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We all go through difficult times where things seem hopeless. And yet we all need hope. As Proverbs 13:12 says, “Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick” (The Message). Hope is what sustains us and allows us to move forward in a positive way.

I want us to look today at someone who found hope in an absolutely horrible situation and see what we can learn from this.

We are going to look at the book of Lamentations. The whole book talks about disastrous upheaval and the intense suffering that occurred when Jerusalem was destroyed in 587 BC.

And I would like us to begin by remembering together what happened when Jerusalem was destroyed.

The destruction of Jerusalem

It began in 597 BC when Babylon invaded Judah and forced them into submission. As the story is told in 2 Kings 24:

  • The temple and city were plundered – 2 Kings 24:13
  • Many of the leaders – the skilled workers and the educated – were exiled to Babylon (including Ezekiel) – 2 Kings 24:14
  • The king and his family were taken into exile and a puppet king was installed (his uncle Zedekiah) – 2 Kings 24:15/17

Judah was reduced to a client state of the empire of Babylon.

After about a decade Zedekiah rebelled. He thought that Egypt would help them to become an independent state again. But all this did was cause Babylon to invade again:

  • They laid siege to the city for two years. It must have been a horrible ordeal to be trapped in the city all this time – 2 Kings 25:1-2
  • There was famine in the city. Near the end there was even cannibalism – 2 Kings 25:3

In 587 BC they finally broke through the city wall:

  • Zedekiah was captured, his sons were killed, his eyes were put out and he was imprisoned – 2 Kings 25:4-6
  • There was also a brutal killing of young and old, men and women –   2 Chronicles 36:17

A month later the king’s emissary came to exact punishment on the city:

  • Many of the houses in the city were burned – 2 Kings 25:9
  • The walls of the city were destroyed – 2 Kings 25:10
  • Many more people were carried away into exile, while others were executed – 2 Kings 25:11
  • The city and temple were plundered – 2 Kings 25:13-17
  • Most importantly of all, the temple was destroyed – 2 Kings 25:9

Archaeologists have found a layer of ash from this period of time, an abiding testimony to the destruction that took place.

The writer’s trauma

We don’t know who wrote Lamentations. In some traditions it is connected to Jeremiah. But in the text itself the writer of these 5 poems of lamentation is anonymous.

We do know that he has just lived through all this devastation and trauma.

  • No doubt he had family members and friends who were killed.
  • From the later part of chapter 3 it sounds like he himself barely escaped being killed.
  • His former life was gone  – job, house, routine
  • No doubt his faith was shaken as he saw the Temple destroyed by pagans.

This is a man who is grieving. He is speaking to us from the ruins of his life. Put yourself in his shoes and think what this would be like – to lose everything.

The writer’s anguish

Lets listen to his anguish, as he writes in this third poem: “All our enemies open their mouths against us; panic and pitfall have come upon us, devastation and destruction” – 3:46-47. Speaking of Jerusalem he says, “my eyes flow with rivers of tears because of the destruction” – 3:48.

He says, “My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is. My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord” – 3:17-18.

He speaks of his “affliction and wanderings, the wormwood and the gall!” – 3:19. Wormwood and gall have to do with bitterness. As the writer thinks of all this suffering and loss, he says in 3:20 – “My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.” This is a person who knows bitterness and despair.

This then, leads us to our focus passage . . .

The writer’s hope: Lamentations 3:21-24 

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’”

Somehow he finds hope in the midst of all this. And we want to see how he does so.

1. There is a focus on God’s character, specifically God’s:

  • “Steadfast love” or kindness. This is also translated as faithful love, loyal love, or great love.

  • “Mercies” or compassion. This has to do with parental concern.

The writer calls to mind these character traits of God. But not only does God have these traits

2. God is unfailingly  reliable in giving them. The writer says that God’s steadfast love and mercy

  • “never cease”

  • they “never come to an end”

  • “they are new every morning”

The writer remembers how faithful God is to give of his mercies to us and he says, for the first time directly addressing God, “Great is your faithfulness.” God faithfully gives of his love and compassion to his people.

3. This is the basis of hope in hopeless times.

The writer says in v. 21, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope.” What does he call to mind that gives hope? God’s steadfast love and mercy – vs. 22-23.

This is his portion. This is what he has and really all that he has – God’s ever renewed love. And yet this is enough. As v.24 says, “‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’”

God’s deep love and kindness – faithfully given day by day, is what keeps him going.

This doesn’t mean that he still didn’t hurt and grieve and even despair at times, as we see in Lamentations. But he has found hope in God. And this is what he comes back to in his pain and this is what sustains him and allows him to move forward.

As we think about our difficult situations . . .

We can have hope too

  • Not because our circumstances will change. They may or they may not.
  • Not because we can rely on someone else to help us.
  • Not because we can take care of it in our own strength and wisdom.

We can have hope because of God’s faithful kindness and mercy to us every day without fail.

Like the writer, this doesn’t mean we won’t still struggle at times. But as long as we live we can come back to the fact that God is our hope and portion. And even if we die, our hope is not at an end because of God’s steadfast love to us in Christ Jesus. William Higgins

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