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Jeremiah 52, Psalm 31
The Fall of Jerusalem Recounted
1 Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Hamutal the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. 2 And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that Jehoiakim had done. 3 For because of the anger of the Lord it came to the point in Jerusalem and Judah that he cast them out from his presence.
And Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon. 4 And in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came with all his army against Jerusalem, and laid siege to it. And they built siegeworks all around it. 5 So the city was besieged till the eleventh year of King Zedekiah. 6 On the ninth day of the fourth month the famine was so severe in the city that there was no food for the people of the land. 7 Then a breach was made in the city, and all the men of war fled and went out from the city by night by the way of a gate between the two walls, by the king's garden, and the Chaldeans were around the city. And they went in the direction of the Arabah. 8 But the army of the Chaldeans pursued the king and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho, and all his army was scattered from him. 9 Then they captured the king and brought him up to the king of Babylon at Riblah in the land of Hamath, and he passed sentence on him. 10 The king of Babylon slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and also slaughtered all the officials of Judah at Riblah. 11 He put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him in chains, and the king of Babylon took him to Babylon, and put him in prison till the day of his death.
The Temple Burned
12 In the fifth month, on the tenth day of the month—that was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon—Nebuzaradan the captain of the bodyguard, who served the king of Babylon, entered Jerusalem. 13 And he burned the house of the Lord, and the king's house and all the houses of Jerusalem; every great house he burned down. 14 And all the army of the Chaldeans, who were with the captain of the guard, broke down all the walls around Jerusalem. 15 And Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive some of the poorest of the people and the rest of the people who were left in the city and the deserters who had deserted to the king of Babylon, together with the rest of the artisans. 16 But Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard left some of the poorest of the land to be vinedressers and plowmen.
17 And the pillars of bronze that were in the house of the Lord, and the stands and the bronze sea that were in the house of the Lord, the Chaldeans broke in pieces, and carried all the bronze to Babylon. 18 And they took away the pots and the shovels and the snuffers and the basins and the dishes for incense and all the vessels of bronze used in the temple service; 19 also the small bowls and the fire pans and the basins and the pots and the lampstands and the dishes for incense and the bowls for drink offerings. What was of gold the captain of the guard took away as gold, and what was of silver, as silver. 20 As for the two pillars, the one sea, the twelve bronze bulls that were under the sea,[a] and the stands, which Solomon the king had made for the house of the Lord, the bronze of all these things was beyond weight. 21 As for the pillars, the height of the one pillar was eighteen cubits,[b] its circumference was twelve cubits, and its thickness was four fingers, and it was hollow. 22 On it was a capital of bronze. The height of the one capital was five cubits. A network and pomegranates, all of bronze, were around the capital. And the second pillar had the same, with pomegranates. 23 There were ninety-six pomegranates on the sides; all the pomegranates were a hundred upon the network all around.
The People Exiled to Babylon
24 And the captain of the guard took Seraiah the chief priest, and Zephaniah the second priest and the three keepers of the threshold; 25 and from the city he took an officer who had been in command of the men of war, and seven men of the king's council, who were found in the city; and the secretary of the commander of the army, who mustered the people of the land; and sixty men of the people of the land, who were found in the midst of the city. 26 And Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard took them and brought them to the king of Babylon at Riblah. 27 And the king of Babylon struck them down and put them to death at Riblah in the land of Hamath. So Judah was taken into exile out of its land.
28 This is the number of the people whom Nebuchadnezzar carried away captive: in the seventh year, 3,023 Judeans; 29 in the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar he carried away captive from Jerusalem 832 persons; 30 in the twenty-third year of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive of the Judeans 745 persons; all the persons were 4,600.
Jehoiachin Released from Prison
31 And in the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty-fifth day of the month, Evil-merodach king of Babylon, in the year that he began to reign, graciously freed[c] Jehoiachin king of Judah and brought him out of prison. 32 And he spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat above the seats of the kings who were with him in Babylon. 33 So Jehoiachin put off his prison garments. And every day of his life he dined regularly at the king's table, 34 and for his allowance, a regular allowance was given him by the king, according to his daily needs, until the day of his death, as long as he lived.
Into Your Hand I Commit My Spirit
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.
1 In you, O Lord, do I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
in your righteousness deliver me!
2 Incline your ear to me;
rescue me speedily!
Be a rock of refuge for me,
a strong fortress to save me!
3 For you are my rock and my fortress;
and for your name's sake you lead me and guide me;
4 you take me out of the net they have hidden for me,
for you are my refuge.
5 Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.
6 I hate[a] those who pay regard to worthless idols,
but I trust in the Lord.
7 I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love,
because you have seen my affliction;
you have known the distress of my soul,
8 and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;
you have set my feet in a broad place.
9 Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
my eye is wasted from grief;
my soul and my body also.
10 For my life is spent with sorrow,
and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my iniquity,
and my bones waste away.
11 Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach,
especially to my neighbors,
and an object of dread to my acquaintances;
those who see me in the street flee from me.
12 I have been forgotten like one who is dead;
I have become like a broken vessel.
13 For I hear the whispering of many—
terror on every side!—
as they scheme together against me,
as they plot to take my life.
14 But I trust in you, O Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hand;
rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!
16 Make your face shine on your servant;
save me in your steadfast love!
17 O Lord, let me not be put to shame,
for I call upon you;
let the wicked be put to shame;
let them go silently to Sheol.
18 Let the lying lips be mute,
which speak insolently against the righteous
in pride and contempt.
19 Oh, how abundant is your goodness,
which you have stored up for those who fear you
and worked for those who take refuge in you,
in the sight of the children of mankind!
20 In the cover of your presence you hide them
from the plots of men;
you store them in your shelter
from the strife of tongues.
21 Blessed be the Lord,
for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me
when I was in a besieged city.
22 I had said in my alarm,[b]
“I am cut off from your sight.”
But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy
when I cried to you for help.
23 Love the Lord, all you his saints!
The Lord preserves the faithful
but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.
