Thursday, August 21, 2014

Both Calamities and Good Things



Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?
(Lamentations 3:38)

During the time of God’s judgment on Jerusalem in 586 BC, we see a bleak picture.

God’s people were
Rebellious
Rejected
Racked with hunger
Ruled by slaves
And they experienced a River of tears
As the Rod of God’s wrath was upon them

But the author (likely Jeremiah) refuses to give in to bitterness or despair. He holds on to hope in God’s compassion, faithfulness, and goodness (3:21-23). And he holds firm to the belief that God’s harsh actions are not random, but according to His divine plan. (Deuteronomy 28:15-68) His intentions are always to bring his people back to Himself.

For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men (3:33)

And the author believes that times of calamity can bring us to our knees in self-examination and repentance.

Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord. Let us lift up our hearts and our hands to God in heaven… (3:40-41)

Our friends the Wangs visited us a few weeks ago and we had fun playing a new card game with them called Saboteur. Everyone peeks at an identity card in the beginning and then plays cards either as a gold miner or a saboteur. Tunneling cards try to connect paths to successfully find the gold, and blocking cards make dead ends in an attempt to keep the gold miners from reaching that goal. 


During one game I had played several blocking cards, and thought that Charly and Joseph were my partners in crime, when Joshua surprisingly laid a blocking card. Since there could only be 3 saboteurs, I took another look at my identity card and realized that I was actually a gold miner. Oops. The rest of the game I tried to undo the wrong I had unintentionally done to myself and my fellow gold miners. But because of my mistake, the “bad guys” won.

He has barred my way with blocks of stone; he has made my paths crooked. (3:9)

Whose side is God on?

In the book of Lamentations, it seems that God sometimes acts like a saboteur—blocking the path of the “good guys.” Allowing victory to the side of the enemy.

Like an enemy, he strung his bow
He poured out his wrath like fire on Zion
Like an enemy he swallowed up Israel
He handed them over to the enemy
And did not withhold his hand from destroying
(taken from Lamentations 2)

But unlike my playing the wrong cards because of a mistaken identity, God’s saboteur-like actions are never a mistake. We will never hear God whisper Oops. Or see Him try to undo unintentionally played wrong cards. His actions are always intentional and right.

Because of their hard hearts, God’s people had listened to false prophets—who did not expose their sin to ward off their captivity. (2:14)

And so, the Lord has done what he planned; he has fulfilled his word, which he decreed long ago. (2:17)

God’s plan for us is that we
Repent
Return
And find Relief.
That we recognize His Reign
So that He can Restore
And Renew us
And Redeem our lives.

The waters closed over my head, and I thought I was about to be cut off. I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit. You heard my plea: “Do not close your ears to my cry for relief.” You came near when I called you, and you said, “Do not fear.” O Lord, you took up my case; you redeemed my life.” (3:54-58)

You, O Lord, reign forever; your throne endures from generation to generation. Why do you always forget us? Why do you forsake us so long? Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may return; renew our days of old unless you have utterly rejected us and are angry with us beyond measure. (5:19-22)

I believe that here the author of Lamentations allows God to be Who He Is—the One who reigns forever—who could choose to be angry with his people beyond measure, who could choose not to forgive, but to forsake them...

If God were to choose that path, his response would be “God is God. His choices are always right.”

But the author does not let go of hope, and what he knows to be true of God:

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope. 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. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him. The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him…For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love (3: 21-25, 31-32)

Whose side is God on?

As I’ve been reflecting on this question in Lamentations, I’ve thought about the words in the song

If our God is for us, then who could ever stop us
And if our God is with us, then what could stand against?

The truth is that God brings both good things and calamities into our lives—to bring our rebellious hearts to repentance and ultimately closer to His heart. To restore, renew, and redeem us. Because God is for us. He is on our side—even when His actions seem to allow the enemy to be victorious.

It seemed that Satan had won a great victory as Jesus breathed his last breath on the blood-stained cross. But death was not able to keep him down. And God’s victory—through Jesus’ resurrection—is ultimate and final.

God turns even calamities into good. Great is His faithfulness.







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