Sunday School Lesson
NOV. 10, 2002
GRIEF AND HOPE
Focal Verses--LAMENTATIONS 1:12-16; 3:22-24, 31-33
Devotional Reading—PSALM 42:5-11
1. We will know the content of Jeremiah’s lamentation and grasp the consequences of Israel’s action
2. We will also learn to act in a way that pleases GOD, realizing that GOD’S plan is always for our good.
“It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).
This lesson describes Jerusalem’s sorrowful plight and attributes it to GOD’S judgment (1:12-15). Because Judah had ignored the word of GOD, no comfort or comforter was available for Judah; its courage was gone, and its enemies had prevailed (v.16). Notwithstanding this, Jeremiah declares GOD’S steadfast and never-ending love (3:22). The prophet sees GOD as a source of hope (vv.23-24). Although GOD’S judgment is painful, GOD continues and will continue to act out of compassion (vv.31-33).
Yes, there is always hope. The same GOD who disciplines also embraces those who turn to HIM. In the midst of our grief—even that grief which comes from the hand of GOD—there is still a ray of hope if we look to HIM. For as the Scripture says, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases” (v.22, RSV). As you study this lesson, be of good courage and remember that GOD is waiting to show mercy to you.
By way of background, the Book of Lamentations is a very intriguing one. It emphasizes the grief and hope of GOD’S people. The book starts with a picture of Judah in desolation, and the unknown speaker begins to wail with sorrow (many Bible scholars believe Jeremiah is the author). The events that have led up to this desolation can be summed up in Judah’s evil practices. At this point, Judah has followed evil kings, bad priests, and false prophets. They have also ridiculed and mocked the real messengers and prophets of GOD.
In this desolation, they have fallen prey to their enemies. To add to this misery, they have begun to fault GOD for their present state or condition. They have begun to focus more on their many problems and not on their one solution (GOD).
1. BLAMING GOD (Lamentations 1:12-16)
The speaker in this text is not identified, but through his wailing and grief we become aware of his serious, sincere, and honest heart for Judah. He begins to see the problems in Judah and starts to focus on the only one who can deliver him—GOD. However, when he looks at the deliverer and addresses HIM, he does not look for deliverance alone; he also blames HIM (GOD) for Judah’s present state. The speaker begins a “woe is me” campaign. He believes that his sufferings are different from everyone else’s. He assumes this because he believes his sufferings were afflicted by the LORD, not by a lord. You see, this devout Israelite knows the difference between the two. He believes Yahweh GOD has afflicted him—not some mere lord, king, or human master of man.
The speaker (Jeremiah?) goes on to count the ways he feels that GOD has betrayed him or left him to die. He not only faults GOD, but he also begins to count GOD’S (supposed) faults. He pinpoints the origin of the problem with GOD when he states in verse 13, “From above had he sent fire into my bones.” He points out how he feels GOD has had a hand in this whole scenario when he states in verse 14 that GOD has bound his transgressions and delivered him into the hands of his enemies. He continues to “count” by stating that GOD trampled the daughter of Judah.
2. A RAY OF HOPE (3:22-24)
After the pity party, the speaker begins to remember his afflictions in a helpful way. As he begins to remember, a ray of hope develops (v.21). At this point, he begins to see a glimpse of how GOD’S plan works. In spite of the circumstances, he sees GOD’S great love reaching out to him and to all of Judah. He sees that GOD’S mercies held back all that Judah deserved for their disobedience. His total outlook begins to change. He begins to express who GOD is to him instead of what (he feels) GOD has done to him. He also begins to express patience with GOD.
Oftentimes GOD’S mercies protect us from ourselves. GOD’S mercies are not like man’s—they never end. HIS mercies are so powerful that they keep us from judgment. HIS mercies are also so numerous that they will endure forever (Psalm 118:29). In addition to HIS mercies, GOD is faithful. That simply means you can count on HIM over and over again. After realizing this, the speaker begins to speak to himself in verse 24. Sometimes we must encourage ourselves like King David did (1 Samuel 30:6).
3. EVERLASTING LOVE (vv.31-33)
According to Psalm 118:29, GOD’S mercy endures forever. If this is true, it is impossible for GOD to forever cast off or throw away HIS children. Those who truly belong to HIM cannot be plucked out of HIS hand (John 10:28). Although in the beginning it sounds as though GOD had abandoned him, through their relationship GOD was able to give him correction and revelation. He understands that GOD is in control of everything. GOD brings blessings and allows calamities. It’s just that simple, because He alone is GOD.
The speaker also realizes that GOD does not willingly allow afflictions. He is a wise and loving GOD who gives us trials to build our faith. Just as a plant needs water and sun to grow, we too need a mixture of both joy and pain to become all HE predestined us to be. We must keep in mind that GOD’S love for us is an everlasting love. HE made provisions through JESUS to save you so you could be with HIM forever. Remember that a person who wants to be with you forever does nothing to jeopardize your staying with HIM forever.
No one can ever know all of GOD’S plan. HE has assigned us a lifetime to unfold it to us and through us. Along the way, we may experience injustices, trials, and catastrophes that our logic cannot comprehend or understand. But as time goes on, GOD will begin to unfold the reasons these things occurred in our lives.
Rev. Chris Lowe, Sr., D.D.
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