Last Sunday we found ourselves in deep theological waters - Lamentations chapter 3 refers to both the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of people. However, we only really managed to dip our toes in to these deep theological waters. If you want to dive deeper, have a read (and a re-read and a re-read) of the following statements from the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith (in modern english) - they're well worth reflecting on...

(3.1) From all eternity God decreed everything that occurs, without reference to anything outside himself (Isaiah 46:10; Ephesians 1:11; Hebrews 6:17; Romans 9:15, 18). He did this by the perfectly wise and holy counsel of his will, freely and unchangeably. Yet God did this in such a way that he is neither the author of sin nor has fellowship with any in their sin (James 1:13; 1 John 1:5). This decree does not violate the will of the creature or take away the free working or contingency of second causes. On the contrary, these are established by God's decree (Acts 4:27, 28; John 19:11). In this decree God's wisdom is displayed in directing all things, and his power and faithfulness are demonstrated in accomplishing his decree (Numbers 23:19; Ephesians 1:3-5).

(5.4) The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God are so thoroughly demonstrated in his providence, that his sovereign plan includes even the first fall and every other sinful action both of angels and humans (Romans 11:32-34; 2 Samuel 24:1; 1 Chronicles 21:1). God’s providence over sinful actions does not occur by simple permission. Instead, God most wisely and powerfully limits and in other ways arranges and governs sinful actions (2 Kings 19:28; Psalm 76:10). Through a complex arrangement of methods he governs sinful actions to accomplish his perfectly holy purposes (Genesis 50:20; Isaiah 10:6, 7, 12). Yet he does this in such a way that the sinfulness of their acts arises only from the creatures and not from God. Because God is altogether holy and righteous, he can neither originate nor approve of sin (Psalm 50:21; 1 John 2:16).

These are just two statements from the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith about the decree and providence of God. There are more, and they're well worth reflecting on too - you can read them here:

The Lamentations sermon series started this morning. For those people who weren't able to be with us (but who will be with us next week) it is important to understand the structure of this Old Testament book...

2 Kings 25 tells us facts surrounding the fall of Jerusalem. Lamentations tells us feelings. 2 Kings 25 is prose but Lamentations is poetry. Lamentations is five chapters and each chapter is a poem. If you look at chapter 1, chapter 2, chapter 4 and chapter 5 they all have 22 verses. The Hebrew alphabet has 22 letters and these four chapters are alphabet poems. Each verse starts with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. And for three of these poems the letters are in order. If you like, verse 1 is ‘A’, verse 2 is ‘B’, verse 3 is ‘C’ and so on. But for one of these poems – the last one - the letters aren’t in order. It’s not ABCDE - it's CEBAD. As part of his poetry the Lamenter is trying to understand suffering. You could call his poems the A to Z of suffering. But in chapter 5 he concludes: “I don't understand it - suffering is confusing!” From his perspective there is no rhyme or reason to suffering. And our suffering today isn’t the same as their suffering then, but that conclusion is still helpful. When we suffer it is OK to cry to the LORD: “I don’t understand. I’m confused. What are you doing, LORD? Why?!”

One commentator describes the rhythm of the poetry - they have a ‘peculiar limping rhythm.’ The Lamenter has been scarred by suffering, and now he lives his life with a limp. The scars will fade but however much they fade they will always be there. And again, our suffering isn’t the same as their suffering but we too can be scarred by suffering – seriously scarred - and we too can live our lives with a limp (physically, emotionally, spiritually). And Lamentations doesn’t guarantee us happiness, but Lamentations does give us hope. Chapter 3 is also an alphabet poem but it has 66 verses - three times 22 (three verses per letter of the alphabet). Or in other words chapter 3 is the climax of Lamentations. In the four other poems there’s a lot of heartache, and there is heartache in chapter 3, but there is also hope. At the heart of Lamentations, even in the heartache, there is hope! In the gloom of darkness there is a glimmer of light: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23). We will be looking at Lamentations chapter 3 on Sunday 23rd June. It would be great to have you with us...

The Lamentations sermon series started this morning. For those people who weren't able to be with us (but who will be with us next week) it is really important to understand the setting of this Old Testament book...

In the book of Exodus – the second book of the Bible - God brings the people of Israel out of Egypt. God and the people of Israel then commit to each other: God promises that he’ll be faithful to them and they promise that they’ll be faithful to him. Then later, in the book of Joshua, God brings the people of Israel into the Promised Land. But the story then descends into disaster. In the book of Judges the people of Israel are unfaithful to God - again and again and again (and again and again). But God is faithful and in the books of 1 and 2 Samuel God gives them Kings – and King David is a good King. Then in the book of 1 Kings, David’s son, Solomon, takes the throne. And at the start Solomon is a wise King but in the end Solomon is a foolish King. He too is unfaithful to God and the story again descends into disaster. In the book of 2 Kings, King after King after King is unfaithful to God - and the people of Israel are unfaithful to him too -again and again and again (and again and again). All the time God is calling out to them - sending prophets to say: “Please, stop saying that!” “Please, stop doing that!” Until 2 Kings chapter 25, when God intervenes.

According to 2 Kings 25 a man called Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, marches against the city of Jerusalem with his whole army. They camp outside the city, they build siege works around it, and for two years Jerusalem is kept under siege. And in the year 587BC the wall is broken through. The King of Israel at the time, who did evil in the eyes of the LORD - just as his father had done, and just as his father had done -is captured by the Babylonians. The Babylonians set fire to the temple of the LORD, and to the royal palace, and to all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building is burned down. The city is reduced to rubble, and ruined. The city is devastated, demolished and destroyed. The Babylonians take their bronze, their silver, and their gold. The place is deserted. The Israelite people are either executed, exiled, or enslaved. According to 2 Kings 25, in the year 587BC, the city of Jerusalem is razed to the ground. But at the same time, in the same place, the book of Lamentations is written. It is really important to understand the setting of Lamentations in order to understand what it means for us today.

Sunday at 10:30am

Mangotsfield Primary School

Emersons Green

Church Farm Road 

BS16 7EY

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