Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. There are some passages of Holy Scripture, that on the face of it, seem to be exaggerations of the blessedness of the believer. It’s as if they overstate the goodness of God to be experienced in our earthly life. To us they do not appear to be invariably true and they engender a false optimism. We shy away from a definite allegation but wonder if sometimes God’s compassions do fail.
They are new every morning: great is your faithfulness. The passage of the days seems to be bereft of any relief. Circumstantial evidence seems to confirm that there is no newness now or on the horizon. Life is uniformly tough and an injection of hope seems unlikely. A trial doesn’t look as though it will be terminated; troubles are not dispelled. Dolefulness prevails. The mind wearies, the heart is burdened - whatever the stubborn cause. Luther rightly observes that God himself appears to be our assailant. Our seasons in life vary but there are times when the winter of the heart is relentlessly bleak.
Luther’s answer is to mistrust the evidence we think we see and to cling to the Word. We don’t have the measure of the providences God sends. We cannot foresee their duration or purpose and difficult times usually seem long and painful. The Bible not only deals with moments in time, it assures of that which is ultimate - as to how God works things out in the end and as to what we shall finally see as consequences of his goodness.
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed. That is to say, we will not be destroyed or abandoned “in the end”. Sorrows may or may not be mitigated but God’s faithful love will ensure that we shall survive - if not here certainly in heaven.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” There is no state more honorable than waiting on the Lord - the realization that everything is in his hands and his wisdom governs the course that we take. Naked faith is the hardest exercise of the soul - the removal of signs and props concerning God’s favor is something we dread. The author of Lamentations is musing from a situation of utter devastation and the brink of despair. His outlook is hopeless; his feelings afford no comfort. But his knowledge of the Lord bolsters his confidence.
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him [promise], to the one who seeks him [personal assurance]; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord [patience and prayer]. Waiting is the posture of humility, dependence, and trust. It is reliance upon the reliability of the Lord against all sight and sense. It is the supreme expression of faith. We are encouraged to quietness rather than to panic and efforts of self-help.
It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young. Each one of us will be yoked to some heavy load in life, maybe more. It will be taxing and hard going. It is good to be acquainted with life’s harsher realities at an early start. Spiritual and moral toughness are desirable in our early development. The shock absorbers of faith need to be installed as soon as possible.
Let him sit alone in silence, for the Lord has laid it on him. Complaint and questioning come to us quite naturally because of our frailty and illusory expectations. We wince at mental pain and writhe at any form of suffering. It is inevitable that we feel a mood of protest welling within. God understands. But he is stripping self concern from us, the favoring of self, the inflated sense of self-importance that sees ourselves as bigger in the scheme of things than we really are. By grace and the modesty it creates, we turn to God swiftly and soberly, and assess matters realistically.
Let him bury his face in the dust. Contrition mounts within us when we relate ourselves to the holiness and perfection of God. How presumptuous we are when he reveals to us our true selves.
There may yet be hope. Humiliation and chastisements prepare us for hope - a hope we never thought we would need or plead for. We are conditioned for a hope that is sovereignly bestowed.
Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace. What makes us think that we are so special above others and naturally entitled to the approval and pampering of God? Life’s buffetings and the Lord’s disciplines beat down our native and sinful pride, and we really seek God with resolve, without claim, but because of his assured compassion. It is all part of the process of soul making and purification. God’s unfailing goodness will eventually be acknowledged.For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men. Mercy is his preference.
The Bible in its entirety is the Book of Christ. The things averred by Isaiah about Jesus, for instance, are riddles that incite a sense of profound mystery and delicious intrigue. The Messianic figure is referred to as a shoot "that will come up from the stump of Jesse," the father of King David. The Christ will emerge from Royal background, and yet a Royalty that far exceeds mere earthly dignity. The human and divine natures of Israel's Redeemer are predicated in the One who is both the Base and the Branch of the Royal tree; its producer and product of the Lord's saving grace, the fruit of divvine efficiency. How beguiling this wondrous insight happens to be.All Sermons by Roger Salter