Let's open our Bibles to the Book of Crying, the weeping, lamentations it's called, in the Old Testament, and let's have a word of prayer.
Heavenly Father, we have settled our hearts before You, we settle our bodies down, cellphones are off, pagers are off, we really want to tune in, to what the Holy spirit would be speaking to us. We are here tonight, and we believe we are not here by accident. You have a purpose in drawing us, and Father, we give You this time. Only we individually can fully concentrate and submit to You during this time, and we do that now by ourself, before You, and we pray Lord that our lives would be changed as truths would be revealed. We believe Your Holy Spirit is real and active and alive, and wanting to speak to us, and to cleanse us. Help us to learn these great lessons from this book, in Jesus name, Amen!
I don't know what just happened, but it looks like lighting is gone out. I don't if it's the heat or not, but maybe the Lord want you to memorize -- oh, there it is, look at that. I guess the Lord didn't want you to memorize that whole section of lamentations. Well, if you were to look up the word lamentation in a dictionary, it means an expression of grief, and a lament or a lamentation is typically a song or a poem that expresses sorrow, sorrow over loss, sorrow over destitution, singing the blues. That's what a lament is. It's sort of like a country western song. And somebody once said, what do you get if you play a country western song backwards, you get your wife back, you get your family back, you get your dog back, you get your job back.
This is a sorrowful lament and why? As was mentioned earlier, Jerusalem and the City of Jerusalem, the nation of Judah has affectively died, and Jeremiah oversaw the death of the nation, and if Jeremiah as a book, the Book of Jeremiah is the funeral of Jerusalem, then this is the funeral song, the dirge, the lamentation over the city.
Now, this song has five dirges, or five sections, five laments, and those are in each of the five chapters. Now you might think, what good is it to read such a sad book? Wouldn’t we be better off if we pick some joyful theme, and not dwelt on everything bad or wrong. There is so much bad news and bad stuff in the world, what good does it do to cover a book like lamentations? Well, unfortunately, there are people that think that way. In fact, I would say, America is consumed with not dealing with sorrow, not dealing with bad times or bad things. We just want all of the glitz and all of the comfort, but I got to tell you, there is a value in studying and dwelling on sorrow, and here is why? Because it gets you in touch again with the reality of life.
It was Solomon who said in the Book of Ecclesiastes, these words, "it's better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting." He continues, "for that is the end of all men, and the living will take it to heart." Sometimes a stroll through a cemetery goes a lot further than a nice vacation on a cruise ship, because as you look at those gravestones, they are giving you a message. That's what Nathaniel Hawthorne once said. He said, "every grave, no matter where you find it, preaches a short pithy message to the soul," and what is that message? It's saying, you are going to be here soon. Make sure that your life is all that it should be. You only have a section of time on this earth, make sure that it counts. So it's good to study the Book of Lamentations, sorrow, mourning.
I don't know if you have ever studied any of the great revivals of the past, but one of the marks of the great revivals of the past, besides a wholesale turning to the word of God is often accompanied with sorrow, mourning over sin. That marks really true revival. Now there has been a movement of light, last several years actually in the church, in so called revivals, and it's funny how these revivals -- they just-- they are the same thing, but they appear in different places. Whether it's in Brownsville, Texas, and then after a while up in Toronto, Canada, at the Toronto Vineyard. Now it's over in Lake land, or Florida I hear. All of these so called revivals, and part of these revivals is an interesting phenomenon known as Holy Laughter, where supposedly this Spirit of Joy just overtakes people. and in the middle of a church service, they just start cracking up. I mean laughing and howling sometimes like animals, and they say, it's from the Spirit of God. I mean, it's just flat out weird, Holy Laughter. You don't read about that in the Bible. You read a lot about Holy Mourning, blessed are those who mourn, they shall be comforted, and Jeremiah has a good reason to mourn. It's because the city that he loved, the City of God's name and God's promise, has been under attack by the Babylonians.
Now there are only 154 verses in the entire book. It's a very short book, and it's part of a special section of Scripture, called the Scrolls in the Jewish Bible, the Five Scrolls, the Megilloth. You have heard the term if you have been in the Bible from 30,000 feet. The Megilloth, the Five Scrolls are five short books read at special occasions in Jewish Synagogues. Book of Ruth, Esther, Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes. and Lamentations, all of those are read at five peak periods in the Jewish Calendar. Now the Book of Lamentations is read every year on the ninth day of the month of Av, the ninth of Av, and on the ninth of Av is the celebration, or I should say, really the commemoration, the remembrance of the destruction of the temple. That's when it fell. Solomon's temple fell 586 BC on the ninth of Av. The second time the temple was destroyed by the Romans, it also fell on exactly the same day, the ninth day of the eleventh month, the ninth of Av. So every year, this is commemorated, and the Book of Lamentations is read.
Now something I just got to throw out. When the Jews speak up their days and their months, they always put the day first and then the month, we always put the month first and then the day. So for a Jewish person, writing the calendar of the ninth of Av, they would write 09-11, and 09-11 was the commemoration of the fall of Jerusalem. I bring that up because when the Twin Towers fell on our September 11th, or 09/11, when they heard those words, 09/11 and they still hear those words 09/11, it rings a familiar bell. It doesn't just mean two towers fell down, it means to them two temples were destroyed on their 09-11, their Tisha B'Av, their ninth of Av. That's a very significant thing in their minds.
