Day 22: A God of Mercy and Property

Lamentations 5:1-5 :

Remember, Yahweh, what has come on us.
Look, and see our reproach.
Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers,
our houses to aliens.
We are orphans and fatherless.
Our mothers are as widows.
We must pay for water to drink.
Our wood is sold to us.
Our pursuers are on our necks.
We are weary, and have no rest.

A curious thing about this lamentation is what it implies about God. Israel was obviously destroyed for their disobedience. Why would a holy God care about their “reproach” or that they are now “orphans and fatherless?” They sinned. Now it’s their problem, not God’s. The fact that this lamentation exists and that it is found right here in God’s book, tells us that God does care, even about sinners. Israel admitted that they sinned, yet they also remembered that God was a God of mercy. God didn’t want them to suffer, even though they sinned.

Although it isn’t the most important issue in this passage, it’s interesting what the Israelis were complaining about here. They complained that they had to pay a water bill and a fuel bill. It’s a little bit difficult to feel sorry for them here isn’t it? They also complained about losing their inheritance. I think that what this poem is telling us is that the people didn’t have their own land anymore. They couldn’t dig a well and get their own water. They couldn’t grow and harvest trees for wood. They now had to pay others just to survive. We may have “private property” today but when what you can do on that property is tightly controlled by a government, then it really isn’t very private. If your property is taxed upon death then it isn’t much of an inheritance either. These kinds of things are what oppressive foreign governments did to Israel. It’s important for Christians to pay attention to these small indicators in the Bible because it may help us vote more wisely. Greed to get everything given to us by the government may result in having everything we earn taken from us, and as we read here, that’s something people lament over.

Day 13: The Greatness of God’s Faithfulness

Lamentations 3:19-27 :

Remember my affliction and my misery,
the wormwood and the bitterness.
My soul still remembers them,
and is bowed down within me.
This I recall to my mind;
therefore I have hope.

It is because of Yahweh’s loving kindnesses that we are not consumed,
because his mercies don’t fail.
They are new every morning.
Great is your faithfulness.
“Yahweh is my portion,” says my soul.
“Therefore I will hope in him.”

Yahweh is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that a man should hope
and quietly wait for the salvation of Yahweh.
It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.

If you are still breathing, there is hope for you. That’s the wonderful thing about Hell on earth. As long as we are still alive, we can hope in God because God has clearly promised that anyone who calls on Him will be saved. Those who die in their sins will have no hope. At this point in our study, the sun rises on this lamentation. If I’m not mistaken, this is in the very center of all five lamentations. It would appear that the structure of the poetry points to this by placing it in a prominent place.

When we are weighed down in our sins, it’s important for us remember this: we still have hope. As Christians, we can never lose our hope because we have been given eternal life, not based on our good works, but on Christ. Our sin as Christians, no matter how horrible it is, still cannot keep us from our destiny. It may land us in jail. It could even mean that we must die, but it can’t keep us from our eternal hope. Those who are not Christians, still have hope too. If they haven’t died yet, they can use the breath that they are borrowing to cry out to God. God’s “mercies don’t fail. They are new every morning. Yahweh is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.”

The last paragraph, here, reminds us of the importance of waiting for God. Our salvation often isn’t immediate. I sometimes wonder why, but I believe that one reason may be that it causes us to value it more. In the last statement, it says: “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.” The best time to get punished is when you are still young and have enough time to live life the right way. It’s horrible to have wasted your whole life in sin without an opportunity to live for God for very long. I’m so glad that my parents disciplined me as a youth. What an amazing opportunity it has been to live for God, but I also see areas where I wasted vast amounts of time. All of us fall short of the glory of God, but we know the way out. To God we all can say: “Great is your faithfulness.”

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 216: The God of Justice and Mercy

Jeremiah 52:31-34

In the thirty-seventh year of the captivity of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, in the twenty-fifth day of the month, Evilmerodach king of Babylon, in the first year of his reign, lifted up the head of Jehoiachin king of Judah, and released him from prison. He spoke kindly to him, and set his throne above the throne of the kings who were with him in Babylon, and changed his prison garments. Jehoiachin ate bread before him continually all the days of his life. For his allowance, there was a continual allowance given him by the king of Babylon, every day a portion until the day of his death, all the days of his life.

