Today finished up Lamentations (chapters 3-5). This little book is one long poem, and it makes my heart sad. It’s a terrible place to be…to know that you are in dire circumstances and a place of hopelessness, realizing that it is your own poor choices that landed you there! That’s enough to depress you, but when you realize that God has, for a time, turned His face away from you and allowed all manner of destruction and hardship into your life as punishment for your sins…well, that’s another level of discouragement altogether!
This is exactly how Jeremiah is feeling. At the very end of the book, in the last two verses, he pleads with God. “Restore us to You, O LORD, that we may be restored; renew our days as of old, unless You have utterly rejected us and are exceedingly angry with us.” (5:21-22) Those are words of humble repentance. While Jeremiah is an ordinary man and I’m sure had his moments of anger at those who rejected and persecuted him for telling the truth, we know him as a man who was faithfully obedient as God’s prophet. So, why would he be afraid that God would utterly reject him in His anger? He is speaking on behalf of his people. Notice the “us.” He is including himself in asking for God to soften His heart and restore. That’s a good lesson for us. We might think we are pretty good people, and that the bad things that are happening in the world aren’t our fault. Instead, because we do know God personally and are able to come into His presence through Christ on behalf of our nation, our friends, our family, we should come humbly, recognizing our own weaknesses and propensity to sin, because that’s what a repentant heart does. It doesn’t point fingers and compare itself with others; the repentant heart sees that without God’s mercy and forgiveness, we would all be lost.
Jeremiah does give us hope (thankfully!). In 3:21-26, we find a familiar passage of encouragement that Jeremiah can write because He knows God’s character so well. He knows that God is a covenant-keeping God and that after a little while, God’s anger against their sin will be spent (Isaiah 10:25; Ezekiel 5:13), that He will not abandon His people completely. The KJV says it this way: “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”
God disciplines us for a short while so that we are not condemned (1 Corinthians 11:32). He disciplines us because He loves us (Revelation 3:19) and to prove that we are truly His children, just as a father disciplines his own child (Hebrews 12:4-11). But it’s only for a while. We keep our hope centered on Him, seek Him, and wait quietly for His salvation (Lamentations 3:24-26), confident we will come out on the other side looking more like Christ, and knowing His heart in a greater and more intimate way.