Let's go to Verse 1 of Chapter 1 and Chapter 1 begins, the destruction of the temple as seen from the outside looking in. Once we get to Verse 11, it's reversed. We will see it from the inside looking out.
"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!" Now normally Jerusalem was very crowded and normally today, Jerusalem is still very crowded. It says in the Book of Psalms, behold Jerusalem is the City that is compacted together where the tribes of the Lord go up, and if you've ever walked through the streets of modern Jerusalem, you get it. It's wall to wall people. It's hard to manage. It's always full of people, but the destruction would mean the people would be gone, and I don't know if you have ever been in the city that is being evacuated when there is no one out on the streets, but it's a weird feeling.
I happened to be in Jerusalem, this very city one time, when because of a supposed attack, a threat, they were evacuating the streets, they closed and locked the Damascus Gate to the Old City, wouldn’t let people in or out, and they just cleared people off a crowded, normally crowded street was now empty, desolate, and very ire feeling. What a description of a city? A princess in Verse 1, and then from a princess to a widowed slave, someone very lonely and desolate without covering, without support.
"She weeps bitterly in the night. Her tears are on her cheeks. Among all her lovers, she has none to comfort her."
Now, five times in Chapter 1, cries are being brought before the Lord, none of those cries are answered by the Lord. It's the picture of somebody reaching out and getting no response, whatsoever, in their anxiety, in their tears.
"All her friends have dealt treacherously with her; They had become her enemies." Now notice the reference to lovers and friends. You know who those were? Those were other nations that Judah made political alliances with to protect themselves from Babylon.
So they made an alliance with Egypt, they made an alliance with Edom, which is down towards Saudi Arabia, they made an alliance with Tyre and Sidon up on the Northern Sea coast in modern day Lebanon, because they wanted to protect themselves against the threat of Babylonians.
Now what God was saying all along, is don’t turn to Egypt for help, don’t turn to Edom for help. Here I am, turn to Me for help, I will protect you, but they did not do that. They turned from God and they turned toward the help of man, and that was their downfall.
"The roads to Zion mourn, because no one comes to the set feasts," you know what the set feasts are, right? It's three feasts, Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. They had to come every season, three times a year to Jerusalem. Because no one comes to the set feasts: all her gates are desolate: her priests sigh, her virgins are afflicted, and she is in bitterness." That talks about somebody mourning or in mourning.
Typically when somebody dies in a Jewish household, the men don’t cut their hair. They don’t cut their facial hair, they let their hair grow out for a period of time, and they looked very unkept. And the streets, the throngs, the gates, the gateways of the city were typically packed full of people as I said. Even the very roadways themselves into all of the gates of the city have throngs of people on them.
Now whenever you walk on a dirt path the weeds won't grow on it. You beat down that path all the way down to hard dirt. If you don’t have people on it for a period of time, the weeds and the grass over take the dirt path, and it looks like the hair is growing out. It's a path in mourning, so to speak. In other words nobody is walking on it. The people have been taking captive, and the very roads themselves, because of the grasses that have grown up on it, they look like a mourner.
"The adversary has spread his hand over all her pleasant things: for she has seen the nations enter her sanctuary, those whom you commanded not to enter Your assembly."
Now here they were trusting in the varied temple of God. The building that God was worshiped in for their protection, but now those temple courts were being defiled by their gentile enemies who came in and overtook the land. And you see, and see if this sounds familiar to you? There were a group of people living in Jerusalem who trusted in the fact that there was a building called the temple, and as long as there was the building there, God would protect us, and if we just go there every now and then, we will be okay.
You see they trusted in the ritual. The ritual done at a place, rather than the relationship with the person who occupies that place, that is God. That was their fallacy, it was all outward, as long as we go to the temple, we will be okay. Are you right with God? Well, I go to the temple. Ever ask people, are you okay with God, do you know God? Well, I go to church, same difference, I go to a building.
So that’s why the same prophet Jeremiah in Chapter 7 cries out in Jerusalem, and says "Trust not in lying vanities" he is saying, "The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord" are these." It was all outward, none of it was inward, all a ritual at a place, rather than a relationship with a person. And it doesn’t stops there. When you get to the New Testament, the same kind of thinking prevails. Remember when Jesus was at Sumeria, and He encountered that woman at the well, and Jesus started getting very personal with that gal, and as she is feeling the sin, her life being exposed by Jesus, having been married several times, now living with a guy outside of marriage. She quickly turns the conversation to worship, it's all about a place.
She says, our fathers worship in this mountain, and you Jews say Jerusalem is the place one ought to worship.". See what she is doing? She is making it all about the place, all about the ritual, all about the art, not about the heart. That’s why Jesus said, woman the hour is coming and now is, when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, not in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem. But really from the heart.