24 Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the Lord!
The Historical appendix to the prophecy of Jeremiah (Jer. 52) imposes a “spin” on the book as a whole. Without it, certain points would be left hanging—that is, they would still be there within the body of the book, but they would not be highlighted as powerfully as they are with this appendix to flesh them out.
First, it may be useful to offer notes on several of the historical details of this report. It is rather surprising that no mention is made of Nebuchadnezzar’s instructions for the protection of Jeremiah. But in fact, the interest lies in the large historical movement, not in Jeremiah’s personal circumstances. Some of the details complement the historical account provided by 2 Kings 25. Second Kings, for instance, does not mention Zedekiah’s imprisonment (Jer. 52:11). Seraiah the chief priest (52:24), one of the leaders who were executed, was grandson of Hilkiah, the high priest under Josiah, who traced his descent from Aaron (cf. 1 Chron. 6:13-15). The report of the numbers transported (52:28-30) is much lower than the figures given in 2 Kings 24. Probably the figures in Kings reflect the total, while the figures here refer to adult males or adult males of a certain rank. The variation in dates between 2 Kings 25:8 and Jeremiah 52 reflects, respectively, the Judean and the Babylonian methods of reckoning years of reign. Nebuchadnezzar’s son, Evil-Merodach (52:31—Amel-Marduk in Babylonian sources) reigned only one year (561—560 B.C.). Babylonian records confirm that Jehoiachin was among those who enjoyed this emperor’s largess.
Second, we should isolate the theological effects of reading this chapter at the end of the book. Two elements stand out. (a) The historical details remind the reader that everything predicted by Jeremiah came to pass. Because Jeremiah is not named, the flavor is stronger yet: everything that God said he would do, he did. The sin of the people was persistent, unrepented, corroding, perverse. Far from softening the people, the promise of judgment, which God out of mercy delayed and delayed, merely bred hardness of heart. But the promised judgment finally fell. One is reminded of the reasoning in 2 Peter 3. (b) The closing verses of the chapter (52:31-34) describe how the legitimate Davidic king was finally released from his imprisonment and treated with honor during the closing years of his life. Of course, he never returned to Jerusalem or to any part of the land of Israel. But thoughtful readers cannot help reflecting on the fact that the book does not finally end in judgment. There is still the whisper of hope. God is not yet finished with the Davidic dynasty. The first adumbration of the promises of the prophecy of Jeremiah fall across the horizon.
Lamentations 1, Psalm 32
How Lonely Sits the City
1 How lonely sits the city
that was full of people!
How like a widow has she become,
she who was great among the nations!
She who was a princess among the provinces
has become a slave.
2 She weeps bitterly in the night,
with tears on her cheeks;
among all her lovers
she has none to comfort her;
all her friends have dealt treacherously with her;
they have become her enemies.
3 Judah has gone into exile because of affliction
and hard servitude;
she dwells now among the nations,
but finds no resting place;
her pursuers have all overtaken her
in the midst of her distress.[a]
4 The roads to Zion mourn,
for none come to the festival;
all her gates are desolate;
her priests groan;
her virgins have been afflicted,[b]
and she herself suffers bitterly.
5 Her foes have become the head;
her enemies prosper,
because the Lord has afflicted her
for the multitude of her transgressions;
her children have gone away,
captives before the foe.
6 From the daughter of Zion
all her majesty has departed.
Her princes have become like deer
that find no pasture;
they fled without strength
before the pursuer.
7 Jerusalem remembers
in the days of her affliction and wandering
all the precious things
that were hers from days of old.
When her people fell into the hand of the foe,
and there was none to help her,
her foes gloated over her;
they mocked at her downfall.
8 Jerusalem sinned grievously;
therefore she became filthy;
all who honored her despise her,
for they have seen her nakedness;
she herself groans
and turns her face away.
9 Her uncleanness was in her skirts;
she took no thought of her future;[c]
therefore her fall is terrible;
she has no comforter.
“O Lord, behold my affliction,
for the enemy has triumphed!”
10 The enemy has stretched out his hands
over all her precious things;
for she has seen the nations
enter her sanctuary,
those whom you forbade
to enter your congregation.
11 All her people groan
as they search for bread;
they trade their treasures for food
to revive their strength.
“Look, O Lord, and see,
for I am despised.”
12 “Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?
Look and see
if there is any sorrow like my sorrow,
which was brought upon me,
which the Lord inflicted
on the day of his fierce anger.
13 “From on high he sent fire;
into my bones[d] he made it descend;
he spread a net for my feet;
he turned me back;
he has left me stunned,
faint all the day long.
14 “My transgressions were bound[e] into a yoke;
by his hand they were fastened together;
they were set upon my neck;
he caused my strength to fail;
the Lord gave me into the hands
of those whom I cannot withstand.
15 “The Lord rejected
all my mighty men in my midst;
he summoned an assembly against me
to crush my young men;
the Lord has trodden as in a winepress
the virgin daughter of Judah.
16 “For these things I weep;
my eyes flow with tears;
for a comforter is far from me,
one to revive my spirit;
my children are desolate,
for the enemy has prevailed.”
17 Zion stretches out her hands,
but there is none to comfort her;
the Lord has commanded against Jacob
that his neighbors should be his foes;
Jerusalem has become
a filthy thing among them.
18 “The Lord is in the right,
for I have rebelled against his word;
but hear, all you peoples,
and see my suffering;
my young women and my young men
have gone into captivity.
19 “I called to my lovers,
but they deceived me;
my priests and elders
perished in the city,
while they sought food
to revive their strength.
20 “Look, O Lord, for I am in distress;
my stomach churns;
my heart is wrung within me,
because I have been very rebellious.
In the street the sword bereaves;
in the house it is like death.
21 “They heard[f] my groaning,
yet there is no one to comfort me.
All my enemies have heard of my trouble;
they are glad that you have done it.
You have brought[g] the day you announced;
now let them be as I am.
