Biblical Foundations 14: God’s Character 2: Hope (Lamentations 3)
We continue to look at the Biblical foundation of this local church—what are the cornerstones, what holds this church up? There are so many opinions today, but what does the Bible say?
The LORD Himself builds & holds up the local church!
Matthew 16:18 NIV: “Jesus said, ‘I will build My Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”
And what is the foundation on which He will build His Church?
1 Corinthians 3:10-11: 10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 2:19-21: 19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.
Furthermore, one of the main reasons that God has us attending this local church is to help us to know Him and His character deeply and intimately (elevating God!), so that we can be more and more filled up with HIM and then so we can pour our His love and grace and Truth and character into the lives of Christians and everyone else as well!
Knowing the character of God is so important—indeed it’s the very definition of eternal life:
John 17:3: Jesus said, “Now this is eternal life: that they would know You, the one true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom You have sent.”
- Not just know that He exists, but also to know what He is like!
- Not just know ABOUT Him, but KNOW HIM!
Knowing the character of God is also important because back in the garden of Eden it was one of the main tactics that the devil used to tempt Adam & Eve to sin. The devil caused them to doubt God’s character—His goodness and love and purity and power and generosity and holiness!
Genesis 3:4-5: 4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Thus the devil called God a liar (He had clearly told A & E that they would die if they ate the fruit of this particular tree) and stingy/selfish in these verses—attacks on His character.
The devil basically said, “You can’t trust what God has said because God isn’t good…He may be real, but He’s not real good…so eat this fruit, listen to me, do what you feel like, trust your feelings…FOLLOW YOUR HEART!” That was what satan said to Adam & Eve, but it sounds a lot like the cultural anthem of the modern world! That should sober us.
The devil—and our own sinfulness—does the same to us today: tempts us to doubt that the LORD is good…and His love endures forever.
Our painful situations test not just our faith in God’s existence, but in some ways even more our faith in God’s goodness… “How could God allow this to happen? How could God NOT allow this to happen?” If we doubt that God is real, we will of course drift from Him…but if we doubt that God is good—even if we KNOW that God is real—we will drift from Him as well…Adam & Eve didn’t doubt God’s existence, they doubted His goodness…and so they hid from Him. We do the same today for the same reason.
And so we will continue our foundation series this post on knowing God—what is He like?…we will continue to investigate from the Bible what it means to elevate God…by looking at Lamentations chapter 3.
Written by Jeremiah, a prophet who knew suffering, knew what it is like to work hard and faithfully for the LORD and see little fruit, little results, little success in the earthly sense. Listen to these first 19 verses as he describes his suffering. The Bible is SO REAL & SO RAW…JUST like our lives…amazing…
I am the man who has seen affliction
by the rod of the Lord’s wrath.
2 He has driven me away and made me walk
in darkness rather than light;
3 indeed, he has turned his hand against me
again and again, all day long.
4 He has made my skin and my flesh grow old
and has broken my bones.
5 He has besieged me and surrounded me
with bitterness and hardship.
6 He has made me dwell in darkness
like those long dead.
7 He has walled me in so I cannot escape;
he has weighed me down with chains.
8 Even when I call out or cry for help,
he shuts out my prayer.
9 He has barred my way with blocks of stone;
he has made my paths crooked.
10 Like a bear lying in wait,
like a lion in hiding,
11 he dragged me from the path and mangled me
and left me without help.
12 He drew his bow
and made me the target for his arrows.
13 He pierced my heart
with arrows from his quiver.
14 I became the laughingstock of all my people;
they mock me in song all day long.
15 He has filled me with bitter herbs
and given me gall to drink.
16 He has broken my teeth with gravel;
he has trampled me in the dust.
17 I have been deprived of peace;
I have forgotten what prosperity is.
18 So I say, “My splendor is gone
and all that I had hoped from the Lord.”
19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.
[ALL Jeremiah can think about is his suffering—his mind is totally focused on the difficulty of his situation, and not surprisingly, such constant focus on his disappointment leads to utter discouragement, overwhelming hopelessness]
[The utter turning point of this passage. Jeremiah has painted us a painful but precise picture of his suffering. If he stopped at verse 20 we would walk away depressed and overwhelmed and hopeless…EXACTLY how Jeremiah felt by the end of verse 20! But look at the first word of verse 21—“YET…” Please click HERE for some of the other times in the Bible that God uses the word “yet”–they are often amazing and encouraging…]
this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
[Jeremiah, with the help of the LORD, changes the focus of his mind from his awful circumstances to God’s amazing character, and doing this moves him from hopelessness to hope. My friends, if Jeremiah could have hope in the middle of his intense suffering, God can provide us with hope in the middle of ours as well…]
Romans 12:2: Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but
be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Back to Lamentations 3:
22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
[His great love leads us into (that’s right, INTO!), through, and out of suffering…
2 Corinthians 4:7-12, 16-18:
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you…
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
THIS is what Jeremiah is doing in Lamentations 3—fixing the eyes of his heart and mind on the character of the LORD not the circumstances of his life]
Back to Lamentations 3:
for his compassions never fail.
