Tag Archives: suffering

Bible Overview Series: Lamentations

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Lamentations by Joseph Novak

A Bear Crouches. Destruction Envelops. Flee God’s Holy Implacable Judgment! Killed! Lament! Mourn Nakedly! O Pray!

(Ben Myers’ #CanonFodder Summary)

 

Jeffrey Kranz’s Overview of Jeremiah

The city of God is in ruins. The temple is destroyed. The king’s palace is in shambles. The gates are burned down. The walls are torn apart. The Babylonians have ransacked the holy city.

“How?”

That’s the original name of Lamentations, this small collection of five poems that mourn the fall of Jerusalem. According to tradition, the prophet Jeremiah writes these dirges for the city he had ministered to for years. And it all begins with the word “How.”

“How lonely sits the city
That was full of people!
She has become like a widow
Who was once great among the nations!
She who was a princess among the provinces
Has become a forced laborer!” (La 1:1)

The book deals with the question, “How could this happen?” How could Jerusalem fall to the Babylonians? The answer has little to do with the political or military forces surrounding the events.

Rather, the fall of Jerusalem is a theological event, one that happened by theological means for theological reasons.

The people had rejected their God and His prophets. Before they ever entered the promised land, Israel was given a choice: remain loyal to God and enjoy His blessings and prosperity, or worship other gods and be exiled from their land (that’s from Deuteronomy). Israel followed other gods, showed injustice to the poor, and ignored God’s laws.

The people had sworn to love and obey and follow the Lord, and they broke that promise time and time again. But God is faithful and just: and He cannot let the guilty go unpunished.

So Jerusalem falls, and all the people can do is mourn.

The siege is unforgettable, but the reason it happened should never be forgotten. And the poetry in Lamentations is particularly memorable. You can’t tell in English, but the Lamentations are intricate poems built around the Hebrew alphabet:

The first, second, and fourth chapters are 22 verses long, and when lined up, the first letters of the verse form the Hebrew alphabet. That means verse one begins with the letter alep, verse two begins with bet, and so on through the 22 letters of the alphabet. Here’s an example:

Hebrew

Note: Hebrew reads right-to-left.

The third chapter is even more impressive: it’s 66 verses long, and it works through the alphabet three verses at a time. Verses 1–3 begin with alep, verses 4–6 begin with bet, etc. Here’s what it looks like in Hebrew:
Hebrew2

Chapter 5′s verses reflect the Hebrew alphabet in number alone. There are 22 verses, but they aren’t arranged into an acrostic.

But even in a book named “Lamentations,” the God of vengeance is still a God of hope. In the middle of the book, the writer reminds the people to hope in God:

The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness. (La 3:22–23)
Why should any living mortal, or any man,
Offer complaint in view of his sins?
Let us examine and probe our ways,
And let us return to the LORD. (La 3:39–40)

The city was destroyed and the people were exiled because of their sin, but even this is an opportunity to call on God for help. For the people of God, He is the only hope.

Theme verse of Lamentations

The LORD is righteous;
“For I have rebelled against His command;
Hear now, all peoples,
And behold my pain;
My virgins and my young men
Have gone into captivity.” —Jerusalem (La 1:18)

Lamentations’ role in the Bible

Lamentations sits in the Major Prophets section of our English Bibles. It follows the story of Jeremiah, who (traditionally) wrote Lamentations. But the poetic structure of this book clearly makes it more similar to the Psalms, Proverbs, and other wisdom literature.

Why the acrostics? It could be to illustrate how completely Jerusalem has been destroyed, or how completely faithful God is to His people and His promises. It could also be a means of keeping the material brief and memorable—after all, Jeremiah’s other account is the longest book of the Bible.

This book of Lamentations may include some content the author of First and Second Chronicles references when good King Josiah passes away:

  • Then Jeremiah chanted a lament for Josiah. And all the male and female singers speak about Josiah in their lamentations to this day. And they made them an ordinance in Israel; behold, they are also written in the Lamentations. (2 Ch 35:25)
  • Josiah was the last righteous king of Judah, and God had said that Jerusalem would not fall until after Josiah died (2 Ch 34:28). The kings after Josiah led the people into all kinds of rebellion against the Lord, and sealed Jerusalem’s fate. The death of Josiah was the first step in Jerusalem’s march toward utter destruction.

Lamentations fits into the prophetic section of the Bible by describing the theological backdrop of Judah’s exile. Lamentations is a moment of self-awareness: anyone reading the scroll would remember why Jerusalem fell and why the survivors were taken to Babylon. But the book also would have been a hearty (and solemn) encouragement to those who return in the days of Ezraand Nehemiah: no matter how faithless His people are, God remains faithful.

Quick outline of Lamentations

  • Jerusalem: punished and in pain ( La 1)
  • The Lord’s anger on Jerusalem (La 2)
  • The individual’s distress turns to hope (La 3)
  • The siege of Jerusalem (La 4)
  • A plea for God’s mercy (La 5)
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Bible Overview Series: Job

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Job 
by Joseph Novak

 

He scrapes himself with broken pots, cursing his mother’s womb. In the distance, Leviathan circles silently in the deep.

