Overwhelming Hope that shines through the darkness

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Picture this, it is the middle of the night. You are startled awake by a sudden noise. You open your eyes and you make out the shapes of the furniture in your bedroom because your eyes have fully adjusted to the dark. Then suddenly, without a hint of warning someone turns on all of the lights in your room. I want you to think about the agonizingly painful brightness of that scene! Hold it in your minds. Why? Because it helps us to capture the message of Lamentations.
The light shines brightest when you are in the midst of the deepest darkness.
This is message of some of the most famous verses in our Bibles.
Lamentations 3:22–23 ESV
22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
We all know these verses, but have we really stopped to consider the message of Jeremiah in the context of Lamentations? Of deep morning and despair? Only then does the intended message of Jeremiah’s lament come through.
Jeremiah is dealing with the lament that comes from sin and judgement. He is in the lowest low of his entire life and ministry, he is looking around at the calamitous aftereffects of God’s judgment on Jerusalem for her sin. He is trying desperately to make sense of it all, he is trying to keep his head above water. He is trying to find hope in the midst of utter ruin. And it is here, covered up by the blanket of darkest night, that a brilliant ray of the light of God’s glory pierces through the gloom and the despair, and gives Jeremiah overwhelming hope!
586 B.C.?
1010 B.C.- David begins to reign in Hebron
966 B.C.- Completion of Temple
931 B.C.- Division of Northern & Southern Kingdom
722 B.C.- Destruction of Samaria (Assyria)
586 B.C.- Destruction of Jerusalem (Babylon)
The destruction of Jerusalem was a long time coming! As soon as the kingdom divided and Israel and Judah began their prolonged spiral of decline into sin and rebellion, God began sending them warnings by means of the prophets. For 345 years God sent message after message, but His people did not listen.
Jeremiah 29:18–19 ESV
18 I will pursue them with sword, famine, and pestilence, and will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse, a terror, a hissing, and a reproach among all the nations where I have driven them, 19 because they did not pay attention to my words, declares the Lord, that I persistently sent to you by my servants the prophets, but you would not listen, declares the Lord.’
So finally after hundreds of years of warning God brought judgement upon Jerusalem. And Jeremiah experienced it all. He lived through the worst of God’s judgment. And here he is in the aftermath writing Lamentations.
Lamentations is made up of five poems. Each poem is a lament. It is a funeral like message of grief. Even the meter of the poetry to the ears of its original audience would have sounded mournful and filled with sorrow.
The first four poems are written as an acrostic, much like Psalms 119.
Jeremiah is lamenting to God the grief of his heart over the effects of sin, and in the midst of that grief he finds overwhelming hope.
Even in the midst of your darkest grief, God offers you overwhelming hope.
How do we find this overwhelming hope?
I want to look at three truths from the book of Lamentations that will cause the glorious light of God’s hope to shine in our hearts.
I want to start by setting the scene. I want us to feel what Jeremiah felt as he wrote these poems. Let’s start by looking at several different passages in Lamentations that we could entitle:

Picking Up the Pieces

Hurricane Ian
WWII Aftermath
Aftermath 2
Aftermath 3
Remember, Jeremiah is not writing this lament during the long siege of Jerusalem. It is not in the midst of the siege, but is the wake of the destruction. He is walking the nearly deserted streets of Jerusalem singing his funeral lament.
We need to feel what Jeremiah felt as he gazed upon the destruction caused by sin and rebellion.
How did the aftermath of Judah’s sin make Jeremiah feel?