22 “Let all their evildoing come before you,
and deal with them
as you have dealt with me
because of all my transgressions;
for my groans are many,
and my heart is faint.”
Blessed Are the Forgiven
A Maskil[a] of David.
1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up[b] as by the heat of summer. Selah
5 I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
6 Therefore let everyone who is godly
offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;
surely in the rush of great waters,
they shall not reach him.
7 You are a hiding place for me;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah
8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
9 Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
which must be curbed with bit and bridle,
or it will not stay near you.
10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.
11 Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous,
and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
Before saying something about Lamentations 1, I should offer a few observations on the book as a whole.
(1) In Hebrew, the first word of the book means “Oh, how [deserted is the city],” and this first word becomes the title in the Hebrew Bible. Later Jewish writers referred to the book either by this word or by another Hebrew word that means “lamentations.”
(2) Early Greek and Latin translations of this short book assign it to Jeremiah the prophet. This is entirely possible, but strictly speaking, the work is anonymous. (3) Lamentations is made up of five poems, five dirges, each occupying one chapter. The first four are acrostics: i.e., the twenty-two consonants of the Hebrew alphabet introduce, respectively, each of the twenty-two stanzas in each poem (though there are slight irregularities in chapters 2, 3, and 4). In the first three poems, each stanza is normally made up of three lines in some kind of parallelism (with two exceptional four-line stanzas, 1:7; 2:19). In the third poem, each line of each stanza begins with the same Hebrew consonant that introduces that dirge. The fourth poem has only two lines for each stanza. Though it is poetry, the fifth lament is not an acrostic, but consists of twenty-two lines that resemble some
psalms of corporate lament (e.g., Pss. 44, 80).
(4) No linear flow of thought sweeps through each chapter or through the
entire book. Certain themes keep reappearing, of course, but by and large the book is impressionistic, full of powerful images that reinforce a small number of burning truths.
If Job deals with the calamity that befell a righteous man, and thus with the problem of innocent suffering, Lamentations deals with the calamity that befell a guilty nation. Those who sow the wind will reap the whirlwind. While honestly and powerfully portraying the suffering of the nation, these poems vindicate God: God, not human beings, is in control of history, and God will not be mocked. Justice ultimately will prevail in the drama of history, because God is just.
Two final challenges. (a) Read through this first chapter and identify each of the powerful images the writer casts up, asking what it contributes to the chapter and how it is related to other biblical passages (if at all). For instance, verse 10 calls to mind that only the high priest could enter the Holy Place—and now raw pagans not only have entered but have ravaged the temple. Theologically, this is tied to the fact that the glory of God abandoned the temple (cf. Ezek. 8—11), demonstrating, among other things, that the presence of God is more to be sought than the building. (b) What is godly about 1:21-22?
Lamentations 2, Psalm 33
The Lord Has Destroyed Without Pity
1 How the Lord in his anger
has set the daughter of Zion under a cloud!
He has cast down from heaven to earth
the splendor of Israel;
he has not remembered his footstool
in the day of his anger.
2 The Lord has swallowed up without mercy
all the habitations of Jacob;
in his wrath he has broken down
the strongholds of the daughter of Judah;
he has brought down to the ground in dishonor
the kingdom and its rulers.
3 He has cut down in fierce anger
all the might of Israel;
he has withdrawn from them his right hand
in the face of the enemy;
he has burned like a flaming fire in Jacob,
consuming all around.
4 He has bent his bow like an enemy,
with his right hand set like a foe;
and he has killed all who were delightful in our eyes
in the tent of the daughter of Zion;
he has poured out his fury like fire.
5 The Lord has become like an enemy;
he has swallowed up Israel;
he has swallowed up all its palaces;
he has laid in ruins its strongholds,
and he has multiplied in the daughter of Judah
mourning and lamentation.
6 He has laid waste his booth like a garden,
laid in ruins his meeting place;
the Lord has made Zion forget
festival and Sabbath,
and in his fierce indignation has spurned king and priest.
7 The Lord has scorned his altar,
disowned his sanctuary;
he has delivered into the hand of the enemy
the walls of her palaces;
they raised a clamor in the house of the Lord
as on the day of festival.
8 The Lord determined to lay in ruins
the wall of the daughter of Zion;
he stretched out the measuring line;
he did not restrain his hand from destroying;
he caused rampart and wall to lament;
they languished together.
9 Her gates have sunk into the ground;
he has ruined and broken her bars;
her king and princes are among the nations;
the law is no more,
and her prophets find
no vision from the Lord.
10 The elders of the daughter of Zion
sit on the ground in silence;
they have thrown dust on their heads
and put on sackcloth;
the young women of Jerusalem
have bowed their heads to the ground.
11 My eyes are spent with weeping;
my stomach churns;
my bile is poured out to the ground
because of the destruction of the daughter of my people,
because infants and babies faint
in the streets of the city.
12 They cry to their mothers,
“Where is bread and wine?”
as they faint like a wounded man
in the streets of the city,
as their life is poured out
on their mothers' bosom.
13 What can I say for you, to what compare you,
O daughter of Jerusalem?
What can I liken to you, that I may comfort you,
O virgin daughter of Zion?
For your ruin is vast as the sea;
who can heal you?
14 Your prophets have seen for you
false and deceptive visions;
they have not exposed your iniquity
to restore your fortunes,
but have seen for you oracles
that are false and misleading.
15 All who pass along the way
clap their hands at you;
they hiss and wag their heads
at the daughter of Jerusalem:
“Is this the city that was called
the perfection of beauty,
the joy of all the earth?”
16 All your enemies
rail against you;
they hiss, they gnash their teeth,
they cry: “We have swallowed her!
Ah, this is the day we longed for;
now we have it; we see it!”
17 The Lord has done what he purposed;
he has carried out his word,
which he commanded long ago;
he has thrown down without pity;
he has made the enemy rejoice over you
and exalted the might of your foes.
18 Their heart cried to the Lord.
O wall of the daughter of Zion,
let tears stream down like a torrent
day and night!
