Tuesday, 27 May 2014


The final poem, again a lament of 22 verses (the same number as the Hebrew alphabet) but not a pure acrostic. Perhaps it reflects the chaotic state of the city? It is also shorter. Chapters 1-3 is made up of stanza's of three lines for each verse, chapter 4 has two line stanzas, now in chapter 5 each verse is just one line. There is a winding down. The second part of each line is never more than three words.
It is set in the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem - v18. The suffering is not of the same intensity, but it endures and there is seemingly no end to it. Life will never be the same again, never as it once was. How do you live in the aftermath?
The answer is given to us in this lament.- LIVE BY PRAYER
The whole lament is a prayer, from the start -v1, to the finish v21-22.
Look briefly at other examples of laments -Psalms 44, 60, 74, 80, 83, 89.
A lament according to Westermann may comprise the following parts:
1. Address and cry for help
2. The lament
3. Confession of Trust
4. Petition
5. Vow of Praise
Lamentations 5 is written so that v2-10 the first person plural occurs almost 20 times; this is dropped for v11-14, and reappears in v15-22. This gives us a guide for dividing the lament up.
v1 Someone has commented that this is perhaps the most insistent prayer in the whole Old Testament.
[1] We have lost our inheritance - v2-3.
The law of Moses did everything possible to ensure that each family kept it's inheritance - even down to the year of Jubilee.
Now the land that God promised to Abraham, gave to the people in the time of Joshua, reached it's greatest point under Solomon, now belongs to others. It continued to do so until Israel became a state in 1946.
The Babylonians destroyed all the houses in Jerusalem - 2 Kings 25:9 And he burned the house of the LORD and the king’s house and all the houses of Jerusalem; every great house he burned down.
'The remaining inhabitants are without land, property, and without protection - like penniless paupers, widows and orphans' Walter C. Kaiser Jr.
[2] We are being exploited for the basic necessities of life - v4
The rich become richer, the poor become poorer!
[3] Our enemies oppress us - v5-10
v5 They are given no rest (the theme we have seen in Hebrews 3&4)
Why? v6-7 they made alliances with Assyria and Egypt when God had told them not to do so. They put their trust in man rather than in God. The prophets warned them against this:
Jerm 2:18 And now what do you gain by going to Egypt to drink the waters of the Nile? Or what do you gain by going to Assyria to drink the waters of the Euphrates?
Jerm 2:36 How much you go about, changing your way! You shall be put to shame by Egypt as you were put to shame by Assyria v37 From it too you will come away with your hands on your head, for the LORD has rejected those in whom you trust, and you will not prosper by them.
v7 They confess their sins. Do we give enough attention to this? Have we over reacted to the Roman Catholic confessional box image of confession such that we barely confess our sins to God at all?
Ps 32:5 I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
v8-10 More details of the difficulties they are facing. These are some of the curses of the covenant the people were warned about if they were unfaithful:
Deut 28:48 therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything. And he will put a yoke of iron on your neck until he has destroyed you.

People from all levels of society were suffering:
[1] v11 Women and virgins were raped - Angelina Jolie & William Hague have been highlighting this horrific aspect of conflicts occurring today.
[2] v12a Princes ill treated. Hung up to die.
[3] v12b Even the elderly are abused.
[4] v13 Young men and boys are used as slave labour.
[5] v14 Relaxation pastimes for young and old are no more. The old men would gather at the city gate and talk together, the young listened to their music - but these pastimes were now forbidden or not possible.
Everyone has a story of their individual suffering.

