Prepare your hearts
As we approach our Easter celebration, we’re studying the book of Lamentations and remembering that in Christ, we are not forsaken. Here we are reminded that at the cross, Jesus was forsaken so that we could be received and adopted into God’s family. The resurrection gives us assurance that God is merciful and faithful, and that He never forsakes His children!
We hope you’ll use the devotional materials below to prepare your heart for worship in the weeks leading up to Easter.
Daily Easter Devotionals
The context of this book of lamenting is the destruction of Judah, and specifically Jerusalem and the temple. Remember that Israel had split into two nations—Israel in the north and Judah in the south. Israel had already gone into Assyrian captivity for her idolatry and now Judah is conquered and many of her people are taken captive (think Daniel). Jeremiah has been prophesying warnings to Judah, but they wouldn’t listen to him. In fact, they persecuted him severely for the warnings he was giving. Now they are facing the discipline of God, and Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, is crying out to God on their behalf. He leads Judah in crying out to God in sorrow, repentance, justice, and hope in God’s faithfulness. As you read it, I pray it will give you hope in the grace of God through Jesus Christ. — Pastor Tim
+ March 20 - March 26
Read Lamentations 1 each day
Wednesday, March 20
vv1-2. Jeremiah, whose life was spared when Babylon invaded and conquered Jerusalem, looks over the ruined city and mourns. Notice the picturesque language concerning the city: lonely, widow, slave. He compares her current condition of desolation with her history as a princess, the jewel of Judah. She weeps over her loss and looks for comfort. But notice where she looks for comfort, her lovers (allies) and friends. These are the very nations that Judah cozied up to in her rebellion against God, who now have rejected her. Did you notice the haunting phrase, “she has none to comfort her”? The very people who led her into idolatry offer her no comfort. She rejected God’s covenant and became adulterous. For that she suffers God’s discipline. How are we like Judah? What leads us away from God? What keeps us close to God?
Thursday, March 21
v3. Part of Jeremiah’s purpose is to declare that God is just in punishing Judah for her sins. This theme will come up many times because God is treating Judah as he treats all his children, he disciplines them. The writer of Hebrews affirms this in Hebrews 12:7-11. Discipline is hard, but it yields “the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Jeremiah knows that the outcome will be a nation committed to following the Lord. But for now, she has been dispersed among the nations and has no home. God still disciplines his children to train them. This discipline proves that they are his children and that God is being faithful. Have you experienced his discipline? What did you learn through the experience? The writer of Hebrews says, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons.” (NIV) How is God training you today? While difficult, this should comfort you, because it means that you are God’s child. Rejoice that you are his. How does this affect how you view your unique hardships?
Friday, March 22
vv4-12. Here Jeremiah details the sorrow and desolation of the nation. Notice verse six, “her princes have become like deer that did no pasture.” Sheep have pasture, but these princes have no home. Verse seven highlights the mental suffering, “Jerusalem remembers…all the precious things that were hers.” If you’ve ever lost something you cherish, you know the mental anguish of memory. Verse eight explains what happened; she sinned “grievously.” She’s exposed and humiliated. Again he says, “she has no comforter.” (v9) She cries out to God to see her, “O LORD, behold my affliction.” She asks again (v11), “Look, O LORD, and see, for I am despised.” She wonders if anyone has suffered like her. Her lovers (allies) pass by and show no remorse. Jeremiah clearly states that God is responsible for her suffering. Does God see her affliction? It’s an important question, because it reveals whether you think God sees your affliction. Does he see your affliction? Does he care that you suffer? Maybe you feel alone, unloved, misunderstood. Does God care? How would Paul answer that? (Look at Romans 8:38, 39)
Saturday, March 23
vv13-17. Jeremiah speaks of Judah’s suffering personally, “he sent fire; into my bones he made it descend.” He’s stunned, in shock. Judah’s transgressions were a burden that she was forced to carry like John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. The weight is crushing! More crushing than her sin, “The Lord rejected me.” (v15) He treated Judah like grapes being stepped on and crushed. Again he says, “for a comforter is far from me” and “there is none to comfort her.” (vv16,17) Had the Lord rejected his people? It felt like it. All their experience indicated that God had indeed rejected them, but had he? To reject his people would mean God is going back on his word, his covenant promises to Abraham. His character prohibits that from happening.
Judah had no one to comfort her since all their allies had turned their backs on her. Next to each of these references to “no comfort” I wrote John 14. Read John 14:15-18. Do you have a comforter? Jesus says he won’t leave us as orphans. Rejoice, you are not rejected!
