Day 217: A Mix of Evil and Good

2 Chronicles 13-16; Acts 28:16-31

Key Verses

2 Chronicles 16:7-9
At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him, “Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you. Were not the Ethiopians and the Libyans a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the Lord, he gave them into your hand. For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. You have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have wars.”

I love the historical books because they are stories about people. Inevitably, these people are flawed – some more than others, but God’s grace and faithfulness are always center-stage!

In today’s reading, there are four main characters: Three ancient kings and Paul.

Paul’s story in Acts comes to an end in today’s reading. We find Paul imprisoned in high standing in Rome – receiving guests in self-provided housing. I’ve always thought this was a strange way for Acts to end…seemingly in the middle of the story without any conclusion. But I think this is a fitting end to Acts – for we leave him in the middle of ministry – preaching the gospel to anyone who would hear! He also wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon during this Roman imprisonment, and there is extra-biblical evidence that Paul was released and continued his ministry to the far-reaches of Spain before he was imprisoned for the 2nd time in Rome and martyred.

Paul. He embodied the grace of Jesus Christ as God changed him from a persecutor of Christians to the faith’s boldest ambassador! How could you not be inspired by Paul’s story?!

The other characters from today’s reading include three ancient kings. Two “evil” kings, Jeroboam and Abijah, and one “not so evil king,” King Asa…

The Chronicler makes a great effort to contrast Jeroboam, evil king of Israel, with the kings of Judah. Even though Abijah, king of Judah, was described as doing “what was evil in the sight of the Lord,” the priests and people of Judah had remained faithful to God. Jeroboam, on the other hand, had created his own cult religion to separate himself from his Judahite brothers. In 2 Chronicles 13, we read of these two kings going to war, and even though Israel’s army was double in size, God gave Judah the victory to show his favor toward Judah’s faithfulness.

And then we read of Asa, son of Abijah and king of Judah. He wasn’t as amazing as Paul. But he wasn’t as evil as the other two kings. He was a mix of both.

Asa began his reign in exemplary fashion, destroying the high places and other modes of idol worship that had sprung up during his father’s reign. He also gathered all of Judah together to renew their covenant commitment. Asa enjoyed military favor as God gave him great victory over the huge Ethiopian army. But, as Asa aged, he began to take God’s grace for granted and instead of relying on the Lord, he turned to self-reliance.

Asa was a good man, and that was his problem. He became overconfident in his old age and neglected his need for God.

Out of all the characters in today’s reading, I relate to Asa the most.

How easy it is to slip into self-reliance when we are enjoying the blessings of God’s favor!! 

I know I will never be as amazing as Paul. And God-willing, I will never be as evil as Jeroboam and Abijah. But Asa… well, I can easily slip into Asa’s sin of self-reliance. I pray for God to keep my brokenness ever before me so that I might never take God’s grace for granted!!!

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Day 213: A Great Purpose & Work

2 Chronicles 1-3; Acts 26

Key Verses

2 Chronicles 2:12
Hiram also said, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who made heaven and earth, who has given King David a wise son, who has discretion and understanding, who will build a temple for the Lord and a royal palace for himself.”

Acts 26:22-23
To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”

A Great Work typically flows from a Great Purpose…

Consider Solomon, ruler of Israel in its most prosperous time. He describes the people of Israel as “numerous as the dust of the earth.” Solomon prays for wisdom to rule such a large people. And then he gets to work building the temple. This is his great purpose – to build a house for God. Solomon understands the weight of the work when he says,

But who is able to build him a house, since heaven, even highest heaven, cannot contain him? Who am I to build a house for him, except as a place to make offerings before him? (2 Chronicles 2:6).

Solomon was given a Great Purpose and the privilege of a Great Work.

In Acts 26, we read of Paul’s testimony to the Palestinian king, Agrippa. How is it that Paul is standing before the king of Palestine?? Two years ago, the Jews created such a riot in the temple that the Roman tribune had to arrest Paul. And to save Paul from their conspiracy to kill him, Paul was sent to the Roman governor (first Felix, and now Festus) who lived on the coast in Caesarea.

Think of how God has used the false charges created by the Jews… Paul has been able to testify to the resurrection of Jesus to a Roman tribune, two Roman governors and now the king of Palestine! This two-year “interruption” has been used to bring the gospel to the highest ranking officials in the land!!

Jesus had given Paul a Great Purpose on the road to Damascus. Listen to His words:

I am sending you [to your people and to the Gentiles] to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me (Acts 26:17).