A. Despair

Lamentations 1:1 ESV
1 How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she who was great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces has become a slave.
How lonely sits the city that was full of people! Speaking anthropomorphically of the city of Jerusalem. She was once full of life and energy. She was alive with the rejoicing of God’s people. With the praises of Yahweh. David ruled here by means of God’s mighty arm. Solomon built palaces so grand that the queen of Sheba came to visit. Jerusalem was a gem of a city, blessed by God Himself! Now- she sits alone!
She is like a widow! Imagine the loneliness of a widow as they roll over in bed, and still after all these years, expect to find their significant other.
She was great among the nations! She was a princess, but now she has become a slave.
Can you hear the despair of Jeremiah? Can you feel the devastation of sin?
Oh, if we could only take heed! Young people, you who are still greatly enticed by the sins of the world if you could only grasp the grief of Lamentations!
Proverbs 14:12 ESV
12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.
James 1:15 ESV
15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
Romans 6:21 ESV
21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.
Hear the words of Jeremiah! Feel his despair over the sins of Judah. Take heed to his warning! Do not become him!
Can you hear the despair in vv. 2-4?
Lamentations 1:2 ESV
2 She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has none to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her; they have become her enemies.
Weeps bitterly in the night! Can you hear the weeping in the city? Tears on her cheeks. Can you feel the hot tears running down the faces of those left alive?
Among all her lovers she has none to comfort her! Jerusalem had turned from God and gone after other lovers. Like a prostitute she had turned to worshiping idols and trusting in other nations to take care of her. Where are they now? She has none to comfort her!
In fact all her “Friends” have now become her enemies.
Lamentations 1:3–4 ESV
3 Judah has gone into exile because of affliction and hard servitude; she dwells now among the nations, but finds no resting place; her pursuers have all overtaken her in the midst of her distress. 4 The roads to Zion mourn, for none come to the festival; all her gates are desolate; her priests groan; her virgins have been afflicted, and she herself suffers bitterly.
The roads to Zion should be filled with people coming to worship God at the different festivals. It should be a place of worship and praise and joy. But now? Those same roads are filled with those who are mourning.
The gates of Jerusalem (where the esteemed elders of the city would gather), are now desolate. In fact they lie in burnt ruin.
The priests groan. The virgins have been afflicted. The city herself suffers bitterly.
Can you feel the end result of sin? It leads only to despair! Turn from it! Before it is too late!
How else did the aftermath of Judah’s sin make Jeremiah feel?

B. Enemy

Lamentations 1:5 (ESV)
5 Her foes have become the head; her enemies prosper, because the Lord has afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions; her children have gone away, captives before the foe.
Lamentations 2:4–5 (ESV)
4 He has bent his bow like an enemy, with his right hand set like a foe; and he has killed all who were delightful in our eyes in the tent of the daughter of Zion; he has poured out his fury like fire.
5 The Lord has become like an enemy; he has swallowed up Israel; he has swallowed up all its palaces; he has laid in ruins its strongholds, and he has multiplied in the daughter of Judah mourning and lamentation.
God is the one acting against his people. God has turned from being their protector and friend to being there enemy!
In Lamentations 3, for Jeremiah, it takes on a very personal note. The judgments of God toward Jerusalem are felt by Jeremiah.
Jeremiah was given the unenviable task of warning Judah of her sin and its devastating consequences. Judah had zero intention of stopping. It was like Jeremiah was a conductor on a runaway locomotive. He is the one called by God to slam on the hand brake, only to have it brake off in his hand. Judah was like a 400,000 pound runaway train headed off the edge of a cliff and Jeremiah was along for the ride.
Lamentations 3:1 ESV
1 I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath;
Psalm 2:9 ESV
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
Messiah will one day rule the world with a rod of iron, but for now that rod was turned on Jeremiah himself.
Psalm 23:4 ESV
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
The staff was for leading the sheep, the rod was for beating the wolves- both should bring God’s people comfort. Here in v. 1, God, who should be Jeremiah’s shepherd, is instead treating him like a wolf! “I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath!”
Look how it feels when God becomes like an enemy!
Lamentations 3:2–6 ESV
2 he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light; 3 surely against me he turns his hand again and again the whole day long. 4 He has made my flesh and my skin waste away; he has broken my bones; 5 he has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation; 6 he has made me dwell in darkness like the dead of long ago.
Refutation: God would never become like an enemy to me!!
James 4:4 ESV
4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
How did it get this bad?
Lamentations 1:14 ESV
14 “My transgressions were bound into a yoke; by his hand they were fastened together; they were set upon my neck; he caused my strength to fail; the Lord gave me into the hands of those whom I cannot withstand.
Lamentations 1:14 HCSB
14 My transgressions have been formed into a yoke, fastened together by His hand; they have been placed on my neck, and the Lord has broken my strength. He has handed me over to those I cannot withstand.
Lamentations 1:14 NET
14 My sins are bound around my neck like a yoke; they are fastened together by his hand. He has placed his yoke on my neck; he has sapped my strength. The Lord has handed me over to those whom I cannot resist.
Years of rebellion and refusing to turn from their sin. Warning after warning. They ignored them all. But God will hold people accountable for their sin. All their sins were formed into a yoke, and eventually God allowed them to suffer the consequences!
NT Parallel:
Romans 2:4 ESV
4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
Presume: to look down on someone or someth. with contempt or aversion, with implication that one considers the object of little value / to feel contempt for someone or something because it is thought to be bad or without value.
Matthew 6:24 ESV
24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
Do you have so little regard for the wealth of God’s kindness? Do you consider the riches of God’s restraint to be so worthless? Do you treat the abundance of God’s patience as little value? Don’t you know, haven’t you recognized that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
Romans 2:5 ESV
5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
Lamentations 1:9 ESV
9 Her uncleanness was in her skirts; she took no thought of her future; therefore her fall is terrible; she has no comforter. “O Lord, behold my affliction, for the enemy has triumphed!”
The silence of God in response to their cries is deafening!
Lamentations 1:11 ESV
11 All her people groan as they search for bread; they trade their treasures for food to revive their strength. “Look, O Lord, and see, for I am despised.”
God offers no reply! So, there is no hope then? Always hope!
Eternal consequences of sin- God reverses those upon salvation!
Temporal consequences of sin- God does not always reverse those, God may allow us to feel the full consequences of our sinful choices!

