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His Mercies Never Come To An End ~ Lamentations 3

March 26, 2017 ~ New City Church of Calgary ~ Pastor John Ferguson

Intro: It Is Well With My Soul, When peace like a river attendeth my ways, when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever
my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul.

How is it possible to say it is well with my soul when sorrows like sea billows roll? That is the question we are going to
wrestle with and attempt to answer today as we look at Lamentations 3.

This chapter wrestles with two profound truths: (1) the reality of suffering and evil, and (2) the goodness and faithfulness
of God.

Context: When we left chapter 2, the Poet had been encouraging Jerusalem personified as a lady to cry out to God, but all
she can muster is a series of questions and accusations aimed at the God to whom she feels is her true enemy. Thats the
last time we hear her voice in this book. Its as if her questions linger in our ears for the remainder of the book.

So in chapter 3, the Poet speaks up for her. Its as if he is now personifying himself as the stricken and forsaken city.

I. Hope fading to darkness, 3:1-20.

3:1, I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath; 2 he has driven me into darkness without
any light; 3 surely against me he turns his hand again and again the whole day long. 4 He has made my flesh and
my skin waste away; he has broken my bones; 5 he has besieged and enveloped m with bitterness and
tribulation; 6 he has made me dwell in darkness like long ago.

1. The Poet experiences darkness, or what some have called, the dark night of the soul.

(1) Depression. Her circumstances have radically changed; she has fallen from great heights, she has gone from
rags to riches to rags again, and great was her fall. The city sits in a shroud of darkness.

(2) Inversion. Numbers 6, The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious
to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Because of Israels blatant rebellion against the Lord, because of the wicked and oppressive society she built,
because she despised Gods pleadings to turn and live, she now has experienced the consequences of her sin:
The Lord has cursed her and forsaken her; the Lord has set his face against her, and she no longer has peace.

2. Finding our voice in the midst of darkness.

(1) Ps. 88:1, O Lord, God of my salvation, I cry out day and night before you. 2 Let my prayer come before you;
incline your ear to my cry! 6 You have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep. 13 But I,
O Lord, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you. 14, O Lord, why do you cast my soul away? Why
do you hide your face from me.? 18 You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions
have become darkness.

Has the psalmist given up hope? Is he throwing in the towel? Is he becoming a cynic? Is he walking away from
the faith? You might be tempted to think that because of the honesty of the language.

But I want to suggest that far from abandoning the faith, this is an example of a stubborn, dogged faith that has
the honesty and integrity to not sugar coat his feelings. He is still seeking the face of the God who seems to
have hidden his face from him. He is still praying out to this mysterious, frustrating, and perplexing God. After
all, where else can he go? Alcohol? Porn binge? Pills?

(2) Why did God include this psalm in the Bible? Why did he include the book of Lamentations in the Bible?

Because it is teaching us to find our voice when we go through those times when God seems far away.

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16 He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes; my soul is bereft of peace; I have
forgotten what happiness is; 18 so I say, My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the LORD.

1. Its as if the Poet is saying, It is not well with my soul.

(1) My soul is bereft of peace (Heb: shalom = flourishing). I have forgotten what happiness is. I cant go on any
longer; Im at the end of my rope. My hope in the Lord has perished; it has been destroyed.

(2) The Justice Calling, Woven throughout Scripture is an unguarded type of prayer known as lament. To lament is to
ask Why? and Why not? as well as What are you doing God? and Where are you? To lament is to pour out
our hearts, holding nothing back. It is to pray without trying to be more full of faith than we actually are.

2. This is the lowest point in the chapter, and quite possibly the lowest in the book.

(1) So what do you do when you reach this point? What happens when the dark night of the soul engulfs you to the
point where you dont know how to even have hope?

(2) There is a clue found in the last word of verse 18: the LORD = YHWH. This is the covenant LORD who has
bound himself to bring redemption to this world; the LORD who will work all things together for the good; the
LORD who has promised to ultimately bless, even if in the short term it feels just like the opposite.

Wright 109, to name YHWH in the same breath as lamenting the loss of future and hope is oxymoronica
contradiction in terms. With YHWH in the picturethere cannot not be a future. There cannot not be hope. And
so, having sunk to its very lowest point, if the poem is to continue, the only way is up. And this is indeed where
the Man begins a painful climb, in which for every inch upwards he has to strain every sinew and muscle of faith
to grasp hod of the truths deeply embedded in that one wordthe LORD.

