Lamentations and Hope
Not many verses in the book of Lamentations are famous; these are:
Yet I call this to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the LORD’s faithful love
we do not perish,
for his mercies never end.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness!
I say, “The LORD is my portion,
therefore I will put my hope in him.”
– Lamentations 3:21-24 (CSB)
These verses sit at the very center of the book of Lamentations. The first lament poem (chapter 1) of the book is a study of the misery of Jerusalem after the city fell, the temple was destroyed, and most Israelites were exiled to Babylon. The remaining people were starving to death with seemingly no way to contact YHWH or atone for their sin (remember that the temple was their primary channel of communion and atonement with God).
All her people groan
while they search for bread.
They have traded their precious belongings for food
in order to stay alive.
LORD, look and see
how I have become despised.
– Lamentations 1:11 (CSB)
The second lament focuses on YHWH as the cause of the people’s misery.
The Lord is like an enemy;
he has swallowed up Israel.
He swallowed up all its palaces
and destroyed its fortified cities.
He has multiplied mourning and lamentation
within Daughter Judah.
– Lamentations 2:5 (CSB)
Within each of these laments, there is an acknowledgment of the sin of Jerusalem and that YHWH had promised these punishments on Israel if she broke the covenant and turned her back on God (for example, Leviticus 26), but the overwhelming emotion derived from these poems is pain.
Lamentations 3 doesn’t turn the tables. The only notes of hope we can find in this book are in the center. Much of chapter 3 and the entirety of chapters 1, 2, 4, and 5 are pain and despair for their situation.
How do we deal with an inspired work of scripture in which people cry out to God for rescue and he never responds? The start of this passage is crucial:
Yet I call this to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
– Lamentations 3:21a
The character in the third poem (often called the “valiant man”) does not need a change of circumstances for his attitude to change. He needed to remember how God has moved in the past and how God has promised He will always move. Even in the current situation and silence, the valiant man can bring to mind that God’s covenant love for His people is eternal, and his punishment is temporary, as He promised.
That doesn’t change the valiant man’s pain or the city’s cries for relief. And it doesn’t change that relief from their pain wouldn’t arrive for 70 years. But if Lamentations teaches us anything, it’s that God can handle our cries of pain, and it hints at the hope to come in Jesus. Through Jesus, all will be made right and new. That is the ultimate hope of the world (Romans 8:18-23). God’s covenant promise for us is a new heaven and earth. In the here and now, we must walk by faith in the hope of our future home and not by sight of the still-present realities of suffering and mortal decay (2 Corinthians 5:4-9).
So, whatever you may be going through now, give God your pain, call to mind God’s loving faithfulness, and find your hope in Christ's atoning work which bought us so great a future.
Living This Christian Life
The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God | Timothy Keller 📚 →
Before I married, I read several books about marriage, the psychology of women and men in relationship, and dating. This was by far the most impactful book that I read. Rather than a list of tips or psychological resources, The Meaning of Marriage focuses on the underlying Biblical theology of marriage.
If you are steeped in the modern west's philosophy of marriage, the biblical view may seem foreign to you. Understanding “why am I getting married” and “what is marriage for” is different from “what do I do once I am married”. The world focuses on the latter without examining the former. While both are important, the second is much easier to get wrong if you don’t have the first as a foundation.
If you are married, engaged, dating, or just want to eventually be married, I highly recommend it.
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Read and Reflect
In this review of Gene Veith’s Reading Between the Lines: A Christian Guide to Literature 📚, Jessica Burke writes about how Christians should be the most inclined to read well and how that will help us think well.
Veith begins by discussing the importance of reading and criticism. Since God has used a Book to reveal himself, “reading can never die out among Christians” (17). The habits of the mind––attention, reasoning, exploration of ideas, and language expression, among others––that reading requires are habits that “support the Christian faith and lead to a healthy and free society” (25). Reading also helps form the Christian imagination by exercising our minds, helping us understand other people and their circumstances, satisfying our need for adventure, and allowing us to process and contemplate vicarious experiences.
Reading widely, reading critically, and reading outside my comfort zone has helped me to grow in my capacity to think and consider my beliefs and better compare them to the good, the true, and the beautiful.
Christianity Is True
In this article, atheist detective turned Christian apologist (and until recently, still detective) J. Warner Wallace breaks down the worldview (the “how they view the world”) of the Christian Science cult. The cult boasts around 100,000 members worldwide, so this is certainly a cult whose beliefs we as Christians—ones ready to give a defense for our orthodox beliefs (1 Peter 3:15)—should be aware of.