Evidently, it took two days for king Evilmerodach to get Jehoiachin out of jail. I’m not sure about that but what we do know is that King Jehoiachin was released from jail on both the 25th and the 27th of the month. That’s because in 2 Kings 25:27 we read that Jehoiachin was actually released on the 27th. Perhaps it was officially decided on the 25th and ultimately executed on the 27th. I don’t believe that there is an error in the original text. It could be that the translation that we have of the original has an error but it appears to be more likely that the writers are writing from two different perspectives. One is probably talking about when the degree was issued, and the other is probably talking about the actual day that Jehoiachin walked out of jail. An accusation against the Bible, built on this alone, would be pretty pathetic since there isn’t enough information to prove that there is an error here. Still, I like to mention it so that no one is surprised when they see or hear about it.

The bigger thing to see here is the mercy and grace of God. Even here at the end of a book about the horrors of God’s judgment against sin, we read that mercy and grace was extended to Jehoiachin. This wasn’t just mercy toward this king. It was also mercy toward the nation of Israel. God had not forgotten them and He intended to do everything He said He would do

We have been following God’s story of the salvation of the human race. It’s no surprise that these events are followed by this amazing little passage. God is making it perfectly clear that He is a God of salvation. No one is beyond His mercy. Even after all of the sin and all of the prophesy that God performed against Judah, His grace came through in the end. This is the God that we have. I think that we know this in our hearts. God has put the truth in us that our God must be both a good judge and a merciful person. As a result we all have the same choice today. Either we will accept God’s mercy, or receive the judgment we deserve.

Day 195: God’s Dealings with Terrorists

Jeremiah 49:34-39

Yahweh’s word that came to Jeremiah the prophet concerning Elam, in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, saying, “Yahweh of Armies says:
‘Behold, I will break the bow of Elam,
the chief of their might.
I will bring on Elam the four winds from the four quarters of the sky,
and will scatter them toward all those winds.
There will be no nation where the outcasts of Elam will not come.
I will cause Elam to be dismayed before their enemies,
and before those who seek their life.
I will bring evil on them, even my fierce anger,’ says Yahweh;
‘and I will send the sword after them,
until I have consumed them.
I will set my throne in Elam,
and will destroy from there king and princes,’ says Yahweh.
‘But it will happen in the latter days
that I will reverse the captivity of Elam,’ says Yahweh.”

Once again, we are not told why God was so angry with the nation of Elam. I did a search through the Bible, though, and found something pretty horrible from the next prophet in the Bible: Ezekiel. Listen to what he prophesied:

Ezekiel 32:24-25

“There is Elam and all her multitude around her grave; all of them slain, fallen by the sword, who have gone down uncircumcised into the lower parts of the earth, who caused their terror in the land of the living, and have borne their shame with those who go down to the pit. They have set her a bed among the slain with all her multitude. Her graves are around her; all of them uncircumcised, slain by the sword; for their terror was caused in the land of the living, and they have borne their shame with those who go down to the pit. He is put among those who are slain.

So we read that these people were known to be terrorists by God. God simply decided to give them what they gave to others. In Jeremiah we read that God decided to crush Elam and set up His own throne there. In our world, there are those in the Middle East who desire to completly crush Israel and remove the entire nation. God makes it clear that He will be crushing those who think this way. God gives terror to terrorists but that’s not all. God also gives mercy. Once again, we read that God will “reverse the captivity of Elam” someday. Once again, no reason was given. I believe that there probably wasn’t a reason other than God’s own decision. God’s grace extends to the worst of sinners. Perhaps He chose to save Elam to demonstrate His mercy and grace for all of us.

Day 159: The Incredible Mercy of God

Jeremiah 38:14-18

Then Zedekiah the king sent and took Jeremiah the prophet to himself into the third entry that is in Yahweh’s house. Then the king said to Jeremiah, “I will ask you something. Hide nothing from me.”

Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “If I declare it to you, will you not surely put me to death? If I give you counsel, you will not listen to me.”

