Monday, August 29, 2011


Lamentations 3

In the book of Lamentations, we get to attend five worship services with the ancient Hebrews. The poems were written by different people at different times, but they all have the common theme of learning the lessons of past experiences and keeping the faith. The tragic destruction of Jerusalem is memorialized with deep sorrow but with hope for the future. In a sense the poems "eternalize the destruction" so that the horrible events have a permanent place in memory. It's interesting that this lesson coincides with my church's preparation for a similar memorial service --- the 10th anniversary of 9-11.  We like for our catastrophes to mean something. It seems important to us that we remember.

God has created a world that includes both good and evil. Deuteronomy 30:19 says, "I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life." God has given us the power to choose life, but the option to choose death. The book of Lamentations doesn't explain suffering or offer a way to eliminate it, but insists that God enters our suffering and is our companion in it. It is through  the act of remembering the experience that we have hope.

19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
   the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
   and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
   and therefore I have hope:

 22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
   for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
   great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
   therefore I will wait for him.”

Every morning we experience a mini-resurrection as we awaken from our sleep to discover that God's mercies are new each day. We remember, and we are healed.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Written on the Heart

Jeremiah 50-51

We're finally at the end of our study of the book of Jeremiah. And not a moment too soon. It's a sorrowful sequence of events with an honest message of the nature of God. There is no promise of a easy prosperous earthly life, not even for the righteous -- maybe especially not for the righteous. It's a hard book. Compare the triumphant Exodus story of  God's deliverance of the people from oppression and slavery with Jeremiah's account of the defeated people heading back to Egypt. Sigh.  It's not like we weren't warned, though. Back in Chapter 1 God tells Jeremiah, "See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant." That's as good a definition of life as I've ever seen -- a never ending cycle of successes and failures, joys and hardships,  love and pain. 

Throughout the study, though, I keep returning to the beautiful words of Chapter 31.

31 “The days are coming,” declares the LORD,
   “when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
   and with the people of Judah.
32 It will not be like the covenant
   I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
   to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
   though I was a husband to them,”
            declares the LORD.
33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
   after that time,” declares the LORD.
“I will put my law in their minds
   and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
   and they will be my people.
34 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
   or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’
because they will all know me,
   from the least of them to the greatest,”
            declares the LORD.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
   and will remember their sins no more.”

My prayer is to have God's law in my mind and written on my heart.