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O Lord, Great is thy Faithfulness

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O Lord, Great is Thy Faithfulness,

(But, What About Mine?)

Keeping your yesterdays

Out of your tomorrows

Lamentations 3:22-24

    The book of Lamentations begins with an obscure word and in an obtuse way.  In the original language we understand that the author begins by simply asking, how?  Upon further examination, we come to understand that maybe this is not such an obscure or obtuse way to begin at all.

    The most widely accepted authorship is given to the prophet, Jeremiah.  We find Jeremiah in the city of Judah, witness to a spectacle. 

In chapter 1 and 2:  The plight of the People:

God had sent this terrible judgment on His people because His people had rebelled against Him and rejected His warnings; Warnings that had been given to them through the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah.

    The people were experiencing this judgment because they failed by choice to take heed to

Jeremiah’s warnings.  He had warned them that if they persisted in rebelling, God would send the Babylonians. 

In chapter 1:1-3-18:  Describes “hopelessness”

    They had three problems, namely:  1) the rod of discipline - Babylon, 2) darkness - picture of defeat and despair, and 3) Jeremiah looked very old, felt hemmed in by walls; felt God had slammed the door on him; his splendor was gone, there was no hope in the city or in the prophet’s hearts; everything hoped for was lost. Then, they were experiencing God’s judgment because they had held to three false hopes:

q       The Davidic dynasty

q       The sacred temple

q       Help from Egypt

    From these three false hopes and the error of these people, we get three points that we should

consider to prevent the demise of our faithfulness to God, namely:

1.     Retreat from your sin actions

2.     Recognize your covenant responsibilities

3.     Revamp your focus

    Faithfulness has been described as a certainty or dependability.  It certainly describes who God is.  No matter what you do, God cannot be unfaithful because He cannot deny Himself ({2 Tim. 2:13}.  He is steadfast and trustworthy.  He keeps His promises {Heb. 10:23}.

    Jeremiah had the reputation of being the weeping prophet, and rightly so.  He had much to weep about.  Jerusalem was in a mess.  Not much unlike God’s people today.

    In Lamentations we find that the cause of many of their problems stemmed from just plain bad teaching and leadership from some of their priests

and prophets.  The author said that the prophets said so many foolish things that were just false to the core.  They did not point out the sins of the people.  Instead, they painted false pictures and filled them with false hope.  They had itchy ears and wanted their fleshly desires satisfied, so they were opposed to the truth of Jeremiah and Isaiah.  These two were not popular; they were not funny; they were not playing with God’s Word.

    Some prophets fed the people false hope.  False hope is fake hope; false hope is misleading hope; false hope is deceiving hope. Not so unlike today.  Paul told Timothy that the people would flock to the preachers who told them only the thing that they wanted to hear. 

    People, and by people I mean those who call themselves people of God, they don’t want to hear that the soul that sins it shall surely die.  You don’t believe me?  Watch this:

   

    The church has bought into the world’s redefined definitions of sin:

q       When you drink yourself into a stupor, beat up on everyone in the house and show nothing but disregard for your fellow man, that is no longer called sin; those are actions resulting from a disease called alcoholism.

q       When American Baptist, Episcopalian and Methodists church conventions embrace, promote

  or protect homosexuality, that is not sin, that     is allowing for an alternative lifestyle.  A     lifestyle that would seek to corrupt the minds   of our young children, confuse and distort the   clear teaching of the Word of God, a sinful     lifestyle that now promotes itself as “a gift   from god”.

q       When a State Superior court judge is removed from his court, stripped of his career and humiliated publicly and labeled a lawbreaker

because he chooses to display The Ten Commandments in the court building, and the judge that brings the order against him is called a do-gooder; that is calling good evil and evil good in the Bible, a sin.  But the world calls it separation of church and state.

    So we come to Lamentations where the author is mourning and wailing and asking how?  How was he going to cope or deal or continue after the terrible tragedy of the destruction of Jerusalem? Let’s look at the tragedy through Jeremiah’s eyes.

    God had made a covenant with David that his house would never perish and that one of his descendants would forever sit on his throne {2 Sam. 7}.  We know that this covenant was fulfilled in Jesus Christ as Joseph was from David’s line.

    The people thought that this meant that nothing could happen to David’s throne. They expected the Lord to protect the Royal dynasty and keep the

covenant he had made with David, but they didn’t want Him to keep the covenant He made with the nation before they entered the Promised Land. 

    Israel’s title to the land came through the Abrahamic Covenant, but their possessing and enjoying the land depended on their obedience to the covenant; serve the Lord and Him only!

    Secondly, they believed that the Lord would not permit anything to happen to His holy temple.  Jeremiah warned Judah not to trust in lying words, but they did not believe that fat meat was and is greasy.

