Thursday, November 30, 2006

Lamentations 3:19 – 26
“The Power of Hope”

“And hope does not disappoint us...” [Romans 5:5a]

“Suffering produces perseverance; [4] perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:3b, 4]

The first theme we will look at this Christmas season is “hope.” It is one of the missing elements in our country and church right now. Let’s make three observations about this text.

I. Life can hurt. [vv 19 – 20]

A. [v 19] There is pain given to us by other people and life.

1. “Affliction” refers to distress with mental or bodily pain.

a. Verbal abuse = mental pain, when we are told we are of no worth.

b. Physical abuse = physical pain.

2. Some people use general cruelty as an attempt to build themselves up.

3. Sometimes it is the circumstances of life, beyond our control.

B. [v 19] There is the pain we cause ourselves.

1. “Wandering” refers to the image of someone who has left home (e.g. the “prodigal” son).

a. There is the misery of being alone (sometimes even when married).

b. There is the misery of having nothing (even when rich).

c. The spiritual analogy:

“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way...”Isaiah 53:6a
“...Therefore the people wander like sheep oppressed for lack of a shepherd.” Zechariah 10:2b

2. Chastisement is the Eastern understanding of “bitterness and gall.”

a. This is the natural result of sin.

b. It is “self-inflicted.”

c. It is God correcting us, before it is to late.

C. [v 19] There is pain give to us by sin.

1. “Bitterness and gull.”

a. “Bitterness” is the word for a bitter herb (wormwood).

b. “Gall” is the bitter secretion of the liver.

c. We get a double dose. “Bitterness” is ingested (created externally) and “gull” is produced internally.

2. Bitterness has consequences!

“See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Hebrews 12:15

a. “Trouble” means to be disturbed. This is a lack of harmony and gives us a picture of EMOTIONAL problems.

b. “Defile” gives the idea of being poisoned or polluted. The picture it gives is of SPIRITUAL problems.

D. [v 20] Pain that accumulates.

1. “Down cast” is the image of sinking or being thrown down.

a. It is an Old Testament image of being depressed.

b It is an Old Testament image of being in despair.

The Bible says, “...heartache crushes the spirit.” [Proverbs 15:13b]
The Bible says, “An anxious heart weighs a man down...” [Proverbs 12:25a]
The Bible says, “...a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” [Proverbs 17:22b]
The Bible says, “A man's spirit sustains him in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?” [Proverbs 18:14]

2. There is a good sorrow (leads to repentance) and a bad sorrow.

a. In “Pilgrim’s Progress,” Pilgrim gets off the path and ends up imprisoned in the “Dungeon Despair.”

b. What do you want when you get to this point?

1.) The trouble is that we want relief from suffering.

2.) The cure really is in God.

***** In God there is “hope” not relief! An hope does not disappoint us. *****

II. Love can heal. [vv 22 – 24]

A. The Lord’s great love.

1. The Lord’s love protects us. It is our “heat shield.” (Ill. Space shuttle)

2. The Hebrew word is “(c)hesed” and it refers to a covenant and unfailing love. It is possibly the most important word/concept in the Old Testament because it is the basis of all that God does and requires (in the Old Testament).

3. This “loving kindness” is the foundation of the New Testament word/concept of “grace.”

4. God’s “(c)hesed” is undeserved, unearned, unmerited. It is God’s “want too.”

B. [v 22] God’s compassion:

1. It never fails, never comes to an end.

a. Even when we deserve the worst, God wants to give and do the best.

b. [v 32] “Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.”

c. Also see Romans 8:35 – 39

2. The key issue is wether we TRUST God... (Someone has said the reason we sin is because of the “sneaking” suspicion that God is not good... in other words, that we can not trust God.)

C. [v 23] God’s mercies are new every morning.

1. NOT yesterday and NOT tomorrow.

a. You cannot live today off yesterday’s lunch.

b. You can not dream of the future and fail to live today.

2. “Todayness”

Jesus said, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” [Matthew 6:34]

III. The Lord is good [vv 25 – 26] so there are three things to do.

A. [v 25] DEPEND on God.

1. “Hope” means to look for, expect. It is not “wishful thinking.”

The Bible says, “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. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” [2 Corinthians 4:17 – 18]

The Bible says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” [Romans 8:18]

2. The circumstances of right now will not last. (Ill.) A famous preacher was once asked about his cerebral palsy said, “it is life-long but temporary.”

3. Why can we depend on God? God is good, all the time.

B. [v 25] DEEPEN your relationship with God.

1. “Seek the Lord.”

The Bible says, “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. [13] You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” [Jeremiah 29:11, 13]

2. Two tools:

a. Read the Bible!

b. Pray!

C. [v 26] DEVELOP trust in God.

1. [v 26] Wait quietly before God.

a. It is good to wait quietly in contrast to our know-it-all and mindless activity. It seems everyone has an answer, but only God has the solution.

b. Salvation comes from depending on God, not our efforts for salvation (ours or others).

2. Stop thrashing! (Ill.) “Quick sand” is only about waist deep. We get in trouble when we thrash.

a. Don’t panic. Panic loses perspective.

b. Don’t fear. Fear is a weapon of the enemy.

c. Give up self-effort. Depend on God’s kindness.

3. We are “programed” to not trust.

a. We tell our children “don’t talk to strangers” (for safety in today’s world, this is important).

b. We know “don’t let the salesman get a foot in the door.” (Ever let a Kirby or Rainbow sales rep. in your house?)

c. The TV commercials blare, “don’t pay more than you have too.” (It is proven that people will complain more about a $2 burger than a $20,000 car.)

4. We have to deliberately develop trust in God.
Conclusion:

1. Life can hurt. This hurt can be given to us or self-inflicted. In God there is hope because of His love.

2. Love can heal. God’s love is unfailing/covenant love. God’s love is found in “todayness.” The healing power of God’s love comes from God’s goodness.

3. Three things to do: DEPEND on God. DEEPEN your relationship with God. DEVELOP trust in God.

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