Tuesday, 29 April 2014


[1] What are the five shortest books in the writings, the third section of the Hebrew OT? (The Law, the Prophets & the Writings)
[2] Which of these books are associated with each of the following five Jewish festivals:
Passover; the Feast of Weeks; the Ninth of Ab; the Feast of Tabernacles and the Festival of Purim?
[3] What is the theme of Lamentations?
[4] What is the method the writer(s) use to convey this message?
[5] Is there a climax (a high point) to the message of Lamentations, if so where?
Where have all the Christian counsellors gone?
David Powlison describes "counselling" as 'Intentionally helpful conversations -that's all counselling is-look different when you look at them from the perspective of seeing God.'
The best Christian counselling has turned away form secular psychology (Freud, Jung, Skinner and co.) and returned to the Bible. The best books on counselling now once again expound and apply passages of scripture. Our maker and redeemer has given us a reliable handbook for all of life.
Five stages of grief as proposed by Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying.”
(1) Shock/Denial and Isolation
(2) Anger
(3) Bargaining/Guilt
(4) Depression
(5) Acceptance
Most of the people she saw grieved as those without hope. Christians do not need to grieve in that way because we have the answer to death in the death and resurrection of Christ.
These five things may happen to people, although not necessarily all of them and nor always in this order. They are not stages and these are not the only things that happen. Other things include:
[1] The pain of the thought of what one's loved ones will go through.
[2] Peace - the struggle is coming to an end.
[3] Grief itself! The pain of loss.
[4] Thinking about the one you've lost every day.
For the Christian our treasure is Christ, not who or what ever it is we are grieving. We know we live in a fallen world where 'bad' things happen. We are looking for a better country. We have a loving heavenly Father. Christians can grieve without the messy tangles and distorted thinking that sin causes.
Lamentations is about 'Ordered Grief'.
The mind of a person in grief sometimes goes around in circles, it keeps returning to the source of the grief, unable to leave it or find any resolution.
Lamentations has a clear structure. It explores grief from A-Z. There are limits to the grief and a conclusion. It goes over the grief five times looking at it from every angle and perspective. All that can be said has been said.
The fall of Jerusalem in 587 BC is recorded four times in scripture: 2 Kings 25; Jeremiah 39:1-11; Jeremiah 52; and 2 Chronicles 36:11-21.
The darkest moment is reached in Lamentations 3:18
so I say, “My endurance has perished;
so has my hope from the LORD.”
We believe that God is Sovereign. He is in control. How can it be then that we suffer? How can God's love and justice be reconciled with our pain?
Lamentations shows us a believer in grief and suffering encountering God.
Walter C. Kaiser comments: "Instead of sporting techniques, answers, slogans, Lamentations supplies: (1) orientation, (2) a voice for working completely through grief from a to z, (3) instruction on how and what to pray, and (4) a focal point in God's faithfulness and in the fact that he is our portion. Is that not what we need in the midst of trouble and calamity? Surely comfort, community, compassion, companionship, and conclusion to suffering are all found in this marvellous little book..."
Lamentations 1: This is about the state of the City.
Jerusalem is personified as a woman forsaken, a widow. She has none to comfort her - v2, 9, 16, 17, 21. The tears flow throughout this chapter. Here we have a lesson in how to cope with grief.
[a] We see the loneliness of grief - v1-7; Pour out your grief before the Lord. Tell it as it is. We see Jerusalem the city, Judah the nation and Zion the centre of worship.
[b] We see the causes of grief - v8-11 In a word - sin!
Jeremiah 40:2 The captain of the guard took Jeremiah and said to him, “The LORD your God pronounced this disaster against this place.
v3 The LORD has brought it about, and has done as he said. Because you sinned against the LORD and did not obey his voice, this thing has come upon you.
Twenty different words for God's anger and wrath are used in Lamentations. Job is about 'innocent suffering', Lamentations where there is an element of God's punishment or discipline.
[c] The purpose of grief - v12-17; To turn us back to the Lord.
[d] The confession grief makes - v18-22; The Lord has been in the right.