Sunday, March 24
vv18-2. This is an important section because it expresses repentance! Here, Jeremiah speaking for Judah says, “The LORD is in the right, for I have rebelled against his word.” Jeremiah is giving words to Judah’s confession. She calls to her people who are now in captivity to hear her confession and see her suffering. In humility she calls out to God to see her distress and again confesses, “because I have been very rebellious.”(v20) While again he says, “yet there is no one to comfort me,” he is looking to God for comfort. Then Jeremiah, speaking for Judah, asks God to deal with those who have afflicted her. This is an interesting thought because Babylon was God’s chosen instrument for disciplining them. But they are still God’s people and the Babylonians are still God’s enemies. This passage reveals Jeremiah’s confidence that they were not forsaken by God. He leads them in repentance and then asks God to be just and punish their enemies.
This passage is a beautiful acknowledgement of sin. God’s mercy and faithfulness makes it safe to confess our sin. Do you confess your sin? John says that when we confess, God is faithful to forgive and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Humble yourself before the Lord today. Own your sin, and seek his mercy.
Read Lamentations 2 each day.
Monday, March 25
vv1-5. In this section, Jeremiah focuses on the devastating nature of God’s chastening. He begins with the phrase, “How the Lord in his anger.” This is noteworthy because it reminds us that sin, especially unrepentant sin among his people, stirs him to action. Paul reminds the Corinthians of this in 1 Corinthians 10:1-5 as Israel rebelled against the Lord but thought that God would overlook their sin, because they were his people. He continues in 1 Corinthians 10:6-12 to warn them and urge them to faithfulness. Judah is an important warning to us, an “example” Paul says, to remind us to walk humbly with God. This shouldn’t cause us fear, but it should remind us to walk in humility, repenting of our sin, and pursuing God’s grace in daily life.
Jeremiah indicts the Lord in this section, stating in verse two, “The Lord has swallowed up without mercy.” In fact, Jeremiah says that God has become Judah’s enemy. Notice the descriptive language of God’s wrath. Was God merciless? Consider that many lives were spared, like that of Daniel. Daniel came to rule in Babylon and Esther spared the people of God in the Persian Empire. Had God forsaken his people? Was he merciless? God does chasten us, but he still shows mercy even in his discipline. How have you seen this?
Tuesday, March 26
vv6-10. Here Jeremiah walks through specific elements of God’s destruction, removing what the people considered sacred and untouchable. The people thought, “Certainly God won’t touch the temple or his altar. Certainly he won’t take away the city of Jerusalem; after all he promised an eternal king and put his presence in the city. He won’t touch the Messianic line of Judah.” With all this they were confident that God wouldn’t act against them, but he did. In Nehemiah, God rebuilds the city and the temple, and Persia paid for it. God is able to tear down and rebuild and is more committed to the holiness of his people than buildings and sacred spaces.
A really sad commentary is given regarding the prophets of God when Jeremiah says, “her prophets find no vision from the LORD.” (v9) What’s sad about this is that the prophets hadn’t spoken the truth when they heard from God, and now God wasn’t speaking to them. In addition, he says, “the law is no more.” (v8) The law of God and the Word of God were removed. While Jeremiah laments this, the people hadn’t been listening or obeying. Think about what Jesus says about abiding in him and his words abiding within us, John 15. You’re abiding as you read and study God’s Word. You’re abiding as you pray and humble yourself before the Lord. Seek the Lord today. Humble yourself before him. Ask him to help you abide today through his Word.
+ March 27 - April 2
Read Lamentations 2 each day.
Wednesday, March 27 vv11-16. Jeremiah weeps for the people of God, and his stomach hurts with the loss. He watches the most vulnerable (infants) faint from famine. He has no words to even comfort his people, v13. He asks an important question, “Who can heal you?” While he doesn’t immediately answer the question, he points out that the prophets have lied and deceived them (v14) and notice, “they have not exposed your iniquity to restore your fortunes.” No one likes to have their sin exposed, but it’s less painful than what they are experiencing as God chastens them. Even today, pastors and elders are hesitant to admonish the body for fear of backlash. Is it kindness and love to admonish people? Did you know that church members (people like you) are called to admonish one another? When we overlook sin in one another, especially because we fear backlash, we do a disservice to one another. Notice how their enemies respond to them now: “They hiss and gnash their teeth, they cry: ‘We have swallowed her!’” When we fail to “speak the truth in love”(Eph. 4:15) to one another, we actually fail to love the body and support our enemy, the evil one. We give him ground to gloat over us. Do you want admonishment when you need it? Can you receive it as kindness and love, or do you get defensive? Do you love your Christian family enough to speak truth in love? Ask the Lord to help you be faithful in giving and receiving admonition. Maybe go so far as to seek it out from a trusted believer.
