The Lord Who Has Compassion

The Lord Who Has Compassion

Written on 05/15/2024
Sarah Ivill

by Sarah Ivill

Where do you turn in the midst of your suffering? I hope you first turn to the Word of God. But within the Bible there are certain books that teach us to suffer well. Lamentations is one such example. Each one of the poems in the book is an acrostic, literarily bringing order to the chaos God’s people have experienced. Both the community (chapters 1-2, 4-5) and the individual (3) lament the disaster of Jerusalem. The book moves from despair to deliverance, ending with a cry for restoration and renewal.

               In Lamentations 1 the imagery is startling—the once bustling city is now lonely, the great nation is now widowed, and the princess among provinces is now enslaved. The Lord, in His righteous anger, afflicted Judah because of the magnitude and multitude of her sins. Babylon besieged the holy city, berating her people and places. Sadly, God’s people want the Lord to judge their enemies’ sins instead of recognizing their own. Even so, there is a ray of hope. Although Judah doesnt yet seem humble and contrite, shes still talking to the Lord.

               If theres an emphasis in Lamentations 2, its upon the Lords day of anger. He sovereignly poured out His wrath upon Judah, delivered her into the enemys hand, and laid her in ruins. Judah is exhorted to:Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord!” (v. 19). The question, who can heal you?” (v. 13) is ultimately answered in Christ alone.       

               Lamentations 3 begins on a personal note, I am the man who has seen affliction…” (v. 1). The author of the book is an eyewitness of the horrific events surrounding Jerusalem’s fall and Judah’s exile. Recognizing Gods sovereignty, he states, He has made me dwell in darkness…” (v. 4). Peace and happiness are past; affliction and wandering characterize the present. Its amazing, then, that he has hope. Notably, it’s not in his circumstances changing, but in the Lord who is sovereign over his circumstances. The Lord is steadfast in love, limitless in mercies, great in faithfulness, and does good to those who seek Him. The sufferer recognizes that the Lord must act as the righteous judge of all the earth (v. 33), and the way forward is through repentance and renewal (vv. 40-42). Though he’d been flung alive into a pit, stoned, and almost drowned, he called upon the name of the Lord, and the Lord heard him and redeemed his life (vv. 53-58).

               At first glance there doesn’t seem to be much hope in Lamentations 4. The imagery is horrific—tongues of nursing infants stick to the roofs of their mouths; the strong become weak; and the holy stones of the temple lay scattered along the streets. The Lord consumes Judah’s very foundations for her heinous sins. However, the chapter closes with a note of hope—the Lord’s cup of wrath would pass elsewhere, to Edom. He would once again restore His people and take vengeance on her enemies.

               Lamentations 5 begins with God’s people pouring out the reality of their suffering—disgrace, displacement, poverty, weariness, death, oppression, famine, rape, and depression. Then they confess, woe to us, for we have sinned!” (v. 16). Finally, they acknowledge the Lords eternal kingship and humbly plead for restoration and renewal (v. 22).

               So how does Lamentations teach us to suffer well? First, it reveals that in the midst of suffering, instead of pointing out the sin of others, we are to confess our sins and rejoice that the Lord does not deal with us as our sins deserve. As those who are in Christ our loneliness is swallowed by His love; our crying with His comfort; our servitude with sonship; our rebelliousness with His righteousness; and our groaning with His grace.

               Second, in our distress we must pour out our heart before the Lord in prayer, pleading with Him to save us, protect us, and provide for us. No one will escape the Lords gaze. We will either be friend or foe. In our suffering, let us turn to the Lord, not away from Him.

               Third, the sufferer of chapter three anticipates the greater sufferer, Jesus Christ,I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath; he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light…though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer…I have become the laughingstock of all peoples…” (vv. 1-2, 8, 14). The Father closed His ear to His Sons cry for help from the cross because the curse of our sins fell upon Him. To understand how the steadfast love of the Lord will never cease for Gods people, and His mercies will never come to an end, we must remember Christ’s work on the cross. But the cross also reminds us that the curse remains on all those who don’t look to Jesus for salvation. If youve never put your hope in Jesus, dear reader, you remain lost in darkness. Therefore, call upon the Lord today; He will not close His ear to your cry for salvation.

               Fourth, in the midst of our suffering, we can celebrate that the cup of God’s wrath was poured out upon Christ. We are clean by the blood of Christ and accepted because of His intercession. Our suffering has an end. In the new heaven and the new earth no longer will there be death, mourning, crying or pain (Rev. 21:4).

               Finally, Lamentations reminds us that the Lord is compassionate. He restores and renews His people because “the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, therefore I will hope in him” (3:22-24).

Sarah Ivill (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) is a Reformed author, wife, homeschooling mom, Bible study teacher, and conference speaker who lives in Matthews, North Carolina, and is a member of Christ Covenant Church (PCA). To learn more, please visit www.sarahivill.com.



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