Have you ever been through a season in your life where you don’t have all the answers you are facing leading you to ask the ‘Why Lord?’ question?
Billy Fenning returns to the message that Isaiah gave to Israel in the season of their lives where they were questioning God, this week looking through the eyes of another prophet – Jeremiah found in Lamentations 5.
Last week, and this week, I thought I would just share with the church our living hope because I’m aware that many of you have been suffering a little with circumstances, whether it be sickness, whether losing a member of your family, and I just wanted to bring comfort from the Word of God. And last week we looked at Isaiah 59. Thank God for the living hope we have in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Have you ever been through a season, and maybe you’re going through that season in life, and you don’t seem to have all the answers, and I’m sure all of us in the course of our journey in life have asked the question, why?
Why do the innocent suffer?
And I know from a Pentecostal and charismatic perspective, some of us can have an easy answer for that, which is the wrong answer. “Well, you lack faith, or there must be some kind of sin in your life.” That is bad theology, and that is not a good response. And sometimes we don’t have good theology when it comes to suffering.
So there are questions in life that we don’t have all the answers. Paul said, now I look through a glass or a mirror dimly, but then face to face. There’s my hope. Now I know in part, you don’t have all the answers. You don’t have full completion to your understanding. I know in part, but there’s coming a day that I will know as I am known, amen. When you look at David, he too had questions.
How long, Lord, will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily?
This wasn’t just, this was a daily experience for him at that time. How long will my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and hear me, oh Lord, my God. Enlighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death.
And as Miselo prayed this morning, I pray the anointing of God will come through his word. We love his word, don’t we? I pray that our eyes would be open to the reality of the living hope that we have in the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, amen. Because there’s coming a day that I will know as I am known. So hope in God, hope in God.
Last Sunday we talked about this living hope. And I want you to allow the living hope that we have in Christ to be your focus for your life. Despite the pain, despite the delay in the answers to your questions, God is God. He is still sovereign. He is still sitting on a throne. He knows the end from the beginning. Isn’t that amazing?
They tell me that a good movie maker starts at the end and works back to the beginning, thus creating a good movie. So with God, he starts at the end and he works back. Listen, we know the end of the story, don’t we? Come on, read your Bibles, read Revelation. We’re on the winning side, praise God.
In fact, we read that he makes all things, even the ugly things in your life, even the things that you don’t understand, even the suffering, even the pain, he makes all things beautiful in his time.
David discovered that God was the strength of his life and so must we. And last Sunday we looked at Isaiah’s message to Israel in a season of their history where they were questioning God, God, why, why all this mess, why captivity, why, why? And then in the midst of the affliction and in the midst of despair, in the midst of death, what does Isaiah do? He decides to focus on hope instead of doom and he said, the Lord’s arm, it is not short that it cannot save.
Listen, no matter where you are in your journey today, no matter how far away you seem to be from God, his hands are long enough to reach you. His arm is long enough to stretch out and touch you.
So I want us to return to this story through the eyes of another prophet at the time. It was prophet Jeremiah and we had, we did have a Jeremiah in our midst, but he’s, he’s not, I love when he said, I’m prophet Jeremiah, I thought.
But the other Jeremiah, who was there a couple of thousand years ago, he was called a weeping prophet and he wept, he wept because no one was listening to him. No one was listening to his message. Judah, they saw Israel taken into captivity. Now Judah didn’t learn a lesson from their neighbours and Judah, God’s people were therefore taken to Babylon and returning to, some of them returning to Jerusalem find that their city was in ruins.
The people had lost hope. They couldn’t sing by the rivers of Babylon.
Can you remember that song? You see by the rivers of Babylon, they wept. Why did they weep? Because they asked, they knew they were in captivity. They had hung up their harps on the willows. They had given up on music. There was no music in their soul. There was no joy.
They wept because they could only remember the songs of Zion. They could only remember Jerusalem and they wept by the rivers of Babylon. So Jeremiah addresses this hopelessness. But remember what we said last week as we looked at Isaiah. Our hopelessness can be the doorway to hope. And here in Lamentations chapter five, and basically Lamentations is called Lamentations because of the weeping, the sorrow, the gloom. Jeremiah describes a picture of the spur where dreams were lost, freedoms were gone. They were now held captive to their enemies instead of living as in liberty as the children of God.
They are not slaves. In fact, in Lamentations chapter one, we read that Israel or Judah did not consider her destiny. She didn’t realize her future, her hope.