(Ben Myers’ #CanonFodder Summary)

 

Jeffrey Kranz’s Overview of Job

Nobody has it better than Job:

  • He’s righteous
  • He’s rich
  • He has a big, happy family

But things abruptly change. In one day, his children die when a building collapses, his employees are slaughtered, and his cattle are stolen. Then, painful boils break out on his skin. Job loses everything, and is left wondering why.

The answer: Satan wants to prove that Job will curse God. This is the central conflict of the book. It’s Job’s test: will he abandon his faith or remain loyal to God?

Here’s how the story plays out:

  • Satan attacks Job. God points out to Satan that Job is a blameless and upright man, but Satan points out that God has already blessed Job abundantly.  Satan argues that Job is just returning the favor, and asserts that Job would turn on God if his blessings were taken away. God gives Satan a chance to prove it, and Satan immediately rips everything he can away from Job. But Job does not curse God.
  • Job mourns while his friends accuse him. Job’s three friends come to comfort him, and Job begins to lament his loss to them. Their response stings: “God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves” (Job 11:6). Job’s friends tell him that this suffering must be brought on by Job’s sin, and he should repent. Job argues back that he has not incurred any punishment. Job wishes he could plead his case to God. Still, Job does not curse God. Job and his friends go back and forth three times on this issue, and then a young bystander named Elihu jumps in.
  • God Himself answers Job. After Elihu weighs in, God speaks to Job. God challenges Job’s understanding by reminding Job of His wisdom, sovereignty, and power.
  • Job is restored. When God finishes, Job humbly concedes that God’s will is unstoppable, and repents. God also reprimands Job’s friends for misrepresenting Him. Finally, God restores Job: he becomes twice as wealthy, he again is blessed with children, and he dies at a ripe old age.

Throughout the book of Job, we wonder whether Job will stand firm in his faith or abandon it. In the end, Job remains faithful to God, and God remains faithful to Job.

Theme verses of Job

“[Job] said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked I shall return there.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the LORD.’

Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.” (Job 1:21–22)

Job’s role in the Bible

Job is the first Old Testament book of poetry (the others are PsalmsProverbs,EcclesiastesSong of Solomon, and Lamentations). Although the book of Job is best known for its story, only three of the 42 chapters are narrative. The rest are poetic discourses from Job, his friends, a young bystander, and God Himself.

Job is considered wisdom literature: the book helps us understand God, His creation, our relationship with Him, and how we should respond.

A few features make Job especially unique in the Bible:

  • Job is not said to be Hebrew. All other times the Bible mentions a place called Uz, it is not in the land of Israel (Lam 4:21Jer25:20).  Job makes sacrifices on behalf of others (Job 1:5)—there is no mention of Levitical priests nor God’s covenant law with Israel.
  • Job focuses on God’s role as sovereign creator. When God answers Job, He asks a series of “Where where you when . . .” questions. The book of Job attests to God’s creative power, wisdom, and authority. Because God made the universe, we can trust that He knows how to rule it.
  • Job pulls back the curtain on Satan’s activities. Until the book of Job, we’ve only seen Satan influence David for Israel’s harm (1 Chr 21:1), but in Job, we see the enemy in full-on attack against God’s servant. We see that Satan can manipulate the weather (Job 1:1619), a person’s health (Job 2:7), and even groups of people (Job 1:1517). But we also see God setting Satan’s limits (Job 1:122:6).
  • Job serves as an example of how the righteous are not immune to suffering. In the New Testament, James cites Job as an example to Christians who suffer:
  • As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful. (James 5:10—11)
  • And like Job, we are Satan’s targets now. Peter warns us that the devil “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” But our response should be the same as Job’s: we must “resist him, firm in [our] faith” (1 Pet 5:8–9).

Quick outline of Job

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Second Week of Advent: Sunday, December 8th

Romans 15:4–13

4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs 9 so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy, as it is written:

“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles;
I will sing hymns to your name.”
10 Again, it says,
“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.”
11 And again,
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
and sing praises to him, all you peoples.”
12 And again, Isaiah says,
“The Root of Jesse will spring up,
one who will arise to rule over the nations;
the Gentiles will hope in him.”

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Endurance and encouragement.  Two things that this passage reminds us God gives us through the Scriptures and His Spirit.

Of the two,encouragement seems to get more air time within the Christian subculture.  But the last few years have been ones where I’ve needed just as much endurance as encouragement.

I was recently taking in a teaching of someone who was addressing the challenge of moving through suffering as a Christian.  They noted that sometimes we are simply called to endure our suffering.  Not figure out the “why” behind our hardship.  Not pray it away.  Sometimes simply enduring suffering with grace and hope glorifies God in ways that getting out of our suffering (or explaining it away) cannot.

God gives both endurance and encouragement.  During this advent season, which are you most in need of?  Go to Him and boldly ask for what you need, because God is eager to provide so that you can live in hope.

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