So you can see the symptoms going on inside of the city spiritually speaking, and we had to keep that in mind. A church building is great, but it's just a building. I remember hearing people over the years here in this fellowship, as we move from The Lakes Apartments to building on Eubank and the Snowheights and then to here in. Every time there was a moving, Oh! I remember the old building, and I remember my chair in the old building, and it was like a special place where I met with God. Okay, get over it. God isn't confined to a chair or a building or an apartment complex. Look at it this way, a building, this building is like the lunch sack. What's inside the lunch sack, the lunch, is far more important than the lunch sack. You don't usually talk about lunch sacks, hey, cool lunch sack.
I think I dig your lunch sack far better than mine, who cares about the sack, what are you eating? What's the lunch, what goes on inside the building, and who is inside the building? God's holy people, you, the temples of Holy Spirit. It's far more important than the outward lunch sack.
These people in Jerusalem were all about the lunch sack, all about the outward stuff. That’s Verses 1 through 11 of Chapter 1. Beginning in Verse 12, is now from the inside of Jerusalem looking out, as Jeremiah continues.
"Is it nothing to you all you who pass by? Behold, and see, if there is any sorrow like my sorrow which has been brought on me, which the Lord has inflicted in the day of His fierce anger."
"For these things I weep; My eye, my eye overflows with water," very descriptive of pouring out tears, "because the comforter, who should restore my life is far from me. My children are desolate, because the enemy prevailed." Zion spreads out her hands, but no one comforts her. The Lord has commanded concerning Jacob that those around him become his adversaries. Jerusalem has become an unclean thing among them. Now here is where we see, I believe, Jesus Christ in the Book of Lamentations.
I think you can see Jesus plainly in every single book, even of the Old Testament. And I think here is where we see Jesus in Lamentations, and that is this weeping prophet. This very emotional prophet touched with the sin of His people, because if you remember, there was a rumor about Jesus in the New Testament. When Jesus asked His disciple Caesarea Philippi, who do men say that I am? Well, some believe You are John the Baptist, other say You are Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.
There was a rumor going around in the New Testament that Jesus Christ was the Prophet Jeremiah resurrected. Why is that? Because there were similarities, the weeping prophet, and the Jesus who wept over His people. Wept over Jerusalem. How often I would have gathered you as a mother hen gathers her chicks, but you were not willing. Very, very compassionate in His outreach.
Now in Verse 18, Jerusalem confess her sin through the Prophet Jeremiah.
"The Lord is righteous; for I rebelled, this is the city now speaking, "for I rebelled against His commandment: hear now all peoples, and behold my sorrow: My virgins and my young men Have gone into captivity." Here they are mourning over their sin, they are not laughing, blessed are those who mourn, they shall be comforted. There is a confession of sin.
You know there is a few ways that people typically respond to sin? By far, the first most common way is just to deny that sin exists, or deny that they are really a sinner, I am fine, I am okay, don't worry about me, no, no, no there is nothing wrong. I am not a sinner, I have a few hangups, I have a few wises, but they deny their sin.
Another way people deal with it is to compare themselves with other people far worse than they are. Well, look I am not perfect, but you know that guy over there, he is like really bad. Those people in jail, they are like, really bad. I am not as bad as they are. That's like the Pharisee in the Gospel of Luke. God, I thank You that I am not like other men, especially that ratchet wicked tax collector, and I hope You can hear me. Comparing himself with somebody else.
There's a third way people do with their sin. That is they admit that they've done wrong. They admit that they need help, and so they try to correct it themselves. They read self help books, they go through the therapies, and they think I can handle this.
The fourth, and I say the best way, the Biblical way, is to confess, which means to admit, actually means to agree with God. To say the same thing about your sin that God says about your sin. Fess up, fess up, confess it and turn from it. Even if you are locked in, and it's a hard thing you are involved in, at least admit it, and at least admit it and ask God, God I want to turn from it. That's the biblical way. That's the best way. You just fess up. Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy Cross I cling. That's how you get cleaned up, is by fessing up. When you fess up, you can get cleaned up. Until then you will just stay in your sin.
At one time in our country, the bathtub was regarded as something of a luxury. In fact, it was called, it was denounced as a luxurious vanity. Did you know that in the year 1842 it was denounced in the City of Boston, it was unlawful to bathe unless by a doctor's prescription. Okay, now this is a stupid law. Sometimes laws need to be challenged, this was one of them. It was unlawful to bathe unless a doctor gave you a prescription. The following year 1843 in Philadelphia, they made bathing illegal between November 1st and March 15th. Talk about a stinky winter.
Now what a stupid law to make it illegal, to ban it? Some people would rather put up with their own stench, than to confess their sin, and Jerusalem was in that category. But now they are being pressed, because they are taken captive. So finally they say, the Lord is righteous, I have rebelled against His Commandments.
Now Chapter 2 is the second dirge of this funeral song, and it gives more details of God's judgment. It's an interesting chapter, because it pictures God as the one dismantling the City of Jerusalem. As if God was a one man wrecking crew. As if God was in there doing this. There is an interesting passage of scripture in the Book of Hebrews. You remember the scripture that says, it's a fearful thing to fall into the Hands of the living God. Here is Jerusalem falling into the hands of the living God who was taking their city piece by piece and dismantling it, Verse 1.