Truth #1: When all warnings of God are ignored nothing remains but His judgement, therefore we should never presume upon God’s patience and restraint.

“Avoiding sin costs less than repenting of sin.”
“The price of obedience is a bargain compared to the price of rebellion.”
Application: What sin are you struggling with right now?
Are you facing eternal judgement for you sins because you have never received God’s gift of salvation? Turn from you sins in repentance! Ask Jesus to save you and he will!
Are you facing temporal judgement for your sins because you will not turn in repentance? Are you presuming upon the kindness of God?
Are you along for the ride? Are the consequence of the sins of others spilling over and effecting you?
How do we find overwhelming hope in the face of such darkness?

Own Your Mistakes

A. Weeping

Lamentations 1:16 (ESV)
16 “For these things I weep; my eyes flow with tears; for a comforter is far from me, one to revive my spirit; my children are desolate, for the enemy has prevailed.”
Lamentations 3:48 (ESV)
48 my eyes flow with rivers of tears because of the destruction of the daughter of my people.
Lamentations 2:11 (ESV)
11 My eyes are spent with weeping; my stomach churns; my bile is poured out to the ground because of the destruction of the daughter of my people, because infants and babies faint in the streets of the city.
Lamentations 2:12 (ESV)
12 They cry to their mothers, “Where is bread and wine?” as they faint like a wounded man in the streets of the city, as their life is poured out on their mothers’ bosom.
Lamentations 2:13 (ESV)
13 What can I say for you, to what compare you, O daughter of Jerusalem? What can I liken to you, that I may comfort you, O virgin daughter of Zion? For your ruin is vast as the sea; who can heal you?
If we are going to own up to our mistakes there is a very biblical need to let the ugliness of sin hit home!
James 4:8–9 ESV
8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.

B. Justice

Listen to the consequences of Jerusalem’s sin!
Lamentations 2:20–22 ESV
20 Look, O Lord, and see! With whom have you dealt thus? Should women eat the fruit of their womb, the children of their tender care? Should priest and prophet be killed in the sanctuary of the Lord? 21 In the dust of the streets lie the young and the old; my young women and my young men have fallen by the sword; you have killed them in the day of your anger, slaughtering without pity. 22 You summoned as if to a festival day my terrors on every side, and on the day of the anger of the Lord no one escaped or survived; those whom I held and raised my enemy destroyed.
Lamentations 4:1–11 ESV
1 How the gold has grown dim, how the pure gold is changed! The holy stones lie scattered at the head of every street. 2 The precious sons of Zion, worth their weight in fine gold, how they are regarded as earthen pots, the work of a potter’s hands! 3 Even jackals offer the breast; they nurse their young; but the daughter of my people has become cruel, like the ostriches in the wilderness. 4 The tongue of the nursing infant sticks to the roof of its mouth for thirst; the children beg for food, but no one gives to them. 5 Those who once feasted on delicacies perish in the streets; those who were brought up in purple embrace ash heaps. 6 For the chastisement of the daughter of my people has been greater than the punishment of Sodom, which was overthrown in a moment, and no hands were wrung for her. 7 Her princes were purer than snow, whiter than milk; their bodies were more ruddy than coral, the beauty of their form was like sapphire. 8 Now their face is blacker than soot; they are not recognized in the streets; their skin has shriveled on their bones; it has become as dry as wood. 9 Happier were the victims of the sword than the victims of hunger, who wasted away, pierced by lack of the fruits of the field. 10 The hands of compassionate women have boiled their own children; they became their food during the destruction of the daughter of my people. 11 The Lord gave full vent to his wrath; he poured out his hot anger, and he kindled a fire in Zion that consumed its foundations.
How could God do such a thing to His people?
Lamentations 1:18 ESV
18 “The Lord is in the right, for I have rebelled against his word; but hear, all you peoples, and see my suffering; my young women and my young men have gone into captivity.
Lamentations 2:17 ESV
17 The Lord has done what he purposed; he has carried out his word, which he commanded long ago; he has thrown down without pity; he has made the enemy rejoice over you and exalted the might of your foes.
What should our response to all this be? If you are in the darkness because of your sin what should you do to find hope?
Revelation 3:19 ESV
19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.
Lamentations 3:39–42 ESV
39 Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins? 40 Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord! 41 Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven: 42 “We have transgressed and rebelled, and you have not forgiven.

