July 11, Wednesday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Seeking God through Lament”

Jeremiah 19:10-11

Then you are to break the jar in the sight of the men who accompany you and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, “Just so will I break this people and this city, even as one breaks a potter’s vessel, which cannot again be repaired; and they will bury in Topheth because there is no other place for burial.”

One of the wisest choices my mother made for my sister and me was when she signed us up for a Divorce Care Group for kids when we were young. She told us that she did this because she was aware that we may have emotions such as anger, sadness, or disappointment that we were afraid to express to her, but she didn’t want us to harbor it in our hearts. She told us to tell it to our care group and she wouldn’t be mad about anything we said in those sessions. I remember those sessions being a safe place to share and listen, but I honestly was too young to process. However, her choice set me up well for my college years when I started to have pent up emotions about my parent’s divorce, and I knew it was permissible to grieve. In fact, allowing myself to grieve and find a counselor led to a season of healing and restoration.

In this morning’s passage, God tells Jeremiah to shatter the clay jar in front of the priests and elders as an illustration of the destruction to come. As it is clay jar that has been hardened, it would break quickly, and cannot be repaired. This is the way in which God would bring judgment to Judah and Jerusalem, and those who remain alive would be taken into captivity in a foreign land.

In Psalm 137, a psalm describing the experience of exile and captivity, the psalmist cries out, “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” The period in which God’s people lived as exiles under Babylonian rule birthed a great number of psalms, known as lament psalms. Lament is something they did as a way to wonder about God’s presence in their loss and hardship, and many prophets lamented on behalf of Israel. There is a raw combination of honestly grieving before God, repenting of past sins, and seeking God’s presence in the midst of the painful experience.

We all face difficult losses and hardships, and the Bible invites us to honestly grieve and lament as a path to finding restoring hope and strength. This morning, give yourself the permission to offer God a prayer of lament, or pray on behalf for someone who is going through a difficult time.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You are faithful in all circumstances. In the dark and difficult times of my life, help me to not withdraw from You and grieve alone. Help me instead to draw near to You and pour out my sorrow before You. Even though I may not understand fully Your ways and Your purposes in my hardships, I ask that You would strengthen me and lead me to Your truth. In Jesus’ Name.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Daniel 2


Lunch Break Study

Read Psalm 79:1-13: O God, the nations have invaded Your inheritance; They have defiled Your holy temple; They have laid Jerusalem in ruins. 2 They have given the dead bodies of Your servants for food to the birds of the heavens, The flesh of Your godly ones to the beasts of the earth. 3 They have poured out their blood like water round about Jerusalem; And there was no one to bury them. 4 We have become a reproach to our neighbors, A scoffing and derision to those around us. 5 How long, O Lord? Will You be angry forever? Will Your jealousy burn like fire? 6 Pour out Your wrath upon the nations which do not know You, And upon the kingdoms which do not call upon Your name. 7 For they have devoured Jacob And laid waste his habitation. 8 Do not remember the iniquities of our forefathers against us; Let Your compassion come quickly to meet us, For we are brought very low. 9 Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Your name; And deliver us and forgive our sins for Your name’s sake. 10 Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” Let there be known among the nations in our sight, Vengeance for the blood of Your servants which has been shed. 11 Let the groaning of the prisoner come before You; According to the greatness of Your power preserve those who are doomed to die. 12 And return to our neighbors sevenfold into their bosom The reproach with which they have reproached You, O Lord. 13 So we Your people and the sheep of Your pasture Will give thanks to You forever; To all generations we will tell of Your praise.

Questions to Consider

  1. What kind of psalm is Psalm 79?
  2. How does God’s jealousy (v. 5) relate to the destruction of Jerusalem?
  3. How does the psalmist reason with God regarding delivering them from the ruins?

Notes

  1. Psalm 79 is a lament psalm over the destruction of Jerusalem, a result of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God. The lament leads to a prayer of cry for help to God.
  2. God’s jealousy is a godly jealousy. It’s a strong emotion rooted in love and righteous anger when a covenant relationship between two parties (God and Israel) is not kept faithfully. It is not like envy, which is rooted in lusting after what is not rightfully ours. Israel’s faithfulness to God is rightfully His, as He promised to be faithful to them. When Israel abandoned God, God reacted with godly jealousy. Deut. 4:23-24 says, “So watch yourselves, that you do not forget the covenant of the Lord your God which He made with you, and make for yourselves a graven image in the form of anything against which the Lord your God has commanded you. For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.”
  3. The psalmist pleads with God to deliver Israel “for the glory of Your name” and “for Your name’s sake.” The eternal glory of God’s name can stand alone despite circumstances. However, in ancient Near East cultures, each nation’s prosperity is directly associated with the power of the god(s) they serve. Israel’s experiences (i.e. parting of the Red Sea) testify to the nations that there is no other like the one true God. In the psalm, though God abandons Israel for righteous reasons, the psalmist pleads with Him to save them so that the nations may once again see that there is no other god compared to the God of Israel.

Evening Reflection

A prayer of lament is a form of worship to God, leading to faith and freedom. Are there any sorrows you are bearing that you have been denying in your heart? Ask the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to help you offer your sorrows to God, and may the Lord give you hope through prayers of lament.

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