Thursday, March 28 vv17. Jeremiah teaches an important truth in this verse, “The LORD has done what he purposed; he has carried out his word, which he commanded long ago.” The “long ago” is God’s warning in Leviticus 26:14-45 and Deuteronomy 28:15-68, where God warned his people of what would happen if they disobeyed him. Paul says in Romans 15:4, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” What do you learn from this section of Scripture? As you read the stories of God’s dealing with his people in the past, what do you learn for today? What does this say about God’s faithfulness to his word? Judah and Jeremiah could complain that God wasn’t being merciful, but could they complain he wasn’t being just or faithful to his word? Jeremiah says no.
Friday, March 29 vv18-19. Jeremiah urges God’s people to cry out to God. He’s calling them to repent, to turn from their sin and to seek the Lord. Don’t remain silent when God chastens you. Don’t turn away from the Lord in anger and further rebellion. Don’t give way to bitterness and self-pity. NO! Cry out to God! He’s merciful; He hears. Don’t just speak, pour out your emotions. Can you do that? Can you share your emotions to God? All of them? Jeremiah does. He has no problem telling God he’s being too harsh and showing no pity. Can you talk to God like that? The writer of Hebrews reminds us that we can approach the throne of God to seek his mercy, Hebrews 4:14-16. Spend some time talking to God about your deeper emotions.
Saturday, March 30 vv20-22. Jeremiah leads them in prayer. He’s given words to their prayers, “Look, O LORD, and see!” Then he asks God the big questions and says hard things: Do you realize who you’re doing this to? Should women eat their children for food? Should priests be killed in your holy places? Do you see the dead in the streets? You have killed them in your anger without pity! You gathered us like we were celebrating, and then you brought terrors upon us. My enemies killed the very children that I raised. These are strong statements as Jeremiah leads Judah to pray. Have you ever cried out to God this way? Have you ever appealed to God with the suffering that you are experiencing? This reminds me of the parable of the persistent widow that Jesus told in Luke 18:1-8. What do you learn from the parable about prayer? What do you learn about God? What do you learn about yourself?
Read Lamentations 3 each day.
Sunday, March 31 vv1-18. In this section, Jeremiah speaks personally of his affliction. He uses his own experience as an illustration of what he has learned in his affliction so that he can lead the people of God in their time of affliction. When God called Jeremiah, he warned him that the people would not receive his message and would in fact persecute him for his prophecies. You can read some of the persecution in Jeremiah 37:11-38:6. In this text, Jeremiah talks about his own suffering as a prophet of God. Notice how he describes the effect of suffering on his body. He also speaks of being driven from light into darkness. He describes God as a bear lying in wait or a lion waiting to pounce. He is filled with bitterness as he delivers the words of God and people laugh at him. The ending of this section says it all, “I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, ‘My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the LORD.’”
Jeremiah had wrestled with God’s call on his life. He had complained to God about the hardship he was enduring at the hands of his own people. He is leading up to the next section where he tells Judah how he recovered hope. What Jeremiah learned through suffering would be a great lesson for the people of God. How has your own suffering forced you to wrestle with God? Have you ever been to the point of forgetting what goodness (happiness) felt like? Have you lost hope? Where did you go from there?
Monday, April 1 vv19-39. This is a major section not only in chapter three but also in the book. We’ll take a couple of days to go through it. Notice right off the bat that Jeremiah calls his audience to remember his affliction, as they knew his story. It still touches a nerve with him, “My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.” He probably had some residual trauma from the experience. But he remembers and wants the people to remember something that gives him hope even in the midst of this great suffering. Whatever Jeremiah is about to say, we can tell that this is a well-worn path for him. He’s gone down this road of remembrance often. This is an important lesson for all who follow in Jeremiah’s footsteps. In our suffering, we wrestle ourselves back to truth about God. How worn is that path in your own life?
