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It is Finished.

~ Lamentations 4
April 2, 2017 ~ New City Church of Calgary ~ Pastor John Ferguson

Intro: Flannery OConnor was asked if she could summarize the meaning of one of her short stories in a
nutshell. Answer: If I could put its meaning into a nutshell, I would not have needed to write a story.

I thought about that quote this week as I was studying our text of Lamentations which contains more accounts
of the misery of human suffering that resulted from the fall of Jerusalem in 587/6BC. The Book of Lamentations
is, of course, a book of wailings (the title in Hebrew) written in the wake of the destruction of Jerusalem in
587/6BC by the Babylonians, and Lam 4 has the feel of a funeral dirge.

Jeremiah has pointed our gaze in the direction of the suffering city as she cries out, Look and see if there is
any sorrow like my sorrow. And in a sense, he says, If I could have left out ch. 4, I would have. But to
understand the depths of sorrow, I needed to right more.

Its as if we take another uncomfortable gaze at the sorrow of Jerusalem and agree with her that there is not
any sorrow like hers. It prepares us for chapter 5 which is one long prayera final lament directed to God.

It is Finished. ~ Lamentations 4

1 How the gold has grown dim, how the pure gold is changed! The holy stones lie scattered at the head
of every street. 2 The precious sons of Zion, worth their weight in fine gold, how they are regarded as
earthen pots, the work of a potters hands!

1. The most valuable commodity of gold has now lost its lustre, as it has become worthless. The stones of the
temple now lie scattered. The destruction of Jerusalem and its temple has become a metaphor for its
people.

2. The prophecy of Jeremiah 19:10 has come true: Then you shall break the flask in the sight of the men who
go with you, and shall say to them, Thus says the Lord of hosts: So shall I break this people and this city,
as one breaks a potters vessel, so that it can never be mended.

5 Those who once feasted on delicacies perish in the streets; those who were brought up in purple
embrace ash heaps.

1. A great reversal has taken place: the wealthy who oppressed the poor have been brought low

2. Cf. Jer. 5:28; 6:6, They know no bounds in deeds of evil; they judge not with justice the cause of the
fatherless, to make it prosper, and they do not defend the rights of the needy. Shall not I punish the for
these things? declares the Lord. This is the city that must be punished; there is nothing but oppression
within her.

7 Her princes were purer than snow, whiter than milk; their bodies were more ruddy than coral, the
beauty of their form was like sapphire. 8 Now their face is blacker than soot; they are not recognized
in the streets; their skin has shrivelled on their bones; it has become as dry as wood.

1. No one escaped the devastating effects of the long siege warfare and overthrow of Jerusalem. Even the
healthiest among them have become nothing but skin and bones.

2. Its one thing to look at self-centred, evil people, and say with some degree of satisfaction, They got what
was coming to them. But what about the effects on the ones we consider most innocent: children?

3 Even jackals offer the breast; they nurse their young, but the daughter of my people has become
cruel, like the ostriches in the wilderness. 4 The tongue of the nursing infant sticks to the roof of its
mouth for thirst, the children beg for food, but no one gives to them. 9 Happier were the victims of
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the sword than the victims of hunger, who wasted away, pierced by lack of the fruits of the field. 10 The
hands of compassionate women have boiled their own children; they became food during the destruc-
tion of the daughter of my people.

1. This is almost too much to contemplate, but the Poet directs our gaze at the unspeakable horror of human
sin and selfishness: adults not only ignore the suffering of children in their midst, but even compassionate
women ate the fruit of their womb.

Remember, life had become so cheapened by self-centred interests that the adults of Jerusalem didnt
think twice about offering their children as human sacrifices in tribute to the gods of the surrounding
cultures to gain favours (cf. Jer. 19:4-5).

2. That such a thing would be done among my people. My people who are called by My name (2 Chron 7:14;
Jer. 2:11-13, 32)!

C. Wright 137, God cannot look on the suffering of his own people, even under judgment, with out the
pangs of covenant memory: these wretched, scavenging, starving, dehumanized living deadthese are
my people. The Poets emotions are Gods too, just as the prophets tears flow from Gods heart, just as
the Messiahs tears would flow for the suffering of Jerusalem in a later century.

