Sermon Series: Finding God
Sermon Title: God Is Good, No Matter What
Text: Lamentations 3:22-30
Date September 21, 2008
The beginning of a path is always the most important. If you miss the entrance, and you never walk the path. The gate that so many Christians think they have walked through but never have, can be found in an idea so simple that we often miss it.
You know you are finding God when you believe that God is good no matter what happens.
We will know that we have found God when nothing can shake our confidence in his unchanging goodness. NOT
When plane crashes that kill love ones.
Positive biopsies that shatter dreams.
When you receive the news that your son is killed or wounded in Iraq.
Unexpected unemployment that fill every thought of tomorrow with fear.
Unfaithful spouses that rip our heart to pieces.
Rebellious children that provoke both unimaginable pain and self doubt.
Battles with self hatred that make every mention of identity in Christ sound like mockery.
Memories of abuse that haunt every waking moment and excite every nightmare.
Personal failure that shreds the last remnants of hope.
Difficult decisions in which either direction involves significant loss.
Consuming loneliness that covers your soul like a fog.
Maintaining our faith in God’s goodness in these times is not easy. Where was God during my rape, cries a victim. Don’t tell me he was there, I already believe that, but why didn’t he do something? I didn’t know my little boy was playing behind our car. I backed over him and killed him sobs a father. How could a good God allow that?
No one will conclude that God is good by studying life! The evidence powerfully suggest otherwise. Belief in the goodness of God and the worship that flows from this confidence depends on the revealing work of the Holy Spirit. When he ushers us into the presence of ultimate goodness, when our darkest tragedy is pierced by one glimpse of invisible glory, then faith is born.
The faith that is given by God’s Spirit makes self concern unnecessary. We know that we are in good hands no matter what come. So then we relax and get on with the purpose of life on this earth, worshiping God, and advancing his kingdom. You know you are finding God when you believe that God is good no matter what happens
As we examine this section of Lamentations 3, allow me to set the stage by giving you an illustration.
She sits among the ruins, slumped slightly to one side. Her elbow rests on the arm of her throne, supporting her chin. Her gaze is turned downward in a resolute frown. Her aspect reveals that she has endured great suffering, a grief too deep for words, perhaps even for tears. Though the crown on her head gives her a regal air, she is despondent.
The queen who answers to this description was carved into stone by William Westmore Story (1819–1895). Story’s sculpture establishes an imposing presence in the galleries of Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. The inscription at the base of the woman’s throne identifies her as “Jerusalem in Her Desolation.”
The queenly city William Story carved into stone is Jerusalem personified, the Jerusalem that barely survived the tragic events described at the end of the book of Jeremiah. She had already experienced all the indignities and indecencies of the Babylonian assault. After a long siege, the city finally fell to Nebuchadnezzar in 587 B.C., and her citizens were deported to Babylon. Story’s sculpture depicts the aftermath—a city still numb with grief. The crumbled bits of mortar around her suggest a city in ruins. Yet the most significant detail is the tiny serpent slithering near the queen’s feet. The serpent stands for sin, showing that Jerusalem’s desolation was the result of her disobedience.
Not surprisingly, Story based his work on Lamentations, a forgotten book written in the days following Jerusalem’s fall to Babylon. Lamentations is closely related to the events described in the book of Jeremiah. It is not so much a sequel to Jeremiah, however, as it is a response. The book’s melancholy, almost plaintive tone is apparent from its very first verse, which laments the triple disaster of childlessness, widowhood, and slavery:
We come to the highpoint of Lamentations
The Affirmation: 3: 22-24
God’s Love. This verse employs two ancient words to picture God’s love. The Hebrew word hesed, sometimes translated as “covenant love” or “loyal love,” is a word that has the basic meaning of loyalty or faithfulness, especially as related to the covenant initiated by God; the word involves obligations to family, friends, and the community. These appear throughout the whole Old Testament whenever God’s Covenant with his people is recalled. The word hesed is the noun that Hosea, for example, makes good use of when he speaks of God’s unchanging, loyal, steadfast love towards his people (Hos. 2:19). This love never changes, quite simply because God never changes.
Another basis of hope is God’s unfailing “compassions”; from a word related to the womb, it describes the tender, caring love of a mother), which are experienced in a fresh new way every day. It occurs in the mouth of God at that moment when he gave Israel his Covenant (Exod. 33:19). Exodus 33:19 HCSB 19 He said, “I will cause all My goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim the name Yahweh before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” The emphasis of this word is clearly on compassion and mother-love. Both these nouns occur in our v. 22 in the plural; thus they mean ‘expressions of steadfast, compassionate love—a new expression thereof for each new morning!
Next God’s Faithfulness. The word used for faithfulness is related to our word amen. The word amen says so be it. This is what Job spoke about in Job 1:21 HCSB 21 saying: Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Praise the name of the Lord.