Lamentations 2: Suffering is always personal.
The book of Job teaches us that it is not always in a direct response to our sin, but it is always personal. God always has his purposes in our suffering. That is why we should never allow our grief to turn to despair.
2:17 is the key verse.
In the first ten verses there are 40 descriptions of God's judgement and anger. Lamentations teaches us to face up to God's anger.
What ever the reason for our suffering, for our own sin or not, we are always deeply loved by God. God calls the sinner back to his embrace.
In verses 2-17 the Lord is pictured as a warrior. It is the Lord who has done this, destroying Zion.
So cry to him - v18-19;
Zion's anguished cry - v20-22; Here we may learn how to pray in our grief.
Lamentations 3: Is about finding Hope.
The central part of the whole book, where the focus is.
3v48-51 strongly suggests Jeremiah is the author of this 3rd Lamentation and maybe all five. The opening section is cast as an individual speaking of his experience.
v22-24 is the focal point of this Lamentation and the whole book. Remember these verses are viewed against the destruction of Jerusalem and the slaughter of the people and exile of the survivors!
Imagine standing in Auschwitz and singing 'Great is thy faithfulness.' The book of Lamentations, including this passage, is read on Holocaust day.
In this chapter we see hope. There is a call in v40 for self examination, and returning (repenting) to the Lord v40b-66.
We all know we must not be Job's comforters (accusing someone of sins they have not committed) what is less well known is that we must not avoid the realities of guilt, or deny divine judgement. God wounds and binds up. We must not be too quick to reassure people that this cause of their grief is nothing to do with them. Not every person suffering is a Job! The man who speaks here is aware of his guilt, and that of his people, the deserved nature of what has happened.
v31 teaches us that grief will come to an end;
v32 the Lord causes grief but he will have compassion. His compassion will be greater than the grief.
v33 He does not afflict and grieve willingly.
What about what others do? That is in the control of God - v34-36.

Sunday, 27 April 2014


Hebrews 3:1 Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession,
2 who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house.
3 or Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses--as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honour than the house itself.
4 (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.)
5 Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later,
6 but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.
Who is your hero? Who do you really admire? Who in your estimation is a really great man or woman?
British Man of the Millennium - Winston Churchill
A vote at the start of the new Millennium AD 1, man of the BC period there would only have been one winner - MOSES!
Moses had turned his back on a life of privilege as Pharaohs daughter's adopted son to be identified with the people of God.
He had Liberated them from slavery in Egypt, standing up to Pharaoh, performing many signs and wonders.
He then formed them into a nation at Mt Sinai
He had given them the LAW of MOSES
He had written the first holy scriptures: Genesis to Deuteronomy
He interceded with God for the nation saving them from God's anger. God said he was going to wipe out the people and offered to make Moses into a nation instead. Moses pleaded for God not to do so.
Moses was the nations HERO.
God declared Moses' greatness: Numbers 12:1-9
De 34:10 And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face,
Yes, when our author of Hebrews wrote this letter/sermon (a short word of exhortation) Moses would have won the vote for the man of the last 2 millennium's!
They didn't come any greater than Moses - or at least they didn't until Jesus Christ! Our writer invites us to consider Jesus, and in doing so to see and acknowledge that Jesus is greater than Moses!
Why does it matter who is greater?
It mattered to his first readers because they were being tempted to turn away from Jesus and all the persecution and suffering involved in being a Christian, and go back to Judaism. Rip the NT out of their Bibles and live by the OT. Join with the Jews in their, at that time, privileged position within the Roman Empire as having the freedom to practice their religion without being forced to adopt the pagan customs demanded of everyone else by the Emperor.
Why does it matter to us today whether Moses or Jesus is greatest?
Who wants to follow second best?
If Jesus really is the Son of God, then we should listen to him, believe in him, and follow him. We would be foolish not to do so.
That means we should be fearless in proclaiming Jesus to everyone, including those of other religions. If Jesus is greater than Moses then is he not also greater than Buddha, Mohammed; and all other founders of religions?
