Preaching; July 1, 2020

Lamentations 2:14 The visions of your prophets
were false and worthless;
they did not expose your sin
to ward off your captivity.
The oracles they gave you
were false and misleading.

Lamentations is not a book we read very often, and when we do, it’s generally limited to the expression of faith and hope in 3:19-39. The physical context is clear: Jeremiah has seen the conquest and destruction of Jerusalem, with horrible loss of life. As such, as a whole the book is valuable for us today to point out that God is still God, no matter how horrible the circumstances. This verse should remind us that Jeremiah wasn’t the only prophet operative in Judea at that point. I personally think he doesn’t fit into the description he gives in this verse, but the fact that the people hadn’t paid sufficient attention to his prophecies probably made him feel like an utter failure. What he didn’t know was that God intended his prophecies not only for his immediate hearers but for many generations after, all the way to us today. That said, this verse points up the danger of sugar-coating the Word of the Lord to people. When we speak God’s grace and forgiveness, we must not let people think their sins are simply excused and don’t matter. That sort of thing is rampant in churches today. God’s grace is indeed sufficient to cover any sin, but that certainly doesn’t mean we are to treat sin lightly. As Paul said, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:1-2) Saying that sin is OK is like a doctor telling a patient, “You have an aggressive cancer, but big deal.” When preachers get focused on drawing people in they only talk about “Your best life now,” and never mention sin. They will have to answer to God for that. Pentecostal churches like to refer to themselves as “Full Gospel,” but if they aren’t turning people away from sin they are ignoring the reason for the cross of Christ, and that’s no Gospel at all.

My association with Lamentations goes back at least to when I was in the 5th grade. We were in the US for a year and my Sunday School teacher was a friend of my brother, a little bit older than he was, if I remember correctly. The teacher asked my class, “Does anyone know what lamentations means?” I responded with, “To lament is to be very, very sad.” The teacher was blown out of the water that I not only nailed it, I did so from the root word rather than the form he had given, and from that point his nickname for me was “Lammy Pie.” Far more germane to me today, I have been a preacher for the past 40+ years. Have my messages been faithful, or have they been false and worthless? Have I exposed sin to bring repentance, or have I effectively excused it? God is the judge of that. From Jeremiah’s example, I know that I’m not to judge things on the basis of immediate response. Sometimes the Word of the Lord is a time bomb, and goes off in a person’s heart even years after they first hear it. However, it does feel good indeed to see repentance and healing and rebirth right on the spot. I am not to demand immediate results of God, but I am to be faithful as His servant, speaking what He tells me, when and How He says to do it, and leave the results up to Him.

Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for the changes I am seeing in some of the people around me. I pray that Your plans for each and all of us may be fulfilled in every detail, and that I may be fully useful to You in that process, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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