!!! Title: The Faithfulness and Goodness of God
*Text: Lamentations 3:19-25*
!! Preached by Pastor Phil Layton at Gold Country Baptist Church on April 15, 2007
A brother in the Lord has shared that the first prayer he learned as a child was the simple table grace: “God is great; God is good.
And we thank Him for this food.”
I guess that prayer is supposed to rhyme.
He said it did when his grandmother said it because she pronounced /food/ as if it rhymed with /good/ or /hood.
/That’s a pretty simple if not simplistic prayer, but I think sometimes we need simple truths to impact us more deeply.
The big idea of this section of Lamentations is that no matter what good or bad times we go through, God is great in His faithfulness, and God is good.
God is good all the time, and even at the times we are faithless, He remains faithful.
If we were to summarize the passage we’re going to look at today, it would God is /faithful/, God is good.
I. God is faithful (3:19-23)
God is good (3:24-25)
Where is the goodness of God when we lose a loved one?
How can a good God _____________ (you fill in the blank)?
One of Jaime’s friends last year suffered the heart-wrenching pain of losing her unborn baby – how is God’s goodness and faithfulness demonstrated in death of a dear little one?
I’ll come back to that story later, but I want you to know that the /how /questions are part of the book of Lamentations.
In fact, the Hebrew name of this book is their word for “How” (/ekah/) an exclamation of dismay.
It is the first word in the book as well as the 2nd and 4th chapter and Rabbis later began to call the book “loud cries” or “lamentations.”
/19 //Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall!// \\ 20 //My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.// \\ 21 //But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:/
Now, as I read the next verse, if any of you doubt the sovereignty and providence of God that we studied in past weeks I just want you to know that when Jerry put that praise song in the bulletin (“the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases”), he had no idea what I was going to preach on or that the words of that song are exactly the text I decided to preach on this Sunday a while ago, about which I told no one but God.
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.
When God’s sovereignty works like that (independently of me choosing a song that has the words of our text), to me it’s just another evidence of God’s amazing goodness, which continually overwhelms me here, how kind and thoughtful and gracious and merciful He has been to me as pastor here, and I thank Him so much for the big and little things He does and for you all who are such a blessing and joy of my heart.
And of course, just 2 weeks ago we thought it would be quite a long time before we got occupancy of the first floor of our new building, and God’s great faithfulness and goodness are perfect timing and a fresh and new reminder this morning of His mercies which never come to an end.
CONTEXT ~/ BACKGROUND OF LAMENTATIONS
Many of us know verses 22-23 well and probably quote them during times of blessing in our life, we sing “Great is Thy Faithfulness” as we will at the end of this service and usually reflect on the positive things He has done for us.
What’s interesting if you study the context of Lamentations, is that there’s virtually nothing positive at all going on.
This wasn’t a time of rejoicing when getting into a new building or temple, this was a time when Solomon’s temple was being torn down, and Jerusalem was being destroyed and the Jews were being killed or captured by King Nebuchanezzer.
We are introduced to this in chapter 1.
/1 //How lonely sits the city That was full of people!
How like a widow is she, Who was great among the nations!
The princess among the provinces Has become a slave!
\\ 2 //She weeps bitterly in the night, Her tears are 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.
\\ 3 //Judah has gone into captivity, Under affliction and hard servitude; She dwells among the nations, She finds no rest; All her persecutors overtake her in dire straits.
\\ \\ /
The suffering was not unjust but was due to their sin:
1:8 (NKJV) “//Jerusalem has sinned gravely, Therefore she has become vile.
All who honored her despise her Because they have seen her nakedness; Yes, she sighs and turns away.”
\\ \\ /
/18 //“The Lord is righteous, For I rebelled against His commandment.
Hear now, all peoples, And behold my sorrow; My virgins and my young men Have gone into captivity.
\\ \\ /
The psalms contains some laments, but this is the only book that is entirely a lament.
Tradition says Jeremiah wrote Lamentations, and he did so as an eyewitness of Jerusalem’s destruction, apparently writing while the tragedy in 586 B.C. was fresh in his mind.
/The MacArthur Study Bible /gives a helpful intro: ‘This book keeps alive the memory of that fall and teaches all believers how to deal with suffering … In the first 4 chapters, each verse begins in an acrostic pattern, i.e., using the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet in sequence.
Chapters 1, 2, and 4 have 22 verses corresponding to 22 letters, while chap.
3 employs each letter for 3 consecutive verses until there are 22 trios, or 66 verses [pinnacle of the book] … An acrostic order, such as in Ps. 119 (where all 22 Hebrew letters are used in series of 8 verses each), was used to aid memorization [or here perhaps to show the completeness – the “A-to-Z” of suffering].
The structure of the book ascends and descends from the great confession in 3:22–24, “Great is His faithfulness,” which is the literal center of the book.’