Our writer will say: If Jesus is greater than Moses then we should be confident in him and the hope that he gives.
He will go on to say that we too should be faithful and can be faithful because we have in Jesus a merciful and faithful high priest.
Well, is Jesus greater than Moses?
The Royal titles: The Prince's style and title in full:His Royal Highness Prince Charles Philip Arthur George, Prince of Wales, KG, KT, GCB, OM, AK, QSO, PC, ADC, Earl of Chester, Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland.
Jesus' titles - King of Kings and Lord of Lords; the Lamb of God; Saviour of the world; the Word; Son of God; Son of Man; Lord of Glory; Teacher; The Good Shepherd; and many others...
Here the writer gives just two: apostle and high Priest.
[1] High Priest - links back to previous section - 2:17 so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God.
The writer links his passages by using common words so we make a smooth progression from one section to the next.
He expounds on this description 'merciful and faithful high priest in reverse order:
(a) 3v1-6 he shows us the faithfulness of Jesus; speaks about our need for faithfulness 3v6b-4v14;
(b) and then 4v15-5v10 shows us Jesus' compassion as our merciful high priest.
[2] Apostle - means one sent. This is the only place Jesus is referred to as an apostle, yet the fact that he was one sent is seen elsewhere, especially in John.
John 7:29 I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.”
John 8:42 ... for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.
John 20:21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”
The writer says that Jesus' offices as apostle and high priest is part of their confession. It is part of their core Christian beliefs. It is what they were taught and what they confess.
The early church knew their theology! The apostles taught them all that Jesus had taught them and sent them to teach. Paul said Acts 20:27 ...for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.
We need to know all this stuff in Hebrews!
The writer begins this section by saying: "consider Jesus,". Take time and meditate upon these things. Give Jesus your attention. Focus upon him.
Why is he saying all these things? Because he is concerned that they will not last the course; that they will give up the faith. They must remain faithful - and so must we. To do so we too need to consider Jesus.
He is our apostle and high priest.
Now Moses also acted as a priest - Ps 99:6 Moses and Aaron were among his priests,
And Moses was sent: Ex 7:16 And you shall say to him,(Pharaoh) ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you, Moses was an apostle, although the title is not used.
That's not all they have in common.
[1] Moses And Jesus Were Both Faithful -
v2 who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house.
The writer is teaching us from the OT scriptures. One of the great values of the book of Hebrews is how it helps us understand the OT.
God's covenant with David that he would raise up one of his descendants 1 Chron 17:14 but I will confirm him in my house. In the LXX "I will make him faithful in my house."
The writer has already quoted 1 Chron 17:13 in Heb 1v5b "I will be his father and he shall be my son."
He is also bring in another passage - God's word to Eli after his two sons proved to be unfaithful priests: 1 Samuel 2:35 And I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind. And I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed forever.
Jesus is that Priest; and he is that descendant of David's.
Moses had also been a faithful servant of God in all God's house. This is an allusion to a verse from Numbers 12 that he will quote in v5; it comes from what God said about Moses to Miriam and Aaron when they challenged Moses' leadership.
Numbers 12v7 Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house.
[2] Jesus Is Worthy Of Greater Glory than Moses:
V3 or Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses--as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honour than the house itself.
V4 (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.)
Moses was the greatest man of the last two millenniums; Jesus is the greatest of all time!
He makes this point by an illustration taken from the world of buildings and architecture.
What is greater: the building or the one who built it?
The answer is the builder.
Think of St Paul's Cathedral & Sir Christopher Wren.
"If you want to see my monument look around you!"
St Paul's Cathedral is a monument to the glory and honour of Christopher Wren.
The builder of the house should be given more honour than the house - God is the builder of all things. To him be the glory.
There is yet more in his comparison:
[3] Moses was a Faithful Servant In God's House; Jesus a Faithful Son Over God's House.
5 Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later,
6 but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son.
Who is the greater - a Servant or a Son? The answer is obvious: A servant is in the house, a Son is over the house. A Son is greater than the greatest servant.