“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases.” More literally, “Because of the steadfast love of the LORD, we are not cut off.” This is a critical thought for sufferers. We feel cut off from the Lord; we feel rejected; but God’s steadfast love assures us that we are still united, we are still his children. This is where God’s promise comes to assure us, “I will not leave you or forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5) God first spoke these words to Joshua when he was called to lead Israel after the death of Moses. If this promise is true for Moses, Joshua, and others, how much more is it true for us in Christ? What can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus? Romans 8:31-39.
Tuesday, April 2 vv22-23. Jeremiah continues, “His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.” What beautiful assurance that even if our suffering is the result of our sin, God is merciful. He is compassionate toward us in our suffering and hardship. God didn’t create the world with suffering, and he mourns over it. It literally turns his stomach, or what the Scripture refers to as “bowels of mercies.” (KJV) It’s the mercy of God that Jonah despised when it moved God to spare the Assyrians. Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh because he knew that God was merciful, and he wanted them to receive judgment instead. It’s this same mercy that is available to us through our great High Priest, Jesus Christ, in Hebrews 4:14-16. His mercy is renewed every morning as though it could be depleted.
So for Jeremiah, ministering to the people who have just had everything destroyed and many of their family and friends taken into Babylonian captivity, he leads them down the path of hope that ends at the mercy of God. Whether your sin, the sin of others, or just the suffering of a broken world, nothing can exhaust the mercy of God for his creation, and specifically, for his people. Spend a minute thanking God for his mercy and ask him to help you hope in that compassion.
+ April 3 - April 9
Read Lamentations 3 each day.
Wednesday, April 3
v24. “‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul.” A couple of thoughts here are important. First, notice that his soul speaks. Jeremiah is in touch with his thoughts, but more than that, the Spirit of God has assured him, convinced him, that he has the Lord. This gives him hope in the midst of hardship. Notice, second, what his soul says about the Lord, he is “my portion.” The word portion is sometimes used to refer to a tract of land or to reference possessions. For farmers, land is their source of income giving them an annual yield. It was guaranteed income, so long as they worked the field and the rains came. Unfortunately, the people began trusting in their fields to provide for them instead of in God. Their possession became their source of hope instead of the Lord. Jeremiah is reminding the people, who just had everything taken away, that they have a possession that is greater than land, or houses, or anything else. God is their portion. We’re tempted to shift our hope from the Creator to the creation as well. Paul calls this the deceitfulness of riches and he warns the rich, saying, “charge them not to be haughty, not to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God.” (1 Timothy 6:17) The great danger of regular income and possessions is that since the fall of mankind, our hearts are pre-programmed to trust ourselves not our Creator. In part, this is what happened to Israel; God had blessed them, and they started clinging to their possessions instead of the Lord. How do we protect ourselves against this? For Jeremiah, a prophet despised by his people, left with nothing, his hope was in God--his greatest possession.
Thursday, April 4
vv25-30. Now Jeremiah is going to lead his fellow sufferers in immediate action: waiting on God! Waiting on God is not being passive as he says, “to the soul who seeks him.” Waiting is seeking. Jeremiah knows that the yoke (burden) of waiting is heavy but it’s an important one that everyone needs to learn, especially in their youth. He says it’s good to wait in silence before the Lord, because God is good to those who seek him. When this yoke is laid upon him or her, the issue is with the Lord. “Putting his mouth in the dust” refers to the posture of worship and humility before the Lord. Jeremiah is leading them in the path of repentance and humility before God. He adds the idea of receiving insults and injury from others, “let him give his cheek to the one who strikes, and let him be filled with insults.” Nothing should deter you from seeking the Lord. This was Jeremiah’s own experience as a prophet being ridiculed by the people he was warning of God’s justice. Waiting on God, sitting in silence before him is something we struggle with in our culture of action, but it’s an important action to learn. We’re dealing with the Sovereign of the Universe. We can make no demands of him, and we have nothing to offer him that would stir him to action, so we wait. Our silent waiting speaks volumes and in those quiet moments, he mercifully speaks. Have you poured your heart out to God in this way?
Friday, April 5
vv31-36, “The Lord will not cast off forever.” What promising words for those experiencing God’s correction. Even though God corrects, “he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love.” The last phrase in verse thirty-three defends God’s affection, “he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men.” God grieves when he corrects his image-bearers, but he does it because he’s just and loves us. Here Jeremiah is encouraging the suffering people of God not to run from God, but to run toward him.
