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New Every Morning (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
December 29, 2022 3:00 am

New Every Morning (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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December 29, 2022 3:00 am

Christians aren’t spared from failure or suffering. So what can we do when circumstances are bleak? How did God’s people find hope when they were exiled to Babylon? Hear an encouraging word for discouraged people on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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The Bible makes it clear that becoming a Christian won't spare you from failure or from suffering. So what should we do when we find ourselves experiencing bleak circumstances? Today on Truth for Life, we'll look at how God's people found hope when they were exiled in Babylon.

Alistair Begg has an encouraging word today for discouraged people. Lamentations 3 verse 1. I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath. He has driven and brought me into darkness without any light. Surely against me he turns his hand, again and again the whole day long. He has made my flesh and my skin waste away. He has broken my bones. He has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation. He has made me dwell in darkness like the dead of long ago. He has walled me about so that I cannot escape. He has made my chains heavy.

Though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer. He has blocked my ways with blocks of stones. He has made my paths crooked.

He is a bear lying in wait for me, a lion in hiding. He turned aside my steps and tore me to pieces. He has made me desolate. He bent his bow and set me as a target for his arrow. He drove into my kidneys the arrows of his quiver.

I have become the laughing stock of all peoples, the object of their taunts all day long. He has filled me with bitterness. He has sated me with wormwood. He's made my teeth grind on gravel and made me cower in ashes. My soul is bereft of peace.

I've forgotten what happiness is. So I say, My endurance has perished, so has my hope from the Lord. Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall. My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. 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 will I hope in him. Amen." Just a brief prayer as we look at the Bible. Father, what we know not, teach us. What we have not, give us. What we are not, make us.

For your name's sake. Amen. It's not uncommon to turn to a magazine or a newspaper and find an article written under a heading along these lines, Is Anyone Faithful Anymore? Usually that has to do with interpersonal relationships and primarily within marriage. But if I talk to members of my congregation who are involved in the life of business or in sales, they often have to tell me that some folks who show up apparently very committed to being part of the team and part of the cause, all of a sudden, they're nowhere to be found.

And the idea of loyalty to the company or loyalty to the task has dissipated very, very quickly. The idea of keeping our promises—promises that we've made to one another and keeping them even when it's very hard to do so—is something that is unusual and therefore is quite striking when we encounter it. The idea of a steady devotion and just a consistency—the person who lets their yes be yes and their no be no, that they're not vacillating all the time, you never know where you are with them, and so on. And not least of all, as you think about what it means to devote yourself to someone in the framework of marriage. I often unsettle young people when they ask me, you know, what should I look for in a spouse, and I give them a list of different things, and they think I'm quaint and old now, which of course is perfectly true.

But the principles, I think, still stand. You know, I say to the girl, I say, Does this fellow finish things? They'll say, Well, finish what? I say, Well, does… Have you been with him when he's had his cereal? Does he finish his cereal? I say, Well, I… What?

What? I say, Yeah, I mean, does he finish it, or does he leave milk floating in the bottom with bits of Cheerios still floating in it? Does he finish it? Does he shine his shoes? And if he shines his shoes, does he shine the heels, or does he only shine the toes? Because that's significant.

Because, you see, he may be thinking it only matters what you can see coming at you, but it matters far more than that, and by the time I'm finished, they've decided they're not getting married at all. But the only real measure of faithfulness that we have is the recurring emphasis of faithfulness in the Bible. We've had it from the very beginning in the psalm that was read at the commencement of our worship. And the psalmist, again and again, reflects on it. Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds—amazing clouds around here every morning, and then at night too, and the vastness of it all, and the moon last night. And one of my grandchildren said to me the other day, You know, Papa, I love you to the moon and back. And I said, Whoa, that is good. I like that. And then I have the chance to tell her, you know, God loves you in a way that is vast like that.

It extends to everywhere. O Lord, who is mighty as you are, with your faithfulness all around you. There's a picture of God's faithfulness. It's impossible to conceive of him without recognizing that the omnipresent nature of his character is represented in this way. Moses reminded the people of that again and again, Know that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps his covenant.