This is not to belittle Moses! He was faithful. He spoke the word of God as God gave it to him. He testified to the things that were to be spoken later.
Moses was a reliable witness
Numbers 12:8 With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the LORD.
Deuteronomy 18:15-19
Moses spoke about what was to come.
1 Peter 1:10-12
But Christ (first time he uses this title for the Son. Christ is Greek for Messiah, the anointed one.) He is over the house; he runs the house.
Moses is faithful in his position and task; the Son is faithful in his more exalted position and greater task.
Consider his titles - apostle and high priest.
Consider his faithfulness - as one over the house.
What does he mean by house? We might at first think he is referring to the Tabernacle, the portable 'Temple'. But the writer helps us:
v6b And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.
We are his house, we who are..v1...holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling,
We who are 'holy' set apart for God; we who share in a heavenly calling: a calling from heaven to follow Jesus and a calling to heaven.
2v10 - in bringing many sons to glory,
We are God's House. There is a condition - we must keep going! We must be faithful. We must endure.
We must hold fast - keep a tight grip on the Christian faith. Do not let it slip away.
A faith that doesn't keep going is not a saving faith.
We must keep our confidence. Christ is faithful. We can trust him. We can trust in the atonement he has made for our sins.
We must hold onto what we boast about and the hope we confess. We boast about Christ. We hope in what he has done, is doing and will do in saving us. He is taking us to glory! You cannot possibly turn away from him! How can you let him go! He is worthy of your confidence and that of the whole world!

Sunday, 13 April 2014


Hebrews 2:17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
v18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
I couldn't help it - I was tempted - the temptation was just too strong - I'm not the only one, nearly everyone does it!
Have you ever found yourself saying something like this, or thinking it to yourself?
Temptation can be powerful! It knows how to appeal to us. It senses our weak spots. It entices, seduces, woos us, promises what we most desire.
It can be persistent! It just doesn't give up until we give way. It comes first thing in the morning, even before we have really come to, it follows us throughout the day, it seizes on any quiet moments we get to whisper in our ear, sometimes it shouts at us, it gets inside our brain, it it is there at the end of the day saying: "Do it tomorrow."
If only there was someone who really understood what it was like to be tempted. Someone who had been through it even more than we have. Someone who was pushed to the extreme limit and came out the other side without giving way, without sinning.
Someone who we could trust not to condemn us, but to help us. Someone who could make a difference when temptation comes like a bulldog which bites our leg and will not let go until we give in. We cannot unlock temptations jaws and free our selves from it's grip - but he can help us, and will help us when we are tempted.
Someone who can put us back on our feet when we have given in to temptation, and we are ashamed of our sin. Someone who when we feel we cannot go on, there's no point for we will just fail again, can free us from sins entanglement, and keep us in the faith, running the race.
The writer to the Hebrews has more good news for us, there is!
Last week we saw his good news that we can be freed from the slavery of a lifelong fear of death.
Isaiah had prophesied that the LORD would be as a mighty champion for his people - 49:24-26
24 Can the prey be taken from the mighty,
or the captives of a tyrant be rescued?
25 For thus says the LORD:
Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken,
and the prey of the tyrant be rescued,
for I will contend with those who contend with you,
and I will save your children.
26 I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh,
and they shall be drunk with their own blood as with wine.
Then all flesh shall know
that I am the LORD your Saviour,
and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”
The Son of God, Jesus, had come as that champion. To be our champion he had to be one of us. Through the incarnation he partook flesh and blood, he became our brother.
He contended with our oppressor, the devil, who used the power of death to keep us in fear. Jesus came and broke the power the devil, he has destroyed his hold over us. How did he do this? Through his own death, on the cross. Now nothing, not even death, can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
The devil may come with his accusations, but we can tell him that Christ has died!
We may be free from that lifelong slavery of the fear of death, but we are not yet free from temptation. The devil has been struck a mortal blow from which he will never recover, but he is still a dangerous foe of God's people.
Who can help us when we are tempted? Who can stand us up again when we fall? The answer is in v17: our merciful and faithful high priest.
