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Counsel and hope for those who are suffering
Lamentations 1-5

Scripture reading: Deuteronomy 30

Today we are going to take a look at the Book of Lamentations.

Lamentations was, most likely, written by Jeremiah following the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. As you may recall, by the Word of the Lord, the Babylonians came and destroyed Jerusalem and took most of the inhabitants away to Babylon. There they stayed for 70 years until the Lord had His people released and He brought them home

The Book of Lamentations is what the word means- it's an outpouring of grief and sorrow. It's a lament. It's a book that describes in great and graphic detail the sufferings that the Jews of Jerusalem experienced when their city fell and in the days after

Of the 5 chapters that make up the book of Lamentations, the first 4 are acrostics based on the 22 letters of Hebrew alphabet. Chapters 1,2,4 are 22 verses each. Chapter 3, which serves as the climactic chapter of Lamentations, has 66 verses which three verses each starting with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

The Book of Lamentations is read every read by orthodox Jews on the 9th day of Tish B'av (the fifth month of the Jewish calendar/our July) to mark the fall of Jerusalem on that day in 586 and the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in AD 70.

The Book of Lamentations is directly connected to Deuteronomy 28. In this, and the surrounding passages, the Jews made a covenant with God. The covenant included blessings from God if they kept it and curses from God if they broke it. If you read the list in Deuteronomy 28 and you read Lamentations, you will note that everything that God said would happen (and that they agreed to) if they rebelled against Him and their agreement, happened

The laments of the Book of Lamentations have a direct point of contact with Jesus- as found in Luke 19:41-44, which says; "As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace-but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you."

Of interest, the first 20 or so verses of Lamentations 3 sound and feel as they have been taken straight out the Book of Job (That great man of God-- who suffered not for his sins, but because of his faith and for the glory of God)

With this introduction in my mind let us turn to Lamentations 3. Lamentations 3 serves as the climactic high point of the book- this is so because in the midst of the despair of the people, there was a strong ray of hope. Without hope and faith its near impossible to go through difficult times. So lets read Lamentations 3 and discover the hope that the people had in their despair.

LESSONS OF THE TEXT

1. Good or bad, whatever comes your way, God is part of it, connected to it, and Sovereign over it. GOD IS IN CONTROL! READ 3:37-38

Point: Whatever our situation, We need to and must factor God into it. He is our Creator. He is Sovereign over all things. Life must not be lived apart from Him. Life cannot be properly understood or processed until one factors Him in.


A question this point raises: Why does God allow, permit, sometimes ordain suffering?

1. All sin and and suffering traces back to our rebellion against God. We are the problem. Genesis 3
2. God allows other people to hurt each other because such is an outflow of our sinfulness and our free will (which God allows us to exercise)
3. God allows, ordains, permits bad things to happen, for His glory, for His praise (whether it be because of the confidence that He had in Job's faith in Him, or for some miracle that He is planning to do) i.e Joni Earikson
4. God allows, permits, ordains calamities and hardships to get stubborn peoples attention.
5. God allows, ordains, permits bad things to happen to us, that we might be trained in righteousness and fitted and prepared for Heaven. He wants to build our character
6. God allows, ordains, or permits bad things to happen to us, as discipline for sins committed or sometimes as punishment for sins committed and not repented over.

All things are under God's rule and control. Nothing happens in this Universe without His direction or permission. He is sovereign over the universe, nature, angels and Satan, nations, people, animals, "accidents", over free acts of men, over sinful acts of men and Satan. God is in control- working out all things to His perfect ends.

This last point, point #6, sits at the center of the Book of Lamentations

The recognition of the people of the Book of Lamentations is that everything that had happened to them traced to their sin, their rebellion against God, their unfaithfulness to God, their enduring resistance to confessing their sins and repenting of them. Note 1:5,14,18; 3:39, 42, etc.

II. With suffering as a consequence of sinning against God and refusing to repent, we need to attend to this important point: DO NOT OVERLOOK THE POSSIBILITY THAT SOME OF YOUR HARDSHIPS AND HURTS ARE THE RESULT OF YOUR SIN AND YOUR REFUSAL TO CONFESS AND REPENT OF THEM.

This point calls for soul searching and self examination. As the Scripture says "A person ought to examine themselves"

We must not forget that God disciplines those He loves and punishes those who are His enemies

III. There is hope for the heart broken. There is hope for those who look to God. There is hope for those who humble themselves and confess their sins. Because of the grace, mercy, love, and compassion of God there is is hope.

Read Lamentations 3:19-42a (note 42b returns to the lament)

There is hope for those who make God their trust

There is hope because God is a God of compassion, love and mercy

There is hope for those who wait upon the Lord

There is hope for those who seek with all their hearts

There is hope for the one who responds in humility to the discipline of the Lord

There is hope for all who confess their sins, their guilt, their worthiness of the judgment, and turn to God.

Such reminds me of Isaiah 55:6-7 which says; "Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

I am also reminded of I John 1:8-9 which says; "f we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

Ultimately all hope that we have is bound up in the person and work of Christ, who died on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins, that we might be reconciled to God and fitted for eternal life in Heaven


CONCLUSION

Counsel for the broken hearted and those who are suffering

1. Understand that God is in it
2. Bear up under it. Endure it
3. Learn what you can learn. Have a teachable heart.
4. May it result in you drawing close to God
5. Realize that God takes no pleasure in your sufferings
6. Do not overlook the possibility that some of your hurts and pains may be because of your refusal to confess your sins and repent of them
7. Look to Jesus. Wait upon the Lord, for He is good, He is gracious, He is loving, He is compassionate, His mercies and compassions are new every morning. He will restore You if you humble yourself. In due time your mourning will turn to gladness