Give yourself no rest,
your eyes no respite!
19 “Arise, cry out in the night,
at the beginning of the night watches!
Pour out your heart like water
before the presence of the Lord!
Lift your hands to him
for the lives of your children,
who faint for hunger
at the head of every street.”
20 Look, O Lord, and see!
With whom have you dealt thus?
Should women eat the fruit of their womb,
the children of their tender care?
Should priest and prophet be killed
in the sanctuary of the Lord?
21 In the dust of the streets
lie the young and the old;
my young women and my young men
have fallen by the sword;
you have killed them in the day of your anger,
slaughtering without pity.
22 You summoned as if to a festival day
my terrors on every side,
and on the day of the anger of the Lord
no one escaped or survived;
those whom I held and raised
my enemy destroyed.
The Steadfast Love of the Lord
1 Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous!
Praise befits the upright.
2 Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre;
make melody to him with the harp of ten strings!
3 Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.
4 For the word of the Lord is upright,
and all his work is done in faithfulness.
5 He loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.
6 By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
and by the breath of his mouth all their host.
7 He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap;
he puts the deeps in storehouses.
8 Let all the earth fear the Lord;
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!
9 For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood firm.
10 The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
he frustrates the plans of the peoples.
11 The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
the plans of his heart to all generations.
12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!
13 The Lord looks down from heaven;
he sees all the children of man;
14 from where he sits enthroned he looks out
on all the inhabitants of the earth,
15 he who fashions the hearts of them all
and observes all their deeds.
16 The king is not saved by his great army;
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
and by its great might it cannot rescue.
18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19 that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine.
20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.
This delightful hymn of praise (Ps. 33) focuses on what God is and what he does. It is so wonderfully fecund that here I can do no more than draw attention to some of its evocative themes.
(1) The Lord is righteous, and “it is fitting for the upright to praise him” (33:1). Faithful and thoughtful worship turns in part on adoration of God for his character. Those who reflect the same character, however feebly, will most hungrily worship him for his perfections. Thus godly praise is tied to the moral transformation of the worshiper.
(2) The psalmist envisages creativity in music, consummate skill on the instruments, and fervor (33:3)—a combination fairly rare in evangelical corporate worship.
(3) God’s character and God’s work cannot be separated from his word (33:4- 9). This is not only because God’s word is as righteous, true, reliable (“faithful”), and loving as he is, but because God’s word is effective—something nowhere more clearly seen than in creation: “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth” (33:6).
(4) God is utterly sovereign. He foils the plans of the nations; no one ever foils his plans (33:10-11): “the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.”
(5) Although God is sovereign over the entire human race, and is the judge of all, yet he is peculiarly the God of his own covenant people (33:12-15).
(6) Nations are never saved by mere might, apart from the blessing and sanction of God. Of course, God might well use the big guns, and his sovereign providence operates even in the preparation of the mighty empires that chastened his own people. But to trust the big guns is to forget who gives strength and wealth and blessing. Moreover, the Lord is perfectly capable of overturning any nation of any size, of spiking the big guns. “A horse [or a tank] is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save” (33:17). The ultimate hope is in the Lord: “But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love” (33:18).
(7) Granted that this is the sort of God who is really there, that this is the God we worship, the three closing verses are as inevitable as they are jubilant. Here is the proper grounding for godly hope: “We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you” (33:20-22).
Lamentations 3, Psalm 34
Great Is Your Faithfulness
1 I am the man who has seen affliction
under the rod of his wrath;
2 he has driven and brought me
into darkness without any light;
3 surely against me he turns his hand
again and again the whole day long.
4 He has made my flesh and my skin waste away;
he has broken my bones;
5 he has besieged and enveloped me
with bitterness and tribulation;
6 he has made me dwell in darkness
like the dead of long ago.
7 He has walled me about so that I cannot escape;
he has made my chains heavy;
8 though I call and cry for help,
he shuts out my prayer;
9 he has blocked my ways with blocks of stones;
he has made my paths crooked.
10 He is a bear lying in wait for me,
a lion in hiding;
11 he turned aside my steps and tore me to pieces;
he has made me desolate;
12 he bent his bow and set me
as a target for his arrow.
13 He drove into my kidneys
the arrows of his quiver;
14 I have become the laughingstock of all peoples,
the object of their taunts all day long.
15 He has filled me with bitterness;
he has sated me with wormwood.
16 He has made my teeth grind on gravel,
and made me cower in ashes;
17 my soul is bereft of peace;
I have forgotten what happiness[a] is;
18 so I say, “My endurance has perished;
so has my hope from the Lord.”
19 Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
20 My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.
21 But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;[b]
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
26 It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
27 It is good for a man that he bear
the yoke in his youth.
28 Let him sit alone in silence
when it is laid on him;
29 let him put his mouth in the dust—
there may yet be hope;
30 let him give his cheek to the one who strikes,
and let him be filled with insults.
31 For the Lord will not
cast off forever,
32 but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
33 for he does not afflict from his heart
or grieve the children of men.
34 To crush underfoot
all the prisoners of the earth,
35 to deny a man justice
in the presence of the Most High,
36 to subvert a man in his lawsuit,
the Lord does not approve.
37 Who has spoken and it came to pass,
unless the Lord has commanded it?
38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
that good and bad come?
39 Why should a living man complain,
a man, about the punishment of his sins?
40 Let us test and examine our ways,
and return to the Lord!
41 Let us lift up our hearts and hands
to God in heaven:
42 “We have transgressed and rebelled,
and you have not forgiven.
43 “You have wrapped yourself with anger and pursued us,
killing without pity;
44 you have wrapped yourself with a cloud
so that no prayer can pass through.
45 You have made us scum and garbage
among the peoples.
46 “All our enemies
open their mouths against us;
47 panic and pitfall have come upon us,
devastation and destruction;
48 my eyes flow with rivers of tears
because of the destruction of the daughter of my people.
49 “My eyes will flow without ceasing,
50 until the Lord from heaven
looks down and sees;
51 my eyes cause me grief
at the fate of all the daughters of my city.
