Tuesday, February 21, 2017

LAMENTATIONS+—An Illustrated Summary of Life Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible by G. Campbell Morgan

"On every page of the God-breathed writings are many thoughts that stretch out like long, clear arms of light across the darkness, discovering things otherwise hidden and illuminating wider areas than those of the immediate context. They are searchlights. From a multitude of these, I have selected one in each chapter of Scripture, for at least one central thought in every chapter should arrest the mind and affect the life," wrote G. Campbell Morgan, a wise, warm-hearted, careful Bible teacher who conducted a classic 3-year chapter-by-chapter study called Life Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible. Here are the fruits of that timeless study—summarized, illustrated, and amplified—on all 66 books of the Bible (posted one book at a time, cumulatively).

Lamentations 1:1 "How lonely sits the city that was full of people!" The book of Lamentations is the funeral of a city. With tears in his eyes, the prophet Jeremiah composed 5 laments (represented by 5 chapters) shortly after the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians. Events unfolded exactly as Jeremiah prophesied from the Lord, yet these are not songs of gloating, but of sadness and sympathy for the suffering of the people and the conditions of the city. These laments are outpourings from Jeremiah's soul. In the first two he describes the overall situation, in the third and central song he identifies himself completely with his people, and in the last two lays out the desolation with an appeal to the Lord. The first, second, and fourth songs begin with the word translated "how." It is exclamatory and suggests the impossibility of description. This first song has two parts: the first is in the language of an onlooker (verses 1-11); in the second the city personified speaks of her agony (verses 12-22). Each one honestly confesses the sin that brought on such suffering (verses 8 and 18). When Jeremiah begins to personify the city, he asks a moving question: "Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow" (verse 12). It applies beyond the suffering of Jerusalem long ago to the sufferings of Christ, Israel's Messiah and the Savior of the world. The appeal is not just to pity, but to realize how serious sin is because of the consequences it brings.

Lamentations 2:1 "How the Lord in His anger has set the daughter of Zion under a cloud!" This new song begins with a picture of hope in disguise. The daughter of Zion is covered in a cloud and therefore cannot see the Lord. Although clouds hide God from people, they never hide people from God. That loss of holy vision in Jeremiah's day was a just judgment upon those who ceased looking to the Lord when they ought to have known better. The same kind of thing happens today. God keeps His eye on us and brings into our lives what will lead us to Him if we repent of our sins for our own good and the good of those around us. As Jeremiah says eloquently to His suffering people, "Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord; lift up your hands to Him for the life of your little ones" (verse 19).

Lamentations 3:1 "I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of God's wrath." This is the central song of the 5, and its dominant note is Jeremiah's complete identification with his people in their sorrow, and then his agreement with and understanding of God's purposes. Here is his eloquent turning point: "This I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness" (verses 21-23).  Jeremiah explains that "the Lord will not reject forever,  for if He causes grief, then He will have compassion according to His abundant lovingkindness. For He does not willingly afflict or grieve the sons of men" (verses 31-33). Therefore he urges himself and everyone who will listen with advice just as good now as then: "Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord! (verse 40). Going back to Jeremiah's opening words, notice it is the Lord's messenger who feels most poignantly the pain of those who, through their own determined disobedience,  are punished. Since that is so, it is supremely so of the Lord Himself. In that realm of divine suffering for sinners, we ultimately and inevitably reach the Cross.

Lamentations 4:1 "How the gold has grown dim!" This speaks of precious people, as the next verse goes on to explain: "the precious sons of Zion, worth their weight in fine gold, how they are regarded as earthen pots, the work of a potter's hands!" (verse 2). This is the vision of a man who sees facts in true perspective and proportion. The tragedy of Israel's breakdown and desolation was its fall from such a high call to be a shining light for God among all the nations. In this lament Jeremiah uses terms like "gold," "pure gold," and "fine gold" to express the glory of God's thought and purpose for that nation among all nations. But their gold has become as dim as a common earthen pot. There is no greater calamity than when the people of God in any generation break down in loyalty and so are broken down in necessary judgment, a truth echoed in the New Testament: "The time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?" (1 Peter 4:17). The failure of a people or nation to fulfill an appointed function in the divine plan is more terrible than personal shortcoming and suffering.

Lamentations 5:1 "Remember, O Lord." Thus opens the last of the 5 songs, the final message of a heroic messenger of God. Jeremiah describes anew the sorrows of his suffering people, the actual desolation in the midst of which he lived, taking the time to explain how each class of people is affected. This moving description leads up to prayer. Jeremiah first confesses the eternity of God and the stability of His throne and then instead of asking the Lord to turn to His people, seeks for Him to turn His people back to Him. The notes of this final song are full of value for us. In days of darkness and discipline that engulf even those as loyal to God as Jeremiah, their or our duty is to present our sorrows before the Lord and ask Him to remember. It is not that Jeremiah imagined God could forget His people, but the asking reinforces our communion with Him and leads to answers from Him for our good.
A Helpful Summary Chart of the Book of Lamentations

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