19 May 2014

Our Only Hope Is This


Lam 3:22-23

“God’s consuming wrath!” This is a sobering thought, especially when read this portion of Jeremiah's letter! It’s ONLY because of His mercy we are not consumed! “Consumed” by definition is “to eat or drink up; devour, to destroy, as by decomposition or burning. “Wrath” by definition is “violent anger; passionate or violent fury. When I think of those two words put together in the same sentence I’m reminded of the event between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. The bible tells us about an event in history where God displayed His amazing powers over fallible man and the god they created in their image. The battle to see whose God is better and more powerful! (1 Kings 18:20-39). The only person you know who has the qualification to consume anything is God himself!

Not only does He have the right to consume, but He also has the right to show grace where  He chooses………..He alone is 100% faithful 100% of the time. As Paul reminded Timothy “if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.” 2Timothy 2:13. This should bring great comfort in light of God’s consuming wrath towards sin and the sinner. I want you to think about that this morning….especially after singing songs and praising His sovereign name and the goodness found in Christ through the gospel. God’s consuming wrath relented towards sinners like you and me. The Bible explains God’s wrath is very real and we need to heed the warnings!

God’s wrath is demonstrated in terror......Jeremiah 10:10 says “But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth will tremble, And the nations will not be able to endure His indignation [His outrage].”

God’s wrath cannot be resisted......Nahum 1:6 says “Who can stand before His indignation? And who can endure the fierceness of His anger? His fury is poured out like fire, And the rocks are thrown down by Him.” In Psalm 76:7 it says “You, Yourself, are to be feared; And who may stand in Your presence When once You are angry?”

God’s wrath is being stored up or better yet reserved for the “Day of Wrath”.......Rom 2:5 reveals to us “But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent [unremorseful or unrepentant] heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,” and in 2 Thess 1:8 we read “in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

God’s wrath is against the wicked, unbelieving, apostates, idolaters, and most of all sin and the sinner......Psalm 7:11 reminds us that “God is a just judge, And God is angry with the wicked every day.” Remember Hell is not full of sin it’s full of people….. “wicked” people! In Romans 1:18 says “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,”

God’s wrath is towards those who oppose the gospel......1 Thess 2:16 says “forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost.”

God’s wrath is adverted only through Christ......Rom 5:9 gives us a promise “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.”

Please hear my heart this morning! I don’t read you these passages to scare or intimidate you! But, I do tell you this…… because we need to understand where we stand in light of God and His infinite glory and power; when it comes to His consuming wrath. See we need to understand God’s divine wrath is not vindictiveness; it is divine perfection, issuing forth from God because it is right. As one writer said “God's anger is always predictable, always steadfast, and always set against sin. We must never forget that God's nature is uncompromisingly set against sin. We may tolerate it; He never”. And it’s only because of His mercy and compassion that we haven’t been consumed by His wrath described a minute ago! That’s a WOW moment isn’t it? Or at least it should be. This is a letter of a broken minister of God, who sees the turning away from the only one who can show clemency to sinners like us. And here in this letter ultimately Jeremiah feels all alone. (Read Lam 3:1-21)

There is something we also see in this portion of Jeremiah’s letter! We see the promises and attributes of God’s faithfulness to those who whom are truly His. This is a beautiful reminder of God sustaining graces in the midst of affliction and sorrow and desperation. This is where our hopes begins and ends! (v22-v24). This is our only hope!

HIS MERCY

God's mercy is a massive theme in Scripture, the English word appearing some 341 times in the Bible. The four Hebrew and three Greek words associated with this term appear a total of 454 times and are also translated as "kindness," "lovingkindness," "goodness," "favor," and "pity." Psalm 136 continually says “…..For His mercy endures forever.” Even though "mercy" is an important concept, it is somewhat difficult to prescribe a definition, especially since "grace" is occasionally closely coupled with it. Mercy and grace are often confused. While the terms have similar meanings, grace and mercy are not the same. To summarize the difference: mercy is God not punishing us as our sins deserve, and grace is God blessing us despite the fact that we do not deserve it. Mercy is deliverance from judgment and wrath. Grace is extending kindness to the unworthy sinner. We don’t deserve God’s mercy and it’s only by His mercy through the gospel that we have not been consumed by His righteous anger towards sinners. But as Richard Sibbes said “By honouring God’s mercy in Christ, we come to have the Spirit of Christ; therefore, when the waters of sanctification are troubled and muddy, let us run to the witness of blood.”

HIS COMPASSION

Compassion by definition is “"to be loved by, " "to show concern for, " "to be tenderhearted, " and "to act kindly." Compassion is the feeling of empathy for others. Compassion is the emotion that we feel in response to the suffering of others that motivates a desire to help. Lam 3:32-33 reminds us and Jeremiah about His compassion “Though He causes grief, Yet He will show compassion According to the multitude of His mercies. For He does not afflict willingly, Nor grieve the children of men.” 