52 “I have been hunted like a bird
by those who were my enemies without cause;
53 they flung me alive into the pit
and cast stones on me;
54 water closed over my head;
I said, ‘I am lost.’
55 “I called on your name, O Lord,
from the depths of the pit;
56 you heard my plea, ‘Do not close
your ear to my cry for help!’
57 You came near when I called on you;
you said, ‘Do not fear!’
58 “You have taken up my cause, O Lord;
you have redeemed my life.
59 You have seen the wrong done to me, O Lord;
judge my cause.
60 You have seen all their vengeance,
all their plots against me.
61 “You have heard their taunts, O Lord,
all their plots against me.
62 The lips and thoughts of my assailants
are against me all the day long.
63 Behold their sitting and their rising;
I am the object of their taunts.
64 “You will repay them,[c] O Lord,
according to the work of their hands.
65 You will give them[d] dullness of heart;
your curse will be[e] on them.
66 You will pursue them[f] in anger and destroy them
from under your heavens, O Lord.”[g]
Taste and See That the Lord Is Good
[a] Of David, when he changed his behavior before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away.
1 I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
3 Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together!
4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
6 This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
9 Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
10 The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
11 Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 What man is there who desires life
and loves many days, that he may see good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Turn away from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.
15 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.
16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
17 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
20 He keeps all his bones;
not one of them is broken.
21 Affliction will slay the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.
It is difficult to decide whether the first part of Lamentations 3 describes the experience of an individual (perhaps Jeremiah), or if the individual is a figure representing the entire nation as it has been forced into catastrophic defeat, poverty, and exile. Several lines favor the former view (e.g., 3:14, where the individual has become the laughingstock “of all my people” rather than of the surrounding peoples). The book as a whole, and the plural “we” that dominates most of the second half of this chapter, slightly favor the second view.
But more important than deciding this issue is the striking way in which hope or confidence twice break out in the midst of the most appalling distress. The first instance is in 3:22-27. Despite the horrible devastation, the writer says, “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail” (3:22). Their sins merit more judgment than they are facing. They might have been wiped out. Only the Lord’s mercy prevented that from happening. However great their sufferings, the fact that they still exist testifies to the Lord’s graciousness toward them. God’s mercies renew themselves in our experience every day (3:23). Besides, the faithful will surely insist that what they want the most is not the Lord’s blessings but the Lord himself: “I say to myself, ‘The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him’” (3:24). This is a moral stance: it signals the end of the self-sufficiency and self-focus that thought it could thumb its nose at God. For this writer, the chastening is having its desired effect: it is driving people back to God.
The second block of hope is a retrospective on the preliminary ways in which the Lord has already answered (3:55-57), and which then becomes a plea for vindication (3:58-64). The stark simplicity of the first of these two passages is profoundly compelling, the heritage of many believers who have passed through dark waters: “I called on your name, O LORD, from the depths of the pit. You heard my plea: ‘Do not close your ears to my cry for relief.’ You came near when I called you, and you said, ‘Do not fear’” (3:55-57). The prayer for vindication that follows (3:58-64) must not be reduced to bitter vengeance. If God is just, then in the same way that he has chastened his own covenant people, he must mete out justice to those who have cruelly attacked others—even if it is that very attack that God has providentially deployed to chasten his own people. God himself elsewhere insists on this same point (e.g., Isa. 10:5ff.).
Lamentations 4, Psalm 35
The Holy Stones Lie Scattered
1 How the gold has grown dim,
how the pure gold is changed!
The holy stones lie scattered
at the head of every street.
2 The precious sons of Zion,
worth their weight in fine gold,
how they are regarded as earthen pots,
the work of a potter's hands!
3 Even jackals offer the breast;
they nurse their young,
but the daughter of my people has become cruel,
like the ostriches in the wilderness.
4 The tongue of the nursing infant sticks
to the roof of its mouth for thirst;
the children beg for food,
but no one gives to them.
5 Those who once feasted on delicacies
perish in the streets;
those who were brought up in purple
embrace ash heaps.
6 For the chastisement[a] of the daughter of my people has been greater
than the punishment[b] of Sodom,
which was overthrown in a moment,
and no hands were wrung for her.[c]
7 Her princes were purer than snow,
whiter than milk;
their bodies were more ruddy than coral,
the beauty of their form[d] was like sapphire.[e]
8 Now their face is blacker than soot;
they are not recognized in the streets;
their skin has shriveled on their bones;
it has become as dry as wood.
9 Happier were the victims of the sword
than the victims of hunger,
who wasted away, pierced
by lack of the fruits of the field.
10 The hands of compassionate women
have boiled their own children;
they became their food
during the destruction of the daughter of my people.
11 The Lord gave full vent to his wrath;
he poured out his hot anger,
and he kindled a fire in Zion
that consumed its foundations.
12 The kings of the earth did not believe,
nor any of the inhabitants of the world,
that foe or enemy could enter
the gates of Jerusalem.
13 This was for the sins of her prophets
and the iniquities of her priests,
who shed in the midst of her
the blood of the righteous.
14 They wandered, blind, through the streets;
they were so defiled with blood
that no one was able to touch
15 “Away! Unclean!” people cried at them.
“Away! Away! Do not touch!”
So they became fugitives and wanderers;
people said among the nations,
“They shall stay with us no longer.”
16 The Lord himself[f] has scattered them;
he will regard them no more;
no honor was shown to the priests,
no favor to the elders.
17 Our eyes failed, ever watching
vainly for help;
in our watching we watched
for a nation which could not save.
18 They dogged our steps
so that we could not walk in our streets;
our end drew near; our days were numbered,
for our end had come.
19 Our pursuers were swifter
than the eagles in the heavens;
they chased us on the mountains;
they lay in wait for us in the wilderness.
20 The breath of our nostrils, the Lord's anointed,
was captured in their pits,
of whom we said, “Under his shadow
we shall live among the nations.”
