40 Days of Prayer

Day 37: A very sad happy book

February 6, 2019

My Image

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22,23

From Our “Here”…

The Book of Lamentations voices the prophet Jeremiah’s anguish over Jerusalem’s conquest by the armies of Babylon. The city’s demise heralds the end of the Kingdom of Judah. It’s compelling reading, achingly beautiful. It caps off a lot of history shared in great detail in the preceding book (the Book of Jeremiah is the longest narrative book in the Bible). Throughout the reigns of several ungodly kings, Jeremiah watched in horror as divine judgment loomed. Lamentations gives a wailing announcement of that judgment’s arrival.

Lamentations raises a compelling question, one that is somewhat at odds with the mindset of many Christians: What role should godly sorrow play in our lives? Our natural inclination is to avoid sorrow at all costs. We flock to Christian conferences and concerts when the lights are bright and the message is uplifting. We turn the latest faith-based self-help book into a best-seller if the author is a megachurch pastor with a promise of prosperity.

While there is a lot of solid ministry to be found in Christian conferences and self-help books, they can become culture-driven distractions from the core reality of our walk of faith. Even as we take hold of the joy of living for Christ, we must never forget that to fully follow the Savior demands self-sacrifice and shouldering our cross daily—not what you might call cheering tasks.

…To God’s “There”

A study of Lamentations invites us to follow two important avenues of self-examination.

1: We need to be genuinely sorrowful for sin, all sin, ours and everyone else’s. Jeremiah clearly connects Judah’s and Jerusalem’s fall with generations of spiritual rebellion. Sin is at the root of his people’s destruction, and it breaks his heart.

2: In responding to the sin around us, our attitude must be that of a fellow traveler. Jeremiah never comes across as preaching down to anyone. Like the other scriptural prophets, he’s always honest. He’s God’s spokesman, so he can’t pull punches when it comes to confronting evil or warning of judgment. But he’s never arrogant. He’s no holier-than-thou hypocrite.

Years after Jeremiah passed off the scene, the prophet Daniel read his writings and responded in the same way—sorrowfully acknowledging his nation’s sin and his own sinful nature, and praying fervently for God’s renewed favor.

Renewed favor is a powerful biblical theme. Lamentations is no exception. There are seeds of hope in the book that sprout into full bloom when read alongside the Gospels. The Cross and empty tomb stand as history’s greatest emblems of God’s unfailing love and compassion and faithfulness that Jeremiah struggled to see through his tears.

Making the Leap

Our sorrow for lost and sinful humanity must drive our prayers for, financial support of, and personal ministry alongside missionaries who proclaim the hope of the gospel to the ends of the earth. Such sorrow leads to joy. When we are willing to fully engage in the Great Commission, we will see lost people rescued from sin’s bondage and wonderfully transformed.

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