Monday, October 19, 2015
Suffering For The Sins Of Others
“I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath. He hath led me, and brought me into darkness, but not into light. Surely against me is he turned; he turneth his hand against me all the day. My flesh and my skin hath he made old: he hath broken my bones. He hath builded against me, and compassed me with gall and travail. He hath set me in dark places, as they that be dead of old. He hath hedged me about, that I cannot get out: he hath made my chain heavy. Also when I cry and shout, he shutteth out my prayer. He hath enclosed my ways with hewn stone, he hath made my paths crooked.” (Lamentations 3:1-9)
Although Jeremiah was serving God, he was affected by the famine right along with the other people when God punished them. He lived with the same problems and dangers the lived with, and was not free to come and go as he pleased. And he was just as upset when his friends were killed, and when he prayed for it to end nothing changed. He had observed the effects of God’s anger.
“He was unto me as a bear lying in wait, and as a lion in secret places. He hath turned aside my ways, and pulled me in pieces: he hath made me desolate. He hath bent his bow, and set me as a mark for the arrow. He hath caused the arrows of his quiver to enter into my reins. I was a derision to all my people; and their song all the day. He hath filled me with bitterness, he hath made me drunken with wormwood. He hath also broken my teeth with gravel stones, he hath covered me with ashes. And thou hast removed my soul far off from peace: I forgat prosperity.” (Lamentations 3:10-17)
Because of God’s anger at Israel, Jeremiah found his goals and desires constantly frustrated and was constantly having to change his plans, to point he felt like he was coming apart. It was almost like he was the target for everybody, and the people around him were making fun of him for trusting God. He felt like a total failure, and no one listened to his warnings. He had reached a point where he could no longer even imagine a time when things would get better. He spent several years in prison, being almost completely ignored, reaching a point where he didn’t think he’d ever get out.
“And I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the LORD: Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall. My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me. This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.” (Lamentations 3:18-25)
Jeremiah had reached a point where he had no hope or strength to go on. As he remembered the pain and suffering, he was humbled by the pride that had made him think he should escape all those things. It was at that point he remembered there is none righteous and no one deserves God’s blessings. It is only by God’s mercy, his willingness to forgive and not punish us like we deserve, that we have not been completely destroyed. God never gives up on trying to reach people, allowing them to start over every day. Because Jeremiah believed God loved those who would try to please him and would do good for them, Jeremiah decided to trust God and depend on his promises. while Our suffering may be the result of other people's sin, we need to realize we deserved it as well.
“It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him. He putteth his mouth in the dust; if so be there may be hope. He giveth his cheek to him that smiteth him: he is filled full with reproach. For the Lord will not cast off for ever: But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies. For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men. To crush under his feet all the prisoners of the earth, To turn aside the right of a man before the face of the most High, To subvert a man in his cause, the Lord approveth not.” (Lamentations 3:26-36)
It is good for a person to learn experience the struggles and deprivations while he is young so realizes he isn’t better and more deserving than other people. When he realizes he deserves nothing and that anything he has is gift from God, he will not be complaining about not having things or getting upset when he is mistreated or taken advantage of, and is constantly aware of his own shortcomings. At the same time he knows God will not go back on his promises but will eventually make things right. He will understand that God takes no pleasure in punishing people and will not approve of deliberately harming those who cannot escape, to taking away people’s freedom, or forcing people to do things your way.
“Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not? Out of the mouth of the most High proceedeth not evil and good? Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins? Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD. Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens. ” (Lamentations 3:37-41)
We must understand that there is nothing that happens unless God allows it to happen, whether it is good or bad. What right do we have to complain for getting the punishment we deserve, and there are none of us who don’t deserve punishment. Instead of complaining, we need to examine our own lives and correct our behavior. Only then do we have the right to ask God to take away the punishment.
“We have transgressed and have rebelled: thou hast not pardoned. Thou hast covered with anger, and persecuted us: thou hast slain, thou hast not pitied. Thou hast covered thyself with a cloud, that our prayer should not pass through. Thou hast made us as the offscouring and refuse in the midst of the people. All our enemies have opened their mouths against us. Fear and a snare is come upon us, desolation and destruction.” (Lamentations 3:42-47)
The people had broken God’s laws and rebelled against his authority, and God was not forgiving the, but was causing them to be killed and persecuted. They were praying but God was not answering and their enemies were getting stronger and more aggressive. They were inundated with problems and saw no hope, because they would not confess and forsake their sins. I John 1:8-10 warns, “1jo 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
“Mine eye runneth down with rivers of water for the destruction of the daughter of my people. Mine eye trickleth down, and ceaseth not, without any intermission, Till the LORD look down, and behold from heaven. Mine eye affecteth mine heart because of all the daughters of my city.” (Lamentations 3:48-51)
A major part of Jeremiah’s pain resulted from seeing what was happening to the nation of Judah. He saw no evidence of their being willing to change, and he hurt seeing how they were suffering, but could do nothing until they acknowledged their sin.
“Mine enemies chased me sore, like a bird, without cause. They have cut off my life in the dungeon, and cast a stone upon me. La 3:54 Waters flowed over mine head; then I said, I am cut off. I called upon thy name, O LORD, out of the low dungeon. Thou hast heard my voice: hide not thine ear at my breathing, at my cry. Thou drewest near in the day that I called upon thee: thou saidst, Fear not. O Lord, thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul; thou hast redeemed my life.” (Lamentations 3:52-58)
Jeremiah had spent the last several years of Zedekiah’s reign in prison, part of it in the lowest dungeons where there was so much water he was in danger of drowning. God heard his prayer and as a result Ebedmelech the Ethiopian had managed to get him relocated to the upper part of the prison, but he was still in prison and his enemies among the rulers were looking for an excuse to kill him.
“O LORD, thou hast seen my wrong: judge thou my cause. La 3:60 Thou hast seen all their vengeance and all their imaginations against me. Thou hast heard their reproach, O LORD, and all their imaginations against me; The lips of those that rose up against me, and their device against me all the day. Behold their sitting down, and their rising up; I am their music. Render unto them a recompense, O LORD, according to the work of their hands. Give them sorrow of heart, thy curse unto them. Persecute and destroy them in anger from under the heavens of the LORD.” (Lamentations 3:59-66)
He asks that God would act on his behalf, repaying them for the lies and false charges against him. They laghed and celebrates at Jeremiah’s suffering and he asked God to give them a similar level of misery, based on their own wrong doing.