So Zedekiah the king swore secretly to Jeremiah, saying, “As Yahweh lives, who made our souls, I will not put you to death, neither will I give you into the hand of these men who seek your life.”

Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “Yahweh, the God of Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘If you will go out to the king of Babylon’s princes, then your soul will live, and this city will not be burned with fire. You will live, along with your house. But if you will not go out to the king of Babylon’s princes, then this city will be given into the hand of the Chaldeans, and they will burn it with fire, and you won’t escape out of their hand.’ ”

After years and years of warnings, and after the more recent warnings of God’s prophet Jeremiah, God gives Zedekiah one last chance to save Jerusalem. After all of the anger that God has expressed, He was still willing to accept Judah’s repentance. This is definitely not human behavior and it also demonstrates that “the God of the Old Testament” is far from being mean. What we actually see is a God who desperately wishes He didn’t have to punish His children.

We also experience the challenges that Jeremiah had in his daily walk with God. God had promised Jeremiah that he would not be killed as long as he continued to give out God’s messages faithfully. Even though he knew this, he was still defensive when the king asked Jeremiah for news from God. It could be that Jeremiah was just saying this for the kings benefit, but I think that if it were me, I would have been asking to protect myself and I think that God actually expects this of us. It’s natural and right to do what we can to avoid death! I believe that our avoidance of death is a part of His plan to keep us from it. Even so, we should also keep trusting God’s promises as we do what we can to protect ourselves.

King Zedekiah’s fear of man was evident in his life. He appears to have handed Jeremiah over to be killed when he was afraid of the princes and the military. Now, he’s talking to Jeremiah in secret again. The kings cowardice is in stark contrast to Jeremiah’s bravery, and that continues to play out as we read on. It is very comforting that we have a God who is willing to not give us what we deserve if we are willing to simply start obeying Him again.

Day 102: Yahweh Our Righteousness

Jeremiah 23:1-6

“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” says Yahweh. Therefore Yahweh, the God of Israel, says against the shepherds who feed my people: “You have scattered my flock, driven them away, and have not visited them. Behold, I will visit on you the evil of your doings,” says Yahweh. “I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they will be fruitful and multiply. I will set up shepherds over them, who will feed them. They will no longer be afraid or dismayed, neither will any be lacking,” says Yahweh.
“Behold, the days come,” says Yahweh,
“that I will raise to David a righteous Branch,
and he will reign as king and deal wisely,
and will execute justice and righteousness in the land.
In his days Judah will be saved,
and Israel will dwell safely.
This is his name by which he will be called:
Yahweh our righteousness.

After God proclaims one of the most troubling curses in all of history, He immediately affirms the fact that a day will come in which a “righteous Branch” of David will come and save all of Israel and Judah. Even though it was unlikely that anyone understood how God could do it, He still promised to do it. Lets look at where God places blame.

God pronounces a “woe” on the “shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep” of His pasture. If you want to learn what it means to receive a “woe” from God, read the book of Revelation. This book of Jeremiah has done a pretty good job of explaining it too. Woes from God are what we might call times of “hell on earth.” When God says this, the people responsible have done something very grievous. Remember what has been going on in Judah at this time. There were false prophets speaking against Jeremiah as well as rebellious kings who were teaching the people that it was Ok to practice idolatry. These “shepherds” were actually scattering the sheep instead of tending to them. Lions and bears are the ones that scatter the sheep. These leaders were acting like enemies. When a shepherd consumes the sheep that God intended for him to care for, it makes Him very angry. I’m not sure that I can adequately express the amount of anger God has in this situation and I don’t really have to. All you have to do is look at the destruction that resulted from this behavior.

In God’s anger, He pronounced mercy. This is something that clearly separates God from man. He, in His wrath, still brought mercy and here we learn more about His plan to do it. Even before God began his “woe” on Judah, God pronounced His intention to solve the problem forever by sending Jesus. God intended to save Israel, not to destroy her. The day would come when Jesus would rule on David’s throne on earth. This hasn’t actually happened yet. Israel is still seeking a leader that will bring peace and true safety from her enemies. As Christians, God has shown us the way already, though. God sent His son to die for the sins of the whole world by becoming righteousness for us and because of this we already call Him: “Yahweh our righteousness”.