[1] v15 What a change has taken place in society. The party's over. No more laughter. The dance floor is silent and empty. Compare countries before the 1st World War and afterwards.
[2] v16 Our crown has fallen - we have lost our position and honour in the eyes of the world. Why? Because of our sin.
[3] v17 Look into our eyes. They are dull. The joy and laughter, the sparkle and brightness of life has faded. Our eyes reveal our heart. Our sick heart.
[4] v18 Mount Zion, the joy of the whole earth (see Psalm 48:2) is desolate. This is the city of the great King! Now it is the day of the jackals.
Where has the hope and faith gone from the high point of Lamentations 3:22-24? We have come along way down into the valley from that mountain top.
Grief is like that. There may be times when you soar on the wings of an eagle. Faith is strong. The Lord is near. The next day, or even the next minute you have crashed down to earth. You begin to learn to endure the pain. To live with it. You know that grace will come and lift you up again. This is what we find in the next verse:
[5] v19 We lift up our eyes to the Lord. He is unchanged. Everything else has changed, most for the worst, but not the Lord.
Psalm 102:12 But you, O LORD, are enthroned forever; you are remembered throughout all generations.
We can come to him, even though we have sinned and are guilty - because of Jesus our great High Priest.
What can we say to the Lord?
[6] v20-22 A prayer for restoration and renewal. (Two terms that were hijacked by the charismatic movement and given a 'twist' in meaning. WE need to reclaim them and give them their proper meaning.
Restoration is not about spiritual gifts but about the Lord himself. It is a prayer for restoring our relationship with him. Restoring that sense of his presence that has been missing for so long as described in v20. It is about restoring us to that experience of the love of God. In an earlier study we saw:
(1) God's love of benevolence (big heartedness, giving out of generosity, kindness, grace,) seen in election and predestination.
(2) God's love of beneficence (a gift that is not deserved or earned, but is generously and freely given).
(3) God's love of delight or friendship in which he rewards his people for their holiness and obedience to his commandments.
It is the last that they are praying for Isaiah 62:4-5 You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married.
For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.
What do you think of the ending of Lamentations?
It is not a happy ending.It seems an incomplete ending. That is so not just for Lamentations but for all the Old Testament. The Old Testament is incomplete. It needs the new Testament.
2Co 3:6 ..who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. 2 Co 3:14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away.
Paul can speak of the new and old testaments. He was aware that what he and others were writing was scripture, the completion of the story.

Friday, 16 May 2014


1. How have these home groups on the subject of hell changed you? What could you have done to have made more of this time thinking about hell?
2. His section on putting sin to death, pages 49/50, ties in with what we are learning from the warning passages in Hebrews. Does the thought of hell make you take your fight against sin more seriously?
3. Ted's third point on pages 53/55 is a call to seriousness. As a church are we too serious, dour, and dull, or are we too frivolous, lighthearted and casual?
4. How can the bible's teaching on hell help us to a greater appreciation of the love of Christ? See pages 55/56. What can you add to what he says there?
5. How can we talk to a relative, a friend, a neighbour, work colleague, about hell when we have not said anything to them about it for years, if at all?
6. How can we remember what the bible teaches on hell without being broken (or driven mad) by the thought of people going to hell, or disliking the doctrine of hell, or having hard thoughts about God for there being a hell?

Tuesday, 13 May 2014


The book of Lamentations teaches us how to grieve.
The high point has been crossed (Lam 3:22-24). Now we must come down the slopes of grief. However, grieving does not suddenly end. The remaining chapters will bring us to a position that at the beginning of Lamentations seemed impossible, a place where we can live with the grief and life can go on.
Part of working through grief is to name what has been lost. To face up to the causes. To bring the real picture before God in prayer. Chapter four furthers this process.
Once again the Lament is in the form of an acrostic poem. This time each stanza (verse) is only two lines of which only the first begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet. This slightly loser structure signifies a lessening of the intensity.
The chapter divides into three:
[1] v1-11 The experience of suffering
[2] v12-20 The causes of suffering
[3] v21-22 The hope that grows from the ashes of suffering
1. WHO SUFFERS? 4:1-11
v1 The Temple is in ruins. It's stones scattered on the streets. It's gold plundered.
v2 The sons of Zion, worth their weight in gold, are treated as no better than a cheap kitchen pot.
v3 Mothers treat their children with unimaginable cruelty - worse than the jackals treat their young, more like the Ostrich.
Job 39:13-17 “The wings of the ostrich wave proudly, but are they the pinions and plumage of love? For she leaves her eggs to the earth and lets them be warmed on the ground, forgetting that a foot may crush them and that the wild beast may trample them. She deals cruelly with her young, as if they were not hers; though her labour be in vain, yet she has no fear, because God has made her forget wisdom and given her no share in understanding.
Provan's commentary on Lamentations quotes Cramp's Handbook of the Birds of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa notes: "Under certain environmental conditions...the family group may break up when chicks are a few weeks old, the adults renewing sexual activity and becoming highly aggressive towards all juveniles. Chicks fledged in small numbers outside the breeding season are frequently treated as outcasts and live solitary."
The Ostrich is called by the Arabs: 'impious' or 'the ungodly bird'.
v4 The poster (word) picture of a famine.
v5 The rich are not immune to this suffering. They die like the poor in the streets.
v6 The theological explanation - this is God's judgement. The punishment has been greater than that of Sodom. Sodom was destroyed in an instant. The people of Jerusalem suffered a long time before dying. Why the difference? Jerusalem had been given greater privileges and so had a greater responsibility.
Luke 12:48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.
The same pictures we have just seen are viewed again, but this time the focus is on the princes (the leaders).
v7-8 The famine has changed their appearance. Beauty has become ashes. This is the reverse of revival described by Isaiah:
Isaiah 61:3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion-- to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.
v9 A quick death is preferable to this.
v10 Women have cooked and eaten their own children! (See 2 Kings 6:25-31 for an instance of this when Samaria was under siege.)
v11 The theological explanation - this is the wrath of God. Are you embarrassed by this? Never apologise for God's wrath.
Luke 13:4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

