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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:Learning to Lament 4: For Great is His Faithfulness
Text:Lamentations 3:1-26 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2021-09-20
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Exodus 16

Text: Lamentations 3:1-26

 

LEARNING TO LAMENT: GREAT IS HIS FAITHFULNESS

  1. We Have Hope Because Yahweh is Here

  2. We Have Hope Because Yahweh is Good

 

  1. Psalm 127:1-2

  2. Psalm 39: 1, 2, 4, 5

  3. Psalm 78: 1, 6, 7, 8, 11

  4. Hymn 65:1-4

  5. Hymn 66:1-3

 

Words to Listen For: childish, directory, months, worms, magic

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. Is hope childish or naive?  Why or why not?

  2. How is Jeremiah similar to a man name Horatio?

  3. Explain the absence of the name of God in the first part of Lamentations 3

  4. What lesson do we learn from manna?

  5. What is lament?  How long does it last for?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ our Lord,

I am not a particularly naive person.  I am not so naive as to think that this short sermon series on lament has solved all of your problems.  I am not so naive as to think that you have all journeyed with me from Step 1: KEEP PRAYING until Step 4: GREAT IS HIS FAITHFULNESS, and have now solved all the problems in your life, all the problems in the world.

4 sermons is a very short time to spend on such a deep topic, and there may still be some of you who aren’t completely sold on the concept of lament.  Like I said...I’m not naive.

And yet, though I am not naive, I am hopeful.  And I choose this world carefully.

I am hopeful that lament has made an impression on you.  I am hopeful that you have become familiar with the various steps of lament so that in the future, you can make use of this beautiful gift God has given us.  I am hopeful...that you have learned that difficult times are difficult...but they’re not destructive.

That hard times are hard, but they are not hopeless.

In a word, I hope you have discovered HOPE.  Because lament is not simply a way to vocalize your hopelessness and your pain, but rather, it is a pathway from pain to praise.  It is a way to bring back your smile, if even for a moment, and your strength, though it may fail again.

As you have probably been able to tell, I’ve fallen in love with lament.  Lament is how we tunnel our way to hope.  As we tunnel through difficulty and through pain, tunnelling our way to hope.

But here’s the thing: I don’t only love lament because of what it does, but because of who it is from.

Lament is this pathway from the brokenness of this world into the powerful, loving, endlessly comforting arms of God.  So, in this last lesson on lament, we remember this ultimate truth about our God:

[LEARNING TO LAMENT:] GREAT IS HIS FAITHFULNESS

  1. We Have Hope Because Yahweh is Here

  2. We Have Hope Because Yahweh is Good

We Have Hope Because Yahweh is Here

It is all too easy for us to discount hope as simple naivete.  We say to others: You only think this way, you only have this hope because you haven’t been through what I’ve been through.  Hope is the childish notion that things will get better.  But if you go around the block a few more times, your hope will die, and you will be world-weary with the rest of us.  It is all too easy for us to look at Lamentations 3:22-25 as the musings of a very comfortable man, either too young to really know the world, or having lived a very sheltered life.

Jeremiah...of course YOU think that the Lord’s love is steadfast...you’ve never had it fail...but I have.

Of course YOU think that God’s faithfulness is so great...try crying to Him for years without answer.

Of course YOU think that the Lord is good to those who fear Him...because you’ve never seen His anger...or even worse, His apathy.

We may think this when we read this text, because we read it or remember it in seclusion from its context, may may think this when we sing the Hymn based on the passage, or other hymns like It is Well With My Soul.  How naive do THESE words sound?  But just as I am not naive with these lessons on lament...neither was Jeremiah the prophet, nor the Hymn-writer Horatio Spafford.

Maybe some of you know the story of Spafford and his hymn, and if you don’t, it will surely be stuck in your mind after today.

Horatio Spafford was a great supporter of the church, friends with D.L. Moody, but he was a man well-acquainted with sorrows.

In a story reminiscent of Job, overnight his livelihood burnt down in the great Chicago fire, and he lost his son to scarlet fever.  Still Spafford was filled with the desire to serve God and His church, and made plans to move to England with his wife and remaining 4 young daughters to serve there.  He got caught up with a last minute business problem, and so he sent his wife and daughters on ahead.  The ship they were on sank, and his four young daughters perished, with his wife being one of the only survivors of this tragedy.  She sent her husband a telegram with the words: SAVED ALONE.  Spafford dropped everything and went to be with his wife, composing the words to It is Well With My Soul when the ship passed over the final resting place of his daughters.

