Sermon – July 8, 2018
We are a happy people, or we think that we should be. The nature of our worship songs set the tone for our attitudes of what God should want from Christians: upbeat, thankful, rejoicing. Yet, at many times, and for many people, the sinfulness of the world sets the tone of their song. Their lives ring out with a pitiful dirge, not a playful ditty. Today, we turn to the nature of lament, a prayer of grief and frustration to the Lord. And, in doing so, there is no better place to turn than to the book that carries the name “Lamentations.”
1. Avoid gloating
Jeremiah was a prophet given the ministry of informing the people of Judah to prepare for exile. They refused to listen to him, however, preferring prophets who told them false prophecies that had the benefit of being what they wanted to hear. But, amazingly, Jeremiah does not gloat over being proven correct, he does not utter an “I told you so” to the sad state the people of Judah find themselves in. Instead, he is truly heartbroken for the state of God’s people, even as their sin caused their pain. Let us be able to be broken before sin, honestly desiring to lament the consequences of sin in the lives of others.
2. Address the Lord’s role
Jeremiah is quite clear in the second chapter that the destruction reaped by the Judeans was not just the result of the Babylonians, but was ordained by God. God’s sovereignty and power are unmatched, and so any thought by the Jews that they should have trusted another god, or given themselves over to another political alliance to escape the Babylonians is false. Friends, it is to be a comfort to us that God gives all things to us – both what we consider for our good and what we might consider for our ill. God is neither caught off guard, nor is he incapable of interceding. Rather, “all things happen for the good for those who love God.”
3. Appraise your hope
While the Jews entering exile had little hope, for they had no gods to turn to for help, Jeremiah’s suffering was not tainted with the same desperation. Rather, while he suffered along with the rest of the sinful nation, Jeremiah’s hopes were pinned to the God who struck him. He knows well that this God is the only hope he has. God does not strike you in this life, friend, to drive you away or to bring you anger and frustration. His actions are neither for your flight or your fight. Rather, he wounds you that he may heal you.
4. Alert others
Chapter 4 highlights the change that has happened in the lives of the Jews. Once successful and above any concern, they now find themselves wallowing in the mire. This, simply, is a grave warning to us. Do not think that you can hide in your prosperity, or that your well-being now will last forever. Like the man with many riches, who only worried about the future, God can bring you to an end even tonight.
5. Accept your role
It is quite amazing that in the 5th chapter Jeremiah speaks of his own role in the sinfulness of the nation. We might expect a Job-like reaction: I didn’t do anything to deserve this! Yet, Jeremiah, like Daniel, understands well that there is such a thing as corporate sin – he, as a Jew with sin, is partially responsible for the lamentable position of the people of God. We, too, have these issues placed before us. We can lament the state of our country, but do we think that we are not culpable of sin? We can lament the racial divides in our nation, but do we consider how we have helped perpetuate such divides? We can lament the state of knowledge in our churches, but do we consider how much we don’t love the Lord with our minds?
Jesus, in John 11, is going to raise Lazarus from the dead. He knows this before he leaves, yet when he arrives he is angry and heartbroken at what sin and Satan have done to his people. Let us grieve the same way. Let us lament the broken state of the world, work in the name of Jesus for a better one, and trust that Jesus will one day give it to us.