June 27, 1999, posted, July 18, 1999.
Lamentation is a hard book to read. It is depressing, as we see the judgment of God and the cause of that judgment against his people. Yet amist this judgment, God always has a light shining. One of these lights here in Lamentations is found in 5:21,
Turn thou us unto thee, O LORD, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old.
This passage gives about the most hope of about any passage in Scripture. And this hope is given over and over throughout the word of God.
1. Man is utterly depraved, he has gone astray from his youth.
2. He has no desire nor power to turn to God or do any good. In fact, God says quite the opposite. Man's every desire is opposite of God.
3. It really doesn't matter whether saved or unsaved, that corrupt nature is still there, and its BASIC desire is to operate apart from God and his word. Thus, "good works" apart from God are sin.
4. Conversion is God's work, not man's. This verse shows the need of divine grace to turn to God, and the inability of man to turn to the Lord.
5. renew... This shows us the necessity of repentance and restoration before there can be temporal blessings from God.
Jeremiah 31:18 I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus; Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the LORD my God.
We must realize man's hopelessness to love and serve the Lord in the ways that please him, including ourselves.
We must pray that the Lord will turn us to himself, and give us the proper desire to serve him.
We must pray that the Lord will turn others, especially loved ones, to himself, and give them the proper desire to serve him.
Psalms 80:3 Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved. 7 Turn us again, O God of hosts, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved. 19 Turn us again, O LORD God of hosts, cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.
To me, two of the greatest words in Scripture are I WILL, when used by the Lord. Of course, pride also says, I WILL, but that is in rebellion to God. When used by God, I WILL means he will work, according to his own divine plan and purpose, in the human heart by his Holy Spirit:
Philippians 2:12, 13 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
I will not take the time to develop the doctrine, but the following verses refer to the Church Age -- that is, the age of the grace of God through Christ working in the hearts of fallen sinners. This age is called, THE LAST DAYS. It started with Christ and will last until the end of time.
Jeremiah 32:39 And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: And I will make an everlasting covenant with them (CHRIST), that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.
Ezekiel 11:19 And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: 20 That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God. 36:25 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. 26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
This is the promise of Christian Conversion of the heart. That is, the Lord turning the hardened heart to himself, and giving the desire to love and serve him and him alone according to his word.
Hosea 14:4 I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him. 5 I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. 6 His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon. 7 They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon.
Jeremiah 31:4 Again I will build thee, and thou shalt be built, O virgin of Israel: thou shalt again be adorned with thy tabrets, and shalt go forth in the dances of them that make merry. 23 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; As yet they shall use this speech in the land of Judah and in the cities thereof, when I shall bring again their captivity; The LORD bless thee, O habitation of justice, and mountain of holiness. 24 And there shall dwell in Judah itself, and in all the cities thereof together, husbandmen, and they that go forth with flocks. 25 For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul.
Zechariah 8:3 Thus saith the LORD; I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the LORD of hosts the holy mountain. 4 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age. 5 And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof. 6 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If it be marvellous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, should it also be marvellous in mine eyes? saith the LORD of hosts.
In other words, though it seems impossible to us, it is not impossible to the Lord.
Whether saved or not, the heart is deceitful above all things, which is why we must have God's word. Praise the Lord for the grace of God, which is what Lamentations 5:21 and the many other verses are referring to. In Lamentations 5:21, Jeremiah reminds the Lord that he alone can work in man's total corruption and rebellion. The Lord alone can turn the hearts of men back to him. Elijah cried out,
Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again. (1 Ki. 18:37.)
Only God can work in circumstances -- only God can turn the hearts of the sinner toward himself.
And he uses reading of his word, the preaching of his word, and our prayers to do that turning of the hardened heart to himself.
A lady called me Friday from Shreveport LA. I believe she said she was around 85 or 86. Her grandson was taking advantage of her in some very unscrupulous ways. She said that no matter how much she talked with him, he did not change, and kept taking advantage of her.
I pointed out to her that arguing with the grandson would not change anything. All she could do was protect herself from his thefts, pray and put it in the Lord's hands. Only the Lord could change the 35 year old boy. And the more she tried to reason with him, the more he would take advantage of her. He would agree with her enough to get her to support him and his wife even more in their wicked ways.
