How should we wait? - Lamentations 3:25-66

This is a sermon by Lee McMunn from the Riverside Church service on 24th May 2015.

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Are you someone who finds it easy to wait for something?

 

Waiting for a bus or a train. Or someone to pick you up in their car. What happens if they are laid?

Waiting to be served at a restaurant. Never agree to the waiter or waitress coming back in 5 mins.

Waiting for test results or exam results.

Maybe you’ve been for a job interview and are waiting to hear if you’ve got it.

Waiting for the phone call from someone you love.

 

We could go on and on. Waiting is an essential part of our general lives.

 

According to the Bible, it is also an essential part of a Christian’s life. You see although there are countless blessings to be enjoyed as follower of Jesus now, the ultimate focus of a Christian is on the future and, in particular, the future public and unmistakable return of Jesus Christ. Which means, that much of a Christian’s life is about waiting. Waiting for this earth shattering day to arrive.

 

But of course that raises the question, how are we to wait for the return of Jesus? Well this morning I want to show you three things from this section of Lamentations to help answer that question.

 

We are to wait without complaint (Vs 25-39)

We are to wait with confession (Vs 40-42)

We are to wait with confidence (Vs 43-66)

 

First, we are to wait without complaint (Vs 25-39)

 

Look at verse 25. Read verses 25-27.

 

Did you notice the repetition of the word good? The LORD is good to those who hope in him. It is good to wait quietly. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young.

 

People are always seeking the good life. That is a noble desire. But we must work with the right definition of what the good life actually is.

 

In order to live the good life as defined by the Bible, we must live with the absolute conviction that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is good to those who hope in him. Not sometimes good. But always good. We are to live with the belief that whatever he sends our way or permits to come our way is either good in itself or will be used by him to achieve our good ultimate, which is to be conformed into the image of Jesus. If we believe this then it will enable us to wait for the return of Jesus without complaint.

 

We’ve seen already that Lamentations was written to a group of people in a specific historical situation. The date was 587BC and the occasion was the complete obliteration of the ancient city of Jerusalem by the Babylonian armies of the day. According to Lamentations, this happened because the people of God had rebelled against his loving Lordship.

 

One of the temptations for the survivors of this disaster as they waited for God to reverse the situation would have been for them to criticise God.

And you can imagine some of the things they might have said. That seem’s a bit harsh. Were our sins really that bad? Does the punishment really fit the crime?

 

And what does Lamentations say in reply? It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. Or in other words, it is good to wait without complaint.

 

Indeed, and this takes it a stage further, it is good for a man to bear the yoke of the LORD. This all about embracing discipline. It is all about working what God is teaching us and how he is shaping us in each situation rather than venting our spleen at him either directly or via the medium of Facebook.

 

When is a good time to embrace the discipline of the LORD? When a man is young. Get started early if you want to become a mature and effective disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

For the people of God in 587BC, what this was to look like in practice is spelled out in verses 28-30. Did you see that? Read verses 28-30. Take it on the chin. They were not to answer back.

 

This is easier said than done! And so what I love about this section of Lamentations is that although he has already given us a reason to wait without complaint, what he does in the next few paragraphs is give us some more.

 

For example, in the next paragraph we are told that God does not willingly bring affliction of grief on the children of men.

Now, of course, God is a perfect parent and so out of love he will sometimes bring grief to his children to give them a better future. However, because he doesn’t get a kick out of it, God’s people can be assured that they will have a long term pleasure filled future. And so, if they believe that, they can wait without complaint.

 

We see another reason for this kind of waiting in verse 38. “Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?” And if it is, what should be our response? Look at verse 39, “Why should any living man complain when punished for his sins?”

 

Let me apply this to our situation. It’s clearly not identical with that of the original audience but the New Testament assures us that from time to time we will experience discipline from the hand of God Lord. He will sent us hardships to kill our sin and increase our love for him.

 

An example of what this may look like. Suppose someone abandons meeting with God’s people. Instead, they are over committing to other good things. It might be family or sport or career or community involvement. God loves that Christian. He wants them to experience joy in him and with his people. He wants them to be the best husband or mum or friend of employee. They won’t be any of those things if they neglect him or his people. What might he do? What form might his discipline take? He may remove joy from those things. He may increase pressure and discouragement.

 

What is the temptation in those situations? To complain. To say that’s it’s not fair. Indeed, to stay further away from God and his people until the situation is sorted out.

 

What would Lamentations say to us? Wait quietly. Embrace the discipline of the Lord.

 

What else are we to do? This takes me to my second big point.

 

Secondly, we are to wait with confession (Vs 40-42)

 

Look at verse 40. Read verses 40-42.

 

There is to be contemplation. But that’s not the end of the story. After the examination of our hearts we are to return to the compassionate and gracious God.

 

It’s good to be bowled over by just how amazing this is - the same God we have rejected wants us to return to him.

 

How are we to return? Not in silence. No, we are to return with words of confession on our lips.

 

Did you notice who the words are directed towards? Not a priest in a dark cupboard but God in the brilliant light of heaven.

 

When can we confess our sins? First, we should confess our sins publicly. You may have noticed that we have a general confession near the beginning of almost every service here at Riverside. What should you confess in your heart to God? You won’t have time to remember everything you have done wrong but do try and be specific. Compare your past week with the standard of love God and love others.

 

We should also confess our sins in private. This will give us longer to consider what they are and more time to speak them to the Lord. You could do this as a first response to the word of God you have read. Then fast forward to the joy of knowing that Christ has kept the law for you.

 

Why should we confess our sins? Apart from the truth that God says we should. Does the Bible help us understand why?

 

That is the way of forgiveness. Either for the first time or as we continue the Christian life.

It saves us from the accusation of hypocrisy.

It saves us from self-righteousness. The key is to be specific.

It helps us to grow. It highlights the areas where we need to grow.

 

 

Thirdly, we are to wait with confidence (Vs 49-66)

 

There is certainly more honest recognition of how tragic the current situation is and again a very honest account of how emotional Jeremiah was as he contemplated the fate of Jerusalem and its people. But all throughout this section there is a strong note of confidence in the God who one day will rescue his people and destroy their enemies.

 

 

Look, for example, at verses 58 and 59. Read verses 58-59.

 

What is he confident God will do? Look at verse 64. Read verses 64-66.

 

Do you find these words uncomfortable? Perhaps even a bit sub-Christian? I thought we were supposed to be turning the other cheek rather than praying for God to dash the cheeks of those who hate us?

 

There is a right desire for justice. The bible warns us against seeking revenge but it is absolutely right to desire justice either from human courts or the divine court of heaven.

 

There is a right desire for people to experience forgiveness. That’s why we should pray for members of IS to become followers of Jesus, even despite their wicked crimes. But if they don’t? What then? Should we pray for judgement? Let me read something from the book of Revelation.

 

Revelation 6:9-11, “I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.  10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?”  11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.”

 

So let us have confidence that one day our God will deal with definitely with evil and rescue his people. We must trust justice to him.

 

If we do this we can be liberated from destructive anger. This will make us useful servants of Christ.

 

 

 

In conclusion

 

We are to wait for he return of Jesus.

 

We are to wait without complaint

We are to wait with confession

We are to wait with confidence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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