Day 24: Turn Us To Yourself

Lamentations 5:19-22 :

You, Yahweh, remain forever.
Your throne is from generation to generation.
Why do you forget us forever,
and forsake us for so long a time?
Turn us to yourself, Yahweh, and we will be turned.
Renew our days as of old.
But you have utterly rejected us.
You are very angry against us.

Here we are at the end of Lamentations. Jeremiah wrote the book of Jeremiah and Lamentations, but as you can see, Lamentations was very short. This illustrates to us a part of God’s amazing character toward mankind. The Bible tells us that our crying and God’s anger is much shorter than His favor to us. Let’s look at that again:

Psalm 30:4-5 :

Sing praise to Yahweh, you saints of his.
Give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment.
His favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may stay for the night,
but joy comes in the morning.

Even though this is true, weeping about our sin is necessary. That’s another thing we have learned as we have taken this short journey through Israel’s sorrow. This particular passage reminds us that even though God’s discipline is actually short, it feels like “forever.” We were never meant to be separate from God, even for a moment! That’s another important thing for every single human to come to grips with before it is too late.

Sin is very, very serious. It is truly amazing how easily we ignore the horror of it. Studies like this one remind us of what faces us when we sin. God’s anger is the worst thing a man can experience and I don’t want anyone to experience it anymore. That’s one of the biggest reasons why I do this, but I also know that there’s nothing you can do about it without God’s help.

Let’s be careful not to think that coming to God is an act of mankind. If you are stuck in a pit, you need someone to get you out. It’s pretty ridiculous to think that we can get ourselves out of the pit. If we could, we wouldn’t be stuck in it! Look at what God put in this prominent place at the end of this book of sorrow: “Turn us to yourself, Yahweh, and we will be turned.” We know from the rest of the Bible that if God doesn’t turn us, we will never be turned. The fact that you can repent, is a gift of God. If you are able to repent now, do it! You may never have this chance again.

Day 19: A Disrespect for God

Lamentations 4:7-10 :

Jerusalem remembers in the days of her affliction and of her miseries
all her pleasant things that were from the days of old;
when her people fell into the hand of the adversary,
and no one helped her.
The adversaries saw her.
They mocked at her desolations.

Jerusalem has grievously sinned.
Therefore she has become unclean.
All who honored her despise her,
because they have seen her nakedness.
Yes, she sighs and turns backward.

Her filthiness was in her skirts.
She didn’t remember her latter end.
Therefore she has come down astoundingly.
She has no comforter.
“See, Yahweh, my affliction;
for the enemy has magnified himself.”

The adversary has spread out his hand on all her pleasant things;
for she has seen that the nations have entered into her sanctuary,
concerning whom you commanded that they should not enter into your assembly.

Here in Lamentations, there are three main ideas that keep repeating over and over again and are expressed using various comparisons. The three ideas are that Israel’s enemies and supposed friends didn’t help her when she was attacked but instead mocked her, that Israel’s sin was the cause of all her problems, and her enemies defiled the temple.

In this passage, Israel’s sin is, once again, compared to sexual promiscuity. In a sense, there is a confession here that the reason those who used to honor Israel turned away, was because they saw her sin. That’s actually a good reason to turn away from someone. Sin is pretty gross. The problem was that many of these other countries were being gross too. Their sin wasn’t yet exposed like Israel’s was.

One of the biggest sins was that these nations defiled the temple. It’s one thing to show disrespect for Israel because they sinned. It was another thing to show disrespect for the God of Israel. The God of Israel is perfect. In that sense, He really is holy. Remember that the word holy means separate. God is separate from Israel and her sin, and He is separate from the Gentiles who were unrepentant and unwilling to follow God’s law. This disrespect for God is really the main issue. If Israel, with all of her advantages, were unable to follow God’s law, the Gentiles actually had no hope at all. Their arrogance against Israel only confirmed that they were God haters.

Lamentations really exposes the human condition doesn’t it? God is holy, but mankind is prone to evil just like a person who is prone to sexual promiscuity. We may try to avoid our own guilt by pointing out the guilt of others, but the fact still remains that we don’t measure up to what our Creator expects.

Day 9: God Cannot Coexist with Sin

Lamentations 2:15-17 :

All that pass by clap their hands at you.
They hiss and wag their head at the daughter of Jerusalem, saying,
“Is this the city that men called ‘The perfection of beauty,
the joy of the whole earth’?”

All your enemies have opened their mouth wide against you.
They hiss and gnash their teeth.
They say, “We have swallowed her up.
Certainly this is the day that we looked for.
We have found it.
We have seen it.”

