lament

1 Samuel 17, Romans 15, Lamentations 2, Psalm 33

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Samuel 17, Romans 15, Lamentations 2, Psalm 33. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Lamentations 2.

The book of Lamentations records the poetic but mournful outburst of the prophet Jeremiah to the overthrow of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. All that God had said through Jeremiah happened in his lifetime, before his own eyes. Unlike the victory of faith that God gave to David in 1 Samuel 17, which we also read today, there was only defeat and judgment for Judah, David’s people, a few hundred years later. 

Jeremiah’s lament described the toll that the Babylonians exacted from Judah. Their pride as God’s people (vv. 1-4), their city and its magnificent temple (vv. 5-9), and the death of many people (vv. 10-22) were all causes for weeping by Jeremiah and the survivors of this battle. But why would God allow such devastation to fall on the people to whom he had promised so much? Of course the answer is their sin and rebellion against him, but Jeremiah speaks of that in a particular way in verse 14: “The visions of your prophets were false and worthless; they did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity. The prophecies they gave you were false and misleading.” It was a lack of truth by those who claimed to be prophets that lead to this judgment of God. The key phrase in verse 14 is, “…they did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity.” If the people had only repented of their sin, they could have received a great deliverance like David’s deliverance over Goliath. But many people did not know how angry the Lord was with them for their sin and those who did (because they heard Jeremiah and other true prophets like him) chose to believe the lies of the false prophets.

So we see in this passage how much damage false teaching can do. It gives false assurance to people who need to repent. It tells people that God loves them and is pleased with them instead of calling them to look to God in faith to find their acceptance in the merits of Christ. We live in an era where enormous masses of people have been assembled into churches, yet there is little hunger for truth there. The message they hear may talk of salvation in Christ, but it is salvation from guilt, from financial hardship, from divorce, from childhood wounds, from addictions, from a meaningless life or whatever. Yes, Christ has the truth for all of these things, but that was not the core message he gave us to proclaim. Our message is not primarily about how to feel better and perform better; it is to bow in reverence and repentance before a holy God, loving him for his perfections, thanking him for his grace and mercy, desiring to become like him in our moral choices and in our attitudes toward others, and hoping for his kingdom over anything this life can deliver. 

When people say that God’s judgment will come to America, I wonder what they think that means. Do they think that we will be conquered by some foreign government? It sure seems that way and, if the USA were the “new Israel” then maybe a passage like this one would lend itself to that. But God is not working with nations these days; he’s calling out of the nations a people for himself (Titus 2:14) whom he will bring into his kingdom at his appointed time. What we should be telling people to fear is not a political or military conquest but the final judgment, where God will punish each person—individually—who did not know him. Our message, then, is geared to do what Jeremiah condemned the false prophets for not doing: “they did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity.” While preaching against sin is unwelcome and considered unloving in our world, it is what God uses to turn people in faith and repentance to himself.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.

Numbers 5, Psalm 39, Song of Songs 3, Hebrews 3

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Numbers 5, Psalm 39, Song of Songs 3, Hebrews 3. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Psalm 39.

Psalm 39 is a lament, a type of Psalm where the song expresses sorrow to God. Usually Psalms of lament express sorrow regarding Israel as a group. This one, however, is an individual lament so the psalmist is sorrowful about his own individual pain and problems. Unfortunately, the psalm tells us nothing about what his problems were. Aging? Disease? Personal betrayal? A crisis of faith? Your guess is as good as mine. Clearly, though, something was deeply bothersome to him and affected his relationship with God. Although he was determined not to lose his testimony by saying something against God in the presence of the wicked (vv. 1-2a), he could not contain his pain completely. In verses 2b-11, he cried out to God. He asked God for wisdom in managing his life as he senses his days are few and fleeting (vv. 4-6). Then he asked God for salvation from whatever was oppressing him (vv. 7-13). He seemed to regard the problem as God’s discipline in his life (v. 11, 13a) and he begged God to remove it from him as the Psalm closed (v. 13b) so that he could enjoy what little time he had left in life. Unlike so many Psalms that end with an encouraging note of hope and confidence in God, this one ends with one man’s desperate plea for God’s help.

A Psalm like this may not stimulate us to worship, but it is helpful for us as believers. It shows us that there is an emotional range to our prayers that is much greater than we think is allowable or safe. Our praying tends to be very cautious, very measured, and very predictable. We’ve been taught that it is OK to ask God to save people, to ask God for healing, to ask God for his will to be done, to ask God to bless and help us. Of course these are biblical ways to pray, but Psalms like this show us that there is so much more. God desires for us to speak to him from the heart. While we should remember that he is the Creator and we are the creation, we should also remember that he is our Father, that he loves us and wants us to pour out our hearts in humble dependence on him. Your questions, your tears, your screams of pain and anguish are not inappropriate expressions for God; they are a sign of your authentic faith. So, if you’re hurting, confused, sad, desperate, or whatever emotion you’re feeling, God gave you the gift of prayer so that you can speak to him from the heart. So, speak up!

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.