"How the Lord has covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud of His anger! He cast down from heaven to the earth the beauty of Israel. That's a reference to the temple, and did not remember His footstool in the day of His anger! Footstool is a reference in scripture to the temple of God, in 2 Chronicles 28. It is a reference to the temple. David says, "The footstool of our God; referring to the temple.
"Let us go into His tabernacle; Let us worship at His footstool." So the temple is being attacked, God's footstool.
Verse 5, The Lord, look at this language. Don't miss this.
"The Lord was like an enemy. He has swallowed up Israel: He has swallowed up all her palaces, he has destroyed her strongholds. He has increased mourning and lamentation in the daughter of Judah." I found something strange about this book. Something that is honestly uncomfortable. Did you know that the Prophet Jeremiah mentions Babylon 164 times in the Book of Jeremiah, and though he's still talking about the very same people, very same rights, very same events, I wonder if like somebody is leaning up against the light thing, anyway.
In the Book of Lamentations -- it's going to go on. I just trust, God said, 'Let there be light,' and just give it a -- there you go, see that.
I find a guy leaning up against the lights. In the Book of Lamentations, Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar, they are never mentioned ones by name, but rather now, listen to this; in this book, God is seen as the agent. Yes, He using the Babylonians obviously, but here God is pictured as the agent who is sovereignly behind the scenes dismantling the city. I say it's uncomfortable, because sometimes the sovereignty of God is an uncomfortable subject. God is in charge of this; God allowed them to go into captivity. God used the Babylonians.
God inspired Nebuchadnezzar and He here, and through the Book of Daniel will take responsibility for that. You say, how cruel, this God like get off on our suffering or something? Not at all. If you are a parent, you understand this concept.
You have, while your kids were being raised or you do now as they are being raised, sometimes you inflict pain on your child. Sometimes you will strike your child. How cruel of you? How could you do that? What kind of a parent are you? You don't love them, do you? Those are all thoughts they think. As you spank them, as you discipline them, they are thinking, you don't love me anymore. Of course, that's the very reason you are spanking them; you are disciplining them. It's because you love them, and you know that a live that is unsupervised, that is left to itself, is in danger.
Any child that is left to itself has a name; we call them Brats. You can tell who they are. You have seen them, I have seen them. I have been out and I have looked at little personalities that are been unchallenged and unchecked, and listen, I want to spank them. I can't, but I want to. It's in my heart to do so. I know what that child needs. Now I would never lift a hand, sometimes I will look at the parent like, who is in charge here?
God, this heavenly parent is spanking his kids, chastening them. Why? Because He loves them. It was C.S. Lewis; he said something really great. He said, pain, get this, "Pain plants the flag of truth in the fortress of a rebel soul." Isn't that a great saying? Pain plants the flag of truth in the fortress of a rebel soul. That's why it says in Hebrews, "Don't despise the chastening of the Lord, you endure it, but it's going to yield the fruit of righteousness in the end, whom the Lord loves, He chastens."
Even David said that, "Before I was afflicted, David said, I went astray, but now I keep the Your word'.
"The Lord has spurned His altar, He has abandoned His sanctuary; He has given up the walls of her palaces into the hand of the enemy. They have made a noise in the house of the Lord, as on the day of a set feast." So the Babylonians came. Jeremiah saw the temple burned, destroyed. Jerusalem fell in 586 around mid-July, and the captivity was complete around mid-August. Three successive attacks, the last one was 586, when the temple was destroyed.
Now this is an important mark in their history, because now that the temple is destroyed, and they are not in Jerusalem anymore; they are in a foreign country, that means they cannot practice ceremonial law anymore. They can't offer animal sacrifices, there can't be a Priesthood going in and out of the temple doing all of the sacred duties of the Priest. They have to abandon ceremonial law, and so this is what they do.
Now in a foreign country since they can't practice ceremonial law, they turn toward the written law. They become very concerned in the Babylonian captivity with interpretations, and a whole new leader emerges in the captivity that has never been in the Old Testament before, but you certainly see them in the New Testaments called the Rabbi. Under the Mosaic system, they weren't Rabbis, they were Priests, and the Priest stood before the people and God and practiced ceremonial law. Now there is no temple. So now there is a group of people called Rabbis, who ask questions like, what would Moses do in this situation, and what would Moses do in that situation? And they will sermonize, and argue, and discuss, and eventually they will compile a whole set of books called The Talmud, the Oral Law.
There is two sets of Talmud. There is the Jerusalem Talmud, and there is the real long one, the Babylonian Talmud. It's all about what they think, and different Rabbis would say, Rabbi, Hillel, Rabbi Akiba, Rabbi Shammai, about what Moses would do in certain situations, and all of that is because the temple is destroyed by the Babylonians; the children of Israel are taken into captivity. So you turn to the New Testament, you don't have to now, but when you do, and you read about the Synagogue and the Rabbis, that's all new.
There was no Synagogue pre-captivity. Synagogue, SUNAGOGE in Greek, is the gathering together, "beit Knesset" in Hebrew, the House of Gathering, where they would gather and talk about the law and teach the laws of God.
