TODAY’S READING FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT- LAMENTATIONS 2:2- 3:66
The prophet (most likely Jeremiah) laments the tragedy of Judah’s fall in 587 BC. During the siege of Jerusalem, conditions were so bleak that the starving people resorted to cannibalism (Lamentations 2:20). The writer recognizes that this horrific situation is a result of the people turning away from God. The wages of sin is death (Romans 3:23).
The hand of the Lord is laid heavily upon the rebellious people, and there seems to be no relief in sight. The prophet makes his complaint to the Lord because he knows that these judgments have come upon them from His hand.
In these judgments we get a taste of the Divine wrath against sin that Jesus bore on the cross. The prophet reports the judgments in Chapter 3 as if they are all being borne by one man (Lamentations 3:1-21). The prophet is putting himself in the place of the nation.
Lamentations 3:1-2 1 I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath; 2 he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light.
This man who puts himself as a substitute for the nation is mindful that God’s goodness is behind the righteous judgments that have now fallen upon him, and that God will ultimately bring about the redemption He has promised.
Lamentations 3:21-26 21 This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. 22 The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. 24 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” 25 The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him. 26 It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the LORD.
This is a glimpse into the Savior’s soul.
It may surprise you that the context of the words that inspired the wonderful hymn of praise, “Great is Thy Faithfulness”, expressing the mind of the sin-bearing substitute as he bore the judgment of God’s people upon himself, the tragic calamity of Jerusalem’s destruction.
The God who brought the curses of Deuteronomy 28 upon them, would also bring about the restoration promised in Deuteronomy 30.
Deuteronomy 30:1-3 1 “So it shall be when all of these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind in all nations where the LORD your God has banished you, 2 and you return to the LORD your God and obey Him with all your heart and soul according to all that I command you today, you and your sons, 3 then the LORD your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you.
God’s discipline upon the people of Judah is the work of a loving Father.
According to God’s method of external chastisement for sin, Judah is going to have a 70-year ‘time out’ for its many transgressions. The prospect is that they would come back to their covenant responsibilities to walk as the people of God.
Lamentations 3:27-29 27 It is good for a man that he should bear the yoke in his youth. 28 Let him sit alone and be silent since He has laid it on him. 29 Let him put his mouth in the dust, perhaps there is hope.
The Lord has His purposes in these severe dealings:
Hebrews 12:10-11 10 … He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. 11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
God’s discipline is not without good purpose. He has the people’s best interests in view. He wants them to turn back to Him and be restored to fellowship.
Lamentations 3:31-33 31 For the Lord will not reject forever, 32 For if He causes grief, then He will have compassion according to His abundant lovingkindness. 33 For He does not afflict willingly or grieve the sons of men.
In all these dealings, God is a good sovereign. He is in control.
Lamentations 3:37-39 37 Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? 38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both good and ill go forth? 39 Why should any living mortal, or any man, offer complaint in view of his sins?
Our punishments for sin are deserved. The wonder is that Mercy has triumphed over Judgment at the cross, and guilty hell-deserving sinners can be justly pardoned by a Holy God.
Although the writer of Lamentations is unnamed, it is difficult to deny that Jeremiah is the author. The echoes of the weeping prophet are heard in these pages.
Lamentations 3:49-51 49 My eyes pour down unceasingly, without stopping, 50 until the LORD looks down and sees from heaven. 51 My eyes bring pain to my soul because of all the daughters of my city.
The sufferings described here sound like those experienced by Jeremiah, and once again they foreshadow the sufferings of Christ (Lam 3:55-63).
The final 3 verses are a cry for vengeance. Notice that this acrostic poem is three times the length of the others. This is because in the original Hebrew, this poem is a triple acrostic. The first three verses begin with the letter ‘aleph’, the Hebrew equivalent of ‘A’. The next three verses each begin with the equivalent of the letter ‘B’. This continues for each of the twenty-two letters. Whereas the first, second, and fourth chapters are acrostic poems with 22 verses each, each verse beginning with the sequential letter of the alphabet, the third poem as a triple acrostic has 66 verses.
TODAY’S READING FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT – HEBREWS 1:1-14
The Book of Hebrews is written to dissuade Jewish church members from retreating to their old-time religion of Judaism. It is likely that at this time, Jews in the synagogues were offered greater protection from persecution than those identifying publicly with Yeshua, Jesus, the Christ.
Perhaps the trouble that accompanied identification with Jesus, the Messiah, was more than what they bargained for.
The writer makes a very clear argument that the Old Testament was full of foreshadowing’s of Christ. The New Covenant was better. To retreat to the apparent safety of Judaism, after seeing that the Expected Messiah has come in Jesus of Nazareth, is akin to wanting to eat the menu at the restaurant instead of the delicious meal it pictures.
‘God’ is the first word in the Book of Hebrews. And He has revealed Himself fully and finally in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 1:1-4 1 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.
The writer superbly describes Jesus’ deity and perfect humanity:
3 And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.
The word ‘better’ is used 13 times in this book of 13 chapters. The writer shows the superiority of Jesus Christ, and the perfection of His way of salvation over the types and foreshadowing’s of the Old Testament and the Hebrew system of religion. The writer will give reasons for the superiority of Christ as the ‘anti-type’ or the fulfillment of the Old Testament ‘types’. Jesus is the substance of which these Old Testament pictures were shadows.
Another word that is repeated in this book is ‘perfect’. The Greek word translated ‘perfect’ is used ‘14’ times and it describes the absolute sufficiency of Christ’s finished work of redemption which He perfectly accomplished on the cross.
