Passage- Lamentations 3:19-24
Rarely does a day of Lockdown go by without a new top 5 list appearing on Facebook. List your top 5 films, top 5 footballers, top 5 holiday destinations, top 5 Albums, top 5 books and copy 5 people and so on. Don’t get me wrong, I love these, so keep them coming! But I’m yet to see someone post their top 5 Bible books and ask 5 people to share. If they were to do so, I’m certain that the O/T Book of Lamentations wouldn’t appear. However, just as diamonds appear to shine more brightly against a black cloth and a rainbow more colourful against a dark sky, so too some passages of scripture are even more glorious because of the bleak context from which they emerge. This is certainly the case with Lamentations 3:19-24 as we’ll see.
Bleak Background- Lamentations begins with this eerie description- “How deserted lies the city, once so full of people! How like a widow is she, who once was great among the nations! She who was queen among the provinces has now become a slave.” No it’s not London, Rome or New York in lockdown, but it could be! Our writer is describing Jerusalem, not after a pandemic but after it was taken by the Babylonians and most residents carted-off to exile (c587BC). The bustling streets at festival time are deserted. The remaining citizens groan as they look for food and their enemies laugh at her destruction. How did this come about? There is something called unjust suffering, which the Book of Job addresses, where a line from sin to suffering cannot be drawn and damage is done when we try to draw it. But that is not the case in Lamentations. The demise of Jerusalem ultimately came from God because His people sinned. They rejected God’s warnings through His prophets, listening instead to religious leaders who led them astray, and God displayed his righteous anger in no uncertain terms. But how would the people respond? Barry Webb writes this- “For if there is but one God, who is sovereign over all things, no final explanation for anything is possible other than that he is behind it, and there is nowhere else to run but into the arms of the very One whose anger you have aroused.” (Five Festal Garments)
God’s Goodness- In the midst of terrible times, the writer makes an important choice. “I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:” (3:19-21) This choice is not down to positive thinking or a glass half-full approach to life. Indeed, it’s not even the act of choosing that makes the difference, but rather what is chosen. “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (3:22-23) This is not the first time we’ve heard such wonderful truths. Shortly after the horrendous Golden Calf incident in Exodus, Moses appeared again before the Lord on Mount Sinai and heard these words- “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” (Exodus 34:6-7a) In the midst of another national crisis, our man in Lamentations takes to heart afresh these wonderful truths. His God is full of steadfast love and compassion and is always faithful to his people. “I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” (3:24) Although he’s lost earthly stuff and his circumstances are dire, he’s knows the Lord is his inheritance and the One upon whom his hope is set.
Christ’s Cross- So in the midst of a global pandemic when about 60% of the world’s population is in some form of lockdown and the streets of most of the world’s major cities are deserted, where should we choose to look for hope? A vaccine would be great and a return to some sort of normality in life would be most welcome. But ultimately, we should look to where the unfailing love and righteous anger of God find fulfilment, namely at the Cross of Christ. The truly global problem is that every one of us is a sinner who has rejected God and is deserving of his righteous anger. And the global solution is God’s love in Christ- “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) This is the gospel, the good news of Jesus, that we all must repent and believe, and keep believing.
God’s Grace- Let’s hear again those words- “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Each day is a new opportunity to savour God’s grace. Every day I can delight in the fact that God hasn’t saved me as a reward for my spiritual performance nor has He condemned me because of my sin. It is by God’s grace that I am saved, solely through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He alone is my hope now and forevermore. As we sometimes sing- ‘Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to the Cross I cling; Naked, come to Thee for dress; Helpless, look to Thee for grace; Foul, I to the fountain fly; Wash me, Saviour, or I die’ (Rock of Ages)
Points to Ponder
- We cannot draw a line from any particular sin to the Global pandemic, but God is sovereign and has permitted it. May I flee to Him in faith and not from him in fear.
- Take time to focus on the following scriptures that will help us to savour God’s grace (Ephesians 2:1-10; Titus 3:3-7; Hebrews 4:14-16; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Roman 5:1-11)
- Have a go at memorizing Lamentations 3:22-24 and call it to mind each morning!
Dear Lord God. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, today and each day. Amen