EMP 2023 Day 1: Phil Kim

Lamentations 3:19-25

The context of this passage is that people had abandoned God. It was not that they ceased to believe that He existed, but they felt that He was irrelevant to their lives. This was true of both nonbelievers generally, and also true of God’s people.

Commentary on this passage provides insight that normally in any particular culture, what marks unbelievers also marks believers. Temple worship had become formal and unsatisfying.

The religious leaders were catering to the people’s desires, rather than confronting them with their disobedience. Jeremiah was one of only a few exceptions to this trend in his day.

The people had departed from God’s Word. When people believe that God is irrelevant, they quickly stop paying attention to what He says. People had neglected the promises of covenant blessing for obedience, and punishment for disobedience. Most of the people had stopped reading and studying the Mosaic Law. This opened the door to ignorance of God’s will and consequent disobedience and punishment.

This led to the fall of Jerusalem and the most horrendous catastrophe in Israel’s history. The city fell to Babylon and it was completely decimated — worse than an economic collapse or eviction or loss of jobs. We’re talking about pain and suffering with exile like what Job went through, but as a form of punishment. “Wormwood” and “gall” refers to this oft-forgotten setting of death and destruction in the fall of Jerusalem.

So, Lamentations is essentially a series of poems of lament teaching us that when God’s people abandon Him and depart from His Word, tragedy follows inevitably. This is truly one of the most tragic books in the Bible.

The Book of Lamentations is of value because it portrays the faith of those who believed that in spite of divine displeasure and chastisement God would still hear the cry of the penitent race and lead it on to the fulfillment of its purpose. Since those days people and nations have periodically undergone the experience of the Jews, and have suffered for their misdeeds

Lamentations is a reminder that sin, in spite of all its allurement and excitement, carries with it heavy weights of sorrow, grief, misery, barrenness, and pain. It is the other side of the ‘eat, drink, and be merry’ coin.

While the Book of Jeremiah contains many warnings about the judgment that would come, the Book of Lamentations contains many mournings over the judgment that had come. The fall of Jerusalem is the focus of both books.

The lack of hope in these laments is due in part to the writer’s view of the tragedy as divine punishment. The destruction had been so great that the people could not see, or had perhaps forgotten, God’s promises of a future beyond the conquest.

Nevertheless, the laments are full of prayer. The writer cried out to God, again like Job, in view of the present tragedy. His prayers sound a note of hope in a situation that would otherwise have been completely devoid of hope.

His prayers provide the faithful of all ages with a model of how God’s people should approach the Lord after they have experienced His discipline.

Let’s take another look at Lamentations 3:22-25

A great revelation of Lamentations is the covenant faithfulness of God in spite of the covenant unfaithfulness of His people.

In the heart of the book (3:22-33) the poet writer expresses his assurance that God does not abandon those who turn to him for help.

Christians have too often neglected the reading of these solemn poems. Yet in these days of personal, national, and international crises (and disaster) the message of this book is a challenge to repent of sins personal, national, and international, and to commit ourselves afresh to God’s steadfast love. Though this love is ever present and outgoing, a holy and just God must surely judge unrepentant sinners.

And I’m no different in my life, as I’ve turned my back to God countless times in 2022. I’m no different from the Jews during Jeremiah’s time abandoning God and ignoring His word. I deserve punishment worse than death.

Yet Lamentations 3:22 tells us that “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.” There’s no mention of these spiritual blessings being extra accessible on January 1.

But when the calendar begins to signal a new year, it has an interesting effect on us. First, we review the choices we made the previous year, assessing which were good and which were bad. Then, we plan for the coming year, often committing ourselves to better spiritual disciplines, healthier habits, and wiser choices.

All of these are beneficial exercises, but there’s one assessment I think we often neglect in our annual review: the counsel we expose ourselves to. God designed people with the need for counsel. Immediately after creating Adam and Eve, God begins to talk to them. He knows they need truth, which they will never discover on their own, in order to make proper sense of who they are and what they were created to do.

God has never stopped counseling since. He gave us His Word so that we would know Him, ourselves, the nature of our world, and how we are meant to live.

As you think about the New Year and what you want to change or improve, remind yourself of this: you are constantly being counseled by someone or something. And the counsel you choose to pursue or allow to influence your mind and heart will always shape your daily living.

Intentionally or inadvertently, you are being counseled in your relationships. Whether that be by your friends, parents, siblings, mentor, co-worker, or neighbor, you can’t have a relationship without the give and take of counseling. You are the average if your 5 closest friends, so be careful who you surround yourself with.

If you’re on social media, you’re being counseled by Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, or LinkedIn—platforms that have a massive influence on your life. If you’re not on those sites, you’re still being counseled by the books and magazines you read, the news, talk shows, and podcasts you listen to, even the lyrics of the music you enjoy and the shows and movies that entertain you.

So, as you review your 2022 and make plans to improve 2023, don’t forget to evaluate the counsel you are opening your ears, mind, and heart to receive. It has a profound effect on the way you live.

So let’s hold on tight to Christ for our counsel. This would be a good time to plug a book called New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp. It’s a book with 1 page of devotionals for each day, and if you don’t know where to begin when looking for godly counsel on a daily basis, being counseled by God’s Word through that book is not a bad place to start.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Lamentations 3:22