She asked me if it was wrong to keep praying for the boy, because others had told her to pray once, and leave it in the Lord's hands. I referred her to LUKE 18:1
As Christians, we can praise the Lord that no matter how hopeless a situation may be, it does not depend upon us. It depends upon the Lord. When we lose that dependence on him, we move into the realm of independence and SIN (Satan).
Only the grace of God (Lam. 5:21; Phil. 2:13) can show the need and give the power to change.
2 Corinthians 4:1-6
People are blinded to the truth (saved or unsaved), and the Lord God must command the light to shine out of darkness. Doing research for my book, I found this interesting fact:
Dwight L. Moody, the great American evangelist, used to be accompanied on his tours by the singer, Henry Drummond (1851-1897, ed.). Originally Drummond was able to influence and hypnotize people at a distance of fifty miles. After his conversion, he had difficulty in overcoming these occult powers. While ministering at Moody's meetings, he occasionally noticed that the audience was being influenced by his psychic powers. He was very troubled about this and asked the Lord to free him from these occult powers. The Lord answered his prayer. (Occult ABC, Kurt Koch, , 298. One wonders how much modern church growth is the Spirit's work and how much is men using the spirits renounced by Drummond.)
In other words, there are forces at work other than God's spirit that can "change hearts." Drummond said these forces caused people who were sitting under the word of God to be influenced.
Paul warned us of Satan transforming himself into an angel of light. (2 Cor. 11:14.) When we pray for others, we should renounce the hidden things of dishonesty, just as did Drummond when he worked with Moody. We should tell the Lord we want nothing from us nor to us that does not come by the way of the Cross of Christ.
We are to depend only upon the Holy Spirit's power to move people to the Lord.
GOD MUST SHOW THE NEED or the depraved man will not see it. It is God's Spirit of Grace that must show a person his or her need. It is God's Spirit of Grace that must turn a person from self to the Lord in Salvation. It is God's Spirit of Grace that shines the Light of God's word and enables the individual to do what is required of them by the Lord.
GOD'S GRACE GIVES the power to fulfill the desire placed by God to accomplish his good pleasure, NOT MAN'S good pleasure.
The continued promise throughout the word of God is I WILL.
The continued promise throughout the word of God is for God's people to continue in the prayer of faith that God will move both in our own hearts and in the hearts of those around us.
First, the common temptation to operate apart from the Heavenly Father
The basis of Satan's temptation was not the temptation of lust, anger, unbelief, and all of the other works of the flesh. The basis of Christ's temptation was to operate here on this earth in his body of flesh INDEPENDENTLY of the will of the Heavenly Father.
John 6:37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. 38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. 39 And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. 40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
The reason we have been placed here upon this earth is not to do our own will, but to do the will of the heavenly Father as revealed in his word.
Certainly, Christ was tempted in all points like as we, yet without sin. But what is the basis of all the works of the flesh? The basis of all the works of the flesh is to operated apart from the Father.
If Satan could have persuaded Christ to act on his own or within his own power or strength even to heal the blind, cast out devils, raise the dead, then the plan of redemption would have been destroyed.
Therefore we see that any action apart from dependence on our heavenly Father, the Lord Jesus Christ working through us, is an act of sin. Satan will influence us to do good if he can get us to act apart from God's strength, grace.
We do what is right because it's right to do according to God's Word, not because we feel good about doing it. How many of our churches are "built" by people who did it because they felt good about doing it by being emotionally charged up by their commanders rather than realizing their responsibility and obeying God's Word? We must reach that co-worker because it is our responsibility.
We tithe because it's our responsibility; we pray and read our Bible because it's our responsibility. We are faithful in the public assembly because it's our responsibility.
How many churches have been built by pastors and people who worked because it was right to do in obedience to the Word of God and they stepped out by faith (and much trembling) and did it? Of course, ONLY the Lord and the churches know. The result of both methods may look the same yet God knows which is which.
The Pastor's job is to see that his ministry is built upon the right foundation, that is, upon the preaching, hearing and doing the word of God.
How much will be burned in that day (I Cor. 3:12)? How much praise will we receive at His throne? How much weeping will we do? It will all be revealed in that day then not only we, but all will know the truth.
Second, the necessity of the Lord changing the heart of man.