And here in chapter five and verse 19, he focuses yet again on God. Oh, you, oh Lord, remain forever. Come on, let the word sink in not only to your mind, but to your spirit despite the pain, despite the grieving, despite the lack of understanding that you may have. Listen, you, oh Lord, remain forever.
You’re thrown from generation to generation. So he focuses in the midst of the weeping and the affliction and the hopelessness that God remains. But yet again in verse 20, he asks another why question. Why do you forsake us forever and forsake us for such a long time? Jesus himself from the cross in his prayer to his father cried out as darkness covered the earth, cried out, my God, my God, why, why have you forsaken me? And we cannot understand the pain that Jesus felt at that moment because he was forever in eternity in the bosom of his father.
And suddenly there was a period of separation, the pain of facing hell before he died. And he cried out, why have you forsaken me? Our Christian faith does not deny suffering and does not, does not deny pain. Our faith, listen, our faith gives us the freedom to ask in our time of suffering and uncertainty, why God, why? We may not receive from the Lord the answer we desire, but we can be reassured of God’s faithfulness. You Lord remain forever.
And the little word remains there literally means to sit down, to abide, to dwell, to settle down. We come across the same kind of word similar in Greek, in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians when he said, let Christ dwell in your hearts by faith. It’s the same kind of word. Let him settle, let him sit, let him feel at home. Don’t let him be a guest.
Many people have Christ as a guest, invite him in on occasion times, but forget about him. So that little word remain is an interesting word because this is our hope in the living God that God will remain. God will settle with us. He will dwell. He will not leave us nor forsake us. God is dwelling in our midst.
Even when I don’t feel he is there, God is still Jehovah Shammah. He’s there. Don’t feel him faster. You don’t know my pain. No, I don’t. But God is still remaining. He is there. He is who he is. He is sitting down, not passively. He is sitting down, reigning on his throne.
Well, I don’t understand. No, you only know in part. For 151 verses, except for some verses in chapter three, Jeremiah has poured out his sorrow before God because Judah has fallen to the Babylonians. Not once in the first 151 verses of Lamentations does he question God’s justice or God’s sovereignty. But finally, in verse 152, he cries out, why have you forsaken us or forgotten us completely? In chapter five, we are given a list of the consequences of their captivity.
And this morning, we’re going to look at some of those. First of all, in verse two, we see our inheritance has been turned over to aliens. In your pain and in your lack of understanding God’s ways to see clearly, do not allow the enemy, listen, do not allow the enemy to steal your inheritance, your peace and your joy despite the circumstances and despite what’s happening around you.
Listen to what Jesus said. He said, I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved.
Not only that, but he will go in and out and find pasture. My God, he wants to feed us with the finest of the wheat. However, the thief does not come except to steal and to kill and to destroy. We have an enemy of our soul who wants to whisper into your minds and wants to steal
But Jesus said, I have come that you might have life and that you might have it more abundantly. So despite how you may feel at times, remember you are still a child of the King.
You are still a child of God. Remember your destiny. Nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing can separate you from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Nothing. You have an inheritance.
What an amazing funeral service we saw last Monday of Queen Elizabeth II. I was moved. What an amazing sermon by Justin Welby. What an amazing hymn she picked. What amazing verses of scripture she picked. And it has been said before her faith was not a ceremonial or religious faith. She had a personal faith in a personal God, Jesus Christ. I found it moving to when they took the crown and the sceptre off her coffin and put it at the altar. Just reminds me that we come into this world with nothing and we go out with nothing. But those of us who have a living hope in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, thank God we have an inheritance. Death is not the end. She no longer wears an earthly crown, but she’s wearing a heavenly one, amen.
Do not allow the enemy to steal. Your time is so precious. You don’t know how long you’re going to be on this earth for. You might be here until you’re 96, but you may not. Do not allow the enemy to steal. Remember your destiny. Remember that you are a child of God and nothing, nothing, nothing ought to steal your inheritance.
The second thing I see here in verse four is we pay for the water we drink and our wood comes at a price. They pursue at our heels and we labour and have no rest. We have no rest. We need to be a diligent church to enter God’s rest and sometimes we strive in our anxiety. Sometimes we strive in our being overworked and our busyness in our modern world that
we have no rest. We labour and I, these guys had no rest because of captivity.
They couldn’t find the answer to the questions and there’ll be a few little sermons I’m going to be doing. I was struggling on Thursday trying to get some thoughts together, but Chris and Debbie know I was getting frustrated up there. I thought, do I have any brain cells and don’t answer that, please, but I was struggling to find this too, but I feel in my spirit.
