FAITH

God’s discipline is wrapped in love

How many of you have read, I mean, really read the book of Lamentations? I mean, I know I must have because I read through the Bible on a regular basis. But, honestly, maybe because this time I read it on my NOOK, it just kind of jumped out on me.

(Let me side-track for a minute. I never wanted a NOOK because I love books in their original form. I love turning the pages. I love highlighting. I love old books, worn book, new books. I simply love books. I like seeing them everywhere in my home. I never consider books “clutter”.To me they are art. So when I got my NOOK, I was certain it was a waste of money. NOT!) 

We are in sunny Florida.

me in Florida

me in Florida

sand between your toes

sand between your toes

I brought my NOOK. So I’m reading my Bible on it. I don’t know if it’s because the print is bigger or what, but today the words are just leaping off the page.

nook

nook

at the beach

at the beach

beach

beach

(If you’re wondering about tennis shoes on the beach, it’s because of serious foot issues and even in my expensive orthopedics I limp really bad. Hey, at least I can walk.)

 Anyway…………….

I know the concept of God’s discipline is hard for many people, Christians or not. There are some Christians who honestly believe God never punishes. They come up with this view because they think when God became man, the man Jesus, that all this (the wrath part) was done away with because Jesus died for our sins. But those sins still have to be acknowledged and confessed. Jesus said He came to fulfill the law not to do away with it. It’s back to reconciling the seemingly disjointed attributes of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Many Christians just don’t want to deal with that.

I’ve just finished reading Jeremiah where he continues to warn the Israelites what is heading their way if they don’t follow what God has clearly laid out for them. Jeremiah tries really hard to convince them that judgement is coming but they can’t see past the noses on their faces. They’re liking their life as it is. “Thank-you, but no thank-you”, they tell Jeremiah.

But God, because He is Holy, has to act from that Holiness and everything that Jeremiah has been predicting comes true.

Here are some of my favorite verses:

1:9: “She never considered her end. Her downfall was astonishing.” I mean, really, isn’t this where so many of us fail? By not looking down the road and getting that our choices now, affect our choices then. 

3:17-28 My soul has been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is. Then I thought: My futures is lost, as well as my hope from the LORD. Remember my affliction……..

20: “I continually remember them (our flagrant sins, my note) “and have become depressed, Yet, I call this to mind, and therefore I have hope”.

(23-26) “Because of the LORD’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness! I say” The LORD is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him. The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, for the person who seeks Him. It is good to wait quietly for deliverance from the LORD.” (This certainly fits in with my present series, God’s voice or mine?)

28″ Let him sit alone and be silent. for God has disciplined him.” I think this means we are to contemplate the discipline that has come our way.

32: “Even if He causes suffering, He will show compassion according to His abundant, faithful love. For He does not enjoy bringing affliction for suffering on mankind”. No matter what the discipline, God is there with us and showers us with compassion. It’s a kind of bittersweet experience.

In all the above, remember that none of this would’ve happened had the Israelites only obeyed. So many of the struggles that happen in our life are because we’ve disobeyed as well.

Finally, the verse that really got my attention and one I will be considering for a while. This verse got me to thinking really, really hard about my prayer life and why sometimes it seems ineffective. Is this verse just for the Israelites or does it have application for me as well?

Lamentations 3:44

   You have covered Yourself with a cloud so that no prayer can pass through.

I haven’t done any research on this verse yet but here’s my gut-instinct analysis. I think God is saying that until we confess what has brought us to our own place of discipline, God will not hear any other of our prayers. Another way to say this might be, that the only prayer that can part those clouds of sin, is our prayer of confession. I picture it in my head as an arrow piercing through a cloud and breaking it up.

prayer piercing the clouds

prayer piercing the clouds

Below is an excerpt I found from searching the web. I thought it was well-written and easy to follow.

Lamentations is quite similar to the Book of Job. Both Lamentations and Job deal with the problem of suffering. Job deals with this problem on the personal level. Job suffered greatly as an individual, and the book that bears his name describes his suffering. Lamentations deals with the problem of suffering on the national level. In it we see God’s people suffering greatly.

This book describes in painful detail the suffering of the nation of Judah and the people of Jerusalem. There are many statements in Lamentations that recall what Job wrote about his sufferings. “Oftentimes the believer has not been aided or prepared by solid exposition of Scripture or a theology of suffering to cope with the suffering as it comes in national disaster, death, depression, separation, rejection, or the like. Too frequently the only place many turn in such circumstances is to medically trained clinicians.

This is not to say that a referral to the medical profession is not altogether appropriate at times; but we do maintain that ‘grief management,’ as the phrase goes these days, is the business of the gospel as well.”26 The suffering of God’s people is a problem because it pits the love of God against His justice. On the one hand, God loves people and has promised to do what is best to bring about their blessing.

But on the other hand, God punishes people for their sins, and this does not seem to be loving. This is the same problem that children have who grow up in homes where their parents tell them they love them—and yet punish them. Careful attention to the Word of God solves this problem, in most cases, because God has explained why He punishes those whom He loves.

Yet at other times, as in the case of Job, there does not appear to be adequate reason for the judgment. In Jeremiah’s day, the people did not understand the reason for their suffering. They only saw the punishment. They had forgotten the reasons for it given in the Mosaic Covenant. This problem was what concerned Habakkuk as well. But this problem of suffering has an even deeper dimension.

It eventually boils down to the antinomy between God’s sovereignty and human freedom. If God is sovereign, are human beings genuinely free moral agents? Is not God, rather than man, really responsible for sin? Almost all students of the Scriptures have concluded that the resolution of the biblical teaching of God’s sovereignty and man’s freedom lies beyond our present power to comprehend.

The best that we can do now is to acknowledge that God is indeed sovereign; He is the ultimate authority in the universe. But at the same time, human beings are genuinely responsible for their choices. The Jews in Jeremiah’s day struggled to keep these revelations in balance, as anyone does who experiences extreme and apparently unjustified punishment. They denied either the sovereignty of God or their own responsibility. Job, too, struggled with these issues, but in his personal life.

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

God bless and I hope you have a good day.