[the compassion of God—noticing our suffering & doing something about it! He gets neck deep in our mess to rescue us, He is ALL IN when it comes to saving and forgiving and transforming humans, He holds NOTHING BACK…REMEMBER THE CROSS! That is why satan’s lie to A&E was so vile, claiming that God was being selfish/stingy by not letting them eat from that one tree…Look at one example below of Jesus’ compassion that never fails:
Matthew 9:35-37: 35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.”
Christ sees us in our helpless and hopeless situation of sin and has compassion for us! What a glorious God & Savior!]
Back to Lamentations 3:
23 They [God’s mercies/compassions] are new every morning;
[because our sins are new every day as well! No leftovers with the LORD…fresh mercy for our rotten sins, new mercies for our old patterns of selfishness, if God’s mercy were orange juice it would be fresh squeezed each morning; the oranges would have still been on the tree in Florida only moments before He delivered it to your bedroom! :)]
great is your faithfulness.
[Oh the faithfulness of Jesus as husband to us His adulterous bride—as He shows us how bad we are and also how good He is to us, we are AMAZED at His faithfulness, His perseverance to KEEP loving us, to KEEP calling us His own, to KEEP His promises to all who have cried out to Him for salvation and forgiveness and new life]
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
[In Jeremiah’s suffering–where he had undoubtedly lost much in an earthly sense–God taught him to say, “If I lose ALL THINGS I still have EVERYTHING—the LORD Himself! HE is my portion in the meal of eternal life; He is not just a side dish or an appetizer…He is my portion in life, not my dreams, desires or decorations (stuff); I will say no to the microwave lust of the world and wait for the Crock-Pot love of God!]
25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
[do you STALK the LORD’s Facebook pages in the Bible or have you tried to block Him from seeing your daily newsfeed?]
26 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
[God can but often doesn’t comfort us in the drive-thru lane
but as we come in and SIT DOWN to taste & see that the LORD is good]
27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke
while he is young.
28 Let him sit alone in silence,
for the Lord has laid it on him.
29 Let him bury his face in the dust—
there may yet be hope.
30 Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him,
and let him be filled with disgrace.
31 For no one is cast off
by the Lord forever.
32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love.
33 For he does not willingly bring affliction
or grief to anyone…
THAT is how Jeremiah received hope in his seemingly hopeless situation—focusing on the character of God, His compassion, His mercy, His faithfulness and unfailing love, and not focusing only on Jeremiah’s circumstances.
One more point—please look with me at Isaiah 51:12-13:
12 “I, even I, am he who comforts you.
Who are you that you fear mere mortals,
human beings who are but grass,
13 that you forget the Lord your Maker,
who stretches out the heavens
and who lays the foundations of the earth,
that you live in constant terror every day
because of the wrath of the oppressor,
who is bent on destruction?
When we are in situations like Jeremiah in Lamentations 3, when we remember well our affliction and our soul is downcast and discouraged and feeling hopeless & fearful, we are literally forgetting the LORD…we are living as if He is not real, not around, not powerful, not good…we are Adam & Eve eating the rotten fruit of this world as we tremble at our circumstances and reach out for the world’s solutions to our problems. That is why we Christians must know God and focus on His character…we have not been given a spirit of fear but of power and love and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7)!
- This isn’t the “power of positive thinking.” That’s nonsense—if it’s 20 below zero in January and you think many thoughts of Hawaii, you are still going to freeze in your swimsuit and flip-flops in southern Minnesota! Your thoughts don’t change the cold…
- …but God offers you a down coat in the cold—HIS character and goodness and trustworthiness and righteousness to literally be worn by us through faith in Jesus! Focusing your thoughts on HIM as He has revealed Himself to be in the Bible may not change the temperature (outer circumstances) but it will help you stay warm in the middle of the winter no matter how low the temperature plummets.
- Isaiah 61:10: I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
Oh loved ones, without learning to constantly think of the LORD our minds and souls are naked in the January winter of this world…REMEMBER THE LORD! REMEMBER Who He is, what He has done, what He promises to do…
Do you know these great and precious promises of the LORD? If you don’t, then turn off the internet & t.v. & end the March Madness: do not rest until you learn His promises & character…if you don’t you will not make it…WE will not make it if we don’t because we will cling to the world and not the Word…REMEMBER, loved ones, REMEMBER HIM…He is the only way to have hope…
Please look at what Jeremiah writes later in Lamentations 3:54-58:
the waters closed over my head,
and I thought I was about to perish…
55 I called on your name, Lord,
from the depths of the pit.
56 You heard my plea: “Do not close your ears
to my cry for relief.”
57 You came near when I called you,
and you said, “Do not fear.”
58 You, Lord, took up my case;
you redeemed my life.
Amen and amen…May we cry out to the LORD for salvation and forgiveness and joy & peace… and wait for Him to come near to us, whispering “Do not fear, for I am with you…”