Now what was a real problem, is that by the time of Jesus, many of the Jewish leaders were far more concerned with what the Oral Law said, what the Rabbi said, and what the written law said, the Bible. That's why Jesus said, 'You have heard that it was said by those of Old, but I say unto you', let me get back to the original intended meaning. Let's escape the oral law; let's go right to the written law. This is what the Bible says, that's why he is making those statements in Mathew for that reason.
"My eyes fail with tears, My heart' and if you have an Old King James, it doesn't say heart, does it? It says my bowels; 'I have troubled bowels; My heart or My bowels are troubled. My bile, literally, liver is poured out on the ground, because the destruction of the daughter of my people; because the children and infants faint in the streets of the city."
Here is Jeremiah weeping, crying, lamenting over himself. Now he is crying for the city he loves. Here's a good question that you should just answer on your own. What makes you cry? What breaks your heart? What makes you laugh, and want makes you cry? Because when you answer those questions, they will reveal a lot about who you are.
There are certain things that honestly, that break our hearts, and we should honestly be shocked at other things. We can become desensitized to him in a culture like ours. Jeremiah saw what was happening to his country; broke his heart, he wept over it, and he says, 'My heart or my bowels'. Now let me tell you what's behind this. The ancients considered, your deepest emotions came from your abdomen, your stomach. We say the same thing; I felt it in the pit of my stomach.
They believe that the abdomen, the bowels is a place where you experience the emotions. That's why in the New Testament, you read phrases in the King Jame like, 'Bowels of tender mercies' or 'Bowels of compassion,' because of that believe.
Now why are they so distraught? Why is Jeremiah so broken up? He says, because the children and the infants faint in the streets of the city. The saddest scenes in any kind of war, or any kind of situation like this, is what happens to children.
In the first Gulf War in 1991 I think it was, when Kuwait was invaded; do you remember that, remember all those refugees that came over to the border? I went over to the Middle East, and I went to Jordan, where hundreds of thousands of Kuwaiti refugees who had been displaced, came over the borders, and were just living out on the desert. And we visited refugee camp, after refugee camp, tent after tent, and to see these little children without water and food, and waiting for supplies to come. It was heartbreaking.
The time I went to Mogadishu, Somalia, during the Black Hawk Down episode, all the thousands of children without any parents at all, roam in the streets, and we knew a couple of people who were trying to crawl them all into this big house, and give them medicine and feed them.
Jeremiah saw that and broke his heart. Verse 13.
"How shall I console you, to what shall I liken you, O daughter of Jerusalem? What shall I compare with you that I may comfort you, O virgin daughter of Zion; for your ruin is spread as wide as the sea who can heal you?" As if to say, what other nation is there that has suffered, like you have suffered?
"All who pass by clap their hands at you," you what that means? There were actually people who were watching Jerusalem fall, who were going, hey! they were happy about it. They were singing and rejoicing that the Jewish people were being prosecuted and killed. And you know who they were? They were the Edomites, their neighbors. At the end of the book God will have a special note to say to them. He will say, you know what? The Babylonians came after the Jerusalemites, you are next. And you are not going to be rebuilt. You are going to go out of existence like most of the other nations, I'll rebuild Zion, they won't go out of existence.
Verse:15, continues at the daughter of Jerusalem. Is this the city, that is called the perfection of beauty, the joy of the whole earth? Jerusalem did have a reputation for being beautiful. Now some people go there, and then they go, this is it? This is Jerusalem, because there’s a lot of stones, and there’s a lot of stuff built close to each other. It’s not like going to see the castles of Edinburgh or Scotland or the countryside of Austria. They look at Jerusalem, they go, hum! interesting that God put it here. But the Rabbis used to have a great saying, when Jerusalem was in it’s prime. The Rabbis said, he who has not seen Jerusalem in it’s glory, has never seen a beautiful city. And in the Talmud, that Oral Law, there were beautiful things written, like this, "God gave ten measures of beauty to the whole world, nine ended up at Jerusalem, and one was dispensed throughout the rest of the world."
It continues, ten measures of knowledge were given to the whole world, nine were taken by Jerusalem, and one was dispersed to the rest of the world. Then it continues, ten measures of suffering were given to the world, and nine were taken by Jerusalem, and one for the rest of the world. There’s probably never been a nation that is consistently through the years suffered attack, collapse, burning, captivity, time and time again, Jerusalem has seen 36 wars. It has been destroyed 17 times, and rebuilt 18.
Who can I liken it to? Who can I compare it to? Chapter 3 is the next dirge, there are 66 verses, where obviously – as you can look at your watch, we are not going to be able to go through, but just a few of them. But I got to tell you about how the book is laid out.
If you have noticed so far, the first two chapters each have 22 verses in them. Chapter 3 has 66 verses, Chapter 4, 22, Chapter 5 22. There are in the Hebrew alphabet, guess how many letters? 22, this book is called, as Kevin mentioned, an Acrostic. You know what an Acrostic is? Is that the first sentence begins with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Alef, the second line begins with a second letter "B," we would call it, "Bet". So Alef, Bet, Gimel, Dalet, He, Vav, Zayin. All the way from Alef to Tav, or we would say A, B, C all the way to Z.