6 the chastisement of the daughter of my people has been greater than the punishment of Sodom,
which was overthrown in a moment, and no hands were wrung for her. 11 The Lord gave full vent to
his wrath; he poured out his hot anger, and he kindled a fire in Zion that consumed its foundations. 12
The kings of the earth did not believe, nor any of the inhabitants of the world, that foe or enemy could
enter the gates of Jerusalem. 13 This was for the sins of her prophets, who shed in the midst of her the
blood of the righteous. 14They wandered, blind, through the streets, they were so defiled with blood
that no one was able to touch their garments.

1. The Poet compares Jerusalem to Sodom, that ancient city known for its perversion and the oppression of
the poor and needy (cg. Gen. 19; Eze. 16:49-50).

2. Jeremiah 23:14, in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery and
walk in lies; they strengthen the hands of the evildoers, so that no one turns from his evil; all of them have
become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah. for from the prophets of Jerusalem
ungodliness has gone out into the land.

17 Our eyes failed, ever watching vainly for help; in our watching we watched for a nation which could
not save.

1. This almost certainly refers to Egypt. Israel had sought Egypts help previously in a battle against Assyria,
and now Jerusalem looked once again to Egypt (!) for deliverance, but it didnt come.

Jer. 17:13, O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you shall be put to shame.

2. God alone was their source of salvation, not Egypt, not any other nation. But they had already turned from
the Lord, paid homage to the gods of the nations around them, looked to these gods and these nations to
save them, and now they are forsaken by them.

18 They dogged our steps so that we could not walk in our streets; our end drew near; our days were
numbered, for our end had come.

1. It is finished The city has died. She is utterly forsaken by her political alliances and pantheon of gods
she worshipped, and having forsaken the true and living God, she is now also God-forsaken.

2. For all of us, our end will eventually draw near; our days are numbered and our end will come.

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Heb. 9:27, For it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.

If there is any good news found in Lam 4, it is found in the last verse of the chapter.

22 The punishment of your iniquity, O daughter of Zion, is accomplished [lit. it is finished].

1. For Jerusalem the punishment of your iniquityis accomplished. It could easily be translated, It is
finished. Vs. 11, The Lord gave full vent to his wrath.

Adele Berlin, This is the most hopeful note in the entire book of Lamentations.

2. Really? If the note, It is finished is hopeful, its because hope can now be directed to the Lord, which is
how ch. 5 begins, with a prayer of hope to the Lord.

Lament can help us find our voice to express the reality of pain, evil, and suffering
in our world and in our lives.

Lets address two elephants in the room:

1. On the one hand is the question of the absence of divine justice.

(1) Objection: in a world filled with evil, suffering, and oppression, where is God? He must not exist.

CS Lewis, My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how
had I got this idea of just and unjust...? What was I comparing this universe with when I called it
unjust...Of course, I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private
idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed toofor the argument
depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happened to please
my private fancies...Consequently, atheism turns out to be too simple (Mere Christianity).

(2) If God exists, why doesnt he do something about evil? He has, he did, and he will.

2. On the other hand is the warning of presence of divine justice.

(1) Objection: I cant believe in a God who would judge!

Yes you do! When someone gets away with murder, what do you want? Justice! If you want justice
and you hate injustice, then why cant a perfectly holy being want that as well. If we vandalize Gods
creation with our selfishness, then why is it wrong for God to hold us accountable?

(2) Jerusalem in 586BC and AD70 forever stand as a warning to this world that the Day of the Lord is
coming.

The Good News of the Gospel is that Jesus endured the Day of the Lord on the Cross for all those
who trust in him. The Scriptures teach us that he stood condemned in the place of selfish people so
that the punishment of our sin wont come back upon our head.

When Jesus said, It is finished, we need to hear him saying that Gods justice was poured out upon
him; the Lord gave full vent to his wrath so that the punishment of our iniquity was accomplished.

Hebrews 9:26-28, He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the
sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so
Christ, having been offered to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time to save those who are
eagerly waiting for him.
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