His purpose was to open their eyes to the gospel of truth – to testify to the death & resurrection of Jesus. Paul’s great purpose led him to do a great work! Just as Solomon built the temple of God, Paul worked to build the temple of the New Testament… he worked to build the church.

Two men. Two great purposes and Two great works.

Which leads me to ask…. What is your purpose? And what is your great work? Not all of us are called to build the house of God or plant churches in distant lands – but all of us have been given a Great Purpose.

Whether a missionary or a box maker, a CEO or a janitor, we are all called to work in a way that gives God glory. This is our purpose – to glorify the God of the universe in all that we say and do!

We have been given a Great Purpose. We have been given the Holy Spirit to equip us to carry out a Great Work! The question is… are you willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to do the Great Work that God has prepared for you? 

Day 212: The Folly of the Earth

1 Chronicles 28-29; Acts 25

Key Verses

1 Chronicles 29:11b-13, NIV
Yours, Lord, is the kingdom;
you are exalted as head over all.
Wealth and honor come from you;
you are the ruler of all things.
In your hands are strength and power
to exalt and give strength to all.
Now, our God, we give you thanks,
and praise your glorious name.

Today we see David – publicly ordaining Solomon as king of Israel. And as the entire assembly is gathered for this grand affair, David prays. In this prayer, we see his heart, and amazingly, it is a humble heart… After 40 years of experiencing strength on the battlefield, influence over other nations, the power to judge his own people, and the sovereignty to govern as he wills – he still defers to his Creator…

But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand (1 Chronicles 29:14, NIV).

How many current world leaders would be able to genuinely pray David’s words? Power seduces and can dull the mind to the truth of God’s absolute sovereignty over the earth. Despite David’s dance with greatness, in the end, he still recognized that God was the True King of Israel, and he, David, was just a steward of God’s resources and power.

In Acts, we read of tribunes, governors, and kings – each with their own limited power delegated through Caesar. With each subsequent chapter, we are introduced to a different inept ruling authority. Injustice is on center-stage as Paul is imprisoned for years without a fair judgment.

I wonder if these men had the same view of the world that David did? Did they understand that they were just stewards of God’s resources and power? Unfortunately, they all seem like foolish men drunk on their pomp and circumstance! (but maybe that’s just me…)

David, albeit flawed, was the precursor to Christ. If any man had the right to  “pomp and circumstance” it was Jesus! But He traded the grandeur of heaven for a stable… and absolute, universal power for a criminal’s death.

Apart from the grace of Christ, we are nothing. How do you think Paul was able to endure the years of unjust imprisonment? Only through the comfort of Christ! Our dignity comes from being made in the image of God and being redeemed by the blood of His Son. Our hope is found In Christ… alone!!

Day 211: Israel’s Political Disparity

1 Chronicles 25-27; Acts 24

Key Verses

Acts 24:14-16
But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.

The political contrast between Israel in the Old and New Testaments is wide.

David would always be the “standard” for Israelite kings. Today we read of all the people he organized for temple service, as well as the thousands he commanded who served in the nation’s military. Israel was a major world power. David extended Israel’s borders and had significant political weight in the world.

Jesus was born into a very different Israel. It was no longer a sovereign nation, but was ruled by Rome. Rome instituted its own governors and officials throughout all of Israel. Even though the Jews maintained the Sanhedrin, their own religious ruling council, they had no true governmental control.

The Jews had been waiting for a “Messiah” to come and re-establish Israel as a major world power. One of the reasons Jesus was rejected as Messiah by most of the Jewish council was that he wasn’t a political figure. They couldn’t accept the radically different notion that Jesus came to establish a spiritual Kingdom on earth.

Consequently, the Jewish Sanhedrin was very much against the new sect of Jews who believed Jesus to be their Messiah. First, they didn’t want this new sect stealing an ounce of their limited power and influence. And secondly, I imagine the thought of a Messiah having come and not returning sovereign rule to Israel – was… well – a very bitter pill to swallow.

So, in today’s reading – we see Paul, standing before Felix, the Roman governor of Judea. Felix organized a trial, and the Jewish council sent a delegation from Jerusalem to testify against Paul.

The entire conflict between the Jews and Paul could be summarized in one word: Resurrection. Paul, himself, admitted this to Felix when he said…

It is with respect to the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you this day (Acts 23:21).

