Lamentations 1-5

Lamentations 1-5…The Lamentations of Jeremiah.

In the history of God’s people, few events have been as traumatic as the fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the temple in 586 B.C. Though the Lord promised that His people would be removed from the Holy Land for impenitent and flagrant sin (Lev. 26:14–39; Deut. 28:15–68; Jer. 27), few in the old covenant community of Judah believed it would happen even after Assyria conquered the northern kingdom of Israel. Even those who understood that God would bring the ultimate covenant curse of exile upon His disobedient people struggled with the degree to which the Lord allowed foreigners to decimate the descendants of Jacob (Hab. 1:12–17; see Jer. 39:1–10; 52:1–11).

Assuming that the ancient traditions surrounding the book of Lamentations are correct, then even the prophet Jeremiah, who saw Babylon’s conquering of Judah as entirely just, was amazed by the horrors that the Babylonians inflicted upon Jerusalem. According to the most ancient references to Lamentations, Jeremiah wrote this book and there are few good reasons why we should believe this attribution is incorrect. The issue of authorship is nothing to be dogmatic about, since Lamentations nowhere identifies its author; however, Jeremiah is a good fit because Lamentations reflects both sadness over Jerusalem’s fall and an understanding that the punishment was deserved (Lam. 1:5, 8, 18). Jeremiah likewise wept on behalf of the Lord for Judah even though he affirmed God’s justice in exiling His people for their idolatry (Jer. 9:1–11; 30:10–11). The vivid descriptions of Jerusalem’s destruction likewise mean that its fall in 586 B.C. is the best inspiration for the book (Lam. 1:1; 2:11–12), making an author such as Jeremiah, who witnessed this destruction, the most likely candidate as the author of Lamentations.

Lamentations shows us that there can be a godly grief over the fate of a people even when that fate is deserved. If even God Himself does not delight in the destruction of the wicked (Ezek. 18:21–23), then certainly we should never rejoice in another person’s pain. We can take pleasure that the Lord uses such things to set us and others back on the right path. We can rejoice at the display of the Lord’s justice. Yet what we are not to do is rejoice in others’ suffering for the sake of suffering itself. Like Jeremiah, we can rightly mourn when the wicked fall even when their punishment is deserved (Lam. 1:1–14).

Job 19-21

Job 19-21…Why is this world broken?

Why is there evil in the world? Related to this is the question of why the wicked seem to get away with their wrongdoing. There’s no easy answer to this problem, and this fact forms the basis of Job’s reply to round two of his friends’ speeches. In this speech, for the first time, Job does not address the Lord, but instead counters his friends’ claims. This speech is also much less emotional.

The biggest problem with retribution theology, Job begins, is that it doesn’t really explain the ways of the world. As he looks around, he finds numerous examples of the wicked prospering. They grow old, they are safe, and they are successful. What’s more, they die happy, even though they deny God. The picture that Job paints here is similar to the one that Eliphaz drew of the good man, so it may be that Job intends a deliberate contrast. Ironically, Job’s friends have accused him of opposing God by challenging His ways, but it is they themselves who have been, in essence, telling God how the world should be run.

The book of Job doesn’t answer the problem of evil. We need to look elsewhere in Scripture to consider various aspects of this difficult question. Psalm 73 is a good place to start. Here the psalmist considers the apparent success of the wicked and wonders if he has been faithful in vain. The turning point comes in v. 17, where the psalmist begins to understand the final destiny of the wicked beyond this life. Then his heart is encouraged, as he considers his own eternal destiny with the Lord.

Job 7-12

Job 7-12…Zophar

Job gets advice from a number of friends, but Zophar is the most critical in his approach. He tries to lock Job into the same system as his friends, namely that suffering comes from sin, so the solution must be repentance. We see this logic three times: from Eliphaz (5:17), from Bildad (8:20), and from Zophar (11:14).

In the first part of his speech, Zophar dismisses Job’s words as idle chatter. He can’t hear Job’s anguished cries in the context of despair, but rather focuses only on Job’s bold outbursts and questions. He accuses Job of being self-righteous and mistakenly charges Job of claiming to be flawless and pure before God. Yet neither of these claims can be found in Job’s earlier speeches. Zophar prays that God would rebuke Job. At the end of Job, this is exactly what happens, but Zophar and his two companions are also roundly rebuked as well!

Much of what Zophar says is doctrinally correct, but he lacks compassion. He has heard Job’s words, but not his heart. Part of what may be motivating Job’s friends is their own fears: if suffering comes from sin, then maybe they can avoid suffering if they avoid sin. But Job’s situation is much deeper than that, and the logic that suffering in this life comes directly as a result of specific sins we’ve committed is simply false.

Isaiah 40:15

Isaiah 40:15…”Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.”

When we see God with a true, biblical perspective like this one, we understand how small we are. It is objective reality that God is larger and more powerful than we can fathom in our finite human minds. And yet, even we as Christians, who know this truth, fail to remember it on a daily basis. We often function as practical atheists, and forget about how unbelievably big God is. So, that particular government policy that you hate; God is behind it, and its for His glory. The people around you on a daily basis that annoy you; God put them there, for His glory. The difficult circumstance you are in that seems like some kind of cruel cosmic joke; God put you in that spot, for His glory. When people are big, and God is small, all of these things are viewed through a man-centered lens, which robs us of the joy we could have if we trusted in His good, sovereign providence. We are not here for our own glory and happiness, and when we seek self-glorification outside of God, He won’t be glorified in our lives, because we’ll never be fully satisfied. God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him.

