a true and honest expression of our pain to God is not only good, it is holy—a sign of a covenant partnership and trust in a holy God. Lamentation is an appropriate response to evil in the world, and it’s something we can learn to practice through meditating on the words of Lamentations. So if you do not go to read the book of lamentations and learn the patterns kept there and then apply them in your dealings with God during your griefs, you cannot get the right responses from God always! People should be upset by sin and its consequences. In fact, I believe that Lamentations makes it clear that the appropriate response to suffering and pain is profound sorrow. The verb form of that sorrow is "lament". My Zondervan Study Bible gave this very nice summary of the themes of Lamentations: 1. God is sovereign. 2. Sin shatters the relationship of God and people. 3. Cherished institutions are not exempt from God's judgment. 4. Suffering is real. 5. Hope is found in God alone. I can't summarize it better than that. We have reached the halfway point in our journey through the book of Lamentations. The images have been quite graphic to say the least. We have vividly seen the consequences of continued disobedience put on display. By now you have probably begun to discover the central theme of the book through Jeremiah’s words. “The effects of disobedience are great, but the compassion and love of the Lord is far greater.” Despite the tragic nature of the consequences brought on by Judah’s disobedience, the situation is not without hope. The hope is seen in the fact that God stays with His people regardless of how disobedient they become. Despite feeling like he had fallen into a deep dark hole, Jeremiah discovered this truth to be quite evident. When Jeremiah finally reached the point where he was able to look up from his circumstance he saw that God’s mercy and compassion are unfailing. Regardless of how deep the hole we have dug for ourselves, God is still there, and He still loves us. As we examine that last half of the third chapter of Lamentations, we will discover Jeremiah reaffirming the great truths he has learned. Let’s open our minds and hearts to the timeless truths and hope contained within Jeremiah’s words so that we too will learn.

  I. Gaining some important perspective about Jeremiah’s ministry.

A. Jeremiah persevered in a forty year ministry devoted to warning the nation of Judah that judgment would come unless they turned back to God. This make me laugh when I see people trying to tag me a prophet of doom and I ask what is that thing which God has warned and I gave voice to it that has not happened? Men like doing things their way and not God’s way! 1. One has to wonder how long anyone can endure a seemingly fruitless ministry. 2. Day after day Jeremiah poured out his heart trying to get Judah to turn back to God but his pleas seemingly fell upon deaf ears. Is this not exactly what is happening in our ministry? 3. Warning after warning went unheeded resulting in the consequence of God allowing the full force of the Babylonian army to descend upon Judah. Do you see it, calamity results when man fails to obey God? 4. The piles of rubble left behind serve as a graphic reminder of the devastation and continued disobedience can bring about. B. As Jeremiah looks over the grizzly scene his heart breaks and he expresses his grief and sorrow over Judah’s fate. 1. Though he could not forget the sufferings which he had experienced, Jeremiah still found reason to hope in God. What about you, do you still have hope in God despite your grief and lamentation? 2. Suffering such as Jeremiah and Judah are experiencing is not eternal. What is eternal is the Lord’s love, His compassions, His faithfulness. 3. Contained within these truths Jeremiah found strength and hope that would enable him to endure the suffering and deep sorrow he was experiencing. Do you get that, whenever you are in grief and in lamentation all what you need to do is to ask God to strengthen and encourage you to be able to move through it. II. Three truths to live by when the days are dark. A. God is infinitely just. 1. God does not get His kicks by inflicting people with suffering and pain. 2. God does not hand out undeserved punishments, when He does punish, you will find love and compassion following close behind that punishment if you are able to evaluate it properly. 3. The Lord is aware of suffering and injustice, although some might charge otherwise. Nothing that takes place, good or evil, escapes God’s notice. 4. God’s goal is to give us what’s best for us, whether we want it or not. He loves us too much to do anything less. B. God is sovereign if He says something will happen you can count on it. Sober Up 1. This sermon explores discerning right from almost right, listening to God's voice over others, and making decisions based on truth in a world full of misinformation. How do you evaluate things based on right? Are you honest enough in your evaluations based on right? 2. God is being true to His divine character when He punishes sin. 3. Jeremiah is honest enough with himself to realize that his present suffering is deserved punishment, not a mistake. Therefore, he should not complain of unjust treatment. 4. God is ultimately in control of whatever goes on in the universe and He has designed both prosperity and adversity to be for our ultimate benefit. C. God is holy; He is set apart from His creation. 1. God is our sustainer, redeemer and judge. He is holy and we are not. We are deserving of His wrath. 2. God does not force men to choose the path of disobedience with its resultant punishment. No one can then complain when he or she is punished for his or her sin. 3. Jeremiah encouraged the people to confess their sin and rebellion, which would make them more accepting of their current punishment. 4. These verses should not be read as bitter accusations against God but as contrite recognition that the people’s sins had brought God’s punishment. God had hidden Himself from them like one hiding in a cloud and who refused to hear their prayers.

  III. God is merciful but He will not tolerate continued disobedience.

A. The nation of Judah learned the hard way that God does not tolerate disobedience especially when it comes from His children. 1. The people instead of gaining their joy from living in obedience to God they decided to do it their own way seeking to gain joy by pursuing the pleasures of the world.
Gracious Father and my God, please Lord help me to realize that Quiet Time is not only quietening, but quickening to my soul and my entire being, help me to always observe my quiet times with You; because it produces in me a quiet heart, which becomes a quiet confidence and ends in Your potential quiet power in my heart. Dear Lord and my God help me to maintain this practice in observing my quiet time with You. In Your name Lord Jesus Christ I ask it. Amen!