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Sunday, July 01, 2012


At times my mother jokingly refers to me as her "weeping prophet". Actually, that would be Jeremiah, but you get the idea. There is a tendency in me to ... lament. To lament is to express sorrow or grief, but there is a sense in the word of a deep sorrow or deep grief. The idea is that the one lamenting is accutely aware that something is terribly wrong. When the author of Lamentations laments, he laments largely over what's wrong in his nation. Others lament over their own sinful condition. But lamentations are the product of a strong sense that something is really wrong. And I have that sense a lot of the time.

Lamentations have their place in worship. We tend to think of worship as "upbeat" and "joyful", and there is certainly a signficant place for that, but I am convinced there is also a serious spot for lamenting. Why? Well, primarily because there is such a serious place for it in Scripture. But when you think about it, it makes sense as well.

Where would lamenting benefit genuine worship? Well, certainly real worship of our Lord Jesus Christ would begin with repentance. When Paul took the church at Corinth to task over the sexual immorality in their midst, he said, "Ought you not rather to mourn?" (1 Cor 5:2). He classified their failure to mourn as arrogance. Here's what James says:
Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you (James 4:8-10).
When we draw near to God, it is wise to "cleanse your hands". Laughter is inappropriate. Mourning -- lamenting -- makes sense. "And He will exalt you." It just makes sense.

It is my suspicion that the closer one gets to Christ, the more one senses this problem of personal sin. The more clearly we see His perfection, the more clearly we see our wretchedness. Something to lament about.

Lamentations also provide a clearer picture of reality. If lamenting is a sense that something is terribly wrong, then you might recognize that lamenting is a product of a clear view. You see, something is terribly wrong.
Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Rom 7:24).

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies (Rom 8:20-23).
In truth, we all suffer from sin. None of us have arrived at perfection. And our world suffers in sin. It is awaiting its release from the bondage to corruption. In fact, without this "something terribly wrong" we wouldn't have any "good news" -- Gospel.

I'm not suggesting that lamentation is the end point. Look at Jeremiah's lament in Lamentations 3:
I say, "My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the LORD." Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me (Lam 3:18-20).
That's a lament, to be sure, but he doesn't end there. His very next thought is the contrast:
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in Him" (Lam 3:21-24).
Coming from a happy place, this passage is a warm piece. Coming from deep lamentation, it is a glorious exultation unburdened by the need for pleasant circumstances or comfortable surroundings. It is a joy which passes understanding, a place of worship that exceeds the nice things that God can do for me, resting instead on the glory of His character -- His love and faithfulness and presence and power.

Lamentations may be difficult. I think they can be a good thing. I am quite sure they are a biblical thing. I would recommend it for worship. Humility and prostration leaves you in God's hands, and there is no safer place to be than that.

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