It is a funeral dirge, a book of grieving over the loss not only of the temple, but of people.
Job is the classic book dealing with personal suffering, Lamentations is a book of /national /suffering.
Tisha b’Av (9th of the month Ab) is a Jewish holy day that commemorates by grieving the fall of Jerusalem that occurred in Jeremiah’s day in 586 B.C. (the 70 A.D. fall also happened to be on this anniversary).
At sunrise, thousands of faithful Jews gather together to read the book of Lamentations over and over at what they call the Western Wall (non-Jews call it the Wailing Wall, because of times of mourning and grieving like this, mourning over the destruction of the temple, wailing at it).
This wall is one of the last remnants of structures around the temple in Jesus day, which would also be destroyed on the same day in 70 A.D.
Someone has written (quoted by Will Varner of GCC~/TMC):
“After our great national trauma of Sept. 11, 2001 when the towers fell, so many died and the goodness of the future was called into question, many Christian communities in their hurt, harrow, and despair turned for solace and guidance to an ancient and rather obscure book of the Bible Lamentations.
In this book we journey into the dark, dusty, and despairing corners of human hearts, into those times in our collective experience that we would rather forget or avoid.
Yet as a people of faith we believe that our God gives us the resources to help us refrain from avoiding or denying the pain and the tragedy.
We can grieve, we can cry out.
Sometimes we may even clench our fists and cry out /why /under the conviction that our God cares for us and loves us enough to speak to us even in tragedy.
How is it possible for people like us, so skilled in putting a happy face on even the worst of circumstances, so desirous of cheap consolation, how is it possible that we can stare tragedy in the face and tell the truth about it?
It is because Christians believe that on the cross Jesus gave a powerful answer to the questions proposed by this book of the Bible.
In the midst of the most desperate lamentation, mourning the worst tragedy, our God is there, He is with us.”
!!! GOD IS FAITHFUL
He is faithful in suffering
In verse 19, Jeremiah speaks of wormwood which was a bitter plant, and gall - the idea is a horrible taste in one’s mouth that is hard to swallow
But just as a father may give his child medicine that tastes horribly bitter, our Heavenly Father gives doses of pain as His medicine because the end result will be healing in God’s faithfulness.
Thomas Watson writes that “Several poisonous ingredients put together, being tempered by the skill of the [pharmaceutical doctor], make a sovereign medicine, and work together for the good of the patient.
So all God’s providences, being divinely tempered and sanctified, work together for the best of the saints.”
(/All Things for Good, /p.
We need to trust the Great Physician that He knows what He’s doing, and that He will give us the right dose and will not give us more than we can handle.
VERSE 20 - /My soul remembers /(ESV adds “continually”)
/My soul … is bowed down within me /(NASB, ESV)
/Sinks within me /(NKJV) or “is downcast” (NIV) or “depressed” (HCSB)
Jeremiah feels crushed “and confused, hunted and haunted, bitter and bewildered, hopeless and humiliated.
But then his mood changes radically…” (Courson, 2:593)
READ VERSE 21
It is at the darkest hour that the light can shine most brightly.
This section in Lamentations moves from the lowest valley to the highest mountain.
The more he looked at himself, the more hopeless it got – the more he looked around him, the more he despaired, but now he looks to God and that gives him great hope
Notice that even as we pray, a transformation takes place within us
Prayer doesn’t change God so much as it changes us.
We see this a lot in the psalms that are laments as well, they pour out their heart and emotions to God, and then they come back to what God has said about Himself, and what is true about God, and they praise and uplift the attributes of God.
So if you’ve ever experienced some of the same anguish and feelings you see in the scriptures, take heart, but don’t stop there, you always need to keep reading.
Don’t just be comforted by the fact that Bible writers experienced some of the same struggles and emotions that you do, /keep reading /so that you see how they dealt with them by God’s grace, that’s where the greater comfort is.
Jeremiah ‘did not allow himself to get stuck in its mire.
Just as he was pulled out of the miry cistern, so also was he gradually pulled out of this sense of total despair.
The man who at one time said that God had shut out his prayer was once again praying to be remembered.’
(/Preacher’s Commentary, /19:356)
We as human beings may have time of great discouragement, or even depression – it is then that we must remember and trust and cling to God’s attributes and character.
Our hope is not based on our circumstances or what we can see or our feelings, it is based on what we recall and know about God.
We dwell on His attributes and what we know to be true about him, and that is what the author does in the following verses.
Psalm 77:7-11 (NASB95) 7 Will the Lord reject forever?
And will He never be favorable again?
\\ 8 Has His lovingkindness ceased forever?
Has His promise come to an end forever?
\\ 9 Has God forgotten to be gracious, Or has He in anger withdrawn His compassion?
11 *I shall remember* the deeds of the Lord; Surely *I will remember* Your wonders of old.