Lamentations 5 and Psalm 36

Today I finished reading Lamentations 5, the last chapter of the book. This is the first time that I really have understood a little of what the book of Lamentations is about. My exercise to record my daily reading of the Bible and write a few thoughts in this online journal has caused me to spend more time in reflection and thought about what I have read. I have included a small excerpt from D. A. Carson’s devotional book, For the Love of God, Volume Two, that shares such a wonderful understanding of my thoughts this morning:

“In this information-rich age, many of us have learned to be as brief as possible. …Efficient managers learn to be brief; computer programmers are rated on how briefly they can write precise code to do what needs to be done. Only a few contemporary authors (e.g., Tom Clancy and James Michener) get away with long, rambling books—and even then the editors have drastically trimmed them.

“Yet here we are, quietly reading through Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, with Ezekiel to go, and we find ourselves circling around the same handful of themes again and again: sin in the covenant community, threatened judgment, then enacted judgment, first for the northern tribes, then for Judah. …But haven’t you caught yourself saying to yourself more than once, “I know this is the Word of God, and I know it is important, but I think I understand now something of the history and the theology of the exile. Couldn’t we get on to something else?” …So we scan another chapter as rapidly as possible because we already “know” all this.

“But that is part of the problem, isn’t it? Read through this chapter again, slowly, thoughtfully. …But listen to the depth and persistence of the pleas, the repentance, the personal engagement with God, the cultural awareness, the acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty and justice, the profound recognition that the people must be restored to God himself if return to the land is to be possible, let alone meaningful (5:21). Then compare this with the brands of Christian confessionalism with which you are most familiar. In days of cultural declension, moral degradation, and large-scale ecclesiastical frittering, is our praying like that of Lamentations 5? Have the themes of the major prophets so burned into our minds and hearts that our passion is to be restored to the living God? Or have we ourselves become so caught up in the spirit of this age that we are content to be rich in information and impoverished in wisdom and godliness?” 1

The first few words of the author are “Remember, O Lord…” (Lam. 5:1). Could God forget? Obviously the answer is “no”, but the author is expressing the repentant heart and pleading heart that proceeds suffering.

One verse that literally jumped off of the page this morning was Lamentations 5:15. It literally is the inverse of Psalm 30:11, “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,”. God indeed, has power over our deepest emotion and He alone can take ruin, suffering, and pain and redeem it for His glory.

Lam. 5:19 acknowledges the eternal rock-steady power of God over all things. Lam. 5:21 is a prayer and request for restoration from the only One who can restore us. It is my prayer this morning.

Psalm 36 is a short psalm that begins with a description of the wicked (Ps.36:1-4). The balance of the song teaches us about the steadfast (enduring) love of God. I think it is the text of a song by the group Third Day, “Your Love Oh Lord”. I could hear that song while I read these verses. References to God’s “steadfast love” are repeated three times in Ps. 36:5, Ps. 36:7, and Ps. 36:10.

1 Carson, D. A. For the Love of God: a Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God’s Word. Vol. 2. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998. Print.

Lamentations 4 and Psalm 35

Lamentations 4 provides some answers to why this great judgment on Israel and more specifically Jerusalem has happened. The chapter also ends with a glimmer of hope.

The first illustration is the comparison of gold that was once bright and valuable but has now been cheapened to “earthen vessels” or simple clay pots (Lamentations 4:1-2).

The second is the dire circumstance of starvation where mothers can no longer provide for their children; where even the jackals do a better job providing for their offspring (Lamentations 4:3-4).

Whereas the city of Sodom experience quick judgment of utter destruction (Lam. 4:6), for Jerusalem, the judgment is long and drawn out.

The reason for the judgment lies with the sins of Israel’s leadership. Everyone was culpable and each person faces judgment for their own sin, however the greatest condemnation is for the ones who should have led the people to truth (Lam. 4:13).

The small glimmer of hope for Israel lies in the promise of Lam. 4:22 that the judgment has been accomplished and there is hope for peace and rest.

God does not wink at sin or ignore the consequences of our actions. The hope for believers, however, lies with the effective sacrifice of Jesus for our sins. Our High Priest will lead us in the path of righteousness and He will cover our sins with His own blood. We can find forgiveness in repentance and prayer with Him (1 Jn.1:9).

Ps. 35 is David’s cry to the Lord for protection from those who were his enemies. He cries out to God to hold back the mockers and the scoffers. Ps. 35:3 acknowledges to God that He alone is the salvation of my soul. Ps. 35:28 repeats the truth that the one who praises the Lord the most is the one who recognizes the Lord’s deliverance.

Lamentations 3 and Psalm 34

Lamentations 3 opens with the phrase, “I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath. What a powerful statement that is! I don’t know if this chapter is the story of a man or of a nation, but nevertheless, it is a story of strong judgment and affliction. The interesting and thought provoking point of this chapter is the two interludes of the grace of God. The first one is found in Lamentations 3:21-26 and the second one is Lamentations 3:55-57.

