The reality is that there’s not too much to stoke the fire in Lamentations. After all, it’s . . . well, it’s a lamentation . . . a dirge, a wailing born out of mourning. This really isn’t the morning devo book if you’re looking for a “pick me up.” I wrapped up my readings in Lamentations this morning and as I reflect on it I’m can’t help but think that one of its messages is that our God is not to be messed with. His fury is fearful . . . His fierce anger is devastating . . . you don’t want to be on the other side of His chastening rod. But sprinkled within this sorrowful lament are diamonds . . . shining lights concerning our God and His goodness and grace.
Though both good and bad proceed from the mouth of the Most High (Lam. 3:38), He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men (3:33). God has no delight in judging sin . . . no pleasure in meeting out consequences upon His people for their disobedience and wayward determinations. But His holy character demands that sin be judged . . . and His desire for relationship propels Him to acts that will bring restoration. His purpose in judging Judah so severely was that they would return to Him and again seek Him that they might again know the blessing of being His people. His outpoured wrath and then silence were not rejection . . . “For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though He cause grief, He will have compassion according to the abundance of His steadfast love” (3:31-32). God is compassionate and God remains faithful . . . even amidst His holy chastisement of His people. It’s because of the Lord’s mercies that the people of Israel and Judah were not totally consumed for “His mercies never come to an end.” Even in the midst of God ordained refining, He is faithful, every morning providing sufficient grace for the day (3:22-25).
And what grabbed me this morning was this closing plea by Jeremiah:
Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old . . . (Lamentations 5:21 ESV)
Restore us . . . Renew us. How’s that for a little R&R?
I’m certainly not in Judah’s place . . . scores dead . . . scores taken captivity . . . Jerusalem in shamble. But I have known times of feeling like I’m in a barren land . . . times when my sin has separated me from my God. And at some point God has faithfully done what He’s needed to do to bring me to the point of crying out, “Restore me to Yourself . . . Restore the joy of my salvation . . . Renew within me a Spirit-filled vitality.” Ok, maybe not those words exactly . . . but the same idea.
Isn’t that one of the great things about the compassion and faithfulness of God? There’s always a way back.
Jeremiah was in a pit of despair . . . literally he was in a pit (Jer. 38:6) . . . and cried out to God for rescue (3:55). Our “pits” are sometimes those of guilt because of our failure or waywardness. Those miry bogs created by knowing we’ve not been following our King wholeheartedly. But Jeremiah knew the Father’s heart for His people, and so, his encouragement to his people can be our encouragement, “Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the LORD! Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven” (3:40-41).
That’s what the Father’s “new every morning” mercies are about . . . that’s what His never failing compassion accomplishes . . . the turning of hearts back to Himself. Yes! There’s always a way back . . . it is the way opened up through the cross of Christ . . . that once for all offering fully paying the price for all my transgressions – past, present, future . . . that shed blood of Jesus, sufficient to cleanse me from all sin. And with this way open, ours is to cry out to the God of grace, “Restore me to Yourself, Lord! Restore a right spirit within me! Renew and revitalize a flame of passion for Your presence. Nothing but You will do!”
Oh, what a great God is our God! Truly His compassions fail not. He is my portion. In Him I will hope. He will restore us . . . He will renew us . . . for our benefit and blessing . . . and for His glory. Amen?