I’ve read a few good books over the summer and one of them was The Elimination of Hurry. What a challenging book in our age of busyness, in our age of striving where we don’t know any rest and we, particularly Pentecostals, we don’t embrace solitude.
We want to run away from silence. We want to run away from it. We like noise. We like Aaron to get those keyboards going, but we don’t like solitude and we don’t like stillness. We don’t like silence and in our lives we haven’t put the key factors and life being simple.
We’re complicated in our modern world. We have all these gadgets to help us, but have they helped us? No. We have become more stressful. These guys had no rest because of their captivity.
So from now to Christmas, I’m going to be working on a few little things about how to get the most out of our lives. It’s going to be challenging when we look at how we do live in our modern age. It’s not healthy.
God wants you to have good emotional, spiritual health and one of the verses that comes to mind is here in Matthew 11 where Jesus said, come to me, all you who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and listen and what? Learn.
Are you learning? Are you learning from him? He said for I am gentle and I’m lowly in heart and you will what? You will find rest for your souls. Let me tell you, that little piece of wood is a yoke, but that yoke, he didn’t give them a mattress for them to have a good sleep. A yoke is a work instrument. God wants you to work, not to be passive, but he wants you to work in his rhythm and we will be looking at our rhythm, our purpose, our identity. We will be looking at how we can find rest for our souls. So hopefully that’s just a little appetizer for the weeks to come, amen.
The third thing I see in this chapter, there is no leadership or respect of leadership. Princes were hung up, were hung up by their hands. The elders were not respected. Young men grind to the millstones, boys staggered under loads of wood. The elders had ceased gathering at the gate and the young men from their music, no music, no joy, boy, what a picture. Even reading it brings depression. They were going through it.
You need to pray for us leaders, don’t complain. Sometimes we get it right, sometimes we don’t, however, as we found out last night, none of us are perfect. And if you’re looking for the perfect church, well, you won’t find it. And if you think you find the perfect church, you join it and then it won’t become perfect anymore!
But as elders and those in leadership, we have an awesome responsibility before God to make sure that we’re meeting at the gate in a place of counsel, hearing that prophetic voice from God to bring to a community of God’s people that his kingdom be extended. We need prayer, amen. Pray that we go forward. Pray as new days come for All Nations, we will be excited about our future.
The fourth thing I see is that the joy in their hearts had ceased in verse 15. You see, if you take away joy from your life, you take away strength. Did you know that? If your morale is low, your energy is low, you don’t want to do anything, you don’t want to get out of bed. You know what we need? We need the joy of the Lord. And whilst it was good this morning and the team leading us, we felt the presence of God.
We need to dance again. We need to dance in our hearts. We need to just thank God for the good things that God has done. It was Paul who said, for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Can I, can I be restored in the midst of my grieving? Can my joy be restored when I’m grieving, when I’m in pain, when I have so many questions?
How can I replace my fear for tomorrow with faith? How can I, in all my weakness and lack of understanding where I don’t see all things clearly, replace folly with wisdom that will guide me through the storm? Why when my world seems to be collapsing around me, how can I replace doom with hope?
The answer might be fine in Paul’s words and prayer to the Romans when he said this, now may the God of hope. Thanks Aaron for picking some of those songs this morning just about hope because we have a cornerstone.
The God of hope, fill, listen, fill you with all joy in believing that you may bind in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit as our prayer this morning. Maybe you’ve gone through a hard season and we will pray for you. We will pray that joy be restored. Maybe you need a healing touch. We will pray that Jehovah Raphae will be lifted up, amen, and bring healing. We pray that God will, where your dreams have been lost and shattered, somehow God will indeed come and restore, amen. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing.
The fifth thing I see here, their dance had turned into mourning. They were grieving. How can I dance? How can I sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? Has your celebration in life turned into death? Isaiah, again, the other prophet who spoke to them during this season, he said these words and Jesus took these words upon himself. He said, the spirit of the Lord is upon me because God has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives.
The opening of the presence to those who are bound, let it be Lord, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, to comfort those who mourn, to give them beauty for Isis, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. So let it be Lord, so let it be this day.
The sixth thing I see here is the crying had fallen from their head, verse, verse 16.
And yet when I read the word of God, I read that you crying me with loving kindness and tender mercies and they are what they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness. That faith arise in our hearts as we want, as we take the crown of authority over the crown of Isis.
Let dancing come into our spirit again, amen. You see, you say it is impossible, but God says all things are possible when you put on the crown of authority, amen.
You say, I’m too tired, I’m weary. God said, I will give you rest.
You say, nobody loves me. And yet God says, I love you with an everlasting love.
