Day 10: An Optimistic Lamentation

Lamentations 2:18-22 :

Their heart cried to the Lord.
O wall of the daughter of Zion,
let tears run down like a river day and night.
Give yourself no relief.
Don’t let your eyes rest.

Arise, cry out in the night,
at the beginning of the watches!
Pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord.
Lift up your hands toward him for the life of your young children,
who faint for hunger at the head of every street.

“Look, Yahweh, and see to whom you have done thus!
Should the women eat their offspring,
the children that they held and bounced on their knees?
Should the priest and the prophet be killed in the sanctuary of the Lord?

“The youth and the old man lie on the ground in the streets.
My virgins and my young men have fallen by the sword.
You have killed them in the day of your anger.
You have slaughtered, and not pitied.

“You have called, as in the day of a solemn assembly, my terrors on every side.
There was no one that escaped or remained in the day of Yahweh’s anger.
My enemy has consumed those whom I have cared for and brought up.

This passage reminded me that there are always two ways for us to respond to God’s wrath. We can confess and mourn for our sins as Jeremiah describes here, or we can harden our hearts against God, like Pharaoh did and like everyone living on earth will do during The Great Tribulation. This tells us something about God that is good to remember.

God listens to sinners who confess their sins. If that were not the case, there would be no point in trying. Here Jeremiah tells the people to cry all day long. He’s not just telling them to be sad. He’s telling them: “Lift up your hands toward him for the life of your young children.” He’s saying that God is the kind of God who gives mercy to those who cry out to Him, even after they have sinned. This is why it makes sense to be an optimist. Our God is a God of mercy. Even those who sin may end up getting blessed! The mercy of God changes life in a fundamental way. Israel’s history is not just an example of God’s wrath against sin, it’s also an example of God’s mercy toward sinners.

Perhaps this is the fundamental purpose of Lamentations. Perhaps it is God’s intention for us to be sorry for our sins so that He might have pity on us and show His mercy toward us. We do know that this is God’s purpose for us today. God wants every one of us to first realize that we have sinned and understand that the wrath that God has against sinners will come against us unless we confess and seek His mercy. If we don’t lament, we not only fail to see our sin, but we also fail to see that God is a God of mercy.

Day 5: Two Sins

Lamentations 1:19-22 :

“I called for my lovers,
but they deceived me.
My priests and my elders gave up the spirit in the city,
while they sought food for themselves to refresh their souls.

“Look, Yahweh; for I am in distress.
My heart is troubled.
My heart turns over within me,
for I have grievously rebelled.
Abroad, the sword bereaves.
At home, it is like death.

“They have heard that I sigh.
There is no one to comfort me.
All my enemies have heard of my trouble.
They are glad that you have done it.
You will bring the day that you have proclaimed,
and they will be like me.

“Let all their wickedness come before you.
Do to them as you have done to me for all my transgressions.
For my sighs are many,
and my heart is faint.

What a beautiful thing it is to read poetry like this. How amazing it is when God allows a person to produce poetry like this. Many agree that these lamentations are amazing works, but we know that it was God who was empowering Jeremiah to do it. That’s how it is with all of us when we trust in the Holy Spirit’s power in our lives.

The thing that came to mind as I read this section is that there were two sins that God had to deal with. The first one was the sin of His own people, Israel. The wonderful thing about what we read here is that Israel was confessing their sins in this song. It says: “My heart turns over within me, for I have grievously rebelled.” The fact that Israel had done wrong was now published in their own poetry. That’s what it means to confess. We come clean before God and admit that there is no excuse for what we have done.

The second sin we read about here is the sin of the enemies of Israel. Their sin had not yet been punished. It says here: “Do to them as you have done to me for all my transgressions.” You can be sure that God had every intention of punishing Israel’s enemies. We read all about that at the end of Jeremiah. As I mentioned before, one of the sins of Israel’s enemies was that they were “glad” that Israel was in trouble. That proved that they had no interest in God’s name being exalted. The goal should not have been trouble, but restoration. We need to remember that when we see sinners being punished around us. Our goal is for them to be saved, not for them to be destroyed.

Day 94: Repentance is Critical

Jeremiah 21:1-7

The word which came to Jeremiah from Yahweh, when king Zedekiah sent to him Pashhur the son of Malchijah, and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah, the priest, saying, “Please inquire of Yahweh for us; for Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon makes war against us. Perhaps Yahweh will deal with us according to all his wondrous works, that he may withdraw from us.”

Then Jeremiah said to them, “Tell Zedekiah: ‘Yahweh, the God of Israel says, “Behold, I will turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands, with which you fight against the king of Babylon, and against the Chaldeans who besiege you outside the walls; and I will gather them into the middle of this city. I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and with a strong arm, even in anger, in wrath, and in great indignation. I will strike the inhabitants of this city, both man and animal. They will die of a great pestilence. Afterward,” says Yahweh, “I will deliver Zedekiah king of Judah, his servants, and the people, even those who are left in this city from the pestilence, from the sword, and from the famine, into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of those who seek their life. He will strike them with the edge of the sword. He will not spare them, have pity, or have mercy.” ’

There are some today who don’t believe that God requires that people repent before they become a Christian. I believe that this passage is an illustration of the fact that God does require repentance before He gives mercy. Let me remind you that by repentance I mean a change of mind, specifically about being a sinner and accepting God’s view of your bad behavior.

In this passage, the king of Judah sent men to Jeremiah to ask him to ask God for His help against the coming attack from Babylon. Many kings in the past had requested help from God and received it in times like these, but this time, God’s message was terrifying. Jeremiah told them that God Himself intended to fight against Jerusalem! This reminds me that when we fear man more that God, we make one of the biggest mistakes possible. God is the one we should be fearing and the fact that God brings it up by His actions demonstrates the problem of repentance.

Judah was asking for God’s help when they hadn’t even confessed and turned from their sins. They were using God as a way to get out of trouble while still living the way that they wanted to and God’s response to this was to not only deny their request for mercy, but to demonstrate His great anger against them. He was not only going to bring the sword of Babylon against them, He was going to add disease to it and require that some of them be taken as slaves back to Babylon. No mercy was to be given at all.

The God of Israel is still the same today. When you read about the Gospel in the New Testament, you often read the words, “repent” and “believe” together. Becoming a Christian isn’t simply the addition of new things to your life. It’s also the removal of the old things. If a person’s heart is not brought to the place where they understand that they have sinned and need a savior, they don’t have a proper understanding of the Gospel and they can’t be saved. Salvation is turning from old beliefs, to new ones. It’s not a simple request that God stop being mad and start being nice. As we see here, that doesn’t work.