Ray Stedman said   “Isn't that encouraging? He does not willingly afflict or grieve the sons of men. He will bring grief because He loves us and we need it, but He does not do it lightly. He feels our pain with us. As a good parent with His children, He hurts worse than we do at times. He does not willingly do it. I think we need to recall that when we are put through times of pressure and danger. God’s compassion surpasses  all that we are going through!" http://www.raystedman.org/daily-devotions/job/gods-compassion-and-mercy ]

Matt 9:36 says “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matt 14:14 says before He feed the 5000 [not including women and children] “And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.” That’s the level of compassion that Christ demonstrated for us on the cross! Jesus saw broken and wondering sinners who needed redeeming because they were blind and in bondage to sin. He took something that was unlovable [you and me] and loved us any way despite who we are. Why? He loved us and He knew the pending doom that awaited each and every one of us if they didn’t have a Saviour to show mercy and compassion. God’s flaming wrath! Again “Through the LORD's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.” (v22). And it’s all because of His mercy and compassion we have this hope and Jeremiah has this hope. The prophet seems to stand amidst the ruins of city and temple, burned with fire, scattered with the ashes of his people. Remember! Jeremiah didn’t go around telling the people “I told you so” no, he weep for the people, because he knew and we know that our generations have turned their backs on a holy God who is merciful and compassionate. As Jeremiah sometimes we take our eyes of the prize which is Christ and look our situation or circumstances though the lenses of fallible men and women.

And we forget that a holy God who……
  • Loves us unconditionally despite your short comings and downfalls.
  • Chastens us as a good father does with his own child.
  • Doesn't consume us according to His mercy and compassion.
  • Disciplines us, but won’t destroy or consume us according to His promises.

We need to remind ourselves of this truth every day! Why? Unbelief causes us to look at God through our circumstances and this usually creates hopelessness. See, faith in an all-powerful God who displays these wonderful attributes enables us to look our circumstances through the reality of God and gives us hope. As one writer said “look at yourself and you’ll be depressed. Look at circumstances and you’ll be distressed. Look at the Lord and you’ll be blessed!” His mercy…His compassion is new every morning! 

Do you understand what that means for you and me as God’s elect children?
  • When I fail and fall to temptation of sin.
  • When I fall into grievous sin that changes my relationships with others.
  • When I stumble and become discouraged because of my current situation.
  • When I lack faith to understand he knows what’s best for me.
  • When I don’t do the right thing or say the right words.
  • When I don’t love others like I'm supposed to.
  • When I deny you before others in order to fit it at times.
  • When I yell at my kids for disrupting my peace and quiet.
  • When I unable to thank God for my family and friends.
  • When I forget to selflessly think of others above myself.
  • When I overlook to show compassion and clemency to others.
  • When I lose my cool with someone I love.
  • When I don’t study your God breathed words and pray as often that I should.

This absolutely amazing……when you think of infinite supply of His amazing mercy and compassion; especially when you think about those truths in light of your past week, month, even year…that we haven’t been consumed by the flaming wrath of God. Woodroll Kroll eloquently penned these words “Although we have no claim on God's mercies, and although they are altogether undeserved, nonetheless they never cease. We have done much to provoke God and give Him cause to cut off His mercy in our behalf. We have abused His mercy, ignored His mercy, even at times ungratefully accepted His mercy. Still, while God's mercies may not always be visible, they are always present. The mercies of God may change their form, as the morning light varies from the evening light, but the mercies of God will never cease to give their light. Even chastisement is mercy in disguise; and frequently, under the circumstances which make chastisement necessary, it proves to be more merciful than if God had not chastised us at all.”

What does that mercy and compassion look like each and every day?  I came across a story that might illustrate this truth for us this morning. “It was a hot day in the dry old West. As the railroad came roaring down the tracks, sparks were flying everywhere because of the hot temperatures. When the sparks flew, often they would begin a fire that would destroy ranches, homes and livestock. One particular day, there was a fire that spread from a railroad train in West Texas and did major damage. As the old farmer who owned the property walked through the ashes of his home and ranch, he saw an old hen lying on the ground, burnt to death. Her wings were spread open. In his anger, he kicked the old hen. To his surprise...several baby chicks ran out from under her burnt wings. When the fire came, the hen draped herself over her little ones and took the fire to save their lives.” 

We have a mighty Savior who did exactly that for us. When the fire of God’s holy wrath should have consumed us...Christ spread out His arms on the Cross and covered us in His blood! See, God has to be merciful because of what I did and said today! Otherwise we would be consumed. This is only made possible through the finished work of the cross and the continuing grace found in the gospel that transforms us day by day. Always remember this wonderful truth in the midst of suffering….in the midst of confusion and despair…….in the midst of your sanctified Christian life! No matter how dark our day may appear to be, let us remember this with Jeremiah, "It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.” God may hide His face for a moment, but with everlasting kindness He will have mercy, according to the multitude of His compassion's........They are new every morning, great is Thy faithfulness"

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