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WEEK 3. NOVEMBER 17-23


LESSON 12

MIRACLES OF GOD 'S MERCY


MEMORY VERSE


"For the LORD will not cast off for ever: but though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies." Lamentations 3:31, 32, KJV

KEY TERMS

Paradox — A seemingly self-contradictory statement or proposition that when inves­tigated may prove to be well founded or true.
Pericope (pah-rhi`-kah-pee) — An extract from a text, especially a passage from the Bible.
Pollyanna — An excessively cheerful or optimistic person.


SUGGESTED EMPHASIS


Where there is life, there is hope. The testimony of King David in this regard comes to mind how he would not cease his prayer vigil for his stricken child until he had word that the baby had died. He explained that he was of a mind to cry out to the Lord while the child was yet alive. "For I said, Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that the child may live?" (2 Samuel 12:22b). Indeed, the hopefulness in God's people is not born of external conditions. It is not created by the observable reality: "For what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?" (Romans 8:24b). Instead, hope operates in the middle of contrary circumstances. It stands opposed to everything else our senses are telling us. And so it is Christian to always be optimistic, having an expectation that, however bleak today is, God will bring a brighter tomorrow. This isn't the delusion of a Pollyanna. This is the rational, objective response to two facts: God has authority over our circumstances and His intent is to do us good.

Emphasis 1: The Onset of Despair

The famous passage of Scripture that serves as our lesson text illustrates how, in the midst of tribulation, we are empowered to cast off despair and despondency. The pericope is preceded by a catalogue of metaphors for how an individual believer would have experienced God's hand of wrath. The narrator has been made to feel old and fragile in body (Lamentations 3:4); he muses that he may already be dead and buried,


perhaps a dweller of Sheol (Lam. 3:6). He imagines himself a prisoner in a dungeon (Lam. 3:7) or lost in a labyrinth (Lam. 3:9). He feels as if he were mauled by wild animals (Lam. 3:10,11); shot through with arrows (3:12,13); trampled down into the ground (Lam. 3:16). In summation, our narrator describes how despair began to set in, but the remembrance of his afflictions humbled him and led him, paradoxically, to hope in God (Lam. 3:18-21)!

Emphasis 2: The Merciful Character of God

Sustained life bred hope in Jeremiah, despite the death and destruction during the siege of the Babylonians. Every new morning that he and the remnant of Israel rose to meet was another day the Lord had kept them alive (Lam. 3:22, 23). They were persecuted but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed. And that realization en­hanced his image of God as faithful and merciful. It brought all they had suffered into perspective. It encouraged him to trust in the Lord for the nation's eventual restoration. He was convinced again that God's purpose had never been to destroy His people, but to refine them (Lam. 3:31-36): the prophet rediscovered his trust in divine motives and providential purposes.

Moreover, that hope was his and Israel's salvation, because it also wrought in them a voluntary humility and submission. Hope re-taught them to keep their peace (Lam. 3:28), to bow down (Lam. 3:29), to turn the other cheek (Lam. 3:30). When they were humbled, the Israelites came to the end of themselves, and they opened up to grace and mercy. With self-reliance and self-righteousness no longer hindering them, they could again receive the unmerited favor of God.

Emphasis 3: Hope Never Disappoints

Hopefulness is still working its dual purpose in us today, drawing us to holiness while it strengthens us to endure hardship. The Pauline process of Romans 5:3-5 is evident in Jeremiah's experience as well. The prophet could rejoice in how tribulation had gripped the nation by the proverbial shoulders and shook them out of their sin-laden stupor. Tribulation induced them to grasp the gift of life with tenacity (the patience of the KJV translation), which in turn yielded the consolation that after being sorely tested they had been accepted of God (all summed up by the term experience). Said expe­rience engendered hope for the future, and hope didn't disappoint; because of it they sought peace with God and with it they waited for deliverance from the Chaldeans. A hopeful disposition has always sustained believers through sickness, family strife, fi­nancial turmoil, and all other afflictions. We still need it today to animate our faith-walk.

MISSION APPLICATION QUESTION
1. How was grief and mourning part of a process that brought the prophet ultimately to hope?
2. What specific realization is the turning point of chapter 3 of Lamentations?
3. How would you encourage a pessimistic person to become optimistic?

WORLD MISSIONS PRAYER POINTS
Let us pray to know how to grieve and mourn in a manner pleasing unto God.
Let us pray to receive God's mercy and recognize His goodness in times of despair.