Malachi 3:15

Malachi 3:15…”Certainly evildoers prosper, and even when they put God to the test, they get away with it.” On the surface, it often appears as though God is not just. Why does it seem like the worst people in this life prosper? Our experiences have shown us that the guilty seem to go unpunished, and are sometimes better off than those who seek to do good. We need to view things through God’s lens though. He is perfectly just, and all accounts will be brought into proper balance one day. Be thankful that he hasn’t given you all the vain earthly things you desire, because they are fool’s gold. Remember that ‘it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24).’

For the Christian, we have much to celebrate everyday because we are not getting what we deserve (eternal punishment). With this eternal perspective, we can be freed to serve the Lord with joyful hearts, knowing that he’s blessed us in the heavenly realms, regardless of our earthly circumstances. Getting our minds and hearts lined up properly in a vertical manner (repentance and faith in Christ) will inevitably allow us to have healthy relationships horizontally (with other people) because we’ll see ourselves rightly; we are sinners saved by grace, and God has blessed us graciously despite our unbelief, pride and selfishness.

Malachi 2:8

Malachi 2:8…”But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble.” We must not only consult the written word, but desire instruction and advice from our pastors/elders, as God has given them authority in the affairs of our souls (Hebrews 13:17). Seeking churches whose pastors/elders preach the gospel with clarity and consistency is imperative. In this verse, while the term ‘false teacher’ isn’t used explicitly, the idea is implied. The confusion over what’s true is especially prevalent today because contemporary Christians have not been well-trained in understanding how to study/interpret/understand the Bible.

Pastors/elders should teach the scriptures carefully, not taking individual verses out of the context. A text taken out of context becomes a pretext. The word “context” as it is used here simply means to understand what the Bible is saying in comparison to the surrounding passage. One sentence or one phrase outside of a paragraph can have a completely different meaning unless it is read in context of the surrounding ideas. To develop a biblical pretext means to give a pre-conceived notion of what the phrase means. Most of the bad pretexts about the Bible come from reading a verse out of context of the surrounding passages.

Here are 5 examples of commonly misinterpreted verses:

“Touch not my anointed ones…” (1 Chronicles 16:22) (Used by false prophets and charlatans to shield themselves from criticism).

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) (Used by modern prosperity teachers for promising vain temporal blessings to potential converts. Works well in America, but not so well in Sudan.)

“Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!” And God granted what he asked.” (1 Chronicles 4:10) (See above. Also popular in the prosperity movement.)

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:20) (Used to ignore church government or as justification by many to start their own church.)

“Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1) (A favorite of non-believers and casual church goers to justify their own wickedness.)

Acts 9:35

Acts 9:35…”All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.” Christ chose patients whose diseases were incurable in the course of nature, to show the desperation of fallen mankind. Aeneas had been paralyzed for eight years. Similarly, when we were without strength, as this poor man, he sent his word to heal us. Peter does not pretend to heal by any power of his own, but directs Aeneas to look up to Christ for help. The power and mercy God demonstrated through restoring His fallen creation (Aeneas) was used to turn hearts toward Him as we read in verse 35. This was only a temporary restoration though, as Aeneas, like all those the Lord heals, eventually died a physical death. However, when Christ returns, there will be an eternally permanent restoration of all creation, where there is no longer any disease or death.

Acts 7:39

Acts 7:39…”But our ancestors refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt.” In Stephen’s speech to the Sanhedrin, he clearly lays out the gospel. Any true presentation of God’s plan of salvation (i.e. the gospel), must include a description of the great chasm which exists between God and man. This is far more massive than we can understand in our finite human minds. God is perfectly holy, and we are not, which has been the case since the fall of man. In fact, it’s much worse than we realize according to Romans 3:10-18:

“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless, there is no one who does good, not even one. Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know. There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

This is important for us to grasp, because if we don’t get this piece, then we won’t rightly esteem Jesus. We are in desperate need of a perfectly holy Savior. Without His perfect righteousness imputed to us, we’re spiritually dead, and not just in this life. This is the best news in the world, if we believe (and produce fruit in keeping with repentance – Luke 3:8). However, if we don’t believe, eternal spiritual death does not end, and God’s wrath is not passive. According to Jesus, Hell is real (Matthew 8:12):

“But the subjects of the kingdom (of darkness) will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Today is the day to repent and believe in Christ, because we don’t know that we’ll have tomorrow.

Acts 4:12

Acts 4:12…”Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” The exclusivity of the gospel is offensive, because it takes authority and control away from the individual. We want to control our own destiny and define reality. However, objective reality exists regardless of our opinion of it. We can choose to believe something is not true, but be greatly deceived. All of us have experienced this, and yet some choose to deny the objective reality that they will one day stand before God and give an account for their lives. According to this verse, the only way to be saved from His wrath (which includes eternal punishment and separation from Him) is through His Son, Jesus. This is great news, because we are in desperate need of a Savior. There is a massive chasm between God and mankind because of His holiness and our sinfulness. Christ’s perfectly holy life was laid down as a sacrifice, and through His resurrection from the dead He conquered the power of sin and death. While we all will die because of sin, the sting of death is gone for the one who has been born again. Live once, die twice; live twice, die once.

Psalm 46:7

Psalm 46:7…”The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” The God of Jacob is the God of Election. This is extremely comforting to the believer, as we have had God’s affection set on us in eternity-past, and protection in eternity-future. Jacob supplies us with the clearest and most unmistakable illustration of God’s sovereign choice to be met with in all the Bible. His dealing with Jacob gives the most emphatic refutation to the theory that His choice is dependent upon something in the creature—something either actual or foreseen—and shows that the eternal election of certain individuals unto salvation is due to no worthiness in the subjects but results solely from His sovereign grace. The case of Jacob proves conclusively that God’s choice is entirely arbitrary, wholly gratuitous, and based upon nothing save His own good pleasure. “When Rebecca also had conceived by one, even our father Isaac (for the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calls;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Rom. 9:10-13).