First off, please read our text today, which is Lamentations 2:11-19.
In these verses we have the observer not only observing but making statements of the pain they feel from what they see. They have cried and cried, their heart is ripped out of their chest for what they observe as the people are destroyed, children and barely holding on as they try to survive in the streets with their parents unable to provide. And so in verse 13 they make this plea, this statement to Daughter Jerusalem, that they recognize that their own words will fail them. That they wish they could come up with words that would be like aloe upon a burn…but no amount of aloe in the world will soothe them. The observer then moves into truth statements that feel almost like they’re saying, “I get it. You should have been protected…you should have known…this should not have come down like this – I get it. The prophets should have been faithful prophesiers of God. They should have told the people to stop doing what they were doing or else you would be destroyed. Yup, I get it. Lastly, verse 19 calls the people to “cry out in the night.” To pour out your hearts like water to God. They are being encouraged to pray like they’ve never prayed before…and make it authentic, genuine, and true! To me this makes me wonder:
- Is it right to blame others for not “telling” me to do something different? (even when I know I shouldn’t do what I do). Or maybe not putting all the blame on them but at least SOME responsibility shared!
- Is it ever too late to turn to God?
I’ve done enough blaming of others in my life for my mistakes to know that that doesn’t sit well. That while we would LIKE to have others take our punishment and part of the blame ultimately my choices and decisions are mine and mine alone. The truth and knowledge we have is that God deals with sin across the board and yet how often do we want some of our penalty removed and given to someone else? How often do we want to throw in that “But…!” when in truth we should just bow our heads and take the punishment in which we deserve. If we declare that God is just, in which we do, then we cannot ask that his justice be different with each cause, with each case, with each infraction, and each person.
And I’ve spent enough time wondering if it was “too late” to turn to God to know that the answer to that is always “NEVER.” And so verse 19 makes me wonder if the observer is encouraging the people to pull out of their focused lament and render their hearts to God or if he’s trying to REMIND them that the only way out of this is to confess your sins. But in the end I think both of those are a “yes” answer. I’ve needed people in my own life to help me refocus because I was so stuck in a certain place. And I’ve also needed others to remind me of not only what I’ve done wrong but to tell me what to do next. We all need reminders from others to snap out of it, remind us that we are NOT too far gone from God and that the next step is ownership of our sins and the request for forgiveness. Healing from our sins, from our past, cannot work through us without some recognition of the harm we’ve done and the forgiveness we seek. Lessons need to be learned, voices need to be lifted up, and help needs to be sought. So while forgiveness ultimately comes only from God there are things that we personally need to work through and learn from.
I want to come back to the “but” we often feel just before healing begins and as judgment for sin is rendered. Often times we want God how we want him. Often times we want God on my terms and dolling out grace, forgiveness, and destruction in my way. But we must never forget that just as God is completely full of grace and mercy when it comes to forgiving sins he is also completely just, justified, and wrathful against sin. You cannot have the grace of God without the wrath of God and you cannot have the wrath of God against sin without the grace of God for sinners. They are both completely in who He is and what He does. His passion is against sin and for sinners. And so we must declare that God WILL TAKE OUT sin. Completely. But with that said we must NEVER forget that God DID DO THIS! And he took it out on his Son. Now we cannot just let those words sit there because they need to be unpacked, so let’s unpack it in regards to these verses.
You and me – us – we were all torn from within because we were all living lives of sin, destruction, and emptiness. Due to us…we went downhill. And yes God sent prophets throughout history to return us but we ignored them. And yes there were false prophets who proclaimed other things and we listened to them. But we only have ourselves to blame for we KNEW what we needed to do (we always do) and yet we often choose to do the opposite. I can’t blame you for my stuff and you can’t blame me for yours…we take ownership of our own sin. We have had our enemies upon us with open mouths since back in Genesis 3 when we fell to sin…and yes, the Lord has done what he planned and he has fulfilled his word. And that word declares that God and his people are in a covenant relationship and some of those covenants are bound by action or inaction while others will always be (like the Noahic Covenant). So if you break covenant, if you go away from declaring God is your God and you live a life of sin – then the penalty, the wrath upon sin, will befall you. THAT was planned long ago. So yes, turn to God in the night. We need to open up our hearts and turn to him from the deepest parts of our core when we sin. We need to lift up our hands to him for not only ourselves but our children, our neighbors, and all those in need.
But here’s what else God “planned” long ago (from verse 17): His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Remember, God is fully complete in grace and forgiveness as well as angry and full of wrath against sin and so the “plan” was that God knew we wouldn’t do what we were called to do. That instead of turning to him, we’d turn in to us. That we’d blame others, hide in sin and shame, and frequently turn to others instead of him. So the plan was to send his one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to come to earth as a baby to die a human’s life…for the sins of his children. It was in, and through Christ, that the just payment and wrath against sin was poured out and yet the gift of forgiveness, grace, and mercy, was also extended. THAT’S the God we worship. THAT’S the God of Lamentations who brought destruction upon a city that was so full of itself that it continuously failed to turn to God. THAT’s the God who, with a simple turning a heart to him, would relent, forgive, and continue to hold covenant (promises) with. That’s the God of all creation who was tired of seeing all the pain and suffering and sent his Son to do something about it. That yes all of our sins were poured out upon him the lives of his children were spared.
So is it ever too late to turn to God? Nope. And “amen” to that!
3 Questions for you to think through
- What stands out for you in this text? Why?
- Part of a rabbit trail to this would be having a conversation about WHAT sin is too far to be saved from. Is there one? If God relents and saves from all that we see and read in the OT – is there something that God would say, “nope – sorry” and not save us from?
- I appreciate how the observer not only observes but interacts, encourages, and tries to help. Do you have someone in your life like that? Someone you can turn to, seek advice from, and someone who will call you out for not only the things you do but encourage you to respond? Someone like Nathan to David (2 Samuel 12) – who, regardless of how much it hurts or how harmful it could be to the relationship, still calls out sin amongst his friend, and king.