This explains the powerful water-related imagery of the hymn

When peace like a river attendeth my way // When sorrows like sea billows roll // Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say // It is well, it is well with my soul

It is not out of naivete that we have hope...it is out of faith.  It is out of sorrows that we are strengthened.

WHATEVER my lot...it is well with my soul.

Horatio Spafford lost everything...but he still had God at his side.

The prophet Jeremiah, in a similar way, was not writing in a time of luxury and ease, but rather, at the darkest time in Israel’s history.

Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet because of all the evil that was surrounding him.  He wept when he looked out at a nation that had rejected God and embraced wickedness.  Jeremiah wept when he heard God’s message of judgement on this unfaithful people.  That Jerusalem would lie in ruins, that the towns of Judah would be turned to rubble.  That the people would not be able to live in the promised land anymore, nor would they be able to worship God in His temple.  Jeremiah spent his ministry weeping and wailing.  He literally wrote the book on lament: LAMENTATIONS.  He wept so much that God told him to stop: Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears.

So Lamentations 3:22-25 does not come out of a time of peace and tranquility, but exactly the opposite.  And that is why our text for this morning started earlier.  It would be all too easy to preach a message of hope without the context of ruin and disaster and pain.  Hope is truly hope in the midst of pain.  So let’s take a look at that pain, starting at verse 19.

Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall.

My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.

What exactly is happening as Jeremiah writes these words?  As Jeremiah writes these words, AND as Jeremiah writes the comforting words to come, he is likely looking out his window and seeing the following scene:

The people of Judah had fled to Jerusalem to escape the wicked Babylonian empire.  But there was no food, there was no water, and so the people who did not resort to cannibalism died in the streets.  But Babylon came anyways and broke down the walls of Jerusalem, burning the temple, and so the people who had done unspeakable things to stay alive were either slaughtered by the invaders, or taken away in chains.

And yet, though this is national pain, the nation of Judah crying out...it is also personal pain.  The nation of Judah was suffering because each of the inhabitants of Judah were suffering.

And though it is a very different situation for us here in Cloverdale, I have heard so often, from so many of you, I have heard these words come out of my own mouth: This church is suffering.  Cloverdale is suffering.

But though we suffer together, we are suffering individually as well.  Your suffering is not just a statistic: 75% of Cloverdalians are suffering.  Your suffering is not just a number, one of the 139 people in distress.  Your suffering isn’t just a name in the church directory...your suffering if real, your suffering is personal.  And this is what we see with Jeremiah too.

This is a personal complaint.  This is personal pain, and so we can take it personally on our lips.

Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall.

Earlier in the chapter, we saw Jeremiah complain to God.  He says some drastic things:

He has driven and brought me into darkness without light

He has broken my bones

He has walled me in

He has made my paths crooked

He has made my teeth grind on gravel

 

God is not named in Lamentations 3 until verse 18.  Did you see that?

He.

He.

He.

HE.  It is HIM.  HE has done this to me.

Jeremiah cannot even bear to utter the name of God, because he is wallowing in his grief.

We do this at times too, don’t we?  We KNOW what will help, but we choose not to do it.  We would rather wallow.

“You know that going for a walk would make you feel better.”  “I know, but I’m not going to.”

“You know that reading your Bible could help relieve you of some of your pain.”  “That’s why I’m not doing it right now.

This impersonal “HE” isn’t good enough.  This impersonal “He” is wallowing.  A higher power isn’t good enough.  The man upstairs, the God of my parents...when you think like this, you are setting yourself up for failure in your prayers and in your hopes.  You have to recognize who this God is that you are praying to.  He is THE LORD.  He is YAHWEH.  And it is this recognition...the recognition that GOD is there, that begins to turn the tide for Jeremiah.

My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the LORD.

And it is as though we can see Jeremiah pausing as the name YHWH slips from his mouth.

My endurance has perished; so has my hope from YHWH…Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall.

No longer is Jeremiah wallowing, crying out hopelessly, but rather, this is a prayer that he knows YHWH will hear.

Yahweh, God of the covenant...SEE MY SUFFERING!  It’s not just the suffering of a group, not just the suffering of your nation, but it is the suffering of your child.  It’s ME!  Jeremiah!  Hear me Yahweh, and answer!

He is calling for God to remember his suffering, because it is constantly in his memory.