Yahweh has done that which he planned.
He has fulfilled his word that he commanded in the days of old.
He has thrown down,
and has not pitied.
He has caused the enemy to rejoice over you.
He has exalted the horn of your adversaries.

There was a time when Jerusalem was so wealthy that silver was as common as gravel. Foreigners would travel from far away to see it. It wasn’t just the beauty that they wanted to see. It was the wisdom that they longed to hear from the God of Israel. Jerusalem was a sign to the world that God was real and that He wanted a relationship with mankind, but now, after the exile and the destruction, the city became something else.

This passage reminds us that “Yahweh has done that which he planned.” As a reminder, let’s go look at those plans.

Deuteronomy 29:22-28 :

The generation to come—your children who will rise up after you, and the foreigner who will come from a far land—will say, when they see the plagues of that land, and the sicknesses with which Yahweh has made it sick, that all of its land is sulfur, salt, and burning, that it is not sown, doesn’t produce, nor does any grass grow in it, like the overthrow of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, which Yahweh overthrew in his anger, and in his wrath. Even all the nations will say, “Why has Yahweh done this to this land? What does the heat of this great anger mean?”

Then men will say, “Because they abandoned the covenant of Yahweh, the God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them out of the land of Egypt, and went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods that they didn’t know and that he had not given to them. Therefore Yahweh’s anger burned against this land, to bring on it all the curses that are written in this book. Yahweh rooted them out of their land in anger, in wrath, and in great indignation, and thrust them into another land, as it is today.”

Why would God plan such a beautiful thing, only to destroy it because of mankind’s failures? We now know that God did it to demonstrate the seriousness of our sin problem. The fact is that mankind has no hope in religion. There is no process by which we can make ourselves sinless. God used the history of Jerusalem to demonstrate that to us. When we try to be religious, we may start out well, but because sin is still living inside of our minds, it eventually works its way back out. God cannot coexist with sin and because of that, something had to be done about our sin before God could live with us.

Jerusalem was built back up but not with its original glory. Someday, it will be more glorious than it has ever been. That’s because mankind’s sin problem has been permanently removed by Jesus. When the time is right, He will return and restore Jerusalem and it will never be destroyed again.

Day 8: The Effects of False Teaching

Lamentations 2:11-14 :

My eyes fail with tears.
My heart is troubled.
My bile is poured on the earth,
because of the destruction of the daughter of my people,
because the young children and the infants swoon in the streets of the city.

They ask their mothers,
“Where is grain and wine?”
when they swoon as the wounded in the streets of the city,
when their soul is poured out into their mothers’ bosom.

What shall I testify to you?
What shall I liken to you, daughter of Jerusalem?
What shall I compare to you,
that I may comfort you, virgin daughter of Zion?
For your breach is as big as the sea.
Who can heal you?

Your prophets have seen false and foolish visions for you.
They have not uncovered your iniquity,
to reverse your captivity,
but have seen for you false revelations and causes of banishment.

One of the critical themes in the New Testament is the warning against false teachers. Over and over, Christians are warned that enemies of the Church will rise up within the Church itself. Let’s take a little tour and look at some of these warnings.

Acts 20:28-30 :

Take heed, therefore, to yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the assembly of the Lord and God which he purchased with his own blood. For I know that after my departure, vicious wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Men will arise from among your own selves, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.

Romans 16:17-18 :

Now I beg you, brothers, look out for those who are causing the divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and turn away from them. For those who are such don’t serve our Lord, Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by their smooth and flattering speech, they deceive the hearts of the innocent.

1 Timothy 4:1-3 :

But the Spirit says expressly that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons, through the hypocrisy of men who speak lies, branded in their own conscience as with a hot iron, forbidding marriage and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.

2 Timothy 4:3-4 :

For the time will come when they will not listen to the sound doctrine, but having itching ears, will heap up for themselves teachers after their own lusts, and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn away to fables.

This is actually a small sample of the things the New Testament says about false teachers. With this in mind, guarding against false teaching should be a major part of what goes on in our churches today. The Bible does teach that we be unified as believers, but it also teaches that we reject false teaching. The two must always go together. If someone preaches unity in order to permit the teaching of false doctrine, they are wrong. If someone separates believers over false doctrine, they are also wrong. In our passage today, we are asked to consider an Old Testament example of the same thing. It teaches us what happens to us when we listen to these false teachers.

What had happened in Judah was that the false prophets that had been speaking against Jeremiah, were failing to show the people their sin. As a result, the people kept sinning until God was forced to destroy them. Jeremiah laments over the fact that even children were affected. He felt the horror of the effects of false teaching. This is yet another warning to us. We need to pay attention to the truth about our sin. We must also be vigilant to remove false teaching from our churches. If we don’t, we will eventually witness God’s hand of discipline on us as His children. He will not allow evil to go on in His household even if we have been lying to ourselves about our situation.