    They were proud of the city and the temple.  It set on a hill and they thought it to be impregnable, mostly because the Lord’s house was there. 

    It was called the daughter of Zion, the daughter of Judah and the daughter of Jerusalem.  But now she was desolate.  Once she was a princess

who had collected tribute from other nations, but now she was a needy nation herself and forced to give up her treasures just to get the everyday necessities.  So bomber out - count pennies; consider joining the “spare change” people.

    Instead of trusting God, Judah had trusted many nations (lovers and friends), but now she was forsaken. (Say:  Friends have limits). Judah even worshipped the gods of other nations.  She had rejected the Lord, her allies had abandoned her, and therefore, she had no comfort.

    And lastly, the people believed that Egypt would come to their aid.  Hoping for the intervention of Egypt was:

q       Pure illusion

q       Abraham sought refuge in Egypt and got into trouble

q       In the wilderness journey, Israel repeatedly wanted to go back to Egypt, but whenever

Israel put faith in Egypt, the nation always proved to be a broken reed.

    Simply, they looked to the world for help instead of seeking after God with all their hearts.  They forgot that God’s chastening is an expression of His love, a tool He uses to mature His children.  A judge punishes a criminal in order to uphold the law, but a father chastens a child in order to build character into the child and to secure the child of his love.

    The leaders of Judah and most of the people had replaced living faith with dead superstition.  They ignored the covenant and depended on the presence of the temple and its sacred furnishings.

    Even Jeremiah focused on himself instead of the Lord.  He was in pain over God’s wrath on the nation.  He had proclaimed God’s message and warning for 40 years, but the people had not listened.  Even as his proclamations came to past,

the people still did not respect or listen to him.  Instead they sang disrespectable songs about him.  The prophet experienced no “shalom”.  He cried out “My splendor is gone.  Everything I’d hoped for from the Lord is lost.”  Utter despair.

Chapter 3:19-39:

    But this was the turning point for Jeremiah.  His lament caused him to retreat from sin, recognize his covenant responsibilities and to refocus on the Lord.  Jeremiah turned from thinking about his misery (his needs, his hurts, his feelings and his desires) to remembering his covenant responsibilities to seek after God; to serve Him only; and then to refocus and remember God’s mercy.  He still had pain and sorrow, but he also remembered the Lord’s faithfulness and this gave him hope. 

    A.W. Tozer called hope “the divine alchemy that transmutes the base metal of adversity into gold”.

   

    The realization of God’s mercy, compassion, and faithfulness generated hope in Jeremiah’s soul, and his contemplation of trouble became a confession of faith.

    Because the Lord loves us, He chastens us, but He doesn’t consume us.  He disciplines, but He doesn’t destroy.

    We are called to commitment in our walk with the Lord in much the same way that Judah was called to the adherence to the covenant.

    Many are not experiencing the joy of salvation because they are not committed to the task of following the lead of the Spirit.  (1 Tim. 4:7b-8)

    How many of you have had bacon or sausage and eggs for breakfast before?  It has been said that your commitment to God can be illustrated or measured many times by what you ate for breakfast.  It you had eggs they came from a hen.  Now the hen

decided to participate in your breakfast by laying an egg for your consumption.  But the hen only gives enough for you to have to come back to him again.  If, on the other hand, you had bacon or sausage, it came from a hog.  The hog did not only participate, the hog went all the way.  The hog was fully committed to your breakfast.  The hog held nothing back.  The hog died.

    Matthew 16:24 reads:  “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  Following Jesus is the definition of commitment.  Commitment demands a choice; the choice to retreat from sin.  Stop identifying with

the world.  You are not of this world.  You are the children of God and heirs to the promise.  You are dead to sin and now free to walk in the newness of Life eternal.  You don’t have to be entangled again with the yoke of bondage.  The wages of sin is

death, destruction, and invasion of your land, your body, your minds and your peace by foreign agents.  Don’t look like the world; act like the world; think like the world or talk like the world.

    You must recognize your covenant responsibilities.  God said “If you love Me, keep My commandments”.  God does not measure your faithfulness by your worldly success.  He does not determine your faithfulness by how often you enter the church building by how big your home is, or by what kind of car you drive.  He could care less whether you wear St. John suits or Delta Burk’s line from J.C. Penney.  What He cares about is your obedience to His Word.  Are you faithful to your calling?  When things get tight, can He depend on you to worship Him for who He is, anyhow?  When you

don’t get the promotion that you believe you deserve, will you still trust Him?  When you don’t get your way for the program at the church, will

you still come and praise Him?  Are you a hen or a hog?  How long will you last, how far will you go?