In the next three verses he does more to uphold God’s justness by saying that God does not approve of crushing mankind or denying him justice. These were the sins of the people for which God was correcting them, but Jeremiah is affirming that God isn’t doing this to them. God delights in justice and this is what moves him, in part, to correct Judah.
As a son and daughter of God, we receive his correction, affirming that he is just, and yet we praise him for being merciful.
Saturday, April 6
vv37-42. In the first three verses Jeremiah reminds Judah who was correcting them in a series of three questions. The first establishes God’s sovereignty over everything that happens. The second reminds them that good and bad comes from God’s hand. As Job says, “he gives and takes away.” The third calls them to receive God’s correction instead of complaining that God isn’t just. These verses direct Judah in how to process what they are experiencing. God is correcting them, and they deserve it. The king of Babylon was only doing what God has willed and they deserve. God’s hasn’t forgiven them because they aren’t repenting. It sets up the next few verses where Jeremiah urges the people to confess (acknowledge) their sin and return to the Lord.
John writes, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:8, 9) Jeremiah is leading God’s people to confess and receive the forgiving grace of God, to seek the Lord for healing. Why is it so difficult for us to examine our ways and confess our sin? As children who know the goodness of God, we should freely confess.
Sunday, April 7
vv43-54. This section is one of very honest emotion. Jeremiah again says that God has acted in anger without pity. It seems he is saying that God went too far. Not only has God shown no pity but he refuses to listen to their cries. I think this is an important part of lament. We cry out to God with our honest emotion and questions. At the same time, notice that in the first five verses he is speaking for Judah, “You have,” transitioning to “all our,” and finally to “my eyes,” in verse 48.
The next six verses focus on Jeremiah’s cry and testimony. First, he says he won’t stop weeping until God “looks down and sees.” Next, he recounts the pain of Judah’s treatment prior to their destruction, throwing him in a pit and “hunting” him. He recounts this to lead them again in how to respond to correction and suffering. He ends verse 54 with the emotion that everyone else is feeling, “I’m lost.” What do you do when you feel lost? There are times in life when in his mercy God humbles us. Whether it’s Jeremiah suffering humiliation at the hands of God’s rebellious people, or those same people experiencing God’s correction, the Lord steps into our lives to humble us. He never does this capriciously, nor does he pick on us because he can: he’s not a bully. He does this so that we can experience his grace, which he only gives to the humble, James 4:6. How have you seen God act to humble you? How did he step in with his grace?
Monday, April 8
vv55-66. Jeremiah now answers the question through his own experience: “What do you do when you feel lost?” You run to God! He begins with “I called on your name, O LORD.” Jeremiah, sitting in a pit with nothing to offer, calls out to God. In his grace God comes near and says, “Do not fear!” These were the very words that Jeremiah needed to hear, and they are exactly what Judah needs to hear from God. Have you had these moments with God, where you cried out to him and he answered you with words of comfort? Sometimes God waits to answer, allowing us to cry out for a while, but sometimes he answers immediately. I journal these cries to God and his responses and would encourage you to do the same. This is the work of our Comforter, the Holy Spirit.
Jeremiah continues by expressing the attention that God is giving his cause: “You have taken up my cause…,” “you have redeemed my life…,” “You have seen...,” “You have heard…” He concludes with confidence that he received from the Lord, “You will repay them…you will pursue…and destroy them.” Jeremiah is confident in God’s justness and that he doesn’t overlook evil against him and evil in the world. That confidence only comes when God shows up and ministers to us. It’s what Judah needed to hear. Remember, we shouldn’t equate God’s patience with aloofness or him being unjust. Consider 2 Peter 3:8-10.
Read Lamentations 4 each day.
Tuesday, April 9
vv1-10. In this poem Jeremiah recounts the suffering of God’s people after the siege and destruction of Jerusalem. The Babylonians had laid siege to the city and waited for them to run out of food. God had told him several times that the people would die by the sword and by famine (Jeremiah 16:1-4; 21:8-10). The siege began in the ninth year and tenth month of Zedekiah’s reign and ended on the eleventh year and the fourth month, almost two full years. Jeremiah 52:6 says, “the famine was so severe in the city that there was no food for the people of the land.” When Nebuchadnezzar left, famine gripped the land and the people continued to suffer. The princes were gaunt with hunger, “their skill has shriveled on their bones” (v8). He concludes that those who died by the sword were better off. Mothers had actually boiled their own children for food.
