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A Christian Meditation for the New Year

Another year has come and gone.  Each of us is one year closer to eternity:  “salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11).  Do not mourn that you are closer to death, but instead thank God that you are now that much closer to eternal life.

A generation comes and goes, but the earth remains.  Though all streams flow into the sea, the sea is not full.  The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.  Though we toil on this earth, we can take nothing with us into the next life.  Though we may indulge in the comforts and pleasures of this life, we will never be satisfied (Ecclesiastes 1:1-18).  The wise man and the fool, the rich and the poor, the king and the servant all will die (Ecclesiastes 2:1-17). 

As one year passes and another begins, let us remember that we are dust (Genesis 3:19).  Let us remember that at any moment we could be called away from this life.  Who of us knows if he will make it to the end of this year?  Be not like the rich fool who basked in his earthly blessings only to lose his life that very night (Luke 12:13-21).  God forbid that any of us should be found without the oil of faith when we awake from death at our Lord’s return (Matthew 25:1-13).  

Where your treasure is, there your heart is also (Matthew 6:21).  What are the greatest objects of your heart’s desire?  God and his word?  Free salvation through Jesus’ death?  

What is worth more than God?  What on this earth is worth more than hearing His word?  What is a better use of your time than coming to church regularly?  Everything in this world fades, rots, fails, falls apart, does not satisfy you, does not save you, does not last forever.  

Therefore, dear Christian, examine your heart.  Examine your time commitments.  Examine your loves.  This world is passing away.  Do not pass away along with it.  Do not be conformed to this world (Romans 12:2).  

Redeem the time, which passes so quickly.  Redeem it by using it to hear God’s word.  Fill your flasks with oil while there is still time (Matthew 25:8-10).  Come to church.  Come regularly.  Meditate on God’s word throughout the week and throughout your life. 

The word of God preserves you for eternal life.  Faith comes from hearing the word.  Faith in Christ’s death saves you from the eternity in Hell you deserve for sinning against God.

Christ has risen from the dead.  He has loosened the chains of the grave.  He has broken through, and risen above, the cycles of meaninglessness and death in Ecclesiastes.  He has opened eternity to all who believe in His life, death, and resurrection.  Into the toil, sadness, and vanity of this earthly life Jesus breathes joy and hope.  Joy because of reconciliation with God.  Joy because of His presence.  Joy due to humble, fearful, grateful faith.  And hope because of God’s promise that he will raise all who believe in Jesus to everlasting life.

Fourth Sunday of Easter: Lamentations 3:22-33

The book of Lamentations does not clearly identify its author.  It is concerned with the fall of Jerusalem, which occurred in 586 B.C.  Therefore, it had to have been written at least after that point.  But the vivid grief over the city it expresses suggests that Jerusalem had recently fallen when it was written.  Thus, the author probably witnessed the destruction firsthand.  The most likely and the traditional author of Lamentations is Jeremiah, who fits those parameters.  2 Chronicles 35:25 also notes that Jeremiah composed a “lament for Josiah,” which were “written in the Laments.”  Because Jeremiah also composed several such “jeremiads” or lamentations in the book of Jeremiah, it is thus very likely that this was another such composition (Jeremiah 12:1-4 is one example).

Lamentations is a structurally magnificent series of poems.  The book itself is broken into five chapters, and note that each has 22 verses, except for chapter 3 which has 66.  This is not an accident.  The first four chapters are all acrostic, which means that each line begins with a letter of the alphabet in sequence.  Since there are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet, this explains why there are 22 verses.  Chapter 5 is not acrostic, though it retains the same number of verses.  Chapter 3 intensifies the pattern, so that the acrostic pattern is a group of three verses instead of a single verse.

This is also worth noting because of another Hebrew thought pattern which tends to place the emphasis toward the middle rather than at the end.  If this is the case here, that would make this reading for the Fourth Sunday of Easter the main point of the whole book, since it falls to nearly the numerical middle according to the versification.  This would go far to explain what is otherwise a tone of seeming despair in the face of the destruction of Jerusalem.

While there is not time here to consider the whole book, it is enough to note the beginning of this chapter to bring out the contrast.  Jeremiah says “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; surely against me He turns His hand again and again the whole day long” (Lamentations 3:1-3).  It is the Lord who is against him, which makes his lament much like that of Job (such as Job 6:4, though there are many examples throughout that book).  The Lord has brought this disaster against His faithless people.  “He is a bear lying in wait for me, a lion in hiding; He turned aside my steps and tore me to pieces; He has made me desolate; He bent his bow and set me as a target for His arrow” (Lamentation 3:10-12).

This, then, sets the reading for this Sunday focused on comfort into proper perspective.  Lamentations 3:22-33 is not a generic kind of trusting in the Lord, a sort of platitude about how it will “all be right.”  This is a hope which trusts in God’s mercy even in the face of God’s wrath.  It is a hope which knows that “the Lord will not cast off forever” (Lamentations 3:31) those to whom He has brought grief.  It is a hope which clings to the promises of God even while it seems that everything has gone wrong.  Even though everything is taken away which had been given, yet the Lord remains faithful and true.  “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’” (Lamentations 3:22-24).