2. WHOSE TO BLAME? 4:12-20
When ever asking that question we need to begin by examining ourselves and confessing our responsibility and sins.
We need to remember that our flesh is loath to take any responsibility for anything that goes wrong. We are all blame shifters by sinful nature. We would rather blame someone else, our wives/husbands, even God (Adam blamed Eve and God, Eve blamed the serpent). It takes grace to confess and repent.
v12 It was well known that Jerusalem was the 'City of God'. They thought it was impregnable! God would protect Jerusalem.
The enemy had reached the gates only to be destroyed.
2 Kings 19:32-35 “Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there, or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it.
By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the LORD. For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.”
And that night the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies."
v13 Whose to blame? Everyone for all have sinned, but not all are equally to blame. Here the religious leaders are singled out for a larger portion of the blame. It was the prophets and priests.
What did they do, or fail to do? They were guilty of shedding the blood of the righteous. They had told the people what they wanted to hear. They were guilty in two ways:
[1] Their failure to warn the people:
Eze 3:18 If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.
[2] Their opposition to those who were righteous. An opposition that led to the murder of some. They had wanted to put Jeremiah to death, he was spared but other prophets fared less well - see Jeremiah 27:7-24.
v14-15: The false prophets and corrupt priests were exposed by the destruction of Jerusalem for what they really were. They were treated by the people as vagabonds and lepers.
v16 Again a theological explanation - this was the Lord's judgement on the leaders (this time the elders are mentioned as well.)
v17-19: They looked for help from other nations, especially Egypt. The end drew near. There was no escape. No help came.
v20 Then king Zedekiah was captured and taken to Babylon - see 2 Kings 25:1-7.
v21 Edom, the descendants of Esua, far from helping their 'brother' rejoiced over the fall of Jerusalem. Their day of judgement will come. They too will drink from the cup of God's wrath. See the book of Obadiah.
v22 The punishment of the Lord's people will come to an end. Their exile will be over. Here is hope. Their grief which they are now experiencing will not stop life from going on. Edom however will be punished.
Jeremiah 50:20 In those days and in that time, declares the LORD, iniquity shall be sought in Israel, and there shall be none. And sin in Judah, and none shall be found, for I will pardon those whom I leave as a remnant.
Only in the gospel is their real hope.