Notice the contrast with “gold” (v1) and “delicacies” (v5). There was a day when the people knew unprecedented abundance and wealth. Solomon had covered the temple in gold. Gold and silver were as abundant as water. Now they were devastated because they forgot that their wealth was a gift from God and worshipped the pagan gods of their neighbors. In their wealth, they had become nationalists and mistreated the foreigners in the land. They mistreated the poor and the widow. What do you learn from these people? How do you honor the Lord with your wealth? Consider Proverbs 30:8-9.
+ April 10 - April 16
Read Lamentations 4 each day.
Wednesday, April 10
vv11-1. Here Jeremiah speaks of how God has dealt with the priests and prophets who failed to confront the sin of God’s people and actually led them into further sin. You can read about the false prophecies in texts like Jeremiah 14:13-22; 28:1-17; and 29:24-32. You can read about the priest Pashhur’s persecution of Jeremiah in Jeremiah 20:1-6. God mourns over these leaders who fail to shepherd his people faithfully, saying, “Both prophet and priest are ungodly; even in my house I have found their evil, declares the LORD.” (Jer. 23:11) He says of these prophets and priests, “But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their deeds.” (Jer. 23:22)
Because of their unfaithfulness God reserves severe correction for the prophets and priests. No one believed that God would forsake his own temple, but he did because there is something more important to him than his sanctuary (v12). Because these shepherds persecuted the righteous, God defiled them so that even the people refused to give them refuge, declaring them unclean (v15). Jeremiah says, “The LORD himself has scattered them” (v16). Notice the double ascription to God removing all doubt who defiled the spiritual leaders.
Based on these scriptures, how should you pray for your spiritual leaders? How should you listen to them and receive their instruction and admonition? How can you encourage those who shepherd the church?
Thursday, April 11
vv17-20. In this section, Jeremiah highlights Judah’s tendency to hope in their allies, what he calls their “lovers” in poem one. These allies would not come to their aid, and some even joined the Babylonians in attacking Judah, seeing that her days were numbered. Where God had provided for Judah, preventing the Assyrian king Sennacherib from conquering the city (2 Kings 18:13-19:37), this time, he gave Judah into the hands of the Babylonians. Instead of hoping in God, they were hoping in their pagan allies.
Verse twenty expresses their dismay that God had rejected his “anointed.” This is a reference to Zedekiah, a direct descendent of King David with whom God had made an eternal covenant (2 Samuel 7:1-17). Jeremiah affirms that God has not rejected his covenant promises to David, even though he has rejected Zedekiah, Jeremiah 23:1-6. The “righteous branch” that he speaks of is none other than our Savior Jesus Christ, David’s great descendent.
So instead of trusting in their allies and wondering about God’s covenant promises to David, Jeremiah is reminding them to hope in God, who is faithful to his promises. Jeremiah highlights their misplaced hope. Consider what Paul says in Romans 15:13. He calls God, “the God of hope.” Paul doesn’t mean that God is full of hope, but that he is the object of our hope. Through faith or “believing” we can be filled with joy and peace, abounding in hope through the power of the Spirit. Is your hope in God or something else (career, education, cash in the bank, politicians, children)? How do you grow in making God the object of your hope?
Friday, April 12
vv21-22. These final verses are words of consolation to the people of Judah. While they are being corrected for their sin, it is coming to an end. Jeremiah uses the word “accomplished” or consumed. His point is clear as he explains, “he will keep you in exile no longer.” A better translation is that he will not exile you again. Jeremiah had prophesied that God would send them into exile, but he also prophesied that God would bring restoration and renewal, read Jeremiah 16:14-21, 29:10-14. (If you have more time read Jeremiah 30-31). These prophecies further confirm the message that God has not forsaken his people or his promises.
But there is more here, because Jeremiah warns Edom. The Edomites are the descendants of Esau, Jacob’s brother, relatives of the people of Judah. Jeremiah begins by encouraging them to rejoice and be glad, but this statement oozes with sarcasm. “Yeah, be glad right now, throw a party, enjoy! But know that the cup of wrath that Judah is drinking right now will be passed to you next.” Edom will drink deeply of the cup of God’s wrath, to the point of foolish drunken behavior (picture lamp shade on the head). Edom’s participation in Judah’s demise is deeply offensive to God because they are related. They share the same ancestor, but they have not followed the God of Isaac or Abraham. (You can read Jeremiah’s prophecy against Edom in Jeremiah 49:7-22).
How do these texts affirm God’s commitment to his people? In this life, the people of God are often persecuted by non-believers. How does this text express God’s thoughts about those who persecute his children?