Truth #2: When all falsehoods of our sin are stripped away nothing remains but God’s justice, therefore we should be zealous and repent.

Overwhelming Hope

A. Darkness

Lamentations 3:16–18 ESV
16 He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes; 17 my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; 18 so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.”
In the darkness it is easy to loose hope!
Lamentations 3:19–20 ESV
19 Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! 20 My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.
Not just his head, but his very soul is bowed down within him! Have you ever felt that kind of despair?
How do we find hope?

B. Dawn

Lamentations 3:21 ESV
21 But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
CALL TO MIND! Don’t trust your feelings! Don’t trust your experiences! CALL TO MIND Truth! Depend upon truth! You find light in darkness when you put your faith in truth!
Lamentations 3:22 ESV
22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
Lamentations 3:22 HCSB
22 Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end.
Textual variant- similar meaning, doesn’t change.
Jeremiah finds hope when he remembers the hesed love of God. Steadfast love, faithful love, loyal love. Covenant faithful love.
Jeremiah knows God has every right to wipe Judah and Jerusalem off the face of the planet. Their sins are great! They are terrible. They deserve God’s wrath! And yet, in the midst of despair what cracks Jeremiah’s blackness and causes rays of light to come bursting through the gloom is the moment he calls to mind the steadfast, faithful love of God. It never ceases! Therefore we do not perish! His mercies never come to an end!
Covenant Promises:
Abrahamic Covenant: great nation, all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.
Davidic Covenant: Son of David on the throne forever and ever
New Covenant:
Jeremiah 31:33–34 ESV
33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
500 years later God brought forth His Son, from the line of David- like dawn, the son of righteousness rose upon the earth giving light and life for all people!
There is coming a day when Jesus will return and He will keep all of God’s covenant promises with Israel. He will rule and reign in Jerusalem.
Jeremiah 31:35–37 ESV
35 Thus says the Lord, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— the Lord of hosts is his name: 36 “If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the Lord, then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation before me forever.” 37 Thus says the Lord: “If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth below can be explored, then I will cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done, declares the Lord.”
This is what Jeremiah is remembering- the steadfast love of God, his mercies that never end. And when he sets his faith in this truth what happens?
Lamentations 3:23–24 ESV
23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
Do you have any promises of God to depend upon?
2 Peter 1:3–4 (ESV)
3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,
4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
2 Corinthians 1:20 (ESV)
20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.
What are some of these great and precious promises you can depend upon?
If you turn to God in repentance, if you humble yourself before him, if you run to him is there hope?
Psalm 103:8 (ESV)
8 The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
Psalm 103:11 (ESV)
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
Psalm 103:17 (ESV)
17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children,

Truth #3: When all hope seems lost we must place our faith in the steadfast love of God, therefore call to mind truth and believe.

Even in the midst of your darkest grief, God offers you overwhelming hope.
How do we find overwhelming hope?
Never presume upon God’s patience.
Be zealous and repent.
Call to mind truth and believe.
In God there is always light, there is always hope. Let his hope flood your soul. Call to mind these great and wondrous truths of God. Feel the devastation of sin, heed the warning, and repent. Trust in the faithfulness of God. Wonder at his loyal love, his mercies that are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness. Let his faithfulness be overwhelming shed abroad in your hearts this morning.
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