The prophet Jeremiah in the Old Testament famously lamented the sorry state of God's people who were defeated and enslaved by the Babylonians. But in the middle of that lament, he recalled something that gave him hope and still gives us hope today. We'll find out what that is together as today we study Lamentations 3 on Truth for Life.
Alistair Begg is concluding a special message titled, New Every Morning. 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.
Why would we sing Great Is Thy Faithfulness? I mean, the thing is miserable. We've just described it. It's absolutely hopeless. 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.
Because you will notice there is a transition. In verse 18, my endurance has perished and so has my hope. In 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 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, I'm… Yes, this is true.
This is true. I don't know what to do. In fact, 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. 21. This I call to mind. 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 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. Guys will tell me in my church, I used to have a hundred friends. Now I've hardly got two or three. They think I'm an idiot, because I no longer do what they once did. I no longer go where they once went. I no longer embrace the philosophy that I once embraced.
What is wrong with you? 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 thirty-eight thousand feet, going at six hundred and forty-two 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 of 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. That's what he's doing. I call this to mind. And what he does is he leads us by reflecting on what he knows of God. This is what I know is true, but this is what I know as well.
Here's what I know. I'm going to bring the feelings of my heart under the jurisdiction of my mind. All day, every day. And gracious God, you've made me. You love me in Jesus. You've promised to keep me to the end. You've promised that you'll hold me fast.
I don't really feel held at the moment. I'm not feeling real secure right now, God. But it's okay for me to tell you this, because Jeremiah told you a lot of stuff like that, and so did David the psalmist. So I'm allowed to let you know that I'm feeling this way. But I also know what your Word says, that your steadfast love—whereby you established a covenant with your people—that your steadfast love never ceases, that your mercies never come to an end. What a wonderful and amazing promise! The proof that God, you see, still loved his people was that they weren't consumed.
The psalmist similarly says, My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Now, think about this this morning. You have your own life. You're living it.
So am I. Time goes by. All the days of our lives were written in his book before one of them came to be. We move inexorably through our days in a linear progression from the place of our birth to the day of our death. And in the midst of all of the triumphs and the trials, what is it that grants stability to us?
If it's not the steadfast love of the Lord, you're gonna have to look for something else. If it's not his mercies that never come to an end. Isn't it funny, the older you get, you say, Well, I'm not that old yet, but… Well, take it from me then, that you begin to talk like your grandfather or your grandmother. And my grandfather used to… You remember him saying things like, I don't know what's gonna happen to the next generation. I don't know what's gonna become of them.
This was in the sixties. He says that if people dressed like those beetles or whatever you call them, in my day they would have put them in a mental institution. This is unbelievable. Look at these characters. Dear boy, I don't know what'll happen. Well, I should have been smart enough to tell him, Hey, did you ever read Lamentations 3? That his mercy's never come to an end? That his truth endures to all generations?
So when you punch out Grandpa, that's not the end of the program. You can't turn the whole story off just because you've got to come. Because now we've got to come. And the next one will come, until the Lord comes. Therefore, rest secure in this, that though all hell lets loose in western civilization, the Lord God omnipotent reigns, and the steadfast love of the Lord will never cease, and his mercies will never come to an end. He will accomplish his purposes. Nothing may stand in his way.
Nothing! And that's the thing that gets Jeremiah back on keel. Not that all the bad stuff went away, and then he felt really good, but the bad stuff was still there, but now he realized who God is. He was able to say, I don't know why it is.
He was able to say, I don't actually like it the way it is. But because I know who you are and what you are, then I have hope. Hope. You can't live without hope. But what is hope when it is mentioned here? What is the hope when it says that we've been born again to a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead? The writers are not talking about hope in the sense of uncertainty, the way we might say, Well, I hope it won't rain this evening because we have plans.
No. In the Bible, when it uses hope in this way, it is the certainty of that which is promised but which has not yet been experienced. The certainty of that which is promised but has not yet been experienced. So I've been born again to a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Yeah, but I'm gonna die.
Yes. So how are you gonna die? Well, I'm gonna die in hope. What's your hope? Well, my hope is that as Jesus was raised from the dead, I will be raised from the dead. That's good.