The resurrection of Jesus was just as world-changing – just as life-altering back then as it is today. If Jesus’ resurrection was FACT, then his claims to deity were true, and the Jewish Sanhedrin would be forced to accept that they killed the Messiah. And if Jesus was really the Messiah, all of their hopes and aspirations for a Sovereign Israel would be lost. There was just too much to lose. It was much easier for the Sanhedrin to turn a blind eye to the facts, than to admit the truth of Jesus’ resurrection.

Their lust for power was so strong that they were willing to do anything to silence Paul. Even break their own law (and Roman law) to conspire to kill him.

But God used Felix, the corrupt Roman governor, to protect Paul from ambush and death. Indifferent to Paul’s innocence, Felix kept Paul imprisoned, albeit comfortably, for two years. What better way to protect Paul from the rage of the Jewish Sanhedrin than to keep him locked up in a Roman prison!!! What men intended for evil, God worked out for good!

Day 200: The Prince

Ezekiel 45-46; Acts 17:16-34

Key Verses

Ezekiel 46:9-10
“When the people of the land come before the Lord at the appointed feasts, he who enters by the north gate to worship shall go out by the south gate. […] When they enter, the prince shall enter with them, and when they go out, he shall go out.”

Acts 17:30-31
The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

Today’s reading from Ezekiel continues his final vision of a restored and rebuilt temple. Yesterday, we read how God’s glory returned to his temple. God entered the temple through the outermost East Gate. Ezekiel 45 opens with the declaration that this gate should remain shut – no one shall ever enter or exit through this gate again. This implies that God will not be leaving. His presence with His people is permanent. It is eternal.

But one allowance is made…

Only the prince may sit in [the East gate] to eat bread before the Lord. He shall enter by way of the vestibule of the gate, and shall go out by the same way (Ezekiel 45:3).

The prince. He is an interesting character. This is the first mention of him in this vision, but Ezekiel has made mention of a prince before in 34:23-24 and 37:24-25. These passages refer to the prince as “my servant David” and having “forever” rule.

Ezekiel’s language echoes Jeremiah’s prophecies concerning this future leader…

Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land (Jeremiah 23:5).

These words from Jeremiah match perfectly the descriptions of the prince in Ezekiel’s vision. The prince is to ensure justice (45:7-12) and be a leader in worship (45:17; 22). Even though he is set apart to share fellowship with God in the holy East gate, he is still considered to be one of the people. He is instructed to enter the temple when the people go in, and exit the temple when the people go out (46:10). He is one of them. He identifies with them.

Does this sound like someone you know??

Paul spoke of Him to the philosophers of Athens. He said that God had appointed a man who will “judge the world in righteousness” (Acts 17:31). Isn’t that what Jeremiah said? And isn’t that what Ezekiel described?

Friends, our prince is Jesus. He is just. He sits at God’s right hand and intercedes for us because he identifies with us. He rules with righteousness. And his love for us compelled him to die in our place. What else could we ask for? What else could we need?

Day 184: The First Temple Vision

Ezekiel 8-11

Key Verses

Ezekiel 11:17-20
“Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.’ And when they come there, they will remove from it all its detestable things and all its abominations. And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.”

These chapters record the first of Ezekiel’s two “temple visions.”

Remember… Ezekiel has been prophesying against Jerusalem while he is in exile in Babylon. He isn’t in Jerusalem to see the extent of the abominations performed against God in his own house.

So, through the Spirit, Ezekiel is somehow transported to Jerusalem where he is able to see the temple. The text reads, “the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and brought me in visions of God to Jerusalem” (8:3). 

What Ezekiel sees is breathtaking. It’s as if someone has drawn back a curtain and all things that were invisible are now made visible.

He sees the spiritual realm existing right alongside the earthly realm. He sees leaders worshipping idols in the temple surrounded by the Glory of the Lord. And then tragically, Ezekiel records the slow exodus of the Glory from the temple…

Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub on which it rested to the threshold of the house (Ezekiel 9:3).

The Glory is no longer in the Holy of Holies but has moved to the threshold of the house – the gate, the exit.

As the vision continues, we see God’s brutal execution of judgment, but we also see God’s glory inch away from his sinful people…

Then the glory of the Lord went out from the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim (Ezekiel 10:18).

God didn’t just… leave. He inched. It’s almost as if Ezekiel’s vision mirrors the longsuffering of God – the longing for repentance, the waiting for repentance. It is only, as the-most-last-resort, that God finally leaves.

Then the cherubim lifted up their wings, with the wheels beside them, and the glory of the God of Israel was over them. And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain that is on the east side of the city (Ezekiel 11:22-23).