You say, I can’t figure it all out. And God says, I will direct all your steps.
You say, I can’t go on and God says to you, as you put on a crown this morning, my grace is sufficient for you, amen.
You say, I can’t do it. God says, you can do all things through Christ.
You say, I can’t forgive. God said, I will forgive you.
You say, I’m afraid, but as you take on the crown of authority, God says to you this morning, I have not given you the spirit of fear, but the spirit of power, of love and a sound mind.
You say, I can’t manage. God says, I will supply all your needs.
You say, I’m worried and I am frightened and frustrated. God says, cast all your care upon me, amen.
You say, I’m alone. God says, I will never leave you nor will I forsake you.
You say, I don’t have enough faith. God says, I have given to everyone a measure of faith.
You say, well, I’m not smart enough and you limit me and limit myself. God said, I have given you wisdom.
You say, I’m not able. And God said, I am able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that you ask or think.
The seventh thing I see here is weariness and losing perspective. In verse 17, because of this, our heart is faint. Because of these things, our eyes grow dim. I love the word, why? I get comfort from the word. I get strength from the word. I get wisdom from the word. I see what God says about me, not what you say, not what my culture says, not what my education says, not what my background says. I see what God says about me. I listen to his report.
If you’re not getting into the word, then you are not growing. And if you’re not growing, you’re not maturing. If you’re not maturing, you’re not bearing fruit. If you’re in that kind of situation, you are being frustrated.We love the word, don’t we? We love it because it is our source of light and comfort and enjoyment. So let’s start eating of it, praise God. Let’s start eating of it. Let’s treasure this word, this word that came into English because men, men of God, give up their lives. They were martyred that you might read the word. Many of us, we have plenty of Bibles too, but they’re gathering dust. Gathering dust, let’s treasure it. Let your eyes grow dim, don’t let your eyes go. Let God anoint your eyes with eyes that you might see clearly. When you get into the word, ask God to open up the pages, open up your law that I might see.
When I’m low, when I’m frustrated, when I’m weary, when I’m done, I usually open the Bible and say, Holy Spirit, please, please, please speak to me. And sometimes it happens, not all the time. I don’t always hear them at that moment. This word has kept me going.
We might sing the song Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will go strangely dim in the light of his glorious grace.
When I turn my eyes upon him, oh boy, when I turn my eyes upon him, I get a clear perspective. Paul said, I consider, the word consider is the word reckon. I’ve added it all up. It’s an accountant’s word. I’ve reckoned, I’ve added it all up and I consider that the suffering of this present time of what I’m going through, it’s not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us. I’ve considered it. I’ve added it up very quickly.
Three things to do during your why question:
Reset your focus. Perspective is a key to your persistence. If you’re going to go forward and if you’re going to stick, you need a clear perspective. And the key to persistence is passion. And the key to passion is purpose. The problem with Judah, she did not consider her destiny. Church, consider your destiny.
And then the other thing that we need to do. You see, what you focus on becomes the dominant influence in your life. Don’t allow your circumstances to control your destiny. And don’t let what happened in your past control your future. Rediscover your living hope. And we talked about that living hope last week in 1 Peter.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ according to His abundant mercy has begotten us. We are born again to what? We are born again what to? We are born again to a dead hope? No, we are born again to a living hope through the resurrection and the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Where did the prophet get his strength not to give up on God? Where did he get it from? Well, if you look at Lamentations, he said, this I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. What did he recall to mind?
In the midst of all that they were going through, the background, the disappointment, the weeping by the rivers of Babylon, where did the prophet get his strength? Where did he get his joy from? Where did he start dreaming again? This I recall to my mind. What did he recall? I have hope though the Lord’s mercies are not consumed. This was his focus because his compassion, what they feel not, there was the strength
of his life.
He had a right focus. He didn’t give up. He went on. Why? Because he understood that they were new every morning. Great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion says my soul.
Therefore I hope in him, there is where he got his strength from. Can you imagine being a preacher all your life, not seeing anyone coming to obedience or coming to the Lord weeping?
The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. They who wait on the Lord, they shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint. You see, someone said the same God to whom we cry to, why is the same God who will not hide his face from us?
The God who will graciously save us in his time and according to his wisdom and therefore I wait on him.
In verse 21, he says, turn us back to you Lord. Are you going to turn back to God with a new passion to know him, to love him, to be restored? Lord turn us back. We don’t want to live in the past. We want to live in the present. We want to honour you in our lives and how we think. We want to honour you in our giving. We want to honour you in serving. We want to honour you. We don’t want to be consumers. We want to be people who know you.