Yahweh, he calls out, Yahweh, my affliction is all that I can see.  It fills up my mind, it fills up my soul...do not turn a deaf ear to it, but share some of my grief.  Share the burden I am carrying.

And with this, the lament begins to do its work.  As Jeremiah remembers who God is, as he calls Yahweh’s perfections to mind, there is a tiny flicker of hope that he fans into a flame.  Not only is Yahweh here...but Yahweh is good.  Our second point.

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:

The New Living Translation puts this beautifully: Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this

I DARE to hope...

Jeremiah’s mind and soul have a little space in them now.  Instead of being completely filled with sorrow and grief, hopelessness and misery, God has lightened the load, and there is room for the prophet to remember who Yahweh is, and what He has promised.

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

This amazing expression of hope and worship comes in the middle of a brutal lament.  And I say MIDDLE, and not the end, for the lament continues on for 2 more chapters.  Jeremiah’s sorrow is not completely solved when he remembers Yahweh.  The sorrow is not solved, but it is softened.

In his great grief, he remembered his great God, and there was hope.  He was strengthened to continue his lament, and you can see that it is not quite so hopeless in the final two chapters of the book.

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases.

Many months ago, I reflected with you on the Hebrew word HESED, and that is the same word here.  The HESED of YHWH never ceases

HESED, this steadfast love, this loving-kindness...it is kindness, it is love, but it has tied up in it the concepts of mercy and grace.  Of loyalty and goodness.  And it is always practical.  It is not a love to keep in the heart, but a love to share with those around you.  It is a love that doesn’t want to be repaid, and it is a love that knows it cannot be repaid.

It is this HESED that persists, even when the nation is crumbling around you.

It is this HESED that persists, even when the church seems to be falling apart

It is this HESED that persists, even when all you can see is darkness.

The HESED of YHWH NEVER CEASES.

The steadfast love of the the LORD never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.

When we feel as though we used up all of God’s compassions and “second chances” yesterday, remember that they are new every morning.  Every morning ends the night.  The light replaces the darkness every morning, as it has since the first day of creation.

The steadfast love of the the LORD never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.  Great is your faithfulness.

It is as though the prophet pauses once again, and casts His mind back.  He has been casting his mind UP towards God, but now he casts his mind BACK into the history of God dealing with His people.  And He knows that this perfection of Yahweh is not new, but that this has been the perfect, holy, and righteous character of God since the very beginning.  That when God’s people cry out to Him, whether they cry out in pain or in frustration, whether they cry out in worship or in sinful anger, Yahweh meets His people.

Yahweh’s resources MORE than match your requirements.  God’s mercies and compassions and love MORE than match your sins and your need.

God’s mercies come each morning to His people, just like the manna came to the Israelites every morning from heaven.  Every morning, for 40 years in the wilderness, the manna came down.  Every morning, 6 days a week, with special provisions for the 7th.  Whatever the Israelites needed, God provided.  He provided them with manna for 40 years.  He provided them with water.  He provided them with quail.  He made it so that their sandals did not wear out.

Let’s focus in on the manna in particular.

Exodus 16:13-16 - In the evening quail came up and covered the camp, and in the morning dew lay around the camp.  And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground.  When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Gather of it, each one of you, as much as he can eat. You shall each take an omer, according to the number of the persons that each of you has in his tent.

God provided for His people, but there was a catch.  Did you notice it?  The catch was not that the Israelites were better than the other nations.  They had just been slaves for 400 years.  The catch was not that the Israelites had to DO ANYTHING GOOD for God to send the manna.  In fact, God graciously sent the manna after they grumbled and complained against Him.  God sent them manna while they were still rebelling.

But here was the catch, let me read that again

Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Gather of it, each one of you, as much as he can eat.

God provided the manna, but the Israelites had to go out and gather it.  God provided it every single morning, and the Israelites had to go out and gather it every single morning.  If you try to gather it for more than one day, showing a lack of trust in God, the manna will be crawling with worms, and it will stink.  Every morning, you have to go out and depend on God, that He will provide the manna for you.

And the same is true with God’s mercies, God’s compassion.  Every morning, they are available.  They are new every morning...but don’t take them for granted!  Just because God provides them to you without a catch doesn't mean that you don’t have to do anything!  And lest this begin to sound too Arminian for you, too much of God doing some of the work, and us meeting Him halfway, remember the two parts of the covenant: PROMISE and OBLIGATION.  God PROMISES us forgiveness of sins, and we are obliged to a new obedience.  As we will hear this afternoon, God gave the Israelites the Law, and they were obliged to follow it.  We are to GATHER God’s mercies as the Israelites would gather the manna.