And just like that. He is gone.

But.

Just before He left, He made a promise. That he will gather the exiles from the ends of the earth, and give them a heart of flesh…“And they shall be my people, and I will be their God” (Ezekiel 11:17-20).

God’s covenant promises are based on nothing but the character of God. His promise to “be our God” is not based on OUR ability to be righteous but based on HIS kindness, HIS goodness, and HIS righteousness.

God’s wrath has been poured out. His wrath has been satisfied. We are no longer objects of His wrath – but recipients of His grace!

Later in the book of Ezekiel, he has a second “temple vision.” But this vision is not of God leaving His people – but of Him gathering His people and establishing a New Jerusalem. What a day that will be!! I. Can’t. Wait!

Day 174: Two Sermons

Jeremiah 36-37; Acts 2:14-47

Key Verses

Jeremiah 36:3
It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the disaster that I intend to do to them, so that every one may turn from his evil way, and that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.”

Acts 2:37-38
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Both of today’s readings contain sermons – which resulted in two very different responses…

In Jeremiah, we learn that Jeremiah had been banned from the temple grounds. So he dictated his message to his faithful friend, Baruch, who wrote down on a scroll God’s message to the people. Baruch went to the temple and read the scroll which gave an account of the people’s sins and called them to repent so that the Lord’s judgment might be averted. God, himself, wanted the message preached so that He “may forgive their iniquity and their sin.

Amazingly, this scroll found its way to the king. Surely, as the scroll was read in his presence, the fear of the Lord would cause him to repent and lead the people back to God! But no. Jehoiakim’s heart was hardened…

As Jehudi read three or four columns, the king would cut them off with a knife and throw them into the fire in the fire pot, until the entire scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the fire pot (Jeremiah 36:23).

The king had no fear of God. His pride ensured the destruction of Jerusalem.

Now let’s consider Peter’s sermon from Acts 2.

Peter’s sermon was remarkable. The Holy Spirit opened his eyes to see how Jesus was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. He quoted Joel and David. He used logic to prove that Jesus was the Messiah mentioned in David’s 16th Psalm. And after he proved that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, he accused the people of killing him!

This wasn’t some sweet “come to Jesus” message. No! He accused the crowd of murdering the Son of God! I’m surprised there wasn’t a riot. But the Spirit was at work and the crowd was “cut to the heart.” Amazing. They didn’t make excuses or get defensive. They didn’t try to kill Peter or the other disciples, but they actually took responsibility for their sin and asked, “What shall we do?”

What should they do? What should have the king of Judah done when he heard the warnings in Baruch’s scroll? What should we do when we feel the prick of conviction – when we know we’ve done something offensive to God? What is the one thing that God has desired in every human heart going all the way back to Adam? Repentance. This can only be done through the power of the Spirit. In other words, we need God’s help to repent.

As we turn to God, he is pleased to help. God loves the penitent heart!

What was the result of the people’s repentance after Peter’s sermon? 3,000 people were baptized that day! The first church began and it was characterized by self-sacrifice and generous giving to others. The repentance of the crowd changed the course of human history!

Imagine what God could do through us today – if we humble ourselves, and repent?

Day 173: A mighty work

Jeremiah 34-35; Acts 2:1-13

Key Verses

Jeremiah 34:2
“Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Go and speak to Zedekiah king of Judah and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord: Behold, I am giving this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire.”

Acts 2:4
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Today we see the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise from Acts 1:8… “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

John Piper asserts that this power of the Spirit is “an extraordinary power. The experience promised is beyond the power of the Spirit in new birth and gradual sanctification.” He goes on to explain,

This promise that the disciples would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them (Acts 1:8) and that they would be clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:49) was a promise given to sustain the completion of world evangelization, and all the ministry that supports it. The context of both texts makes that plain. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses . . . to the end of the earth.” (Excerpted from Tongues of Fire and the Fullness of God By John Piper. ©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org)

Every now and then throughout the New Testament and church history, the Spirit comes in an unusually powerful way. Even though it manifests itself in different ways (i.e. the building shaking in Acts 4), it typically comes for the purpose of evangelization… In today’s reading, the Spirit comes as tongues of fire and enables the disciples to speak in different languages – all for the purpose of expanding the Kingdom!

This coming of the Spirit at Pentecost signifies the beginning of the New Covenant age.