    Finally, you have to revamp you focus from self to Jesus.  You have to become committed to God’s plan and God’s way for your life in service to Him. 

    If you want to experience the exhilaration that Jeremiah felt when he remembered the faithfulness of God, then you need to surrender to Him again and again.  Tell Him, Lord, I’m coming out, with my hands up!  I surrender all.  I retreat from sin and confess them now; I recognize my responsibility to You and my walk with You; and I now revamp my focus to you. God is a God of:  new mercies everyday; unfailing love; and unbound faithfulness towards His children.

    Jeremiah lamented and asked how?  You must answer, How can I not?  How can I not commit to and be faithful and obedient to a God of new mercies

everyday; a God of unfailing love; and a God with unbound faithfulness towards His children?

    Then ask why?  Why is God’s faithfulness so great?  How do you know it is so great, preacher?  Well, I’ve read that while we were yet sinners and helpless, Christ died for us.  I certainly am not comparing Christ to a hog, but His commitment surpasses the hog’s.  The hog had his choice and commitment made for him, but Jesus died willingly for your sins, for my sins and forfeited the joy of His Fathers presence just to die for us.

    You might wonder when God’s faithfulness is great.  Well, Jeremiah remembered in the midst of the trial and it has been my experience that in the midst of trouble (like the Hebrew boys in the furnace); in the midst of affliction; and when your engine gives out down in the valley in the darkness, we can have hope.  But hope doesn’t come easily: Tribulations bring perseverance and

peseverance brings proven character, and proven character brings hope. Hope that does not disappoint. He said if we seek Him with all of our heart, we would find Him and He would hear our call.  I am sure that Jesus said that He would never leave us or forsake us, if we obeyed Him.

    Now, how is God’s faithfulness so great?  Well, He is true to His Word.  He cannot lie.  He can not change.  There is not even a shadow of change in Him.  He knows that fat meat is greasy because He made it that way.  Not only did he create this world we live in; not only is He the owner of the earth and all that’s in it; but He has upheld the world in perfect dimension for all these years.  Every morning the sun comes up on the just and the unjust.  Every evening the sun goes down and the moon and stars take its place.  I am told that if the earth is tilted one centimeter from its point

on its axis that the whole place would be in utter chaos.  Only a faithful God can hold it steady.  He promised after the flood that it would never rain long enough to destroy the whole earth, it never has.  He is the God that made a black and white cow to eat green grass and give white milk.  I just know that His faithfulness is great.

    And besides all of that, He looked down the corridors of time and saw that I would not be able to commune with Him on my own merits.  Because He loved me so much and so desperately wanted to fellowship with me, He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ into the world to die so that we could make the choice to obey Him and seek His face.

    He died, knowing that not all would accept Him; He died even as men spat in His face and beat him into a stupor; He died because He was faithful to the will of His Father; He died that we could live.  They hung Him high and stretched Him wide and He

died.  He was buried and He stayed in the grave for three days and on the 3rd day morning He got up because he had said that He would and He is faithful to His Word; He went to prepare a place for you and for me, but He is coming back again and receive us unto Himself, because He said that He was going to return and I know He will because He is faithful to His Word.  Therefore, we can have hope in times like these, if we too are faithful to His Word in obedience.

3 Kinds of Mercy all assigned to God in Lamentations:

1.  Racham - merciful:  cares, expressive, reaching

2.  Chana - gracious:   kind, warm, and satisfying

3.  Chesed - sluggish, lethargic (slow to anger)

    but also abounding: wealthy, thriving, rich, loaded in steadfast love: unwavering, committed, dedicated, loyal and constant.

Unfaithfulness looks at God through the circumstances.  Faith looks at circumstances through the reality of God and finds hope.

Look at yourself and you’ll be depressed;

Look at circumstances and you’ll be distressed;

Look at Jesus and you’ll be blessed.

There will be rough times.  That is how we learn to make it in the really tough times.  It is where your faithfulness tells the story.

The secret of victory in tough times is simply to submit to the Lord and accept the fact that “the Lord has laid it on him” (v. 28), or as my Pastor says:  “The Lord fixes your plate.  You can eat it, and find fullness and contentment; or you can throw a tantrum and go hungry from lack of nourishment.  We must bow before the Lord -- even putting our faces in the dust -- and submit to Him without complaining, knowing that in His time, He will see us through.  In that hour of pain and perplexity,

Jeremiah laid hold of some wonderful assurances that can encourage us now:

§        The Lord doesn’t cast off His people and forget them

§        In the midst of pain, we know He loves us

§        God doesn’t enjoy chastening His own and He feels our pain

§        God sees the way people treat us

§        God is on the throne and in control of all events

§        If He chastens us for our sins, we shouldn’t complain, for even His chastening is evidence of His love.

   


 

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