Lamenting to the LORD roots us in a story that is larger than ourselves, our pain, our sin.

II. Hope rising to light, 3:21ff.

21 But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: 22 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies
never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 The LORD is my portion,
says my soul, therefore I will hope in him.

1. Hebrew: This I cause to return to my heart.

(1) This didnt just happen; I had to will myself to to remember a vital truth. In the midst of my self-absorbing pain, I
had to remember not to forget.

(2) With this Godwith YHWHpain and suffering is never the end of the story.

Psalm 56:8-9, You have kept count of my tossing; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? This
I know, that God is for me.

This is where faith stands: lamenting faith knows that YHWH has the last word.

Samuel Rodigast, Whateer my God ordains is right: Here shall my stand be taken; though sorrow, need, or
death be mine, Yet I am not forsaken. My fathers care is round me there; he holds me that I shall not fall, and
so to him I leave it all.

2. The Lord is my portion, therefore I will hope in him.

(1) Cf. Psalm 73:25-26, Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My
flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

(2) How do you know when the Lord is your portion? When you desire him over everything clinging to his promises,
even if its with a lamenting faith.

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31 For the Lord will not cast off forever, but though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the
abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men.

1. Jerusalem indeed has drunk a bitter cup; she experienced the terrible consequences of her sin.

2. But heres an amazing truth: God does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men. Its like his heart is not in it.
This is not what he wants to do. Like a parent, the last thing he wants to do is discipline his children.

So with rising confidence in the goodness of God, and the possibility of a different future, the Poet calls out to
the God-forsaken city

40 Let us test and examine our way, and return to the Lord! 41 Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in
heaven: We have transgressed and rebelled, and you have not forgiven.

For 40 years, Israel rejected the call of Jeremiah to turn back to the Lord. Instead, she hardened her heart and even tried
to kill him. Now, in her devastation, Jeremiah still seeks her good and calls her to turn back.

God stands ready to forgive, but we must ask for it. We must acknowledge our transgressions and rebellion, and turn
back to the Lord.

Lament is a gift that helps us turn to God in hope when there is nowhere else to turn.

When we lament, we are confused, angry, grieving, riddled with anxiety, and even despairing. But that is not all that we
are. Lament aims our confusion, anger, grief, anxiety, and despair at God because we have been given the gift of turning
to God in hope when there is nowhere else to turn. Because at the end of the day, the last word about us is not our
confusion, anger or even despair. The last word about us is Jesus and his love.

Lament roots us in an old, old story about God and his love for this world. What Jeremiah didnt know, but only grasped by
faith, is that Gods love has a namethe beautiful name of Jesus who took our sin and our sorrow and made it his very
own.

Conclusion:

1. It Is Well With My Soul can be sung when peace like a river attendeth my way. And it can be sung when sorrows like
sea billows roll. And the reason it can be sung is not because God has quieted the storm raging around his children,
but because he can quiet the storm raging within them.

And one of the primary ways he does that is by reminding usand enabling us to remind ourselvesthat we are a
part of a story in which our sin and our sorrow does not have the last word.

My sinO the bliss, of this glorious thought, my sin not in part but the whole,
is nailed to the Cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord O my soul.

2. J. Todd Billings, Rejoicing in Lament, In and through and by faith in Jesus Christ, we can praise, lament, petition,
and discover that the story of our loss is not the only story, or most important, story that encloses our lives. Our lives
are not our own, and our stories have been incorporated into the great drama of Gods gracious work in the world in
Jesus Christ.As we come to sense our role in this drama, we find that it is a path of lament and rejoicing, protest and
praise, rooted in trust in the Triune God, the central actor; we can walk on this path even while the fog is thick. For
God is bigger than cancer. God is bigger than death. The God of Jesus Christ is the God of life, whose loving
promises will be shown true in the end. Until that time, we wait with the psalmist [and the Poet of Lamentations] for
the Lord and hope in his Word.

What is your only comfort in life and in death? That I am not my own, but belong in body and soul, in life and in
death, not to myself but to my faithful saviour Jesus Christ.

Thats why we can say, It is Well with My Soul, even when sorrow like sea billows roll. For this we call to mind:
Great is his faithfulness. In Christ Jesus, Gods mercies are new every morning.

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