As James says, he doesn't change like shifting shadows. His faithfulness is one aspect of the absolute perfection of his character. And in essence, it is this—that God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is revealed to us in Scripture as being a hundred percent reliable all the time.

Is there anyone to whom I can go that will be one hundred percent consistent and reliable? And the answer, of course, is here in the pages of Scripture. Not the gods of our own creation, not concepts, not idols, not philosophical meanderings, but the God who has revealed himself in the priceless nature of creation, who has established the truth of himself in the person of his Son, who has left to us in the sufficiency of the Bible a mechanism whereby we may go and read it for ourselves.

And this God is the faithful God. Oh, you say it's interesting that you have decided to speak on this, because we were listening carefully, as you read, from the beginning of this chapter. And it didn't smack up a lot of faithfulness. In fact, it was a rather distasteful reading. And yes, it was, wasn't it? It's not easy to read it out loud and to recognize that what is being said here is of vital importance.

And so what I want to do is suggest to you just three things. That what we have here in the passage that we read is, first of all, a comfortable word in an uncomfortable setting. A comfortable word in an uncomfortable setting.

This setting is clearly uncomfortable. The book is called Lamentations for Goodness' Sake. Everybody knows what a lament is. In other words, it's not you get up in the morning and you're like, Hey, hey, what a day.

No, it is the very reverse of that. And it is a series of laments. Essentially, these five chapters are five separate poems. And what is being reflected on by Jeremiah in this section of the Bible is the circumstances that were experienced by the people of God when they were overwhelmed by Babylon and they were carried away into exile. You remember in the psalmist, the psalmist says, By the rivers of Babylon we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion. We looked back, and we said it was great over there. We had a temple, we had worship, we had everything going nicely for us. But now what we've done is we've taken our musical instruments and we've hanged them on the willow trees.

Because after all, how could we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land? And so it is that uncomfortable dimension that is then the context for what takes place here. So, what the writer is doing is not simply describing it, as it were, in the third person and at arm's length, but he's describing it in the first person as if it were that what he is experiencing here is simply the expression of the experience of all. So in other words, what Jeremiah lays claim to in terms of the reality of this lament is expressive of the community's understanding. And, as I say, what you have in these five chapters is a succession of poems. Chapter 3 is right in the middle, and it is also at the very heart of the message, as we will see. It is formed as an acrostic, like Psalm 119. You know, in Psalm 119, each verse begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. In the same way here in this third chapter of Lamentations, every three verses begin with another letter of the Hebrew alphabet as a mechanism so that people would have it anchored in their minds so that they would be able to bring it to mind so that they could recall it—in much the same way that we teach our children memory tricks, if you like, in order that they may be able to bring these things back to mind.

It's a rather passé concept in contemporary education, but it is actually a vital piece of laying hold of truth. And we'll leave that observation for another time. So, the chances are that all that I've said this morning so far concerning this passage will be news to the vast majority of us.

We are aware of the great expression of God's faithfulness, which is the kind of verse that is routinely put on mirrors or on nice pictures of Diamondhead or in pictures of the sea and oceans and clouds and everything, and then you have it up, and your grandmother has it up at the end of her stairwell, and you come up the stairs, and it says, The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases great is thy faithfulness. Actually, there's a perfect picture of it right through this top window right now. You've got the hill in the background, you've got the palm trees in the front, there's a space in the middle, perfect space for Lamentations 3 23. Put it right there.

And we'll all just get together, sing Kumbaya, and have a happy time, and then we'll go. The problem is that that is not even close to where it emerges. That is what is so staggering about it. Because where it is said is in a dark place, in a bleak place. If it were set to music, it would be set in a minor key. If you were looking for an instrument to play in the background while you read out loud Lamentations 3, one good option would be to take a lone bagpipe and let that thing go. Because that is an unusual sound. I mean, as I said as a Scotsman, the Irish sent the bagpipes to Scots people as a joke, but we never got the joke, and we've been playing the thing ever since.