Sunday, 11 May 2014


Our passage is Hebrews 4:1-11
Towards the end of his life the apostle Paul was able to say: 2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
He had not surrendered or been knocked out of the fight; nor had he pulled up, or retired from the race; and he had not given up, abandoned or denied the faith.
He was going to make it to the end. He had endured. He had kept going. He had persevered.
Here he was near the end of his life: still fighting, still running; still believing.
So he was able to say with confidence: v8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
The writer to the Hebrews was concerned that some of those to whom he was writing we in danger of giving up the fight; pulling out of the race and turning away from the faith. Or as he puts it in Hebrews 3v12 Falling away from the living God.
So he writes five WARNING passages in his letter. We are looking at the second of those warnings.
Hebrews 3:7-4v13 - expounds Psalm 95
1st half - 3v7-19 emphasis is on WARNING!
3v11 As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’”
3v12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.
These are warnings that we must take seriously.
[a] The Bible teaches that God does not let his children fall away from salvation.
John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
30 I and the Father are one.”
Jesus and the Father are one in keeping the child of God.
[b] The bible also teaches that those who profess faith in Jesus Christ must persevere to the end to be saved.
Mt 10:22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
It is not enough just to talk about believing. Some people once professed faith. They know how to 'talk the faith'. They can say the right things. But they are no longer doing the right things! They are not living as a Christian should. They are not in fellowship with the Lord's people.
James:2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?
James 2:17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
James 2:18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
It is not enough to profess faith, we must live the faith. There must be the fruit of faith in our lives.
God keeps his people & his people keep going!
Hebrews tells us: 3v14 For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.
These warnings are part of the means God uses to keep us from hardening our hearts and falling away from the living God.
We are all familiar with road signs in red triangles.
These are the hazard road signs for the pilgrims of faith that keep us on the narrow way that leads to life.
Another means is the fellowship of the Lord's people. Our ministry to one an other: v13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
Chapter 3 closes with the picture of the wilderness as a cemetery! Every mile marked by burials - 3v17-19.
Now in chapter 4 his emphasis falls much more on the side of PROMISE. The promise of entering God's rest - v1. This he says in v2 is GOOD NEWS.
[1] The promise to the Israelites:
Ex 33:14 And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
De 12:9 for you have not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance that the LORD your God is giving you.
De 12:10 But when you go over the Jordan and live in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to inherit, and when he gives you rest from all your enemies around, so that you live in safety,
Jos 21:44 And the LORD gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the LORD had given all their enemies into their hands.
Then we come to Judges. We see the rest was not permanent. It did not last.
Jud 3:11 So the land had rest forty years. Then Othniel the son of Kenaz died.
Jud 3:30 So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest for eighty years.
The rest that Joshua lead the people into was not a full or final rest.
Hebrews 4v8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on.
The writer is quoting from Psalm 95. In the time of David the people lived in the land. But David is warning them that they, like the earlier Israelites may fail to know the promised rest - Hebrews 4:7
So he must be talking about something more than possession of the land.
v3 For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, “As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest,’” although his works were finished from the foundation of the world.
4 For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.”
It was not just rest from their enemies that God was promising. We see that REST is spoken of in the 4th Commandment:
Ex 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9 Six days you shall labour, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.
For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
This is taken from Genesis 2.
The rest that God promises is to share in his rest; the rest he entered into when he finished his work of creating. A rest he built into the law regarding the Sabbath day.
The writer makes this plain:
v9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, v10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.
What is this rest?
[1] A rest from working to gain salvation?
Eph 2v8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, v9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
This is true, the Christian is no longer doing good works to earn salvation, to save themselves. They are resting in the gift of God, the finished work of Christ. But this rest doesn't fit with the point the writer to the Hebrews is making here.
[2] The promised rest that is to come?
Heb 11:10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.
Heb 11:16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
This rest that is to come must be at least a part of what he means by rest.
[3] The gospel includes this promise of rest: Jesus said:
Mt 11:28 Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Mt 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
The Christian is now experiencing rest for their soul.
Rest we know now in part, and will know fully when we die and when Jesus returns:
Re 14:13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labours, for their deeds follow them!”
REST is a part of the gospel promises.
The writer to the Hebrews is saying it was not just rest from their journey through the wilderness, and rest from their enemies that God promised the Israelites. It was HIS REST. The rest he entered into on the 7th day when he had finished his work of creating.
A rest represented by the 4th Commandments' Sabbath rest'. A rest that was a part of the life God was offering his people; part of their salvation.
This rest applied to the people in David's time as he teaches them through Psalm 95. In David's time they already occupied the land. Clearly David is saying there is more to this promised rest than this.
This rest was still available when he wrote Hebrews, and is still God's promise today. The promise still stands.
[1] Negatively: We may fail to reach this rest he warns:
4v2 For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.
The Israelites did not believe the promise!
Faith is more than just words! Faith acts. The Israelites did not obey, they refused to go up into the promised land when God told them to do so. Then they tried to go when he told them not to do so!
v6 Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience,
v11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
We may fail to obtain this rest if when we hear the gospel we do not combine it with faith. We must believe the gospel.
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.
[2] Positively: We can enter his rest by faith.

You must believe in Jesus Christ and act on that belief. Martin Luther on faith in his introduction to Romans - John Wesley