August 31

Read Lamentations 3 -- 5

In Today's Reading:

God's mercy; punishment of Zion; the faithful grieve over their disaster and confess their sins.

Verses for Today:

Though He cause grief, yet will He have compassion according to . . . His mercies. . . . Wherefore doth (Why should) a living man complain, a man for the punishment (penalty) of his sins? Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord (3:32,39-40).

The prophet Jeremiah was one of the great prophets in biblical history. Few suffered so much humiliation, rejection, and hostility. In fact, all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12; see also Mark 10:29-30). For more than 40 years, Jeremiah had warned the Israelites to believe Moses or face the righteous judgment of God. Eventually, they faced the inevitable destruction of their glorious Temple in Jerusalem, the City of God.

God does not bring suffering for sin just for the sake of punishment. It always has a twofold purpose: first as judgment upon sin, but second to allow us the opportunity to repent and commit our lives to Him. We can truly praise the Lord that He forgives us of all our sins. The Lord assures us: Godly sorrow worketh repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10).

Through the destruction of the Temple came a more perfect understanding of the awfulness of sin, the consequences of disregarding God's Word, and the result of assuming God's Covenant Promise would continue even though the people's Covenant responsibility was deliberately ignored. Jeremiah called for full repentance, confession of sin, and obedience to God's Word, but, to no avail.

The once-proud Kingdom of Judah was subjected to every form of public humiliation. Its people had to beg for bread from foreigners, pay for water, helplessly stand by and watch their children taken as slaves into heavy forced labor, and know that these heathen soldiers had [ravaged] the women in Zion (Lamentations 5:11). The crown is fallen from our head: woe unto us, that we have sinned (5:16)!

Judah had forfeited God's sacred purpose. As with all sinners, eventually the horrifying moment of accountability must come, just as the Lord reminded us through the Apostle Paul: [Whatever] a man [sows], that shall he also reap (Galatians 6:7).

Where there is no repentance, our Heavenly Father, in perfect love, wisdom, and holiness, must bring a sinful nation into judgment to face the consequences of its continued sin. Because God is holy, He cannot allow unholiness to corrupt and destroy His creation. That is why it was necessary for Jesus to come, that we (who believe) might be made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The righteous always suffer in the midst of a wicked nation. For the Christian, however, suffering opens our eyes to the true values of life: The trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto . . . honor . . . at the appearing of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:7; see also 4:12-13).

Christ Revealed:

As the merciful Savior (Lamentations 3:22). Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life (Jude 1:21; see also Hebrews 3:17-18).

Word Studies:

3:5 builded against = besieged; 3:9 inclosed = blocked; 3:14 a derision = a laughingstock; 3:15 wormwood = bitterness; 3:29 putteth his mouth in the dust = speaks humbly; 4:10 sodden = boiled.

Prayer Needs:

Government Official: Rep. Dave Weldon (FL) · Pray for your Sunday School teacher · Country: Sudan (34 million) at the eastern end of the Sahara Desert · Major languages: Arabic and Nubian · Limited religious freedom · 74% Muslim; 15% king worship, spirit-possession cults, and ancestral spirit worship; 5% Roman Catholic; 3% Protestant · Prayer Suggestion: Pray that at all times you will find pleasure in what pleases the Lord (Philippians 2:13).

Optional Reading: Revelation 5

Memory Verse for the Week: Romans 8:13