In my devotions last semester, I started reading through the gospels with the intent of taking another look at who Jesus was and what he did. That was awesome, however, after reading Matthew, I felt like reading another gospel was too much of a repeat, since they all tell basically the same stories. I started looking for something else, and decided to read through Paul's epistles. Having read Romans last summer, I started in 1Corinthians. Over the last semester and this summer, I've read from there through Hebrews (since technically there's a chance Paul wrote it!). Next in line was the book of James, but since I'd read it first semester, I decided to look for something new. But what? I'd already covered the gospels and epistles, and though it's not necessary, Revelations would be great to read with a study guide of some sort, which I don't have here on project.
I don't know about you, but I really don't read a lot of the Old Testament, besides Psalms and Proverbs. We're not under the law anymore, right? So what's the point? I thought to myself, every book in the Bible is there for a reason. It's been years since I read any of the minor prophets; probably not since before high school, when I read the Bible in a year. Hence, I've begun a journey into the Old Testament, starting with the book of Lamentations.
Lamentations? You might be thinking, isn't that a depressing book about God's judgment and wrath being poured out on Israel for their sins? That's what I thought when I started reading it. I honestly wondered how I'd be able to glean anything from the doleful descriptions of the condition of God's people during their captivity. But every day, God has revealed such amazing things to me!
First of all, I've been so convicted of the severity of sin. God is a Holy God! We know this, but sometimes we forget that it means that he HATES sin. Sometimes I think I can get away with sin. I tell myself that it's just a little pride, a little lust, a little unforgiveness, a little impatience, nothing too big. I forget that for these '' little" sins, God has a fearful wrath!
How deserted lies the city,
once so full of people!
How like a widow is she,
who once was great among the nations!
She who was queen among the provinces
has now become a slave.
2 Bitterly she weeps at night,
tears are upon her cheeks.
Among all her lovers
there is none to comfort her.
All her friends have betrayed her;
they have become her enemies.
3 After affliction and harsh labor,
Judah has gone into exile.
She dwells among the nations;
she finds no resting place.
All who pursue her have overtaken her
in the midst of her distress.
4 The roads to Zion mourn,
for no one comes to her appointed feasts.
All her gateways are desolate,
her priests groan,
her maidens grieve,
and she is in bitter anguish.
I've been so convicted of my own sin this week, and just how vile, how repulsive it is to a perfect God! It's also such a slap in the face. I know Christ personally, I've been adopted into the family of God, and yet I chose to harbor sin in my heart, knowing that it's against my Father's will, and that because of it Christ died.
This was really discouraging to me at first! I realized how much I truly need God's mercy. Sometimes I think, "God may forgive me, but I can't forgive myself." This week, I've realized how this mindset is such a rejection of the gospel. It's not by works that I am saved, it's nothing I have done! So ultimately, it doesn't matter if I forgive myself or not, but saying that I can't is really not accepting God's forgiveness. And rejecting that is rejecting the gospel, and trying to be right with God on my own terms. As I was processing this, God gave me this verse in chapter 2:
19 Arise, cry out in the night,
as the watches of the night begin;
pour out your heart like water
in the presence of the Lord.
Lift up your hands to him(...)
I need to pour out my whole heart to God, confessing and repenting my sin. Then I need to have faith that he hears and will forgive.
This verse really spoke to me in another way also. I've been so burdened for Iowa State University, Cyclone Bible Fellowship, and all the lost people at school. I want to see a revival in the way we reach people and the way we love each other. However, the thought of going back, out of this nice spiritual greenhouse, was terrifying! Then I realized, God isn't just here in North Myrtle Beach! He's going with all of us back to our campuses! And only he can bring revival and change hearts; I just have to be obedient to do all he calls me too. So after reading this verse, I poured out my heart for campus and CBF, and turned it all over to him. I've also been burdened for two friends of mine from high school that I'm still in contact with. I've been praying for God to work in their hearts and bring them back to him for a long time, but I renewed my comitment to praying for them and poured out my heart for them, and placed them in God's hands.
Today I read chapter 3, and was completely blown away! After the intense description of the suffering experienced as a result of sin, it transitions to this:
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." 25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him; 26 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.
Then skipping a couple verses: 31 For men are not cast off
by the Lord forever. 32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love. 33 For he does not willingly bring affliction
or grief to the children of men.
Wow! How encouraging is that! It's so true, even though I do wander and pay the consequences for it, I have hope! The Lord is compassionate and merciful to me, and doesn't give me what I deserve - death! He has new compassion for me, and new forgiveness to cover my failures every day! He is my portion, all I need to be fully satisfied forever! Even in suffering, he is good!
37 Who can speak and have it happen
if the Lord has not decreed it? 38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
that both calamities and good things come? 39 Why should any living man complain
when punished for his sins? 40 Let us examine our ways and test them,
and let us return to the LORD. 41 Let us lift up our hearts and our hands
to God in heaven, (...)
Instead of turning from God when experiencing suffering, we need to respond by examining ourselves, and turning towards him, not only raising our hands in confession, but also in praise. We know that we can trust him when we are being disciplined, because he "is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him."
My prayer for you is that you are placing your hope in him, even when experiencing his discipline. I pray that as you do, you will experience his great love and compassion every day! I pray that you are earnestly seeking him, because when you do, he'll reveal amazing things to you from places you'd never expect it!