Just as Jesus had to be one of us to be our champion, so he had to be one of us to be our High Priest.
Here the writer introduces what will be one of the great themes of this letter. He hinted at it in 1v3 After making purification for sins. That's what priests do.
Now he spells it out, and will develop this in great detail in the coming chapters. Jesus our High Priest.
1. He begins by restating a truth he has been hammering away at to get it into our thinking and to make sure it stays there: The Son became man. Jesus is fully man and fully God.
11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one origin. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers,
14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things,
17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, (That includes suffering and being tempted.)
2. Last week we saw that it was necessary that he became a man so that he could die in our place. A man had sinned, a man must pay.
Tonight he gives another reason why the Son had to be made like his brothers in every way: So that he might serve God as our High Priest.
What is a High Priest? What does he do?
To prepare us for the ministry of Jesus as our High Priest God gave Moses the law which set out the regulations for appointing a high priest, who could serve, and what they were to do.
Until then the head of a household acted as a priest to the family. We find Noah, Abraham and Jacob making sacrifices, and offerings to God.
Now the law provided for the appointment of Priests and the high priest.
They couldn't just amble up to the alter in a pair of jeans, or the then equivalent. They had to wear special priestly robes. Described in Exodus 28.
Ex 28:29 So Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece of judgement on his heart, when he goes into the Holy Place, to bring them to regular remembrance before the LORD.
Aaron was to go just once a year into the holy of holies, on the day of atonement and make an offering for the sins of the people. Other sacrifices were made every day on the alter outside the holy of holies but only once a year did the High Priest enter with the blood of the sacrifice.
The high priest represented the people before God.
A. The writer says four things in v17 about Jesus as the high priest:
[1.] He was a merciful high priest.
Nowhere else is a priest described as being merciful.
God is described in that way:
Exodus 34:6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, v7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty.
Eph 2:4-5 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved--
Our high priest is God and man, he is merciful.
In the gospels Jesus is asked to have mercy and he does:
Matthew 9:27 And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” He restores their sight.
Matthew 15:22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” He casts out the demon.
Jesus shows mercy to his people. Mercy to those who are being tempted and to those who have fallen to temptation.
Our high priest shows mercy to us.
[2.] He was a faithful high priest
Psalm 145:13-14 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations.
The LORD is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works. The LORD upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.
1 Samuel 2:35 And I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind. And I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed forever.
Jesus is that faithful priest. He is trustworthy. We can trust him. He is faithful to God and faithful to his people. Faithful in all his duties as High Priest.
When you are tempted you can trust him. When you have fallen you can trust him.
[3] He was in the service of God.
He is our high priest because that is the service God has asked of him. He represents us before God.
[4] He was to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
Here is the big issue! Our sins. The times we fall to temptation. Each sin worthy of death. How can we go to God when we have fallen to temptation?
Because we have a high priest who made propitiation for our sins.
What does propitiation mean?
Propitiation is the turning away of anger and wrath. When a person is propitiated he is appeased.
Now God takes our sin personally. It is an offence against him. Sin is not just breaking the law, it is breaking HIS law. It is rebellion.
How does God react to this? He is angry. The Bible speaks about his wrath. It is said that there are over 20 different words in the OT to express the wrath of God.
Ezekiel 7:8 Now I will soon pour out my wrath upon you, and spend my anger against you, and judge you according to your ways, and I will punish you for all your abominations.
Psalm 103:8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. (Slow, not never to anger!)
1 Thess 1:10 Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
The wrath of God is real. That's why we need such a great salvation!
To make propitiation for our sins is to divert the wrath of God from us, it is to appease his wrath, to restore a broken relationship.
Our High Priest does that by offering up his own blood. The wrath that should fall on us fell on him on the cross. His sacrifice made peace with God for all who believe on him.
B. This is why he can help those who are being tempted.
v18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
The writer is not saying he suffered through his temptation, although that is true, but that Jesus' suffering was a source of temptation. He was tested through his suffering.
Testing the strength of metals. When will they break?
