↓Audio link to the sermon:(1st worship recording)
(If you can’t listen on your iPhone, please update your iOS)
First, let me briefly introduce the book of Lamentations. It is a song of prophet Jeremiah’s sorrow as he laments over the destruction of Jerusalem. Jeremiah is often called the Weeping Prophet. We can imagine his despair and discouragement as he witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem, the beloved city of God. And so he sang this song of Lamentations in his heartrending grief. The song contains acrostic poetry, which is skillfully arranged in the order of the Hebrew alphabet.
Up until last month, we were reading the book of Jeremiah. To summarize the book: It talks about how the destruction of Jerusalem was a form of God’s judgment. It was part of God’s plan for the people of Judah to be taken as captives into the land of Babylon. But the experience would shape them as a people of God, until they returned to Jerusalem 70 years later. God gave them hope and a new covenant, and a fresh start as people anticipating a savior. Lastly, the God who is sovereign over history also destroyed Babylon. And that is what the book of Jeremiah is about.
Coming back to Lamentations, we now look at chapter 3, where the author confessed that the hardships and troubles he is going through are the result of incurring God’s wrath. And yet, because of the Lord’s great mercy, the author and his people were not completely destroyed. In the second half of chapter 3, he urges his people to return to God. He also prays for God’s vengeance on their enemies. Now, let us look a little more closely at the contents of this chapter.
Verses 1 and 21 draw a picture of the desperate situation that Jerusalem is in. Verse 1 says, “I am a man who has seen affliction by the rod of the Lord’s wrath.” The person “I” in this verse is the author speaking on behalf of Jerusalem. Verse 7 shows the people of Jerusalem bound in chains. Verse 8 says they cry out for help, but no help comes. Verse 13 says they are targets for attack and they are pierced by arrows. Verse 14: They are laughed at and mocked by other nations. Verse 17: Their peace has been robbed; they no longer remember what it was like to live in prosperity or happiness. Verse 20: Their spirits are downcast. That is the picture of Jerusalem in crisis.
However, in verses 22 to 24, the author turns his eyes toward the grace of God. Verse 22 says, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.” God is not a person who breaks promises. Remembering that God is faithful to his promise, the author is able to see that they are still alive by the grace of God. Verse 23 says, “[The compassions of God] are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’”
The theme of my message today is waiting upon the Lord. To wait quietly upon God. This is described in verses 25 to 28. Let’s read these verses closely.
Though Jeremiah cannot help but weep over his people, he also puts his trust in God’s mercy. This requires a decision of faith. Are we able to do this? What does it mean to grow as a Christian? Believing in God’s words, not letting circumstances lead us astray, and wait quietly for God: is this not a picture of a Christian who has grown spiritually? It feels as if there are more Christians these days to pursue only short-term blessings and prosperity. Of course, the Lord does bless his people greatly. But if our faith becomes motivated by the pursuit of material prosperity, have we not gone wrong somewhere? We may even forget that God uses hardships to help us grow. Psalm 94:12 says, “Blessed is the one you discipline, Lord, the one you teach from your law.”
Going back to Lamentations 3, in verse 29, Jeremiah says this: “Let him bury his face in the dust—there may yet be hope.” This describes complete submission. People came before a king would prostrate themselves on the ground. In the same way, God is worthy of honor and submission. It is fitting for us to say, “Your will be done.” There is an underlying trust that God’s will is ultimately good and perfect.
Verse 30 even says, “Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace.” We can see a foreshadowing of Christ here. Because our Savior loves us, he was willing to be struck and mocked on our behalf, and crucified. So Jeremiah foreshadows his death on the Cross.
But Christ also rose from the dead. Death could not contain him. The following verse, 31, says, “But no one is cast off by the Lord forever.” When we wait quietly for the Lord, looking up to him, desiring his guidance, he will surely answer.
The people of Judah suffered God’s judgment as a result of their own sins. They were called to wait upon the Lord’s timing for their situation to improve. Meanwhile, as verse 38 says, “Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?” They were to accept not only the good but also the bad from God. Brothers and sisters, God knows what you are going through. God will someday judge those who are proud and oppressive like Babylon. He watches over our journey. This is expressed in verses 33 to 36. God does not allow us to suffer for no reason. Suffering is not all there is to our lives. That is what Jeremiah believed, in faith.
How about us? Do we still seek God when we are suffering? Sometimes, we may find that it is best to simply wait quietly, with our faces buried in the dust, asking Jesus for help. I weep with Jeremiah as I read this lament. But my tears are tears of hope. Tears of trusting in God. Surely, he guides my life! He can bring good out of the sad things that are happening now. That is the kind of faith I would like to have. Let me end by reading Romans 28:8: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” If you can, reflect on the words of Lamentations 3, verses 25 to 33, reread them and let God speak to you.