In Jeremiah 34-35, we see why we need a “New” Covenant. The Old Covenant was dependent on the people’s obedience – which they miserably failed to do. Similarly, our hearts are exceedingly sinful, and it is impossible for us to meet the demands of the Covenant.

So God in His mercy made a New Covenant. A covenant dependent on Jesus’ obedience and Jesus’ sacrifice – and this New Covenant is available to anyone who believes – people from all nations and languages. This was evident at Pentecost as Jews were gathered from “every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5)…

Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome.

It is fitting that the first converts to Christianity were Jews representing every nation in the world! This work of the Spirit has so affected history that we are still affected by this event 2,000 years later. That’s one, mighty work!

Day 168: A Righteous Branch

Jeremiah 21-23; John 19:1-22

Key Verses

Jeremiah 23:5-6
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.'”

John 19:14-15
Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?”

In Jeremiah 21, Jeremiah begins to jump around chronologically. He starts with Zedekiah, Israel’s last king and then goes backward to address Judah’s earlier kings.

Zedekiah was asking Jeremiah to inquire of the Lord, for Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, was preparing to invade Jerusalem. It’s almost humorous to think Zedekiah thought God might give him a favorable message, for Jeremiah had been preaching destruction for years… starting in Josiah’s reign, (Judah’s last good king) and continuing through three generations after Josiah. Josiah’s son, Jehoahaz (Shallum), his son, Jehoiakim, and grandson, Jehoiachin (Coniah) were all evil kings. Jeremiah writes in Chapter 22 of all the ways they turned against the Lord.

At the end of Chapter 22, God says through Jeremiah,

“Write [Jehoiachin] down as childless, a man who shall not succeed in his days, for none of his offspring shall succeed in sitting on the throne of David and ruling again in Judah” (Jeremiah 22:30).

This presents a severe problem: Would God keep his promise of 2 Sam. 7:16, that David’s throne would endure forever? And if so, how?

God answers this question in today’s Key Verses, Jeremiah 23:5-6, where he promises that a “Branch” would save Judah. He would be called, “The Lord is our righteousness.”

This is one of several Messianic prophecies that promised a future king. It was these prophecies that the disciples misinterpreted to mean that the Messiah would rule as a political king. Imagine their confusion and despair as they heard the crowds chant, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” and saw the inscription on the cross that read, “King of the Jews.”

The irony was cruel. They couldn’t understand that Jesus came to be so much more than just a Jewish political king. He came as King of Heaven, establishing a new spiritual Kingdom over the entire earth.

Eventually, Jeremiah’s prophecy of a righteous Branch will be fulfilled in the new heaven and the new earth, when the Kingdom of God is established in the new earth forever! Until then, we live in the times between the “now” and “not yet” of prophecy. We have the benefit of hindsight combined with the mystery of the future. Just like the disciples, I’m sure God will fulfill His word in ways so wonderful that we could never imagine!!!

Day 158: Restoring and Redeeming

Lamentations 3-5; John 12:1-19

Key Verses

Lamentations 3:24-25
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.

John 12:12-13
The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”

Lamentations 3 is a poem whose main character has suffered greatly. Listen to some of the words he uses to describe his afflictions…
“rod of his wrath, darkness, broken bones, besieged, bitterness, walled me in, heavy chains, shuts out my prayer, cower in ashes…”

He attributes his suffering and afflictions to God. He names God as his judge. And then he says this:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23).

How in the world could a man who has suffered so grievously under the hand of God speak of his mercies and steadfast love?

These are probably the most well-known verses in Lamentations. But rarely do we consider the context. Just before these verses, the man speaks of the humility of his heart. His soul is “bowed down.” The suffering has changed his heart. He is humble and penitent. There was a purpose for the pain.

Also, through his changed heart, he is able to understand and trust more deeply in God’s Covenant promises. Listen to what he writes later in the chapter:

For the Lord will not
cast off forever,
but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
for he does not afflict from his heart
or grieve the children of men (Lamentations 3:31-33).

This man is encouraging the suffering exiles of Judah to remember God’s Covenant promises. God has only punished the people because his patience did not result in repentance. As suffering works in their hearts to produce repentance and humble dependence upon their God, God will both restore and redeem the nation!

We see the Eternal King of this nation in today’s New Testament reading… riding into the restored Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt. He, too, would suffer – giving his life to redeem His people. And He too would rise to say…

His mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning!

Somehow the man depicted in the poem of Lamentations 3 found a way to remember both the pain of suffering and God’s faithfulness. We must trust that God has a purpose for our pain… His purposes involve restoring and redeeming!