Let me make this very clear and concrete for you.

This week, wake up early every morning.  Whether you are a morning person or not, wake up early, set the coffee machine to have a cup waiting for you.  Wake up early and gather God’s compassions.  Read His Word and look for the promises.  Read His Word, and seek out His forgiveness, His compassion.  Read His Word, and find the HESED, examples of His loving-kindness.  I would love to challenge you to do this every morning for the rest of your life, but that might feel too daunting.  So try it for a week.  And then another week, and another.

There is nothing special about doing your devotions in the morning instead of at noon, or in the evening, except for this: If you begin your day with God, if you begin by gathering His promises, then you will have the strength you need for whatever is going to hit you in that day.  You can wait til noon, but why would you put off getting help? Why would you put off being strengthened?  First thing, go to God.  Go to His Word and be strengthened.  And realize that, not only does God PROVIDE YOU with strength and blessings, but He Himself IS your strength and your blessings.

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

The LORD is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in Him.

This is the same soul, beloved, this is the same soul that 4 verses before was continually bowed down.  Bowed down, not in worship, but bowed down as in weighed down.  The word means sinking down.  Sinking down, perishing in the depths.  This weighed down soul has been lifted, and confesses that it is Yahweh who is everything that I need.  Now that I remember who my God is, I can have hope again.  The pit that I’m in isn’t so deep anymore.  The pit in my stomach isn’t so heavy anymore.

And remember...for Jeremiah, there was still slaughter and starvation outside of his window.  The Babylonians were still burning the temple, and taking away captives.  Jerusalem wasn’t Jeremiah’s portion and hope, but his hope and portion was Yahweh.  Yahweh was what Jeremiah needed that day.  Jeremiah realized that hope and Yahweh belong together...forever.

Whereas Jeremiah’s heart used to say: IT IS HOPELESS...Jeremiah learned that he had to argue back. 

The situation may be hopeless...if the situation is all that you can see.  But with God on the throne...hope will always be given to those who ask.  Hope will always be given to those who wait.  Hope will always be given to those who trust.

Hope and Yahweh belong together forever. Because our God is not only the BEST object of our hope...He is the only object of our hope.  Because our God is not only the BEST ground for our hope...He is the only ground for our hope.

Hope is something that Yahweh PROVIDES, and hope is something that Yahweh IS for His people.

You see, congregation, this is what lament does for us.  Lament is not a magic wand that changes our circumstances, but lament is the response of a heart that knows things should be different.  Lament is the response of a heart that knows that if there’s no light...that means it isn’t over.

If there’s no joy, it isn’t over.

If there’s no peace, it isn’t over.

Lament knows...that if there is still reason for lament, it isn’t over.  Because, as wonderful a gift as lament is...lament will not be forever.  Lament is the brokenness of this world coming up against the goodness of God. 

But there will be a day when there will be no more brokenness.  The need for lament will one day be over because there is a future that is coming.

A future that was inaugurated by the hope of the manger.

A future that was proclaimed by John the Baptist.

A future that was taught through the preaching and the teaching.

A future that was won through the cross, and sealed through the empty tomb.

A future that will one day come again on the clouds of heaven.

Beloved, the whole idea of lament...its whole message…

KEEP PRAYING

Because

    GOD HEARS YOU

        And

            HE WILL ACT

                For

                    GREAT IS HIS FAITHFULNESS

Lament is the gift of Jesus Christ for our time of sojourning in this world, for He is not naive.  He knows that, even with sin defeated, it still wounds us.  Even with Satan’s doom secured, he still prowls around like a roaring lion.  And so, our Saviour did not leave us alone, leaving us defenseless, leaving us without a way to express our grief and our frustration.  But rather, He gives us this wonderful gift, turning our mourning into lamentation, turning our tears into cries of prayer, and affirming us in our struggle.

Though it may seem contradictory to do so, rejoice in the gift of lament.  Lament is our song for the journey between earthly brokenness and heavenly restoration.  Lament is the language of the earthly Christian life, and a means of grace to those who embrace it.

So as you live through the dark clouds of this life, discover the deep mercy in the grace of lament.  AMEN.

 



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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