When Defeat Strikes Pt 1: Remember that God is Righteous

Lamentations Chapter 1

Has there every been a time when you felt like your hopes and dreams have gone up in smoke like Hindenburg?  A moment when everything that you planned, all of your hopes and dreams suddenly went up in smoke?  A moment when you tasted the bitter agony of defeat in your life?

 As Jeremiah walked the streets of his beloved city of Jerusalem he must have been shocked by what he saw.  The once beautiful, majestic glorious city of Jerusalem was lying in ruins, its buildings burned to the grounds, its streets filled with rubble and it’s people in utter despair.  As if to add insult to injury, lying at the heart of city, perched upon the highest peak of the city was the smoldering ruins of the Temple, the visible symbol of God’s presence that had been looted and destroyed by the Babylonians.

He describes the feelings of defeat in chapter 1 of Lamentations.

He describes the condition of the city in the first five verses of the book:  v1-5
  • v.1 He describes the plight of the city in a series of horrible reversals of fortune:
    • The city was once full by now it is empty
    • Once was great among the nations but now is like a widow.
    • Once was a princess among the provinces but now has become like a slave.
  • v.2 She now weeps bitterly 
    • but has no one to comfort her
    • even her friends have dealt treacherously with her.
  • v. 3 She has been forced into exile and now dwells among the nations
  • v.4 She has lost faith— no one is coming to worship
    • The roads leading to the city mourn because no one comes to the festivals
    • Her gates are desolate
    • her priests groan
  • v.5 Her foes are now in charge and her children have gone into captivity.
As the Jewish people looked at the terrible devastation and defeat surrounding them, they naturally began to question what God was doing.  Some started to question His power, other began to question His faithfulness, all began to question His plan. In this first chapter, Jeremiah reminds us that when defeat strikes we need to remember that God is righteous.
  1. Why do bad things happen to God’s people?
    • Notice that I did not say good people – because there are no good people.
    • Sometimes bad things happen even to God’s people.
      • Being a Christian does not make us immune to life’s problems.
      • The Health and Wealth gospel that has become popular in America is self-defeating and Biblically wrong.
      • Every believer is at one time or another going to have to wrestle with the question, “Why is this happening to me?”
    • Short Answer – we live in a fallen world where bad things happen.
      • V. 3 the city sits in desolation because its residents have taken captive by the Babylonians
      • She once enjoyed great freedom and the blessings of God, but now she suffers in captivity.
      • This is the historical explanation for Judah’s current situation.
      • It is akin to recounting the history of how you got into a particular circumstance.
        • Remember when you were a kid and your mom or dad asked you how the window got broke, or how the dog ended up in the washing machine.
        • You gave them all of the historical details of the situation without ever really telling them that you had done something wrong.
        • Basically this is where Jeremiah starts.
        • Judah lies desolation because Babylon has taken its citizens captive.
        • But this answer does not get to the heart of the problem— so Jeremiah digs a little deeper.
    • Deeper answer- Judah has been taken captive as a result of her sin.
      • Notice how many ways Jeremiah mentions Judah’s sin in this chapter:
        • V. 5 “Her foes have become the head; her enemies prosper, because the Lord has affiliated her for the multitude of her transgressions;”
        • V. 8 – “Jerusalem sinned grievously; therefore she became filthy…”
        • v. 9 – “Her uncleanness was in her skirts; she took no thought of her future; therefore her fall is terrible…”
        • v.14 – “My transgressions were bound into a yoke; by his hand they were fastened together…”
        • v.18 “The Lord is in the right, for I have rebelled against his word….”
      • The disaster and devastation that had struck the nation was the result of their sin against God.
        • This is exactly what God had said would happen — Deuteronomy 21
          • V.1-17 Blessings for obedience
          • v.18-44 Curses that will come as the result of disobedience
          • v. 45-51  God announces that if they do not obey His commands that He will raise up a foreign nation who will take them captive.
            • ” Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things, 48 therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything. And he will put a yoke of iron on your neck until he has destroyed you. 49 The Lord will bring a nation against you from far away, from the end of the earth, swooping down like the eagle, a nation whose language you do not understand, 50 a hard-faced nation who shall not respect the old or show mercy to the young.”
        • This is an Old Testament expression of God’s righteousness
        • In general the American church has weakened our teaching on God’s righteousness:
          • We are too quick to explain away problems as the result of sin.
          • But we need to realize that many of the problems that we face are the direct result of sin in our lives.
  2. What does it mean when we say that God is righteous? (v.18)
    • v. 18 “The Lord is in the right, for I have rebelled against his word…”
      • We could literally translate this phrase “The Lord is righteous, for I have rebelled against his word.”
      • The word “righteous” refers the fact that God has not punished without cause. In other words, God is right in carrying out His judgement against the nation because they are guilty of sin.
      • God is simply doing what He said that He would do back in Deuteronomy 21
      • We might think of God’s righteousness as referring to the fact that He always does what He says that He is going to do.  
      • Same idea is expressed by David in Psalm 51:4 “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgement.”
    • God’s righteousness is a two-sided coin:
      • It guarantees punishment when we sin.
        • God was righteous in punishing Judah for their sin.
        • Jeremiah closes this prayer by reminding God that the nations have also been unfaithful —  v.21-22
      • It guarantees God’s promises when we obey. 
        • As we go through this book we will see that God’s righteousness is the greatest source of hope for the nation because it is God’s righteousness that serves as the basis for His faithfulness
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