21 Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom,
you who dwell in the land of Uz;
but to you also the cup shall pass;
you shall become drunk and strip yourself bare.
22 The punishment of your iniquity, O daughter of Zion, is accomplished;
he will keep you in exile no longer;[g]
but your iniquity, O daughter of Edom, he will punish;
he will uncover your sins.
Great Is the Lord
1 Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me;
fight against those who fight against me!
2 Take hold of shield and buckler
and rise for my help!
3 Draw the spear and javelin[a]
against my pursuers!
Say to my soul,
“I am your salvation!”
4 Let them be put to shame and dishonor
who seek after my life!
Let them be turned back and disappointed
who devise evil against me!
5 Let them be like chaff before the wind,
with the angel of the Lord driving them away!
6 Let their way be dark and slippery,
with the angel of the Lord pursuing them!
7 For without cause they hid their net for me;
without cause they dug a pit for my life.[b]
8 Let destruction come upon him when he does not know it!
And let the net that he hid ensnare him;
let him fall into it—to his destruction!
9 Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord,
exulting in his salvation.
10 All my bones shall say,
“O Lord, who is like you,
delivering the poor
from him who is too strong for him,
the poor and needy from him who robs him?”
11 Malicious[c] witnesses rise up;
they ask me of things that I do not know.
12 They repay me evil for good;
my soul is bereft.[d]
13 But I, when they were sick—
I wore sackcloth;
I afflicted myself with fasting;
I prayed with head bowed[e] on my chest.
14 I went about as though I grieved for my friend or my brother;
as one who laments his mother,
I bowed down in mourning.
15 But at my stumbling they rejoiced and gathered;
they gathered together against me;
wretches whom I did not know
tore at me without ceasing;
16 like profane mockers at a feast,[f]
they gnash at me with their teeth.
17 How long, O Lord, will you look on?
Rescue me from their destruction,
my precious life from the lions!
18 I will thank you in the great congregation;
in the mighty throng I will praise you.
19 Let not those rejoice over me
who are wrongfully my foes,
and let not those wink the eye
who hate me without cause.
20 For they do not speak peace,
but against those who are quiet in the land
they devise words of deceit.
21 They open wide their mouths against me;
they say, “Aha, Aha!
Our eyes have seen it!”
22 You have seen, O Lord; be not silent!
O Lord, be not far from me!
23 Awake and rouse yourself for my vindication,
for my cause, my God and my Lord!
24 Vindicate me, O Lord, my God,
according to your righteousness,
and let them not rejoice over me!
25 Let them not say in their hearts,
“Aha, our heart's desire!”
Let them not say, “We have swallowed him up.”
26 Let them be put to shame and disappointed altogether
who rejoice at my calamity!
Let them be clothed with shame and dishonor
who magnify themselves against me!
27 Let those who delight in my righteousness
shout for joy and be glad
and say evermore,
“Great is the Lord,
who delights in the welfare of his servant!”
28 Then my tongue shall tell of your righteousness
and of your praise all the day long.
The fourth dirge (Lam. 4) again casts up a variety of mental pictures to depict the suffering of the final siege of Jerusalem and beyond. It also lays out some of the reasons why the judgment was imposed, and ends in a whisper of hope.
The dirge opens by likening the people of Jerusalem to gold that has lost its luster (4:1). Like gold, they started off precious, but now they are treated like the cheapest clay pots (4:2). Under conditions of siege and transportation, food becomes so scarce that mothers can no longer nurse their children; even baby jackals are better treated (4:3-4). Proverbial for wickedness, Sodom was destroyed in a quick holocaust, “in a moment” (4:6). But the punishment of the poet’s people “is greater than that of Sodom” (4:6); siege warfare is a wretched, drawn-out affair, and the exile that follows it goes on and on. The theological assumption, of course, is that there are degrees of guilt: those with most knowledge of God’s ways have least excuse, and so they can expect severest judgment (e.g., Matt. 11:20-24). As for the nobility, they are as emaciated, degraded, and dirty as the rest, and therefore indistinguishable from the rest (4:8-9)—which is another way of saying that the leadership of the little nation has been destroyed. They are so filthy that they are physically and ceremonially unclean, like lepers who must eke out their existence where no one wants to have contact with them (4:14-15). “The LORD’s anointed” (4:20)—here a reference to King Zedekiah—proves to be of no help. “We thought that under his shadow we would live among the nations” (4:20)—that is, secure in the knowledge that he was in the Davidic line, the Lord’s anointed. But as the Lord has destroyed the city and the temple, so also has he removed the Davidic descendants from the throne.
Why did the Lord do this? “[I]t happened because of the sins of her prophets and the iniquities of her priests” (4:13). The writer does not mean to suggest that these were the only sinners, but that the religious leaders, who should have been doing the most to preserve the nation in covenantal faithfulness, led the nation instead in corruption and infidelity. Because of their own positions, far from staying the national decline, they abetted it and hastened it. Where is that true today?
The story does not end here. In mocking derision the writer tells nearby pagans that they might as well delight in the moment, for their turn will come. God’s justice will be imposed on them as well as on Israel—and one day the covenant community, though afflicted now, will put behind them every trace of the exile (4:21-22). The Lord’s Anointed will give them rest.
Lamentations 5, Psalm 36
Restore Us to Yourself, O Lord
1 Remember, O Lord, what has befallen us;
look, and see our disgrace!
2 Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers,
our homes to foreigners.
3 We have become orphans, fatherless;
our mothers are like widows.
4 We must pay for the water we drink;
the wood we get must be bought.
5 Our pursuers are at our necks;[a]
we are weary; we are given no rest.
6 We have given the hand to Egypt, and to Assyria,
to get bread enough.
7 Our fathers sinned, and are no more;
and we bear their iniquities.
8 Slaves rule over us;
there is none to deliver us from their hand.
9 We get our bread at the peril of our lives,
because of the sword in the wilderness.
10 Our skin is hot as an oven
with the burning heat of famine.
11 Women are raped in Zion,
young women in the towns of Judah.