So that’s how it’s constructed, until you get to Chapter 3, then it's triple Acrostic. The first three begin with the letter A or Alef. The next three B, etcetera, etcetera all the way though the alphabet.
"I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of his wrath." Alright, we will translate that, "I Jeremiah, watched God spank this nation." He has led me, and made me walk in darkness, and not light. Surely He has turned His hand against me, time and time again throughout the day.
Of all the ministries, you could have, I think Jeremiahs was like 'the worst ministry.' He never saw any conversions, and yet he had to watch the city be destroyed. There’s certain ministries in the Bible, you look and you go, I’d like his job, I would like to fill up. He was sent down to Samaria to see and start a revival. Well, how about Peter on the Day of Pentecost, and all those thousands of people responding. Miracles happening, and people being Baptized, or even Jonah, though he didn’t like it, a whole city, decides, we are going repent, we are all going to turn to God, even our animals are going to wear sackcloth and ashes. You know, our pets repent.
But poor Jeremiah, what he said, what he saw, and what he did, and he wept, he wept. Sometimes though not often, sometimes I will turn on Christian television, and I'll see preachers ranting and raving about judgment, and sometimes I'll catch a preacher, not always, but sometimes I catch a preacher talking about judgment, and it almost sounds like they are getting off on talking about God’s judging the world. And it's bothersome that anybody can talk about the judgment of God on the world that He loves and created without feeling some deep sense of remorse.
You know Dwight L Moody, great preacher from Chicago, preached with a sense of sorrow and remorse. It was said of the D L Moody, R W Dale of Birmingham England said, I don't think there is anybody that I know of, that has the right to preach on hell, except Dwight L Moody. Because when he preaches on hell, there’s tears in his voice. There were tears in the voice of Jeremiah. He wouldn’t get an off on this. He didn’t say serves your right, he said, listen to me, none of you repented, now you are getting yours. He was broken up by it, and he identified with him.
"He has hedged me in so that I cannot get out, he has made my chain heavy, even when I cry and I shout, he shuts out my prayer." This is interesting.
God had previously invited, Jeremiah to pray.
"Call on Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things which you know not." But did you know that three times God tells the same Prophet not to pray for the people of Jerusalem. Don't anymore bring a prayer before Me, because if you do, I will not hear.
Here's Jeremiah feeling very alone, very isolated, even crying out to God, and God is saying, don't even bring the subject up, Jeremiah. I won't answer your prayer.
"He has blocked my ways with hewn stones, he has made my paths crooked." Again, the feeling of isolation.
"Remember my affliction and roaming the wormwood and the gall, my soul still remembers and stinks within me." Wormwood is a strong smelling plant, that yields a very bitter dark green oil.
Verse 21, Jeremiah, this is the highlight now of the book. This is the best part of the book. Jeremiah now starts reviewing what he knows to be true about God’s character. Now listen carefully, whenever you face uncertain times, anybody here ever do that?. Yeah, you are liar if you don't, because everybody faces like troublesome uncertain times, and whenever things in your life get uncertain, that’s when you need to turn and reflect on what is certain. Too many of us worry about, I don't get that, I don't understand this, and you drown it in. That’s when you need to turn to what you know is true about the character of God, Jeremiah does that.
Look what he says "This I recalled in my mind, therefore I have hope, through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not, they are new every morning, great is your faithfulness". The Lord is my portion says my soul, therefore I hope in Him. The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him, it is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
Now frankly, this is the only bright spot in the whole book. You have five funerals dirges, put in a certain Hebrew cadence of all the mournful songs of the ancient people. It's just a sad, sad book. Suddenly in the middle if it, it’s like the smoke clears, you see the light. It’s like walking into a dark coal mine and seeing a huge bright diamond right in the middle. Wow! This is the diamond of the book. Here’s Jeremiah, Jeremiah is able to seek God’s mercy in the worst circumstances. The city is being destroyed, and he sees God’s mercy, notice what he says, "Lord, it's a marvel that we are not totally destroyed, at least You are going to save a remnant, and You promised You are going to come back. As I look at the other nations, Jeremiah could have said, when God goes after him, he wipes them out completely and forever, no this nation.
They are not totally consumed, they are not utterly destroyed, they will be back. I want you to focus on the word Mercies in Verse 22, to the Lord's mercies, we are not consumed, and very often in the Bible in the Old Testament, that word is translated, loving kindness. Loving kindness, you have read that, loving kindness, here it's mercy.
It's not an easy word to translate, it's 250 times it appears, it's the Hebrew word Hesed, we would say H-E-S-E-D, Hesed, and it means Loyal love, merciful love, covenant love, the love of a merciful God, who has a covenant or an agreement with the group of people. And so God says, "I will -- because I have a covenant with the Jews, I will show mercy, not because they deserve it, but because I have a covenant with them." It's a beautiful word, 250 times loving kindness or mercy, covenant love. And this is where the New Testament really gets awesome, because the covenant that God made with you, is that if you just believe in Jesus Christ, you enter into an covenant relationship with God. He is your Father, you are His child. All of your sins are washed away, so that when you blow it, you don't have to go, excuse me, I can't talk to you, and I can't even talk to God, I got to go kill a lamb and shed it's blood, and get all that ceremony done and then I am right with God, you don't have to do that, it's been done.