Read Lamentations 5 each day.
Saturday, April 13
vv1-3. This last poem begins with an appeal to God to remember the suffering of his people. Jeremiah mourns the losses that Judah has experienced: the loss of their land (inheritance), their homes, and their leaders. I say leaders because the nation has become “orphans, fatherless, our mothers like widows.” While there certainly were many children without their fathers and women without their husbands, Jeremiah is saying the nation has lost its leaders and now suffers theses losses. The princes were killed or taken captive; the priests and prophets were also killed or left destitute; the city elders were killed or taken captive. The nation was leaderless.
This is an interesting issue to raise. Part of the reason for God’s judgment was their failure as a nation to care for the vulnerable within their own nation. God addresses the sin of his people in Jeremiah 7 where he says, “If you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, then I will let you dwell in this place.” (Jer. 7:5-7) Because they actually did the things God warned them not to do, they are loosing their land and now experiencing what the people they oppressed experienced. It’s interesting that God’s correction involves an experience directly related to their sin. Have you ever experienced this type of correction? How do you think this affected God’s people?
Sunday, April 14, Palm Sunday
vv4-6. Here Jeremiah explains some of the oppression that Judah was experiencing. Again, it mirrors what they were doing to oppress foreigners in their own land, a sin that God was correcting them for. Verse four says they have to buy water and wood. In a land where public wells offered water and the woods offered free firewood, the people had developed a system requiring payment from foreigners. Now, God was forcing them to experience the same treatment. Instead of enjoying the bounty of the land, they had no rest because of the hardships their oppressors put on them (v5). Verse six speaks of the treaties that they made with Egypt and Assyria just to have the food that they needed. These treaties went against God’s warnings not to trust these countries or make treaties with them. Hezekiah had done this when the Assyrians invaded. Instead of turning to God, he quickly made a treaty with Shalmaneser, king of Assyria (2 Kings 18:14). This verse seems like they are making an excuse for their violation of God’s command, and Jeremiah is exposing it. God wanted his people to lean entirely upon him for their provision and protection. In our modern era where food is abundant, we rarely pray for our daily bread as expressed in the Lord’s Prayer. As wealthy Americans, have we lost our sense of dependence on God? Take a moment and pray, thanking God for what he has provided, acknowledging that everything you have comes from him. Name the things that you are thankful for. Pray for his continued provision.
Monday, April 15
v7. This is an interesting verse because it highlights one of the struggles of living under the Mosaic Covenant: God’s people were often corrected for the sins of their fathers. In his prophecies, Jeremiah uses an interesting phrase, “In those days they shall no longer say: ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” (Jeremiah 31:29) He says this in his discussion of the new covenant that God will establish through Jesus. The main thought is that the nation often suffered God’s correction for the sins of their leaders or fathers. In the new covenant, Jeremiah says, “Each man who eats sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge.” (Jeremiah 31:30) The New Covenant will not have national implications. While we still suffer as citizens, employees, churches, and families for failed leadership, God deals with us individually not nationally. Read about the new covenant in Jeremiah 31:31-34. What does Jeremiah highlight as the differences between the two? Rejoice that you are members of the new covenant in Christ!
Tuesday, April 16
vv8-14. Conditions for Judah were severe and again Jeremiah lists many of them: slaves rule over us, marauders lie in wait as they try to get their bread, the devastation of famine, women being raped, princes humiliated, hard labor for the young, leaders no longer sit in the gates and govern, young men were no longer joyful as is typical of youth. “Slaves” is a reference to the Babylonians, who were now ruling them. Israel was a nation freed from Egyptian slavery by God through Moses. Freedom is essential to their national identity and law. As former slaves, they were not permitted to enslave people, see Deuteronomy 15:12-18. Now their identity is being challenged by God’s correction, specifically making them serfs to the Babylonians. The abuse they were enduring was a fundamental challenge to their identity and culture. How was God humbling his people through this experience? God often humbles us, so that we can once again experience his grace (James 4:6). How has he humbled you?
