Alternately . . . Writing Titles is NOT My Strength
I decided to read the book of Lamentations . . . I felt like life was just too joyful at the moment . . . that’s a joke y’all . . . lighten up.
I’ve never read Lamentations straight through. It’s kind of embarrassing, but I’m not even sure I’ve read all of Lamentations in bits and pieces. Basically, I haven’t really read Lamentations to any extent that matters. It’s not the most encouraging book in the Bible. As a matter of fact, it’s downright depressing (that’s not a joke, but it is honesty). It is, after all, literally a book of poetic lamenting written by the prophet Jeremiah regarding the fall of and subsequent capture of Jerusalem.
I think sometimes we avoid the harder parts of God’s word . . . either because we find it makes us uncomfortable or because it doesn’t really interest us. Over the past couple of years, I’ve found myself drawn equally to both the old and new testaments. At the same time, with the exception of the lexicons and concordances for word study and commentaries only for historical background (and not necessarily interpretation purposes), I’ve pretty much put away all other Christian books . . . the devos, the bible studies, the Christian self-help, instructional type books . . . not because there is anything inherently wrong with any of those. There absolutely isn’t, but it seems like we often have it backwards. We often spend more time reading about the bible rather than actually reading the bible. Maybe we should flip that around. Maybe we should spend more time in the actual Word of God.
Because I felt like God wanted me to spend some focused time in the word without a bunch of outside voices giving their interpretation and opinions, I decided to put aside the other books for at least a while (I do still listen to a couple theologically based, solid bible, podcasts/teachers about once/week) . . . to trust that I am capable of reading and understanding the bible on my own with the help and enabling of the Holy Spirit. I think that’s a big part of growing in God’s word . . . learning to let the Bible stand on its own . . . which it totally should but we often try to make it say what we want it to say . . . something that fits our agenda . . . and to go off on just a slight tangent, the bible doesn’t need anyone’s help saying what it is meant to say. If someone starts their interpretation with, “I know it says ______, but it really means _______,” that’s a huge red flag for me. I for sure am going to pull up the original language and a solid biblical translation (not one that I just like how it sounds) to be sure that what is being taught is accurate. I don’t care who the teacher is, how big their platform is, or how long they’ve been in the ministry . . . there are times when I disagree with even my favorite teachers and preachers. We have let the Holy Spirit guide us in our reading and studying and learning of His word and not allow outside influences to mislead us.
What I’ve discovered in really digging into the Old Testament is that it is far more than just bible stories and boring laws. There is so much wisdom and instruction, guidance and beauty to be found in those Old Testament words. I knew that . . . I knew I loved Psalms with its beautiful songs written to God. I knew Proverbs was literally the book of wisdom, and I’ve loved Isaiah and the prophecies in that book for most of my adult years. But for the first time in my life, I’ve found myself sitting and studying in their entirety various Old Testament books . . . taking the time to go back to the original Hebrew, to look up the historical context, to see the parallels between Old Testament Israel and our modern-day culture.
And so, it seemed like time for a little Lamentations. I’m two chapters in, and let me tell you, there is a lot of lamenting. Jeremiah is one unhappy fellow. As he should be, and he’s not afraid to let God know how he feels. But here’s the other thing, he also acknowledges that the fault is not God’s. Y’all the children of Israel were a rebellious lot. They would not follow God’s instructions for any length of time without jumping headlong into all manner of sin and destruction, idolatry and just plain, rebelliousness. And Jeremiah acknowledges that a couple times in chapter one of Lamentations. Even though he was a Godly man, he takes the responsibility on himself, “See, O Lord, that I am in distress; My soul is troubled; My heart is overturned within me, For I have been very rebellious. Outside the sword bereaves, At home it is like death.” Lamentations 1:20
So far, two chapters in, I have three takeaways from the book of Lamentations:
- God can handle our lamenting. He knows what we’re thinking anyhow, so we might as well tell Him. He’s not that easily offended.
- Humbleness, admitting when we have rebelled and taking responsibility for our choices and actions, are a non-negotiable. Can we lament? Absolutely. But we must acknowledge when we’ve messed up and take it to God otherwise we’re just whining and shifting blame.
- There are earthly consequences for our actions. We serve a righteous, gracious, merciful, and forgiving God so much so that He sent His son to be the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. But, here, on this earth, there are often going to be repercussions for our choices and decisions, and so we had better think about what we’re doing before we do it. Sin has consequences.
“For whom the LORD loves He disciplines, Just as a father disciplines the son in whom he delights.” Proverbs 3:12
I have no doubt, there will be more as I work my way through the last half of the book (it’s only five chapters long), but today, I want to encourage you to sit down with a bible (see what I wrote on translations and studying God’s word here) and a notebook . . . if you don’t know where to start then I recommend the book of John (or any of the gospels). Let the Holy Spirit speak to you through His word. Let Him instruct you and lead you and guide you and trust that you are capable of learning and understanding what He has to say.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17