Wallace starts with a brief overview of the origins of the cult:
In 1866, at the age of 45, (Mary Baker) Eddy suffered a fall and a spinal injury. She turned to the Bible for answers and recovered from the injury quickly (and unexpectedly). She spent the next three years studying the Bible and forming the basis for Christian Science as a philosophy of mind, a theory of healing, and a theological system. She tested her theories for several years and eventually published “Science and Health” (later re-titled as “Science and Health with a Key to the Scriptures”) in 1875. She advanced this theological view and theory of science by establishing the Christian Science Church from students she taught at the Massachusetts Metaphysical College in the 1880’s.
Read on in Wallace’s article to find out how Christian Scientists deal with the questions of “how did we get here,” “how did it get so messed up,” and “how do we fix it.”
Ryan Leasure, a pastor in Moore, South Carolina, asks the question: when the four gospels were written, did anybody know who wrote them? This may be shocking to the average Christian. Of course we know who wrote the gospels; the names are right there at the top!
However, since the early 20th century, the notion that the Gospel authors are anonymous has risen. Ryan explains:
The form critics embraced four key points.1 First, all four Gospels were originally published without any titles or mention of authorship. In other words, no “Gospel according to...” for any other them. Second, not only were these Gospels published anonymously, they circulated anonymously for about a century before anyone thought to attribute titles to them. Third, only after the disciples had long died out did the early church add titles to the Gospel manuscripts to give them “much needed authority.”2 And fourth, since the Gospels were anonymous, none of them were written by eyewitnesses.
However, Ryan then gives us three powerful reasons to trust the names attached to the copies of the gospels we see in our Bibles today. I encourage you to check out his article to find out what they are.
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Listen and Reflect
Host Collin Hansen is joined by Christian scholars Derek Rishmawy, Karen Swallow Prior, and Jay Kim to discuss the term “deconstruction” and why so many people in the church seem to be “deconstructing.”
“Deconstructing” is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: it is when a person tears down their previous belief system or worldview. This often gets applied to people talking about de-converting (apostatizing) from Christianity; they deconstructed their beliefs until they would claim there were no beliefs left. This isn’t the case, however, because nobody can live with no beliefs. Usually they have reconstructed secular atheism or agnosticism in its place.
Deconstruction can be a more neutral term, however. Whenever someone converts to Christianity, their previous beliefs need to be deconstructed for proper Christian beliefs to take their place. Almost everybody goes through a period of deconstruction at some point in their lives. There’s a reason that teenage rebellion against their parent’s beliefs is a proverbial truth. I know that I went through a form of deconstruction and reconstruction myself, though it was later in life.
What matters is what is deconstructed and what it is replaced with. Untrue beliefs should be replaced with truer beliefs. Cultural beliefs should be replaced with gospel beliefs. This podcast breaks down these issues, and their collective book Before You Lose Your Faith: Deconstructing Doubt in the Church 📚 is available as well.
CityAlight isn’t as well-known as Hillsong, Bethel, or Elevation, but I find their music to be full of beauty, scripturally centered, and Christ-exalting, while still being musically interesting and worshipful.
I was going to only include part of the lyrics, but I had trouble picking a particular verse to include. So, I have chosen to include the entire lyrics.
Mine are days that God has numbered
I was made to walk with Him
Yet I look for worldly treasure
And forsake the King of kings
But mine is hope in my Redeemer
Though I fall, His love is sure
For Christ has paid for every failing
I am His forevermore
Mine are tears in times of sorrow
Darkness not yet understood
Through the valley I must travel
Where I see no earthly good
But mine is peace that flows from heaven
And the strength in times of need
I know my pain will not be wasted
Christ completes his work in me
Mine are days here as a stranger
Pilgrim on a narrow way
One with Christ I will encounter
Harm and hatred for His name
But mine is armor for this battle
Strong enough to last the war
And He has said He will deliver
Safely to the golden shore
Come rejoice now, O my soul
For His love is my reward
Fear is gone and hope is sure
Christ is mine forevermore
And mine are keys to Zion city
Where beside the King I walk
For there my heart has found its treasure
Christ is mine forevermore
Best with a Cup of Tea
Professor Sean McDowell hosts Pastor Colby Martin on his channel to dialogue about their different views on scripture, affirming LGBT relationships, and more. I think that Sean asked well-formed questions and both parties did an outstanding job of modeling charitable disagreement. Both men represented themselves well and did a good job of trying not to talk past each other.
Whichever end of the spectrum your beliefs are on, I believe you may learn something from this dialogue.
Keep Your Mind on Things Above
I will be praying for you this week.
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
Romans 11:33 (ESV)