~ Click on this link for today's readings ~
Lamentations 1:1-2:22 ~ Philemon 1:1-25
Psalm 101:1-8 ~ Proverbs 26:20
Old Testament - Today we begin the book of Lamentations! Lamentations is a short 5 chapter book. It's essentially a post-script to the book of Jeremiah, and was likely written by the prophet Jeremiah. It is a book that surveys and laments Jerusalem and the Temple after the destruction of both by the Babylonians in about 586 B.C. A wonderful commentary on the book of Lamentations by Donald Curtis titled “The Fall of Jerusalem” is at this link - surf about 2/3rds the way down this page to get a good chapter by chapter overview of Lamentations - and to dive into info on the acrostics, etc.
~ Lamentations ~
Date: Sixth century B.C.
Content: The book of Lamentations is a funeral song, written for the fallen city of Jerusalem. It was composed by Jeremiah, who was an eye-witness of all he describes in such vivid detail. He shows the destruction in all its horror so that it could never again be asked, “Why did no one ever tell us the awful price we would have to pay for disobeying God?” There is very little of comfort, but Jeremiah’s prayer in chapter 5 does look beyond the desolate ashes of the once glorious Jerusalem to God whose throne endures forever. Only there can Jeremiah find any solace.
Theme: Lamentations is a declaration of the wrath of God. It portrays the bitter truth that God had promised judgment upon sin, and Judah had been foolish enough to put God to the test. Bad as that was, the deeper tragedy was that it did not have to be. God’s faithfulness is great, being renewed every morning, and his compassion never fails. Had Judah only obeyed, it all could have been avoided. The warning and the promise found in this book should be emblazoned in the skies for all to see. (Above commentary is from Tyndale Publishers “The One Year Bible Companion” pp. 13-14) Below is an engraving by Gustaf Dore of these Lamentations of Jeremiah...
Lamentations chapter 1 verse 1 sets the tone & stage for this book - "Jerusalem's streets, once bustling with people, are now silent. Like a widow broken with grief, she sits alone in her mourning. Once the queen of nations, she is now a slave." Why is this so? Well, we just read the book of the prophet Jeremiah, so we know why... One thing to keep in mind when reading Lamentations - it provides a glimpse at the devastating affects of unchecked & unrepentant sin. Per this verse above, do you think our sin change our position in life from being a "queen" to a "slave"?
I think it is important to realize that God did provide so much grace and compassion toward Jerusalem and Judah in the book of Jeremiah before everything got to the devastating point that it is in the book of Lamentations. God sent the prophet Jeremiah to warn Judah over and over and over again.... However, there was no repentance of sin and things got worse and worse - until it got to the point that God had no choice but to discipline Judah through Babylon's taking Judah captive. We do need to know that unrepentant, unsorrowful, unchecked sin in our lives can lead to horrifically sorrowful things happening in our lives. And perhaps, by us hitting a rock bottom, like Jerusalem clearly is here in Lamentations, there will be an opportunity for discipline and ultimate redemption...
Today in Lamentations 1:14 we read: "My sins have been bound into a yoke; by his hands they were woven together. They have come upon my neck and the Lord has sapped my strength. He has handed me over to those I cannot withstand.” Do you believe that sin can become a “yoke” around your neck? Can sin sap your strength? Can sin hand you over to those you cannot withstand? How can you be freed from this yoke of sin? Perhaps these words from Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30 will give us some ideas - “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” If there is a yoke of sin around your neck, will you allow Jesus to remove that yoke? Will you exchange the yoke of sin for the yoke of rest that Christ offers you today?
Perhaps Lamentations chapter 2, verses 18 & 19, give us a hint at what we should do if we realize we've hit a rock bottom place in our lives due to unchecked sin - "Cry aloud before the Lord, O walls of Jerusalem! Let your tears flow like a river. Give yourselves no rest from weeping day or night. Rise during the night and cry out. Pour out your hearts like water to the Lord. Lift up your hands to him in prayer." If you are at that place of rock bottom, or nearing it, will you cry to the Lord? Will you pour out your heart to the Lord letting him know that you need him - that you cannot do life without him? Will you pray?
New Testament - Today we begin Paul's letter to Philemon!
~ Philemon ~
Author: Paul the apostle
Date: A.D. 60 or 61
Content: A slave named Onesimus, who was owned by a Christian in Colosse named Philemon, had run away, ultimately making his way to Rome. Here he heard the gospel from Paul and became a believer. This letter was written by Paul to encourage Philemon to take Onesimus back, this time as more than a servant, indeed, as a Christian brother. There is a play on words in verse 11 where Paul says that now Onesimus (the word means “useful”) will in fact be Onesimus – useful both to Philemon and the ministry.
Theme: This short book is quite important in many ways. Two things stand out. First, we see the way in which the gospel worked. No one is beyond the reach of God. If anyone will trust in Jesus, he will become a new person. Second, the ancient barriers of class hatred are being broken down by the gospel – Philemon and Onesimus are now Christian brothers. (Above commentary is from Tyndale Publishers “The One Year Bible Companion” pp. 30-31) A great overview of the book of Philemon by Daniel B. Wallace is at this link.
Verse 4 stands out to me in Philemon today - "I always thank God when I pray for you, Philemon..." How often do we tell our family or friends that we thank God for them? How often do we tell them that we pray for them? How often do we actually do both of these things?
Psalms - Psalm 101 is a great Psalm of David today! Great verses, all of them. I like verse 3 - "I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar." This seems to be a bit tougher and tougher to adhere to in our modern world where pornography is getting more and more into the mainstream. But, it is such a beautiful and true Psalm of David for us to adhere to! Do you refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar? Do you avoid watching TV shows, reading magazines or papers, or going to see movies where you know you'll end up looking at things vile & vulgar? Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying avoid watching all TV, reading all mags & papers or avoid all movies. I'm just saying that there are some of these forms of media that we know in advance that what they "sell" us will be vile and vulgar. Why would we "buy" that garbage? Refuse to look at it. Don't give it one inch of power over you! (or your kids!)
A portion of verse 2 stood out to me today - "I will lead a life of integrity in my own home." This is powerful. How often do we have integrity outside of our home - but then not display integrity within our own home? Think this is healthy? Should we strive for leading a life of integrity within our own home?
Proverbs - Proverbs 26:20 is another excellent reminder to not gossip - and when you stop, the gossip stops. Interesting how that works... "Fire goes out for lack of fuel, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops." Are you fueling any quarrels due to gossip these days? Will you stop being the fuel for that fire so that the fire can finally go out?
Comments from you - What verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!