And if you've ever caught yourself with a poor bagpipe player, you know, on the holiday weekend, bleeding out some miserable rendition of Amazing Grace, then you know exactly what we're on about here. And that would be the background. You have put me in the depths of the pit, in regions dark and deep. The whole book begins in a very dark way. How lonely sits the city that was full of people? You've got this picture of absolute desertion, like places in Glasgow in the midst of the Second World War, after the raids of the Nazis. Just absolutely desolate. How like a widow she has become.

That is the city. She who was great among the nations, she who was a princess among the provinces, has become a slave. So you've got this picture of desolation and enslavement and loneliness. And so the question is raised, why don't you look and see if there was ever sorrow like this? Is it nothing to all of you who pass by?

Look and see. Is there any sorrow like my sorrow which has brought upon me, which the Lord inflicted on the day of his fierce anger? Now, here's something to think about. Because it is not uncommon, even in circles similar to this, to find people assessing various experiences of life in terms of like, well, this was the devil, he won this one, and then Jesus, he did quite well on that one. But apparently, he's really done a great job here. And he's done an amazing job in the desolation of his people, the gathering of them into exile, and so on.

Nothing could be further from the truth. God was in charge. God raised up the powers of Babylon in order to bring his people into a situation whereby they would be so aware of what it means to be bereft of the security and faithfulness of God that they might then, in their expression of repentance, cry out to him all over again.

The sorrow that has been brought upon them, the desolation that they now experience, has been inflicted by the Lord in the day of his fierce anger. That is a real problem to many people, because we have a concept of God that is of our own contriving. Any of the pieces that we don't like of the revelation of God in the Bible, we move them to the side of the plate, in the same way that children move vegetables to the side of the plate and only eat the parts that they like. And so people say, Well, I like this part, but I don't like that part. Listen, if you only believe the parts of the Bible that you like and leave aside the parts that you don't like, you don't believe the Bible. You believe yourself. You are now the authority, not the Bible. So the real question is—and this was the conference this weekend—is, Do the people of God actually believe the Bible, even when it cuts right across contemporary philosophy and so on, of which we are a part?

Now, we're not going to go through this section in its entirety, but we should just notice that it is full of these bold complaints. Surely, I'm in a mess, he says. In verse 4, he's physically wasting away. In verses 5–7, he feels himself trapped and dwelling in darkness.

His cries are not even heard, though I call and cry for help. Verse 8, he shuts out my prayer. He's walled me in. He's a bear lying in wait for me, a lion in hiding. He's not referring to the devil here.

You see this? He has made me desolate. He's bent his bow. He drove into my kidneys the arrows of his quiver. Have you ever read the story of the crucifixion of Jesus? And when they came and found that he was in a condition that they did not expect, one of the soldiers took his spear and drove it into his side.

Drove it right into his kidneys, essentially. I have become a laughing stock for all the people. My teeth grind ungrateful. My endurance has perished, and so has my hope. I've forgotten what happiness is.

No worship, no leader, no temple, no nothing. You say, Well, I'm feeling much better now that we've gone through this. When do we come to the comfortable part?

Well, we will come to the comfortable part, and thanks for remembering our opening point—a comfortable word in a most uncomfortable setting. Now, think about this for just a moment. Let's say you're in a situation similar to this, where all the wheels have fallen off your wagon, and you're just bereft of joy, and disappointment has faced you, you're aware of your own sinfulness, the church has not been going as well as you hoped, and so on. And then somebody says, You know, why don't we sing a song?

And someone says, Well, I have a song. Let's sing Great Is Thy Faithfulness. The verse says, Sing great is thy faithfulness?

Why would we sing great is thy faithfulness? I mean, the thing is miserable. We've just described it. It's absolutely hopeless. Eating gravel, the laughing stock of the community, everything overwhelming us, this horrible music playing in the background—great is thy faithfulness?

Okay, well, let's look at this. The second point is that this is actually an encouraging word for a discouraged people. An encouraging word for a discouraged people.