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 4: Rebellion’s Results

Lamentations 1:15-18 :

“The Lord has set at nothing all my mighty men within me.
He has called a solemn assembly against me to crush my young men.
The Lord has trodden the virgin daughter of Judah as in a wine press.

“For these things I weep.
My eye, my eye runs down with water,
because the comforter who should refresh my soul is far from me.
My children are desolate,
because the enemy has prevailed.”

Zion spreads out her hands.
There is no one to comfort her.
Yahweh has commanded concerning Jacob,
that those who are around him should be his adversaries.
Jerusalem is among them as an unclean thing.

“Yahweh is righteous,
for I have rebelled against his commandment.
Please hear all you peoples,
and see my sorrow.
My virgins and my young men have gone into captivity.

One of the surprising things about the Law of Moses, to me, was the harsh sentence that God imposed on rebellious children. It makes rebellion a capitol offense. A child that rebels is to be put to death. I will admit that this seemed a bit extreme to me, but now I have come to realize that the reason it seemed extreme was because I failed to see the seriousness of it.

As I consider rebellion’s history, I realize that it was rebellion that got us into this mess in the first place. Satan was one of God’s “children” and he rebelled against God, becoming the originator of sin. He, then, convinced Adam and Eve to rebel against God too. This resulted in the death of the entire human race. If God had killed Satan the moment he rebelled, Adam and Eve would not have sinned. From that point-of-view, killing a rebel is a protection against the spread of rebellion. It’s not healthy for me to go on thinking that rebellion isn’t really that bad. God chooses to correct my thinking and I believe that one way He does that is by giving me this passage from Lamentations.

In this passage, Judah is personified. She is explaining the horror of her circumstances to “all peoples” and that would include you and I at this point. She describes her continual sorrow and explains that her people have been crushed like grapes in a wine press. She explains that she has no one to comfort her and probably the worst thing of all is that she is being opposed by God Himself. Her people have become slaves to foreigners and all of this because she rebelled against God. I think that it is safe to say that rebellion is the main problem we all have. It sums up all sin with one word. God calls us to repent of it and in order to do that, we need to see it for the horror it is. One good thing that came out of Judah’s fall was the fact that you and I can now see more clearly what rebellion will cost us if we continue in it.

Day 3: A Close Look at the Negative

Lamentations 1:10-14 :

The adversary has spread out his hand on all her pleasant things;
for she has seen that the nations have entered into her sanctuary,
concerning whom you commanded that they should not enter into your assembly.

All her people sigh.
They seek bread.
They have given their pleasant things for food to refresh their soul.
“Look, Yahweh, and see,
for I have become despised.”

“Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?
Look, and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow,
which is brought on me,
with which Yahweh has afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger.

“From on high has he sent fire into my bones,
and it prevails against them.
He has spread a net for my feet.
He has turned me back.
He has made me desolate and I faint all day long.

“The yoke of my transgressions is bound by his hand.
They are knit together.
They have come up on my neck.
He made my strength fail.
The Lord has delivered me into their hands,
against whom I am not able to stand.

I have noticed that my culture has chosen to avoid anything negative. My perception is that this culture believes that there are no sins accept the sin of pointing out sin. Once again, this is irrational because they exempt themselves from their own rule. Passages like these remind us that sin is real, and as a result, the anger of God is justified.

In my culture, anger itself is negative. They must assume that the Christian God is wrong then because in this passage, God is said to have “fierce anger.” Whenever the world thinks that God is wrong, you can bet that the idea came from Satan. I believe that the underlying force behind avoiding negative things is Satan. He knows that the source of all of these negative things is the sin that he introduced into our world. In light of this, let’s consider what God is having us study here.

Much of this book is a close look at the negative. Here it teaches us that once we are subject to God’s fierce anger, we suffer greatly. We learn that we end up suffering all day long as we use up our nice things to simply buy food. We watch our strength waste away as we lose to our enemies. We watch as the good is overrun by evil right before our eyes. This reminds us that sin is real and it has real consequences that we will feel. If we avoid the negative, we fail to understand the seriousness of punishment which causes us to not see the seriousness of our sin. Sin is negative but the greatest negative is the fact that Jesus, who was perfect, was tortured to death. If we avoid that negative thing, we will live negatively for eternity in Hell. Let’s not be deceived by our culture. The only way for things to get positive, will be for every one of us to take a close look at the negative.