+ April 17 - April 21
Read Lamentations 5 each day
Wednesday, April 17
v15. Here Jeremiah notes that God has turned their dancing into mourning. Dancing is often referred to as the evidence of freedom and joy in life. We dance at festivals, weddings, and special occasions to express our joy. Thankfully, the correction that led Judah to mourning would end, and God would turn their mourning back into dancing. Read about this in Jeremiah 31:1-14. Notice in this text how God begins by saying, “I will be the God of all the clans of Israel, and they shall be my people.” This is covenant language spoken to Abraham and David. Read what God says is the basis of his grace, Jeremiah 31:3. That’s right, his covenant faithfulness. This return to joy is presented in the context of the New Covenant. It’s specifically what Paul refers to in the book of Galatians when he asks, “What then has become of your blessedness?” (Gal. 4:15) As members of the New Covenant in Christ, we should be people of joy and dancing. For Paul the absence of joy in the Galatians was the result of going back to life under the Old Covenant (the law of Moses). Has God turned your mourning into dancing? Where is your joy? Maybe you’re in a time of correction, and God is humbling you. Can you rejoice and receive the grace of God in your suffering?
Thursday, April 18
vv16-18. In this section, Jeremiah recognizes that the glory of Israel has fallen. He says, “The crown has fallen from our head.” This could refer to the loss of the Davidic line, but is probably larger than that. The reason for this loss, Jeremiah confesses again is because of their sin. This confession is important because Jeremiah is leading the people to confess and repent of their sin. He reminds them that their suffering (our hearts are faint) is a direct result of their sin.
The result is that their heart has become sick and their eyes have dimmed. Jeremiah talks in his prophecies about the weeping that caused his eyes to swell inhibiting his sight. This is what he means by his eyes growing dim. How could they not weep as they look at the holy city lying desolate? Wild animals sweep the city where once people had inhabited.
Throughout the poems of Lamentations and the history of Israel, the truth is apparent: sin destroys lives. What comedians in our day mock and TV/Movies normalize, God grieves over as he watches sin destroy his image-bearers. How have you witnessed the destructive nature of sin? How has it affected you, your relationships? How has the grace of God freed you and brought God’s renewal?
Friday, April 19
vv19-20. Here Jeremiah asks the questions that everyone was asking, “Why do you forget us forever, why do you forsake us for so many days?” With all the destruction and loss they were experiencing, they felt rejected, forgotten, even forsaken. He knew the reason for their suffering. He had just admitted it was for their sin. But he asks it to capture the attention of his audience and give voice to their confusion.
This isn’t how he begins the section. He begins with a reminder that the LORD reigns forever. This sets the scene for the questions, because the people were questioning the Sovereign Lord. What’s amazing is that in the context of appealing to the Sovereign LORD, he still asks the question. I love this because it reminds me that God doesn’t overpower or intimidate me with his lordship. He is patient and kind, welcoming my honest questions.
Have you ever asked God your honest questions? Take a moment and write some down, then go to prayer acknowledging who you’re talking to and ask him “why?” This is part of learning to lament. You might even consider creating a journal of questions and seek answers from the Lord. At times in my life I’ve asked the Lord my questions, over and over, only to have his Spirit answer my questions during my morning devotions. Try it.
Saturday, April 20
vv21-22. These final two verses leave us unsatisfied. One would hope that Jeremiah would end his final poem with assurance, confidence in God’s faithfulness. Poem three seems to make a better ending to the laments. Jeremiah begins with a prayer for restoration. But notice the specific request is not to have their wealth or their lands back, but to be restored to the LORD. He says, “Restore us to yourself, O LORD.” Had Judah learned its lesson? Were they willing to have God as their portion, as Jeremiah says in poem three? Were they more concerned about being in fellowship God than being free from suffering?
He ends with uncertainty, saying, “unless you have utterly rejected us, and you remain exceedingly angry with us.” Why would he end this way? Does he doubt God’s faithfulness that he so strongly affirmed in poem three, saying “great is your faithfulness”? In Jeremiah’s prophecies to Judah he affirms God will restore them, that he won’t remain angry, that he is merciful and faithful. So why does he end with this uncertainty? Could he be asking the question so that the people will have an opportunity to answer it? This is probably what he’s doing. When I discipline my children I work to affirm my love and commitment to them. Then after the discipline I’ll ask them, “Does dad love you?” Maybe I’ll say something like, “Do you believe I love you? Do you believe I’m committed to you?” I’m giving them the chance to hear and affirm the truth, that I love them deeply.
God didn’t forsake his people, and he hasn’t forsaken you. No matter what correction or hardship you experience, you can answer these final questions. Has God utterly rejected you? NO, his faithfulness makes that impossible. His Son’s life, death, and resurrection assure us that we are his. Will he remain angry with you? No, if we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us. Rejoice! You are not forsaken.
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