Sermons

Summary: Lamentations 1

DIARY OF A DESERTED CITY (LAMENTATIONS 1)

The last few months have not been easy for everyone in Hong Kong – from friends to family, and from the congregation to the pastors. No person is untouched. In September 2019 I cried for two minutes before I step up the pulpit in the Putonghua worship to preach on 1 John 4’s theme of love. In October it was worse when I had to preach on the church-given text of 1 Kings 19, where Elijah asked the Lord in the imperative mood to take his life (1 Kings 19:4). I cried for a full minute the moment I stepped up the pulpit while everybody nervously watched. Early this month tears welled up my eyes when I discovered to my horror in my Jonah Sunday school class that Jonah said the same words (Jonah 4:3).

Most scholars believe Jeremiah was the prophet who wrote Lamentations in similar style after the fall of Israel, witnessing the defilement, destruction and desolation of the city. Lamentations is a series of five laments, or funeral dirges; each chapter is a separate lament. Chapters 1, 2 and 4 each have 22 verses which each verse artistically beginning with the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet and the same chapters 1, 2 and 4 also begin with the exclamation “How!” Lamentations is a poem, a prayer and a prophecy – all in one. Some even say a protest. In the Hebrew Bible, however, it appears beside the Song of Songs, Book of Ruth, Ecclesiastes and the Book of Esther as the “Five Scrolls.” The book is traditionally recited annually on the fast day of Tisha B'Av (July or August,) mourning the destruction of both the First Temple and the Second.

How is God in control when there is crisis? Where is God when you don’t feel Him and don’t feel safe? What is God doing when things look bleak?

Cry to the Lord – Pray for Comfort

1 How deserted lies the city, once so full of people! How like a widow is she, who once was great among the nations! She who was queen among the provinces has now become a slave. 2 Bitterly she weeps at night, tears are on her cheeks. Among all her lovers there is no one to comfort her. All her friends have betrayed her; they have become her enemies. 3 After affliction and harsh labor, Judah has gone into exile. She dwells among the nations; she finds no resting place. All who pursue her have overtaken her in the midst of her distress. 4 The roads to Zion mourn, for no one comes to her appointed festivals. All her gateways are desolate, her priests groan, her young women grieve, and she is in bitter anguish. 5 Her foes have become her masters; her enemies are at ease. The LORD has brought her grief because of her many sins. Her children have gone into exile, captive before the foe. 6 All the splendor has departed from Daughter Zion. Her princes are like deer that find no pasture; in weakness they have fled before the pursuer. 7 In the days of her affliction and wandering Jerusalem remembers all the treasures that were hers in days of old. When her people fell into enemy hands, there was no one to help her. Her enemies looked at her and laughed at her destruction. 8 Jerusalem has sinned greatly and so has become unclean. All who honored her despise her, for they have all seen her naked; she herself groans and turns away. 9 Her filthiness clung to her skirts; she did not consider her future. Her fall was astounding; there was none to comfort her.

Can you imagine your city turned into a desert, a wasteland or a disaster zone? Or as an apocalyptic, a dystopian or a futuristic world maybe ruled by apes, zombies and warlords?

One of the greatest action movies is “Mad Max: Fury Road,” which I saw on an airplane a few years ago. The leading character and an ordinary person, Max, was captured by a fanatical desert army after an energy meltdown crisis to be used as a blood donor especially when the frenzied army went on a raid or a rampage. On one occasion, one of the leader's lieutenants, a lady warrior, helped the five wives to flee the leader in her semi-truck. The leader Joe and the raging maniacs in his army chased after the six ladies with guns blazing and music blaring with Max strapped to a car as blood supply to the wild young man Nux in hot pursuit.

A storm helped the ladies escape her pursuers, except Nux and Max, but the men’s car was destroyed and the ladies’ truck needed repair After the mayhem, including getting rid of Nux, the freed Max and the lady lieutenant Furiosa realized they have to team up to survive the desert, Joe and desert gangs. Meanwhile, the stranded young man Nux was picked up by Joe.

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