Jesus was tested to the limit and did not break! He did not fall to temptation. You will never be tempted to the extreme that Jesus was. That is why he can always help you when you are being tempted.
How does he help?
Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
He gives you the confidence of sins forgiven.
Doesn't that encourage you to give way to temptation? Well if I fall I shall be forgiven?
No, the very thought that he has made propitiation for our sins through his own blood, makes us want to resist temptation because we remember his love with which he gave himself for us, and so we love him and do not want to fail him. We love him more than we love the sin which we are being tempted to commit.
There is even more to his help than this. The writer is going to expand of Christ as our High Priest in the coming chapters.

For now, if you are going through temptation then remember Jesus, your high priest. He is able to help you. You do not have to give in. Go to him and ask for that help. His Holy Spirit lives in you and he can bring you that help from Jesus.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014


A. Recap from last time:

The centre of the book of Lamentations. We often work towards a climax the end of a piece, but very often in the OT the centre is the high point, the heart of the message. So it is here. This chapter contains the best known verses in the book - 22-23.
Once again it is in the form of an acrostic - but this time in groups of three verses: aaa,bbb,ccc - for all 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
v1-18: You Think You Have Problems!
What are you initial impressions of these verses? Do they remind you of any other passages of scripture?
Who it who says: "I am the man..."? Some think Jeremiah, or the King. We do not know for sure but we can say it was a male survivor, a believer. The first two Laments come with female voices - Lam 1 Jerusalem is 'She'. Lam 2 the focus is on the daughter of Zion, daughter of Judah, daughter of my people, daughter of Jerusalem v1, 2,4, 5, 8, 10, 13, 15, 18.
Note how many times he says: 'He has'. Although the destruction was brought about by the Babylonians they are the secondary cause, it is the Lord who is the first cause of the affliction.
Here is a believer who says in v1 that he is under the rod of his wrath. How do you reconcile this with the believer been loved by God?
God's love for his people be seen in three categories: (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 - Hebrews 11:5-6; John 14:21; 16:26-27.
God loved our writer of Lamentations 3 with a love of benevolence and beneficence, but God did not delight in the sins of the City of Jerusalem and for a while his people were under his rod of wrath. This is the warning Jesus gave to some of the Churches in Rev 2-3:
v19-33: How To Find Hope When Hope Has Perished.
v18 hope has perished.....v21 I have hope.
v22-24: He calls to mind God's love of benevolence and beneficence.
v25-33: He sets about regaining God's love of delight and friendship. Pascal said: "All the miseries of mankind arise from his inability to sit still in his own room." Lloyd-Jones comments: "You have to be still, you must stop, you must be isolated, you must think. You cannot meet with the Lord in the midst of the noise and the bustle and the fury of life. Stillness is one of the great prerequisites."
B. Before we turn this week to the second half I want to make a further comment on v33 .."for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men."
God took no pleasure in the destruction of Jerusalem, the death and the exile of his people.
Yet, had he not warned them in the law of Moses:
Deuteronomy 28:63 And as the LORD took delight in doing you good and multiplying you, so the LORD will take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you. And you shall be plucked off the land that you are entering to take possession of it.
I looked up five leading modern commentaries on Deuteronomy on this verse, all ignored the reference to God taking delight in bringing ruin. John Calvin in Harmony of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy tackled it in a helpful way:
v63. And it shall come to pass, that as the Lord rejoiced over you. The wonderful and inestimable love of God towards His people is here set forth, via, that He had rejoiced in heaping blessings upon them; wherefore their depravity was all the more base and intolerable, in that God, though voluntarily disposed to be bountiful, was obliged by it to lay aside His affection for them. But although it is only by a metaphor that God is said to rejoice in destroying the wicked, yet it is not without good reason that this expression is applied to him; that we may know that He can no more fail to be the defender of His Law, and the Avenger of its contempt, than deny Himself. He complains, indeed, by Isaiah, (10:24) that He is unwillingly forced to punish the Jews; but these two things are quite consistent, that He rejoices in His just judgement, and at the same time is mindful of His clemency and indulgence, so that He would rather pardon, if the wickedness of men would allow Him. But this expression of Moses, that God receives consolation from punishing the wicked, constantly occurs in the Prophets.