12 Princes are hung up by their hands;
no respect is shown to the elders.
13 Young men are compelled to grind at the mill,
and boys stagger under loads of wood.
14 The old men have left the city gate,
the young men their music.
15 The joy of our hearts has ceased;
our dancing has been turned to mourning.
16 The crown has fallen from our head;
woe to us, for we have sinned!
17 For this our heart has become sick,
for these things our eyes have grown dim,
18 for Mount Zion which lies desolate;
jackals prowl over it.
19 But you, O Lord, reign forever;
your throne endures to all generations.
20 Why do you forget us forever,
why do you forsake us for so many days?
21 Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored!
Renew our days as of old—
22 unless you have utterly rejected us,
and you remain exceedingly angry with us.
How Precious Is Your Steadfast Love
To the choirmaster. Of David, the servant of the Lord.
1 Transgression speaks to the wicked
deep in his heart;[a]
there is no fear of God
before his eyes.
2 For he flatters himself in his own eyes
that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated.
3 The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit;
he has ceased to act wisely and do good.
4 He plots trouble while on his bed;
he sets himself in a way that is not good;
he does not reject evil.
5 Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
6 Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;
your judgments are like the great deep;
man and beast you save, O Lord.
7 How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
8 They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
9 For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light do we see light.
10 Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you,
and your righteousness to the upright of heart!
11 Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me,
nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.
12 There the evildoers lie fallen;
they are thrust down, unable to rise.
In this information-rich age, many of us have learned to be as brief as possible. That was one of the areas in which my own doctoral supervisor helped me a great deal: though my prose style is still too rambling, whatever leanness and precision it has owes a great deal to his thorough correcting of my work a quarter of a century ago. Efficient managers learn to be brief; computer programmers are rated on how briefly they can write precise code to do what needs to be done. Only a few contemporary authors (e.g., Tom Clancy and James Michener) get away with long, rambling books—and even then the editors have drastically trimmed them.
Yet here we are, quietly reading through Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, with Ezekiel to go, and we find ourselves circling around the same handful of themes again and again: sin in the covenant community, threatened judgment, then enacted judgment, first for the northern tribes, then for Judah. We recognize the subtle differences, of course: history, apocalyptic, oracle, lament, prayers. Here in Lamentations 5, the fifth dirge is cast as a long prayer: “Remember, O LORD, what has happened to us; look, and see our disgrace” (5:1). But haven’t you caught yourself saying to yourself more than once, “I know this is the Word of God, and I know it is important, but I think I understand now something of the history and the theology of the exile. Couldn’t we get on to something else?” We live in an age burgeoning with information, we cry for brevity, and the Bible at times seems terribly discursive. So we scan another chapter as rapidly as possible because we already “know” all this.
But that is part of the problem, isn’t it? Read through this chapter again, slowly, thoughtfully. Of course, it is tied to Israel six centuries before Christ, to the destruction of her cities and land and temple, to the onset of the exile. But listen to the depth and persistence of the pleas, the repentance, the personal engagement with God, the cultural awareness, the acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty and justice, the profound recognition that the people must be restored to God himself if return to the land is to be possible, let alone meaningful (5:21). Then compare this with the brands of Christian confessionalism with which you are most familiar. In days of cultural declension, moral degradation, and large-scale ecclesiastical frittering, is our praying like that of Lamentations 5? Have the themes of the major prophets so burned into our minds and hearts that our passion is to be restored to the living God? Or have we ourselves become so caught up in the spirit of this age that we are content to be rich in information and impoverished in wisdom and godliness?
Ezekiel 2, Psalm 38
1 And he said to me, “Son of man,[a] stand on your feet, and I will speak with you.” 2 And as he spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard him speaking to me. 3 And he said to me, “Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day. 4 The descendants also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ 5 And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them. 6 And you, son of man, be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions.[b] Be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house. 7 And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house.
8 “But you, son of man, hear what I say to you. Be not rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.” 9 And when I looked, behold, a hand was stretched out to me, and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. 10 And he spread it before me. And it had writing on the front and on the back, and there were written on it words of lamentation and mourning and woe.
Do Not Forsake Me, O Lord
A Psalm of David, for the memorial offering.
38 O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger,
nor discipline me in your wrath!
2 For your arrows have sunk into me,
and your hand has come down on me.
3 There is no soundness in my flesh
because of your indignation;
there is no health in my bones
because of my sin.
4 For my iniquities have gone over my head;
like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.
5 My wounds stink and fester
because of my foolishness,
6 I am utterly bowed down and prostrate;
all the day I go about mourning.
7 For my sides are filled with burning,
and there is no soundness in my flesh.
8 I am feeble and crushed;
I groan because of the tumult of my heart.
9 O Lord, all my longing is before you;
my sighing is not hidden from you.
10 My heart throbs; my strength fails me,
and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.
11 My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague,
and my nearest kin stand far off.
12 Those who seek my life lay their snares;
those who seek my hurt speak of ruin
and meditate treachery all day long.
13 But I am like a deaf man; I do not hear,
like a mute man who does not open his mouth.
14 I have become like a man who does not hear,
and in whose mouth are no rebukes.
15 But for you, O Lord, do I wait;
it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.
16 For I said, “Only let them not rejoice over me,
who boast against me when my foot slips!”
17 For I am ready to fall,
and my pain is ever before me.
18 I confess my iniquity;
I am sorry for my sin.
19 But my foes are vigorous, they are mighty,
and many are those who hate me wrongfully.
20 Those who render me evil for good
accuse me because I follow after good.
21 Do not forsake me, O Lord!
O my God, be not far from me!
22 Make haste to help me,
O Lord, my salvation!
In some ways the first three chapters of Ezekiel hang together to describe Ezekiel’s early call and commission—the commission of a prophet called to serve in declining times. In the Old Testament, not all prophetic calls are the same. Elisha served as an apprentice to Elijah; Amos was called while he was serving as a shepherd; Samuel first heard the call of God when he was but a stripling. But prophets commissioned to serve in peculiarly declining times have some common features in their call. We cannot trace all of those features here, but one of them emerges with great strength in Ezekiel 2.
