Choosing Hope in the midst of the darkness, Lamentations 3
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This week’s sermon comes from the book of Lamentations, in particular from Lamentations 3:21-24.
Jeremiah wrote these laments because of the difficulty that he and the people of Israel were facing under the discipline of the Lord. Though the discipline of the Lord is weighty and hard, it is still good. We see the difficult and beautiful truth of Psalm 119:71 (ESV) in these verses… “71 It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.”
Jeremiah and the people of God are learning through their affliction… but their affliction is real.
Jeremiah writes in Lamentations 3:19-20; “Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.”
Jeremiah is filled with a deep sorrow… bitterness is taking root in his heart and he is downcast and despondent in his soul.
When Jeremiah looks to his past afflictions and wanderings he is filled with sorrow… and this is the case for each one of us.
You are in trouble if the future depends on your past.
Why? Because your past is like the past of Jeremiah and the nation of Israel. Your past is filled with sin and disobedience. Your past is littered with struggles, difficulties, mistakes, rebellion, discouragement, failures, and the like. Your life is filled with moments where God intervened and disciplined you because of your sin…
And, like Jeremiah you might constantly dwell on your mistakes and your past. You could be one more in a long line of human beings who have been overwhelmed and depressed by the sin in your life. You could be one of us who looks at the past and the present and gets stuck thinking about all of the hard and difficult things you have been through… Like Jeremiah your soul is bowed down within you… you are weighed down with despair, sorrow, anguish, fear, anxiety, and struggle.
Despair over your current life situation
Anguish over the undeserved things you are facing
Fear because the future seems bleak
Anxious because you don’t know where help is going to come from
Struggling to see light in the midst of the darkness…
Listen friend, if that is you… then Jeremiah has a way forward and out for you.
To the one who thinks they have made more mistakes than God will forgive
To the one who thinks there is no light coming at the end of the tunnel
To the one who feels the weight of sadness and despondency
To the one who is lonely and afraid there is no one who cares what you are going through
To the one who has everything, but yet still feels empty on the inside
To the one who hoped that one more relationship, or one more promotion, or one more big purchase would satisfy the hole in your soul….
Jeremiah offers up a way forward by sharing the source of his hope.
There is hope for you when your present and future depend on God.
Jeremiah says in 3:21, ‘“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope.”
What is this? What is it that he calls to mind that results in hope when everything seems hopeless?
Well, it’s not his past. It’s not his abilities. Its not the help of those around him… It’s found in Lamentations 3:22-23
“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.”
“This” equals Three reasons you can hope in God
God’s Undying Love
"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases…”
Steadfast means that it is fixed, solid, stable, and not shifting. God’s love is immovable, but also active… in fact it is an abounding and unending love.
The steadfast love of God serves as the foundation of our lives in the midst of uncertain and difficult times.
I’ve read this to you before from the Jesus Story Book Bible… in it the love of God is described with a series of words that I believe adequately captures the love that Jeremiah finds his hope in… the love that aims our hearts from the darkness of our sin, past, and the world and directly toward the light and life that is found in God…
“Never-stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always, and forever love” - Jesus Story Book Bible
“His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning…”
Through Jeremiah God aims our focus from the mercy we have received today to the hope and certainty of the mercy that is waiting for us in the morning.
If you wake up tomorrow, there is mercy waiting for you that is as sure as the sunrise of a new day. As a follower of Christ you will never wake up to a day where God is not already ahead of you.
But, the Word also aims us to the truth that a new day doesn’t mean no new burdens… in fact you can say that Jeremiah tells us that we are new mercies each day for the new burdens that wait for us.
New mercies for new burdens…
God is Faithful
“Great is your (His) faithfulness."
God keeps His promises… or a better way to see this phrase is that God is trustworthy.
Your own heart can betray you… but God, He will never betray you He is dependable, trustworthy… He is faithful.
One of the most popular hymns of the mid 1900’s was titled “Great is thy faithfulness” and was written from these verses. It was written by Thomas O Chisolm and put to music by William Runyan.
“Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father, there is no shadow of turning with thee.Thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not; as thou hast been, thou forever wilt be. Great is thy faithfulness!Great is thy faithfulness!Morning by morning new mercies I see; all I have needed thy hand hath provided. Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!”
In the midst of your pain, suffering, struggle, uncertainty, despair, and hopelessness we remind ourselves that God is faithful… God will be there morning after morning to offer up the mercy and grace that we need for everything we face in this broken and sin-filled world.
With all of this being true about the Lord… why then do some rise up with hope in the goodness of God while others continue to wallow and struggle in their despair and despondency?
The secret is found in Lamentations 3:24, “The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in him.”
The roots of this phrase are found when Israel entered into the promised land. Each tribe was promised a portion of the land… this land was the inheritance that God had promised to them when He made his covenant with Abraham and Moses. But, not all of the tribes received a portion of the land. Levi and his descendants were told they would not have a portion of the land, instead the Lord will be their portion.
The secret to finding hope is to love God more than anyone or anything in the world.
God promised to provide for Levi through the temple… and depicts a dependency of Levi and his descendants on the Lord rather than on the land. As Israel grew in its relationship with the Lord the phrase “the Lord is my portion” came to represent those who cared more about the Lord than the land.
In Psalm 16:5 (ESV) David writes, “5 The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.” David is the king Israel, there is nothing that he does not have as the king of God’s people.
The secret to finding hope in the promises of God is rooted in the heart that wants and loves God more than anything or anyone in the world.
God has always told us that our relationship with Him is founded in His covenant love for us, and our all-encompassing love for Him.
In Matthew 22:37–38 (ESV) it says,“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment.”
Jesus taught that those who followed Him must love God more than even the closest of human relationships. He said in Matthew 10:37 (ESV), “37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
Those for whom the Lord is their portion have a hope that is rooted in the love, mercy, and faithfulness of God toward us.
The example of Jeremiah leads us to see that we have a choice to make.
You have a choice to brood over your afflictions or to hope in the goodness of God.
The basis for hoping in the goodness of God is His love, mercy, and faithfulness.
The choice is to look at yourself and your circumstances, or to look to the Lord and His promises.
Look away from your problems and struggles and look unto the Lord. Hebrews 12:1–2 (ESV) says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."
Look to Jesus and be steadfast today in your faithfulness to His Word
Look to Jesus and be steadfast today in your faithfulness to His Word
“Our task today is not to have the strength needed for tomorrow’s burdens. Our task today is to live by the mercies given for today, and to believe that there will be new mercies for tomorrow. Today’s mercies do not include the strength for tomorrow; they include faith that tomorrow’s unseen mercies will be sufficient for tomorrow.” - John Piper
Look to Jesus and trust in the new mercies for new burdens
As John Piper said, “Today’s mercies are for today’s burdens.” - John Piper There are new mercies for the new burdens that wait… and praise God He waits for you at the dawn of each day.
“Faith stands on the promise of God and waits and hopes in weakness and peace. And, of course, that waiting and hoping is part of today's mercy. Part of today's mercy is the ability to trust that there will be sufficient mercy for tomorrow. And we trust in that because God promises it in Lamentations 3:23 (cf. Philippians 4:19; 2 Corinthians 9:8–11)." - John Piper
God gives you what you need when you need it.
Choose today to trust in the promises of God and to hope in Him!