Because you will notice there is a transition. In verse 18, my endurance has perished and so has my hope. Verse 21, But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope.

Oh, wait a minute! Only a couple of verses ago you had no hope, and now you've got hope. What changed? What changed? The circumstances didn't change.

He's not saying, That was all an illusion. I was just looking at life incorrectly. No, no, I just… It was my attitude that was wrong.

I just need to fix things. I just need to start to believe good things about things. I need to banish the idea that life could ever be this way. This is not the life of faith. This is not the life of hope, whatever they might be. But in actual fact, it is the life. It is life. The fact is that our pilgrimage through life is marked not by great seasons of joy and triumph, but it is marked by periods in our lives that confront us with the finitude of our lives. I preach Sunday by Sunday to a congregation or to congregations whose lives are marked, in many cases, by quiet desperation. If you scratch just beneath the surface, they will finally tell you, Yeah, yes, this is true.

This is true. I don't know what to do. And five the other day I said to myself, I think my hope is almost gone. What changed? Nothing looked hopeful. Nothing looked worthwhile. Nothing looked possible.

Certainly nothing looked comforting. Notice the key phrase. Twenty-one. This I call to mind. You see, the Christian life is a mind-altering experience. Christian faith is about history.

It's about geography. It's about reality. It's about real people in real time making real encounters with a real God.

It's not a fiction. Therefore, why would we be surprised if people's stories were marked by all of these elements of the ramifications of just the reality of human existence? So what is it that distinguishes the Christian from the non-Christian? It is a complete fallacy to suggest that the Christian is the triumphant one, that the Christian is the one who always passes their exams, that the Christian is the one who never faces failure, that the Christian is the one who's not involved in disappointment.

If you go and try and sell that to your friends and neighbors, you're selling them a bill of goods. Many people who, having come to trust in Christ, have discovered that life got a lot harder than ever it was before. So instead of it being some great triumphant exercise, it has actually brought them into an experience whereby the circumstances challenge the very profession that they make. What do they need to do?

They need to do what Jeremiah does. He thinks. You're flying at 38,000 feet, going at 642 miles an hour in the pitch dark.

If you let your feelings run away with you, there's no way—I mean, you can't jump out the window even if you wanted to. You're there. So you better start thinking. You better start thinking about the significance of those engines on an A350 or whatever it is. You better start thinking about physics. You better start thinking about things.

You better start bringing your mind to bear upon your feelings. The Christian life, as Alistair just said, is a mind-altering experience. That is Alistair Begg reminding us that when life is overwhelming, it's important for us to recall where our hope comes from. You're listening to Truth for Life. The Book of Lamentations may be a book you haven't read in a while.

Maybe it's a book you've never looked at closely. Alistair reminds us all of Scripture is inspired, breathed out by God, and it's profitable for teaching and for training in righteousness. And with that in mind, we want to recommend to you that you sign up for our free daily devotional if you're not already subscribed. Every Day's Entry provides you with a passage of Scripture followed by a deeper explanation and reflection from Alistair. This is a great way to gain valuable and practical spiritual insight from more than 50 books in the Bible over the course of a year. You'll receive a new devotion each morning in your email inbox. You can subscribe.

It's free. Go online to truthforlife.org slash lists. And you may have heard me mention a book called Every Moment Holy. It's a book we're making available when you make a donation through this weekend. You can request the book. It's a prayer book that will help you pause and give thanks to God even during routine moments of your day.

It's a great way to grow in your appreciation of God's goodness. Request the book online today at truthforlife.org slash donate. Again, it's available when you give to support the teaching you hear on Truth for Life. By the way, our offices are closed today. We're closed until Tuesday, January 3rd.

However, your online gift, if made before midnight on December 31st, will be recorded as a 2022 charitable donation. I'm Bob Lapeen. We're glad you could join us today. We'll hear more from Lamentations 3 tomorrow to find out why one plus God is a majority. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-29 05:04:17 / 2022-12-29 05:13:16 / 9

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