Here God tells Ezekiel what he is being called to do. He is being sent, God says, “to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me” (2:3). He is being sent to the nation of Israel, at least that part of it that is in exile with him—and that part, of course, comprised the most gifted, the most learned, the most noble, the most privileged. From God’s perspective, they are merely “obstinate and stubborn” (2:4). Ezekiel is to tell them, “This is what the Sovereign LORD says” (2:4). So far God has not told Ezekiel what he is to say, i.e., the content of what the Sovereign Lord says. Rather, the rest of this chapter is devoted to making sure that Ezekiel understands that his ministry turns absolutely on one thing: passing on to this rebellious house the words of God. “You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen” (2:7).
Of course, it is always important for prophets and preachers to speak God’s words faithfully. But it is especially urgent in declining times. In periods of revival and prosperity, the preacher may be viewed with respect, his faithfulness and insight lionized. But in declining times, those who truly speak for God will be taunted and threatened. The pressures to dilute what God says become enormous. Clever exegesis to make the text say what it really doesn’t, selective silence to leave out the painful bits, hermeneutical cleverness to remove the bite and sting of Scripture, all become de rigueur, so that we can still be accepted and even admired. But God is aware of the danger. From his perspective, success is not measured by how many people Ezekiel wins to his perspective, but by the faithfulness with which he declares God’s words. Anything less participates in the rebellion of this “rebellious house” (2:8). This calls for godly courage that drives out fear (2:6-7).
Precisely where are such faithfulness and courage most urgently demanded in the Western world today?
Pray for the Church
Praise God for His glory displayed in all creation. Praise God for righteously reigning over all things in His strength and might. Pray for us to be a people who seek God’s face and work for the furtherance of His glory here and around the world. Ask Him to help us raise children to know and delight in Him. Ask God to reveal sin, dethrone idols, and give us the grace to repent of sin and turn to Him in obedience. Pray for our hearts to be clean before Him and for us to prize Him alone. Pray for those who don’t yet know God to come to saving faith in Jesus. Ask God for opportunities to point others to Christ’s sufficiency, value, and glory.
Pray for the City
46,000+ Internationals Living in Birmingham
This week we are praying for the 46,000+ international (foreign-born) people living in the Birmingham Metro Area and for the members of our faith family who are actively and faithfully seeking to share the gospel message and make disciples among them. We are also praying for Birmingham International Church and Reverend Ron Higey, Pastor.
Day 1: Pray for the international students at UAB and Samford University who will join the Friendship Partner Program this Fall. Pray also for the Brook Hills members matched with these students. Pray for authentic friendships that provide opportunities for gospel threads to be sewn.
Day 2: Pray for the Brook Hills Engage Teams as they seek to intentionally and strategically engage specific unreached people groups within our city. Pray for God to enable them to make disciples of all nations, by means of evangelism and relationships, resulting in new churches being formed.
Day 3: Pray for the new English as a Second Language (ESL) Ministry launching on September 10. Pray for the Internationals who come to learn English to be welcomed, befriended, and shown the love of Christ.
Day 4: Pray for the Brook Hills Hispanic Ministry and the Hispanic Congregation led by Pastor Eduardo Torres. Pray for God to empower the Hispanic Ministry in outreach, urgent relief, and discipleship. Pray for the ministry’s presence to be “salt and light” in the Hispanic community and for those outside the congregation to be drawn in by the uniqueness of Christ displayed through the Body of Christ.
Day 5: Pray for the PAX Academic Exchange students who will be living in the homes of Brook Hills members for the 2015-16 school year. Pray for lives to be changed as Christ is proclaimed through Word and deed in the context of life-on-life relationships with host families.
Day 6: Pray as members of our faith family encounter Internationals in their workplaces, schools, and daily activities, they will be willing to seize the opportunities God provides to make disciples of all nations in a local context.
Pray for the World
BH East Asian Church Planters C & L
This week we are praying for Brook Hills Church Planters C & L serving in East Asia. C & L along with their family, serve among an unreached people group in East Asia. They are currently stateside and will return to the field in September to continue the work set before them. Join us this week as we pray for C & L and send them out again.
Day 1: Praise God for the other individuals and families He has called out to join C & L this year. Pray for their team as a whole to value unity and treat one another as family.
Day 2: Pray for God to continue to call out more people from Brook Hills and other churches to go and work with this team.
Day 3: Pray for C & L's family as they continue to learn language. Pray for the ability to continue to improve on what they know so they can have deep conversations and strong relationships with locals.
Day 4: Pray for the salvation of C & L's three children. Pray for them to love Jesus and love to talk about Him with others.
Day 5: Pray for new relationships with local families who will want to know about Christ.
Day 6: Pray for the entire East Asia Church Planting team to shine brightly together pointing many to Christ.
Before the Throne of God Above
Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea
A great High Priest whose name is love
Who ever lives and pleads for me
My name is graven on His hands
My name is written on His heart
I know that while in heav’n He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart
No tongue can bid me thence depart
When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me
Behold Him there, the risen Lamb
My perfect, spotless Righteousness
The great unchangeable I AM
The King of glory and of grace
One with Himself, I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Savior and my God
With Christ my Savior and my God
Crown Him (Majesty)
Crown Him with many crowns
The Lamb upon His throne
Hark how the heav'nly anthem drowns
All music but its own
Awake my soul and sing
Of Him who died for me
And hail Him as thy matchless King
Through all eternity
Majesty Lord of all
Let ev'ry throne before Him fall
The King of kings
O come adore
Our God who reigns forevermore (forevermore)
Crown Him the Lord of life
Who triumphed o'er the grave
And rose victorious in the strife
For those He came to save
His glories now we sing
Who died and rose on high
Who died eternal life to bring
And lives that death may die
All hail Redeemer hail
For He has died for me
His praise and glory shall not fail