The word is that of constancy, reliability. It was a unique characteristic of the Lord. Contrary to the way neighboring peoples viewed their gods, the Jews now understood their God to be faithful to them, and there is no greater hope than knowing that God is totally reliable. God had always been faithful (Exod 34:6–7) Exodus 34:6-7 HCSB 6 Then the Lord passed in front of him and proclaimed: Yahweh—Yahweh is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth, 7 maintaining faithful love to a thousand ⌊generations⌋, forgiving wrongdoing, rebellion, and sin. But He will not leave ⌊the guilty⌋ unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ wrongdoing on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation.. The point here is that the people finally realized it. Often in life people do not realize the faithfulness of God until the “bottom has fallen out” of their lives. In Lam 3 the “faithfulness” of God is to be interpreted in light of his promise to destroy, which he has done, and his promise to restore, which he would do. The poet realized that restoration was on its way, both nationally and individually.
You and I ARE NOT reliable. Even though we do not want to we fail, we disappoint, but God is faithful. This is where our hymn comes from, Great Is Thy Faithfulness.
The Lord Is Our Portion The Lord is my share or inheritance. Numbers 18:20 HCSB 20 The Lord told Aaron, “You will not have an inheritance in their land; there will be no portion among them for you. I am your portion and your inheritance among the Israelites. The chief possession and delight of Levi was, like those suffering, to be in the LORD. Psalm 73:26 HCSB 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever. Psalm 119:57 HCSB 57 The Lord is my portion; I have promised to keep Your words.
The Lord is about hope in Him. It is not a maybe so, might be, most of the time will be, but this hope has the solid confidence and the highest degree of certainty because it is well grounded in the God of all grace, mercy, and faithfulness. His love and mercy to us are unending.
The Admonition of the Lord, 25-30
In the next three verses, 25-27, they begin in the Hebrew with the word good. The word is the same word God used in the first two chapters of Genesis 1-2, when he speaks about what God has done in creation. Genesis 1:3-4 HCSB 3 Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness. It may be understood here in the sense of God’s re-creating Israel after the destruction of Jerusalem (cf. the destruction of the world and the re-creation of it in Gen 6–9).
Christians who suffer do more than suffer. They also wait. This is not the passive waiting of stoic endurance. It is rather an active resting in the goodness of God, with the hopeful expectation that someday one’s trials will come to an end. There are times when the only thing a sufferer can do is wait for God. But waiting is good because God is worth waiting for. His salvation will come in due course, provided one surrenders to his will and to his timing.
These verses, in which Jeremiah praises God for his faithful mercies and surrenders to his timetable for salvation, form the climax of the book of Lamentations. According to the canons of Hebrew poetry, the most important truths are contained in a work’s center. In these verses, which form the heart of Jeremiah’s third lament, the prophet reaches a place of comfort and hope that marks a turning point in his spiritual experience.
Once again, we remind you a turning point can be in our life if we wait upon God’s timing.
The Little pray, God is Good, God is great. Let us thank Him for our food. Amen.
Our problems are rooted in the suspicion that God is not good or is not good enough. So when we think that God looks bad, sin looks good. The determination to take matters into our own hands seems perfectly logical. This doubt passes on like a virus to every human being except ONE. That Person, gave us reason to replace our doubt with faith. Jesus Christ has made his Father known and delights to continue making Him known. We find God through Christ, there is no other way.
So the principle You know you are finding God when you believe that God is good no matter what happens. Stated another way, Finding God is developing, through Christ, an unshakable confidence in God’s absolute goodness and perfect love no matter what we may experience in this life.
Finding God means to rest in his goodness through poverty, blindness, crop failures, and plane crashes. Finding God means to face all of life, both good and bad, with a spirit of trust. We must reflect confidence in God in all our relationship and activities, in all our joys and sorrows.
When we approach God with the attitude of an unworthy beggar whose only hope is the kindness of another, like the prodigal son, who knew his own sin, yet trusted in his father’s love to forgive. God will then tear away the veil that separates us and runs to meet us with a ring, a robe, and a feast. God patiently arranges things in our lives so that we experience him as the one who satisfies our souls, as a good God who never intends anything but our joy.
God wants to be found. He delights to be known. Our search for God must be on HIS terms. Those terms involve a transformation from our natural inclination to evaluate His goodness. God will not tolerate others sitting in judgment of Him. We are not the judges. We are the judged, the forgiven, and the invited. Psalm 34:8 HCSB 8 Taste and see that the Lord is good. How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!
You Believe God, rather than the fallen one, who wants you to Doubt God.
You no longer doubt, but believe in God’s goodness.
You no longer feel terror, but feel calm at his words.
You no longer feel rage, but want to worship.
So we pray, God is Good, God is Great, God truly loves me. God is the one who gives me strength and power. God is worthy of all worship and praise