Where can we find hope? - Lamentations 3:1-24
An audio recording of this sermon is available.
Where can we find hope?
I'd like you to imagine that when the Polling Stations closed on Thursday night that you were able in sit down in confidence with each of the leaders of the major political parties and ask them what they were expecting from the General Election. What do you think they would have said to you?
David Cameran, "I'm hoping to be Prime Minister and I hope we will have at least the same number of seats we had in 2010."
Ed Milliband, "I'm hoping to move house in the next few days. I'm hoping to form a labour government but hopefully not with the SNP."
Nicola Sturgeon, "I'm hoping no one will realise that I'm not actually standing as an MP in Westminster but hope my party will get a lot more seats in Scotland."
Can you imagine meeting them for lunch on Friday and talking to them again? Some of their hopes would have been dashed, or more accurately devastated. Others would have been fulfilled pretty accurately. And others would have been exceeded beyond all expectations.
This sermon is not about politics, it is about hope. However, what I want us to realise is that biblical hope is substantially different from the way most people speak about hope in daily life. What do they mean when they say, "I hope this happen..." They don't mean they are certain it will happen. No they mean, "I would like this to happen" or "I think there is a good chance it will happen."
Now because this is the way we commonly hear and use the word hope, there is great danger that we will read our definition into the bible. And if we do that we will fail to experience the true joy and comfort that biblical hope should give us.
So let me say straight away, biblical hope is not an aspiration we have that may or may not happen. No, biblical hope is an assured positive confidence about the future based on the revealed words of God.
You'll see from your handout that there are two parts to this sermon and that we don't actually get to 'The God of Hope' until we've looked at the 'The Man of Sorrows.' Some of you might be saying, 'Oh come on. Make a fast track to the hope. We've just had two chapters of bleak landscape. Come on, show us the lush land of hope.'
This would be a mistake. First, because the chapter is carefully constructed in the way it is. Let's trust God for the organisation.
Second, it is against the dark background that we will really appreciate the true beauty of hope. Like a diamond that is displayed on a black cloth to show it's true beauty.
First, let's focus on the Man of Sorrows (Vs 1-20)
The first thing that hits you between the eyes as your read this section is just how intensely personal it is. Look at verse 1. Read verses 1-3.
There are two questions to answer straight away.
- Who is the I?
- Who is the he?
The second question is the easiest to answer. The He is the God of Israel. I know this because he is the main subject at the end of chapter 2.
Who is the I? We're not told explicitly but I think the I is probably the prophet Jeremiah. As well the enemies of Israel he is also mocked by his own people. We see this in verse 14. However, because it is anonymous he can also represent what it felt like for a normal Israelite.
In verses 1 to 3 we are presented with quite a general description of what happened. So, for example, we know that the affliction was caused by God and that it was like living in darkness. But then in verses 4 to 20 we encounter much more specific detail about what that suffering felt like for individual people, what it looked like for individual people and what impact it had on individual people.
We don't have time or look at all the verses but let me show you a few examples.
- Verse 4
- Verse 7-8
- Verses 12-13
- Verses 19-20
Why this section? First, it reminds us that groups of people are made up of individuals. It is easier to forget that groups are made up of individual people. It was the case then and it will be the case in the future.
Read Matthew 25:31-33. The two groups are made up of individuals.
Where will the individuals we know be in 200 years time?
Second, this section is also written to help us understand Jesus Christ. He is the ultimate man of sorrows.
It's remarkable how much of the description of Jesus' life matches what is written here. For example, suffered affliction from the hand of God. He experienced darkness. Forsaken by God.
The big difference is that Jesus was sinless but he was made sin for us so that we could be rightly related to God.
But we must never think Christ was somehow emotionless, as if the death of Christ was some stoical bank transfer. No, Christ was crushed for us so that we could be embraced by him.
Second, the God of Hope (Vs 21-24)
There is a wonderful turning point in verse 21. What determines his outlook is not his circumstances but his choice. His circumstances force a certain mood in him. But his choice focuses him on a much grander vision.
This approach gives him hope. A positive assurance that the future will be good for him.
If you want this mindset then you need to choose to remember certain things. Start choosing now. Form habits.
The question is, what did he remember? Look at verse 22. Read verses 22-24.
The focus is on who God is. This gives him certainty about the future.
- Because of the LORD'S great love. His covenant faithful love. This is the reason there is still a remnant.
- Words of promise have been made.
- His compassions are new every morning.
- This means God will be faithful to his promise.
- Only the Lord is unchanging. Even his gifts can be removed by the Lord. So the writer says the Lord will be his portion.
- Having all your eggs in one basket. You can rely on the Lord. Make him your everything. He will not disappoint. He may take other things away but he will not remove himself.
What does this mean for us? Three things.
Do you have confidence for the future? What is the basis of your confidence? Being accepted on the final day of judgement? Only because of the Lord's great love.
We have an extra dimension. We can say that it was because Christ was consumed for us that we will not be consumed.
His compassions are new each day. How encouraging. You will have new mercies each day to keep you faithful.
The Lord is my portion. What a challenge! Not even the Lord's gifts but the Lord himself.
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