Afflicted by God

By Gary Jennings (Lead Pastor)                                                               

RAP – It’s simple to do. Read a passage; Apply the passage, and Pray the passage. Everyone can rap.

I sat down in my chair on Tuesday morning, March 16, opened up my Bible and got ready to be blessed by God’s word. Our scripture for this day was Lamentations 3:1-33. I must admit, this reading was far from blessing me as I read the first twenty-one verses. My first reaction was that this is not great sermon material at all. In fact, has any preacher used this as his text to exhort the people of God? There is no exhortation here. I wanted to sink in my chair. There are no Godly fuzzies. There are no spiritual butterflies. There are no incredible one liners to stick up on my fridge door to help me begin my day with. I wanted to forget what I just read. If you have not read this, you must do so. But do so at your own risk.

The prophet Jeremiah wrote the book of Lamentations and here is what he says about God in the first 21 verses of Lamentations 3: He has driven me away, He has made my skin and my flesh grow old, He has walled me in, He dragged me from the path and mangled me, He drew his bow and made me the target for his arrows, He has broken my teeth with gravel. He has trampled me in the dust. Wait a minute, is this my God? Are you being blessed and exhorted as I quote? What am I to do with this? Shall I skip this and go on to something more pleasant? Ah, yes I could, but no, I can’t. I must try to understand this. This could be great, if I stop to ponder.

I do remember my sister Karen experiencing discomfort from my mother. It’s called discipline; and she needed it. She was bad. I recall the usual procedure. Mom would send her to her room and she would go on and on through sobs and tears about how bad mom was. I got used to the routine and the descriptive downer one liners about my mother. Mom was still in the house, and probably in the kitchen preparing for our next meal. But today, I must say Karen turned out very well. She is a great sister, mother, and wife, and I love her dearly.

I remember my own discomfort I experienced from my parents. The suffering I am referring to is also being sent to my room and being alienated from the family; losing my family privileges, not getting my allowance; not allowed to watch The Beverly Hillbillies for a couple of evenings. My parents even took my car keys from me one time. How could they? They were such meanies. Oh, but look at me now. I am almost 60 and my wife says I turned out pretty good. I agree. Ha.

So let’s get back to that Lamentations scripture passage and try to figure this one out. The writer says in chapter 33:22, Because of the Lords great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.

Another scripture verse that comes to my mind is Hebrews 12:6, where it says, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son. God is our heavenly Father, and He loves us too much to allow us to go our own fleshly way. So He corrects, so that we may turn out to be more like Him.

Pastor Ruth Denboer said this in one of our staff meetings; God is interested in our holiness, not our happiness. This is so true.

So, we are told that the writer in Lamentations 3 is identifying with God’s chosen people, the Israelites. They were like a wayward child. They were rebellious in so many ways. Because God had restoration on his mind, corrective measures were being taken.

Jeremiah was feeling what the people were feeling as he penned these descriptive words. My outlined Bible tells me that there are two themes for Lamentations. First, the misery that sin brings, and secondly, the love and compassion of Jehovah for the subjects of his wrath

Ah, now I get it. Sin never pays great dividends.

By the way, if you are reading Lamentations 3, please do not stop at verse 21 in discouragement, keep reading. It does get better.