Once and for all, by the Saviour on the Cross. So, the covenant now, is at anytime you sin, you immediately confess your sin, it's cleansed. It's cleansed, so the ability of God to show mercy in the New Covenant far exceeds any of the previous covenants setup. Now look at that, "great is thy faithfulness". Great is your faithfulness, it says. There is a hymn, and I think next we are going to close with it tonight. Written by Thomas Chishlom, he was raised as an illiterate man in Franklin, Kentucky and he said that, "you should never fail to record God's unfailing faithfulness." And so he wrote a song.
Great is Thy faithfulness, oh 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 hands have provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!
That was based upon this very scripture that we are reading, God's faithfulness to man.
In affliction, Verse 31.
"The Lord will not cast off forever, though He causes grief, yet He will now show compassion according to the multitude of His mercies."
Chapter 4, the fourth dirge, Jeremiah looks over and surveys the Carnegie of the City and gives a very detail description of the Carnegie.
How is the gold become dim! How changed the fine gold, the stones of the sanctuary are scattered at the head of every street." May be, he was referring to those precious breastplate stones of the high priest that had been destroyed and scattered now around the city.
"The Lord has fulfilled His fury; He has poured out His fierce anger, He kindled the fire in Zion and it has the devoured it's foundations." "The kings of the earth, all the inhabitants of the world would not have believed that the adversary and the enemy could enter the gates of Jerusalem."
It's interesting, this is an interesting description as if to say, even the people around, they could check us out, and they knew that we had something like special deal going on with God. He seemed to bless this country, and bless this land, and bless the leaders, bless the kings, and protect us, and truly, during David and Solomon's reign, Jerusalem reached it's zenith, and it was under special care and protection. In the mid rash, again some of the oral writings of the Jews, the Jews had a saying, "The land of Israel is at the center of the world." Jerusalem is at the center of the land of Israel, and the temple is at the center of Jerusalem. As if to say, the very epicenter of the whole earth is the temple mount in Jerusalem, and that has proven to be historically accurate.
Who would have believed that on the ninth of Av, it would be destroyed by the Babylonians? Who would have believed when Harold rebuilt that huge temple on the Temple Mount, that it could again be destroyed on the very same day, on 9-11, of the Hebrew Calendar?
"The reasons for judgment, because of the sins of her prophets And the iniquities of her priests, Who have shed in her midst The blood of the just." "They wandered, blind, in the streets; They were defiled with blood So that no one could touch their garments."
The leadership was corrupt. The very people who were to represent God to the people, and represent the people before God, they themselves were corrupt. And why? There seems to have been no fear of the Lord. Ever heard that little phrase? The fear of the Lord, usually we hear that when we were kids, and our parents, I am going to put the fear of God in you.
We go, oh no. It's such a wonderful phrase, too bad it has been ruined. The fear of the Lord have a reverential awe, and respect for the God who loves us? And to walk in such ways to be fearful of displeasing Him. I love Him so much. It is to say my greatest fear is that, I would live in a way that doesn't please the Lord. There was none of that in the leadership of Jerusalem, and so judgment came.
There is an engraving in a cathedral, in Germany, Lübeck, Germany. I have shared this with you before. It's a haunting phrase over this cathedral. This is what it says, engraved over the entrance, "Thus speaketh Christ, our Lord. You call me Master, but you obey Me not. You call Me light, but you see Me not. You call Me the way, but you walk Me not. You call Me life, but you live Me not. You call Me wise, and yet you follow Me not. And so if I condemn thee, then blame Me not.".
He could have written that over the temple in Jerusalem, because they were saying all the right things about the God, not living any of it. No fear of the Lord before their eyes, and if I condemn thee, then blame Me not, and the city was Judged.
"Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom, you who dwell in land of Uz", heard of the word named Uz? Where do you live, Uz? Remember, Job lived in Land of Uz, down in Saudi Arabia, down in the desert. The cup shall pass over to you, and you shall become drunk, and make yourself naked. The punishment of your inequity is accomplished, O daughter of Zion! He will no longer send you into captivity, He will punish your inequity, O daughter of Edom! He will uncover your sins. See, Edom, the neighbor, the neighbors lived south-east, they were clapping at Jerusalem's fall. They were promoting joy over Jerusalem's fall. And so God is going to deal with them, Jeremiah prays that God would.
Now we have the fifth and final dirge, in four minutes we will finish it up, five minutes, good. Fifth chapter, five minutes. Now there are 22 Verses in Chapter 5, just to have finished, what I explained before, this chapter is not an acrostic, it breaks from the flow of the previous four chapters, and this is simply a prayer, a prayer of Jeremiah, for the captives.
Remember O Lord, what has come upon us, look and behold our reproach.
"Our inheritance, has been turned over to aliens, not the Roosevelt kind, but the foreigner kind. Well, you got to say that these days, because there are a lot of people looking for aliens everywhere. And our houses to foreigners.