Hebrews 10:1 1 For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near.
Those who believe in the Person and work of Christ are granted the free gift of a perfect standing before God.
Hebrews 10:14 14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.
As the writer describes the superiority of Jesus Christ over the angels (Heb 1:4-14), we learn that among their many functions, the angels are appointed to be ministering spirits to those men and women, boys and girls, who are heirs of salvation.
Hebrews 1:12-13 13 But to which of the angels has He ever said, “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET”? 14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PSALMS – PSALMS 102:1-28
Psalm 102 is one of the seven ‘Penitential Psalms’ (the others being Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 130, and 143). The first-person singular is used- ‘I’, ‘my’, and ‘me’. The Psalmist is pouring out his personal complaint.
In the first section (Psalm 102:1-11), in a similar fashion to what we read in Lamentations, we see what is being felt is a punishment from God coming upon one man. And yet this man waits in hope, expectant of God’s favor coming to rest upon Zion.
Notice the description of one who is alienated from fellowship. The Psalmist gives us a picture of the loneliness that comes from separation from God and others.
Psalm 102:6-7 6 I resemble a pelican of the wilderness; I have become like an owl of the waste places. 7 I lie awake, I have become like a lonely bird on a housetop.
In the central portion (Psalm 102:12-22), there is no reference to this person, only to the Lord, His throne, His compassion, the nations, the kings of the earth and the rebuilding of Zion.
Psalm 102:21 anticipates the glorious purpose of the Kingdom age:
Psalm 102:21-22 21 That men may tell of the name of the LORD in Zion and His praise in Jerusalem, 22 When the peoples are gathered together, and the kingdoms, to serve the LORD.
In verse 23, the personal pronouns return. But now, instead of pouring out a complaint, the Psalmist is seeing the unfolding of an eternal plan and putting his hope in it.
Psalm 102:28 28 “The children of Your servants will continue, and their descendants will be established before You.”
We are reading in verses 25-27 what was quoted in our New Testament reading in Hebrews Chapter 1:10-12:
Psalm 102:25-27 25 “Of old You founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. 26 “Even they will perish, but You endure; and all of them will wear out like a garment; like clothing You will change them, and they will be changed. 27 “But You are the same, and Your years will not come to an end.
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PROVERBS – PROVERBS 26:21-22
Proverbs 26:21-22 21 Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife. 22 The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, and they go down into the innermost parts of the body.
Are you a relational fire-starter, or fire-fighter promoting peace? Whispering, the sin of gossip, seems harmless, perhaps even popular at the time. But it contaminates internally as well as being externally destructive.
PRAY FOR THE NATIONS – SOUTH AFRICA
(from “Operation World” Prayer Guide)
Republic of South Africa
Area: 1,218,363 sq km
A republic with nine provinces at the southernmost point of Africa. Relatively well watered in the east; arid with increasing desertification toward the west coast.
Population: 50,492,408 Annual Growth: 0.99%
Capital: Cape Town (legislative). Pretoria (administrative). Bloemfontein (judicial)
Official language: – all the major ethnic languages. English and Afrikaans are the main languages in higher education Languages: 11 All languages
Largest Religion: Christian
Answer to Prayer
Prayer initiatives started in South Africa have gone on to impact the entire world. The Global Day of Prayer started in Cape Town and is now observed in every country in the world by hundreds of millions of Christians. Groups such as Transformation Africa and Jericho Walls also have profound spiritual influences far beyond South Africa. The Mighty Men weekend conferences impacted the hundreds of thousands who attended with a muscular and uncompromised gospel message.
Challenge for Prayer
The legacy of apartheid continues to impact the nation. Despite progress in some areas, inequalities and injustices of the past continue to shape the future. Pray especially for:
- a) Reconciliation among all races. This applies not just to black-white dynamics, but also to colored and Indian peoples as well as to relationships among various black ethnicities. The “rainbow nation” must still deal with contempt, mistrust and deep-seated hurts and fears among peoples of this diverse but troubled land. Pray that the Church might lead the way by living out the truth of oneness in Christ Jesus.
- b) Poverty and economic inequality. Land redistribution and affirmative action in employment are contentious initiatives that seek to assist the previously disadvantaged, but they come at a cost to the efficient running of the economy. Extremes of wealth and poverty persist. The black majority itself includes a wealthy elite and a poor majority, but the middle class is growing. Pray for economic measures that might uplift those most needing assistance without crippling the effective running of the economy.
- c) Rape and violent crime rates are alarmingly high. The proliferation of illegal firearms, poverty, desperation and lack of justice fuels hopelessness and anarchy. Pray for those working for justice and for people’s safety – especially pray for the beleaguered police force. Pray for Christian ministries working with children at risk, jobless young people, prisoners and the police force. Pray that the spirit of violence – both physical and sexual – might be bound under the authority of Christ.
PRAYER: How excellent is Your Name in all the earth, O God! You reign in righteousness. Your judgments are just and true. Your covenant love is demonstrated in the profound mercy shown to us at Calvary by our faithful sin-bearing Substitute. Lord Jesus, thank You for enduring the cross and the punishment due our sin on our behalf. Your steadfast focus on the joy set before You, the full satisfaction of the Father and the reconciliation of sinners to Yourself, caused You to despise the shame and press on in perfect obedience. Great is Your Faithfulness! Thank You for Your many comforts and the ministry of your secret agents, the angels assigned to the heirs of salvation. Keep us from opting for the apparent comforts and conveniences of compromise and make us bold witnesses to Your perfect salvation. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.