In addition, there is hope for the chastened in Lamentations 3:31-33. “… though he cause grief, he will have compassion…” 

I find it very interesting the parallel contrasts both yesterday and today in the coresponding readings of Lamentations and Psalms: judgment and grace, pain, sorrow, and affliction versus joy, praise and testimony.

Today’s reading in Psalms 34 is full of hope. Ps. 34:1-4 is the praise and testimony of a man who has experienced the glory of God. 

Ps. 34:8 – “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” This is a call to experience God Himself, not just His blessing but God Himself. When life is tough and hard, I can find refuge in God alone. That is the most likely time that I will experience the blessing shared by the psalmist in verse 8.

Ps. 34:10 seems like a promise that I want to grab onto right now: “…but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. ” I must remember that it is God who defines what is a good thing.

Ps. 32:15, Ps. 34:17, and Ps. 34:19 all refer to the righteous and the promises of God that pertain to the righteous. What makes a man righteous? Is it my works? Is the nature of my heart? No, it is the saving work of the Saviour alone that makes a man righteous before God (Romans 3:21-22).

Lamentations 2 and Psalm 33

Lamentations 2 is a very sad and somber declaration of the heavy hand of judgment The Lord is dealing with Israel. It is important for me to remember how longsuffering He had been with Israel but also that His righteousness demanded His actions against her.

Lamentations 2:11-12 is an effective summary of the judgment and a vivid description of the resulting suffering. Is the idolatry of my day any worse than that of the children of Israel? What ultimate judgment lies in store for those who continue to turn against God and reject Christ.

Lamentations 2:17 – the beginning of the verse declares the inevitability of God’s judgment. “He has carried out His word…” God will always be true to His word. This is true of pronounced judgment, but it is also true of His unfailing promises to us.

Psalm 33 is a great declaration of the faithfulness of God. It is a good remedy to the dire narrative of Lamentations 2. Some verses that stood out to me today are:

Ps. 33:4 – God’s word is upright. It is good for us and good to us. It is not confused and scewed like much of today’s world. He is always faithful (a correlary to Lamentations 2:17).

Ps. 33:11 – His word is enduring. When so much seems like it is weak and fading. His word and His promises do not fade but endure.

Ps. 33:12 – This is a great national promise but even when our nation seems to be turning away from God, His promises endure for His chosen people. My future is not dependent on the course of my country.

Ps. 33:18-19 – The Lord has his eyes on me and on my life. I don’t have to be concerned that He will miss the critical moments of my life or that He is somehow absent especially when I am in great need. 

The hope in Ps. 33:22 is present because of His faithfulness and because of that faithfulness, we have the trust spoken of in Ps. 33:21.

Lamentations 1 and Psalm 32

Today I began reading Lamentations. Lamentations 1 is a cry of the fall of Jerusalem and a recollection of how things were and what they are now. It is a stark contract to the reading from Psalm 32 which is an encouragement for the believer who confesses sin and finds forgiveness.

I am not sure how I will respond to my time in Lamentations. In the past, it has not been a place where I have enjoyed or felt moved by what I have read. I would like to be more disciplined and prepared this time while reading through Lamentations and hear what the Holy Spirit is trying to teach to me.

I am glad for the heart lifting blessings of Psalm 32 however. Beginning with Ps. 32:1-2, this psalm is a great reminder of the cornerstone of our spiritual birth. We are greatly blessed to have our sin covered by the blood of Jesus. I think that I would be stronger spiritually if I would simply remember this truth each day.

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,…

See the strong contrast between Ps 32:3-4 when we cover our sin or neglect to confess it to God and Ps. 32:5 when we acknowledge our sin and confess it. However, I believe that it also means that we genuinely confess sin with true sorrow in our heart because of the transgression it is against God. Not simply a pattern of sin, confess to relieve our conscience, and then return to that sin again. I understand that we all struggle with besetting sins that recur in our lives. I think that we do genuinely repent but find ourselves returning to battle those temptations again. In that case, we need to seek the help of the Holy Spirit to gain victory over those temptations. We can however, repeat sin that we confess with a form of superficiality but in reality, we have a great love of the pleasure of that sin than we do of God. That can be a real danger that puts us in a position of the risk of experiencing a hardening of our hearts. I pray that the Holy Spirit protects me from that! I think Ps. 32:6 reflects that thought.

Ps. 32:8-9 speaks of a heart that is willing and obedient to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. The contrast of the unwilling horse that needs a bit in its mouth to lead it tells me of the effects of rebellion against The Lord. How much better to be submissive to the Holy Spirit.

Finally, the contrast in Ps. 32:10 is worth noting. The wicked have many sorrows. The unspoken thing to note is that those sorrows must be borne alone. The contrast is that the one who obeys and follows The Lord may also have sorrows, but he/she also experiences the presence and the love of The Lord. In fact, that love is both steadfast and encompassing (surrounds).