Now, is that hope like I hope it doesn't rain, or is that hope like the certainty of something that is a promise that has not yet been experienced? It's all the difference in the world, isn't it? You see, that's what changes. That's why Paul, in Romans 12, he says, Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Christians in our day have to learn to think. Whatever your views are on plastic straws or paper straws or the extinction rebellion or whatever your views are—I'm not here to discuss them—but I'm here to tell you this, that if you will just read the Psalms in the morning, you will be able to rest secure. Be a good person.
We were given the garden to tend and care for it. Of course, we're not to abuse things. But we don't have to lie awake at night thinking, the whole world is about to become extinct if we actually use plastic straws, because God has established his cause in heaven. You see, these people have no God. They have no God. They're worshipping at the church of ecology.
They don't have any theology except the godless theology. We have God. He created the universe. All the stars in the heaven he put there.
He called them by name. He either is or he isn't. He cannot be God, as revealed in the Bible, looking, as it were, from the vantage point of eternity and saying, Oh my, that's amazing.
I never imagined that was going to happen. That could not be God—a God who doesn't know the future and who doesn't control these things. Maybe something else, but he sure isn't God. So the psalmist is saying, When I look up into the heavens, and I consider the moon and the stars and all the things that you've ordained, I say, What is man, that thou art mindful of him, and the Son of man that you visit him?
But you, you see, you're everything. Well, actually, and to my final point, it is then a comfortable word in a most uncomfortable setting. It is an encouraging word for discouraged people. And finally—and I've already essentially alluded to this—it is a Christ-centered word for a self-centered world. A Christ-centered word for a self-centered world. You see, if you look at the chapter again through the eyes of Jesus, then you realize why it is that at Sunday school our teachers taught us that the Bible is a book about salvation. Salvation belongs to the Lord, that God, despite the fact that creation turned its back on God and that we are rebels before him, still he loves and pursues us, that we are not trying to earn the right for his acceptance, that we don't believe the contemporary silly idea that a good God, if he exists, will reward nice people if they do their best. I don't lie. I don't want to try and pass my exams on that basis. Well, if there is a good God and he rewards nice people to do their best, well, number one, I'm not that nice.
And number two, I don't know what my best would be, and I don't know how good a grade I would have to get to at least, even if he's grading on the curve, to get in the right, you know, get in the right spot. Now, you see, when you read your Bible, you need to realize, as I say, that in the Old Testament, Jesus is expected. In the Gospels, he's revealed. In the Acts, he's preached. In the Epistles, he's explained. And in the book of Revelation, he's anticipated. So the real question when you read the Bible, and it not leads to all the passages like Lamentations 3, is not to say, Well, where do I fit in this passage?
No. This is not, there's Waldo. You don't read the Bible, it's like, Where am I in this story? That's classic, isn't it? Well, it's got, surely, something about me in here. Yeah, there's a big part about you, and as you're a wretched sinner, that part is really clear.
I know that, because I saw that when I read it for myself. But the real question is, Where is Jesus in this? Now, you go home and read through Lamentations 3 again. Listen, how does it open? I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath.
Who fits that? More than Jesus. What was Jesus doing on the cross? He was bearing the wrath of God. The righteous judgment of God set on his dearly beloved Son so that thus each of us who deserves condemnation might because of who Jesus is and what he's endured receive what we don't deserve, and what we do deserve, he has taken in our place.
That's the story of the gospel. That another has done for us what we couldn't do for ourselves. That he is ultimately the one who has seen this affliction. That he is ultimately the one who is the laughing stock of the peoples. Read Isaiah 53. He was wounded for our transgressions.
He was bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement that brought us peace was upon him. In other words, the judgment that we deserve was his.
And the experience of the people of God in Jeremiah's day was all within the continuum that sent him longing, looking forward. Where is a prophet who will be the ultimate prophet? Where is a priest who will actually deal with sin once and for all? Where is a king who will live forever? And the answer is, Jesus comes as the prophet.
He is the very Word of God. He comes as the priest. What priest is this? Like a doctor who heals me by taking my cancer.
Man, what a deal that would be! The priest who offers up himself as a sacrifice, who bears the just punishment of God. And he is the king who reigns sovereignly over all the earth. The proof of God's love for his people was that they were still around.
It wasn't going real well, but they were reminded in their experience of God's unfailing faithfulness. And one day, when the role is finally unrolled and when the record is made clear, we will stand together in Christ and declare these things. We will then be able to say, we understood what Paul meant when, in Romans 8, he says, you know, if he has given us, in verse 32, what shall we say to these things if God is for us who can be against us? That doesn't mean if God is for you, nobody will be against you. It means in all the things that are against you, you gotta realize, but God is for me.