Matthew Henry: That is a terrible word (v. 63), As the Lord rejoiced over you to do you good, so he will rejoice over you to destroy you. Behold here the goodness and severity of God: mercy here shines brightly in the pleasure God takes in doing good—he rejoices in it; yet justice here appears no less illustrious in the pleasure he takes in destroying the impenitent; not as it is the making of his creatures miserable, but as it is the asserting of his own honour and the securing of the ends of his government. See what a malignant mischievous thing sin is, which (as I may say) makes it necessary for the God of infinite goodness to rejoice in the destruction of his own creatures, even those that had been favourites.
Ezekiel 33:11 Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?
Walter Chantry commenting on this:
I like the example that Robert Dabney gave on this subject in an essay. He tells of George Washington sentencing Major Andre to death. You will recall that Major Andre was the officer in the British army who had served as the British agent to receive traitorous information from Benedict Arnold. Major Andre was captured with information about American forts. George Washington had a genuine admiration, love and compassion for Andre and did not want to sign his death warrant. Yet he did sign it. Why? Because of the complexity of the general's motives. Not because he lacked the power to excuse Andre. He had that authority. Not because he failed to love Andre. He did love him. But because the good of his country and the good to all men were involved, he made the decision that Andre must die.
Some no doubt said, 'Washington is a hypocrite to say he loves Andre and then condemn him'. Others no doubt said, 'His hands must have been tied. He really loved the man, so he must have lacked the authority to release him.' Neither is true. Washington could have forgiven Andre and wished to do so. Yet he felt at ease in sending him to the gallows, because of higher considerations. That is just an earthly illustration to warn you away from oversimplified logic when you come to heavenly truths. Remember that God's ways are higher than your ways and his thoughts than your thoughts. We can see reasons or avenues along which the mind of God might travel in loving and condemning at the same time, but unless the Word of God gives us the answers, we dare not make our mind the source of truth by coming to firm conclusions.
C. The second half of the 3rd Lament:
v34-48: Evil In The World:
v34-36: Here is evil as God sees it. (v36 the Lord does not approve - should read the Lord does not see according to Hetty Lalleman in her excellent commentary.)
He sees every injustice. The author of this 3rd Lamentation has seen many such injustices in the fall of Jerusalem. It was not just the most wicked who suffered, but all. (God was alter to punish the Babylonians for their excesses of violence and injustice.)
v37-39: God's punishment is fair. He is not pleading that they are all innocent victims of injustice. Excesses there may have been, but he acknowledges they were guilty and deserving of punishment.
Job 2:10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
v40-42: He calls on the people to repent. He includes himself - "let us..let us...we have..".
v43-45: Once again we see God's anger. He had hid himself. No prayer can get through. No words of his can be heard.
Hebrews 10:31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
v46-48: All our enemies are against us.
The writer weeps. Our minds leap forward to Jesus approaching Jerusalem:
Luke 19:41-44 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
v49-66: When The LORD Hides Himself Call to Him!
v49-51: He will weep until the Lord sees. He has a sense of expectation that the Lord will see and act. Why? Because the Lord had not only warned of destruction and exile he had also promised restoration.
Jer 29:10 “For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.
v52-54: The danger he faces. Some believe that this suggests that the author was Jeremiah who was thrown into the cisterns - see Jeremiah 38:5-13. That may be the case, but the Psalms uses similar language - see Psalms 42:7; 69:1-2, 14-15; 88:6-7; 35:7-8
v55-57: Persistent calling on the Lord - and now the Lord answers.
v58-60: God redeems him - enemies beware! God is his kinsman redeemer - see the Book of Ruth, Boaz the kinsman redeemer. How wonderful to have a redeemer!
v61-63: God hears and sees all. He has said "Do not fear" but he has not yet delivered him.
v64-66: Romans 12:19 Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord. So we must wait and be patient until it is God's time.