"Princess, watch this, princess were hung by their hands; and elders were not respected. This could be a direct reference to the practice of crucification. The Romans did not invent the crucification, the Persians did. Other nations adopted it, the Romans perfected it, and used it widely.
Now let me tell you a little bit about crucification. To hang from a cross was based upon the Persian belief that the earth was sacred, they called it Mother Earth. It was so sacred, a person shouldn't die on the earth, he should be lifted off the ground, and placed on some impaling pole, their hands stretched out. That's where crucification came from, was the weird belief, that the earth was sacred. So they would raise people up, and crucify them. And as I said, the Roman's, for insurrection and murder, followed practiced.
"The crown has fallen from our head; Woe to us, for we have sinned!"
"You, O Lord, remain forever, Your throne from generation to generation." "Why do you forget us, forever, and forsake us for so long a time?" Now I ask you candidly, aren't you glad, Jeremiah said that, and that this is written down, and I'll tell you why you should be? Because you and I have thought the same thing from time to time, and it's written in the Bible.
Here is Holy people who trusted God, and were Prophets, who even said, "Wait a minute God, are You up there? How come I keep praying, and seems like You have forgotten us completely?" Now God hasn't, the book does end with a note of hope.
Now here is the feeling of this prophet, why do you forget us forever?
"Turn us back to You, O Lord, and we will be restored, renew our days, as of old." "Unless You have utterly rejected us, and are very angry with us."
Did you know that what happened to these guys, what we are reading was predicted long ago, to the same people group, in the Book of Deuteronomy? Listen to these words, Deuteronomy Chapter 4, I am going to read just a few verse. Verse 26.
God says, "I call heaven and Earth to witness against you this day, that you will soon utterly perish from this land which you crossover to Jordan to possess, you will not prolong your days in it, you will be utterly destroyed." "And the Lord will scatter you among the peoples; and you would be left few in number among the nations where the Lord will drive you." "And there you will serve God's, the work of man's hands, wood and stone, which neither see nor hear, eat nor smell." " But from there, you will seek the Lord, your God, and you will find Him, if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul."
"When you are in distress, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, when you turn to the Lord, your God, and obey His voice." "For the Lord, your God is a Merciful God, He will not forsake you, nor will He destroy you, nor will He forget the covenant of your fathers, which He swore to them."
God told them this is going to happen. You are going to blow it so bad, I am going to kick You out of your land, but when you are in that foreign land, I also know, because I am merciful, and I am all-knowing, you can be so fed up with your sin, you are going to cry out to Me, and I am going to hear you, and I am going to bring you back. I am going to bring you back into this land. So here, enter in the land, in few generations, you will be kicked out of the land, but I am going to bring you right back.
So really Lamentations ends with hope, in spite of suffering, in spite of Judah's sin. And even in the tears, Jeremiah knew the God was merciful, and God was faithful, and that His, mercies were new every other morning. And I hope you caught that, that's so wrong, every morning – sounds like, man, I have used up all of God's mercies, there is no way. His love for me today, they are fresh and new every morning, clean slate, fresh start.
I am going to ask you this question as you close. As you walk through life, are you the kind, do you focus more on the bumps in the road, or on the rest of the road, that has no bumps? These are horrible roads, there are bumps on it. Yeah, but by and large, 90% of it, is nice. So do you focus on the bad stuff, or do you focus on all the other great stuff. Here's Jeremiah, looking at a big bump in the road, captivity is a huge bump. And he says, you know, what I have learned? God is faithful, and He is merciful, every morning, that's what you need to focus on. And to say in the midst of your suffering, "God, You are faithful, God You are merciful, Your compassions fail not.
There is a guy who joined a monastery, in Spain, Montserrat Spain,
on mountain. It's a very odd kind of a sect of the church that required that all of the people who go to the monastery, live in absolute silence, they are only permitted to speak, once every two years, and only speak two words. So one guy joined the monastery, complete silence, after two years, he was brought in for his two word interview. The guy says, "what do you have to say?" The guy after the first year said, "food, horrible". Went back to work, whole another year went by, at the end of the year, then another year, he goes in for two more words, "what you got to say?" He said, "bed, lumpy." Kept working for another couple of years, two years later comes in for his another two word interview, and finally the same guy says, "I quit," and his supervisor says, "well, it's no wonder, all you have done since you arrived here was complain, complain, complain."
If in the midst of your world, your generation, your chaotic society, what words express your heart? Bad deal, horrible existence, or bless God, great is His faithfulness.
Heavenly Father, we just want to thank You tonight. We thank You that even in severe times, there is what C.S. Lewis called a severe mercy. Every morning, everyday, inexhaustible, for us, for Your children to enjoy, Lord help us to see, give us spiritual eyes to focus and be ever thankful, and ever mindful. That You hone us, and You shape us, and You chasten us, because You love us. The spankings are because You love us. To draw us back to You. And so You will sometimes dole out hurts, that You might turn back hearts to You. I pray that our hearts would turn to You, and we would rest in You, we would not become bitter people, but better because of suffering and affliction. In Jesus name, Amen!