“Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old— ” (Lamentations 5:21, ESV)
I am challenged this morning by Jeremiah’s plea for restoration in the aftermath of God’s judgement of Israel’s sin in the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians in 586 BC. Gerard Chrispin writes concerning the background of Lamentations,
“The theme is the devastation of Jerusalem and God’s people for their sin, and the mercy and grace of God which is yet to come. Jeremiah, having prophesied Jerusalem’s fall to Babylon, weeps as he surveys the results of the onslaught on Jerusalem which leads to the city being destroyed and its temple being burned, in two separate attacks. Although Jeremiah knows, and constantly emphasises, that it is the sins and failure to repent on the part of God’s people that cause God’s judgement on Jerusalem, he nevertheless demonstrates great compassion and sorrow of heart over the catastrophe, which he examines in detail. This causes him to pray for the restoration of God’s people, who are also his people”. -Gerard Chrispin, The Bible Panorama : Enjoying the Whole Bible With a Chapter-by-Chapter Guide (Leominster, UK: Day One Publications, 2005), 330.
I am also reminded this morning that God does not tolerate sin. God will not let sin go unchecked, there is a vivid reminder of both God’s judgment and God’s mercy seen in Lamentations 3 through 5. Here are 3 Observations from the text.
1. Repent, God is Faithful to Forgive. I heard a pastor say recently, “True repentance results in forsaking sin.” What a truth, repentance is not reform, remorse, or rededication; it is sorrow and brokenness over sin that leads to change. Jeremiah told the Israelites, “Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord! Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven: “We have transgressed and rebelled, and you have not forgiven. ” (Lamentations 3:40–42, ESV)
2. Remember, The Consequences of Sin Are Costly. Lamentations Chapter 4 retells the horrible picture of Jerusalem’s siege and destruction by the Babylonians. God used the Babylonians as a tool of judgment because of the Israelites sin. David Dockery describes a horrifying seen in Jerusalem as they endure the consequences of their sin:
“The description of Jerusalem’s downfall continues, with emphasis being placed on the contrast between its former condition and present humiliation. The city’s children, once considered as precious as gold, were now treated like mere clay pots. As they cried out in hunger and thirst, no one took pity upon them. The once robust princes were shriveled up from lack of food. Starving mothers who used to be filled with compassion even ate their own children. Because of its slow, painful death, Jerusalem’s fate was even worse than that of Sodom, which had been destroyed in an instant. Many had thought the city could never fall. But the Lord allowed its enemies to invade it because of the sins of its unjust and corrupt religious leaders. As the people waited in vain for help from Egypt, their enemies scattered them and even captured their king.” -David S. Dockery, Holman Concise Bible Commentary: Simple, Straightforward Commentary on Every Book of the Bible (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 312-13.
I am reminded of this statement, “Sin will always take you farther than you wanted to go, keep you longer than you wanted to stay, and cost you more than you intended to pay.” This was certainly true for the nation of Israel in 586 BC.
3. Restore Me, Is How You Need To Pray. Jeremiah’s begins chapter 5 with a description of Israel’s situation, which was utterly hopeless and brought on by their own sin. He closes chapter 5 with a simple plea for restoration, “But you, O Lord, reign forever; your throne endures to all generations. Why do you forget us forever, why do you forsake us for so many days? Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old— unless you have utterly rejected us, and you remain exceedingly angry with us. ” (Lamentations 5:19–22, ESV). Restoration begins when we turn to God in sorrow and brokenness over our sin. H.D. Spence-Jones writes,
“The writer wisely prays to be turned back to God before he prays for the renewal of the old days. It is a common mistake to seek for the external fruits of forgiveness before the internal. The first thing is to bring the soul back to God. Other happy consequences will follow. It is vain to pray for the brightness of noon before our part of the earth has revolved towards the sun. It is to be noted that the great change in the soul is a turning to God. God draws us to himself. Redemption is reconciliation to God. To be near him, to trust and love and obey him, to seek more and more of his light and life,—this is the renewed health and blessedness of the soul that is restored from the wretchedness and ruin of sin.“ The Pulpit Commentary: Lamentations, ed. H. D. M. Spence-Jones (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2004), 85.
1. Examine your life. Are you a fruit bearing Christian? Is there evidence of Christ-Likeness in your life? Is there un-confessed sin? Are you under the judgment and discipline of the Lord today?
2. Realize God’s desire to graciously forgive and restore. “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. ” (2 Chronicles 7:14, ESV)
3. Respond in repentance. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ” (1 John 1:9, ESV)
4. Commit to Community and Service within the Church. This is how we grow as Christians and are held accountable to the LORD.
LORD, I am reminded this morning of the horrible consequences of sin. LORD, you cannot tolerate sin as it is an affront to Your Holy character. God give me a hatred for sin this morning. Help me recall and realize the horrible affects and consequences of sin. Break my heart over the grief and affront sin brings to Your great name and character. God remind me that my sin severs my intimacy and relationship with you. Praise You LORD for Jesus. Thank you Jesus for being my righteous sin bearer. Jesus you have bore my punishment and shame, praise Your great name. Reveal sin in my life and give me the grace to walk in holiness today. I pray I would be an instrument and testimony of restoration today as I live for You Lord Jesus, Amen.