And one plus God is a majority. You may be the only one in your office. They may like to say things behind your back. They may criticize you. They may laugh at you.
If God be for you, though, what can they ultimately do? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also, with him, graciously give us all things? And it is this Jesus who's ultimately the focus of this passage and of the Bible, who turns to the people around him on a day, and he says, Why don't you come to me? Why wouldn't you come to me? Very simple invitation. I mean, I had an invitation the other day to come somewhere. They said, Would you come? I said, Well, yeah, I would love to come.
Okay, that's good. Jesus says, Come to me, especially if you recognize that you're heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. In other words, put yourself down under the weight of my authority and my kingship and my rule and my reign. And learn from me, for I'm gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. You think about, get back out here on this road and just drive.
I've driven quite a lot in the last two or three days. And every so often as the traffic stops and you look in the car next to you, all these people going there, going there, going everywhere, without God and without hope in the world, trying to make sense of the narrative of their life. Who am I? Why am I here?
What am I doing? Believe in all kinds of bizarre things. And when you tell them about the living God and the Son whom he has sent and the invitation that he extends despite our rebellious hearts, they say things to me like, Oh, I could never believe something like that.
Which of course they couldn't. Because by our very nature, we are unbelieving. By our very nature, we are unseeing. And it is only God who opens blind eyes, and it is only God who softens hard hearts. There's not a preacher on the face of God's earth.
There's not a philosopher and apologist that could convince you as an unbelieving person today of these things. But God can, and God does. And today, if you hear God's voice—you can hear my voice, big deal—if you hear God's voice, do not harden your heart. Because his steadfast love, which never ceases, his mercy's which never come to an end, his faithfulness which surrounds him, would sweep you up into the immensity of his kindness and make you his child.
What an amazing story. The hymn writer says, Why would I be discouraged? Why would the shadows come? Why would my heart seem lonely and long for heaven and home? When Jesus is my Captain, my constant strength is he, for his eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me. Do you realize that? Do you know that? Does that matter more to you than actually any other thing?
Because your loved ones will go. Well, we'll stop now. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning, and his truth endures to all generations. You're listening to Truth for Life. That is Alistair Begg explaining how God's promises give us stability in the midst of life's triumphs and life's trials. To recall God's promises, we need to know our Bibles. That's why every day here on Truth for Life, we study the Scriptures. If you'd like to learn more about God's promises, you'll find more messages available on our website. You can go to truthforlife.org, click on Sermons. There you can browse through thousands of messages from Alistair by topic or by Scripture. All of Alistair's teaching is available online to either listen to or to download, and it's free because of the generosity of listeners like you who pray for this ministry and support us financially.
You make this possible. And with that in mind, Alistair has something he wants to share with us today. Thank you, Bob. And here we are, by God's grace, at the conclusion of another year of ministry and how quickly time has gone by and how thankful we are for your faithful partnership and for the way it has made it possible for us to continue to present clear, relevant Bible teaching to people at all kinds of stages of life. As we anticipate tomorrow, the final day of the year, your donation will help us enter 2023 with the resources needed to continue to do what we do, to make the good news of the Gospel known to a worldwide audience. So please get in touch with us before the day is out. We look forward to hearing from you and using the resources you provide in a way that commends Christ and the Gospel.
On behalf of all of us, thank you. Now you should know our offices are closed today, but you can still make your year-end donation securely online at truthforlife.org slash donate. Any gift made before midnight tomorrow, December 31st will be recorded as a 2022 charitable donation. And if you'd prefer, you can mail your donation. Keep in mind that all gifts postmarked by December 31st will be counted as a 2022 charitable donation. Our address is Truth for Life, P.O.
Box 398000, Cleveland, Ohio 44139. And when you give your donation, you can request a copy of the book Every Moment Holy. We make it available as our way of saying thanks. This is a book that provides prayers to acknowledge God's presence throughout the day during routine tasks, as well as momentous events. Request the book Every Moment Holy when you donate online at truthforlife.org slash donate. I'm Bob Lapine. We hope you enjoy your weekend as you ring in the new year, and we hope you worship with your local church this weekend. We'll begin 2023, not with a list of fleeting resolutions, but by considering the source of true growth and lasting change. Join us Monday to hear more. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
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