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Chinese10/2/2006English
經文:耶利米哀歌第三、四、五章
鑰節:「耶和華諸般的慈愛;是因祂的憐憫不致斷絕,每早晨都是新的,您的誠實極其廣大。」(3:22~23)
提要

        第三首詩(章)是全詩的高潮。耶利米說明了他的身心靈所受的苦,不過他仍願與人民同受災難。當上帝的烈怒傾注下來時,所有無罪的人都要和有罪的人同受苦。只是他仍知道,在審判臨到時,上帝會以憐憫為念,就如祂仍保守那些餘民(3:31~32)。

        他更知道,這些苦難是為了試驗義人的信心,耶利米所受的苦不僅止於饑饉,還有全國的羞辱、譏笑與迫害。在那個時代中,沒有人所受的苦超過他,耶穌也是如此(3:1、14、61~63)。所不同的是,這些問題曾造成耶利米短暫的懷疑:上帝是否照著祂的應許加給他力量並拯救他?(3:18;耶1:19)至終,他還是了解到上帝對義人的慈愛和憐憫,在每早晨都是新的(3:23)。他更了解到每一天當他醒來時,他一息尚存,就是上帝慈愛的保守。因為他的周圍有許多人,因著惡劣的生存條件,而在垂死的掙扎中。每一口氣的存留,都是出於上帝的信實和恩賜。耶利米雖然貧困,卻仍有上帝作他的分(3:24)。上帝是信祂之人全然充足的供應。

        雖然他的禱告似乎不得上達(3:8),耶利米仍堅信上帝沒有丟棄他。為此,他在描述他的災難時,仍帶著令人驚訝的大信心宣告說:「我有指望!」(3:21、24)因為他信靠上帝,上帝就在他陷於泥沼中垂死之時(耶38:6~13),安慰他說:「不要怕!」而且救了他的性命。

        耶利米堅稱,沒有一件事是意外地臨到上帝的百姓,上帝會保護義人的腳步。因此,他們應謙卑安靜地順服於上帝的旨意。這可以幫助他們忍受責罰或艱苦,這對年輕人而言,勿寧更是一種益處。因為人在幼年負軛,可以幫助他一生都願順服於上帝的旨意和權威中。責罰常有助於靈性的成長,正像耶利米所勸諫的,在艱苦中要忍耐,不要抱怨,要等候上帝,不要失去指望(3:26、28、39)。雖然上帝的道路常常難懂,但不要懷疑其至終的目的都將有益於義人的。耶利米很清楚知道上帝不甘心使人受苦、使人憂愁,但祂也不喜歡欺壓、屈枉人及顛倒是非的事(3:31~36)。

        在論述過上帝的善良和慈愛,耶利米再勸誡那些背叛而受苦的百姓,從心裡去認罪悔改,以尋求上帝的原諒和拯救(3:40~42)。多年來,他就是在宣講這樣的信息,但無人理會,正如第四章所說的。所以上帝才向他們傾倒烈怒(4:11),耶利米正是這事的證人。結果美麗的聖殿,變成了令人厭惡散亂的石堆(4:1)。慈祥的母親,變成吃人肉的野人(4:3~4、10)。過去那些曾是傑出的、有地位的、乾淨的、健康的、富有的人物,如今全落入軟弱的、骯髒的、褻瀆的、或被迫在垃圾堆中找食物的光景。

        耶利以認為,這些殘暴之事之所以發生是因為:那些先知和祭司流無辜之人的血,甚至欲以此對待耶利米(4:13;耶26:20~24)。也因為他們不願信靠上帝(4:17),卻寄望埃及來拯救他們。那些假先知更誤導百姓可以在猶大王西底家的手下安享太平。結果,這個王不但無力給人們任何盼望,反倒自乙也被敵人俘擄而去(4:20)。

        最後一章,是那些悔改者的禱詞,因他們終於知道上帝是他們唯一的盼望和幫助。當他們因戰後的劫掠而大受苦害,才呼求上帝記念他們的苦境。他們認自己的罪,也認殃及他們的先人之罪(5:7、16)。因為,像錫安山這個大君王殿堂的所在,現在竟成了野獸行走的荒涼土丘。這些懺悔者相信,即或聖殿被毀,並不減損上帝的主權。因他們相信,上帝必永遠掌權。這個信念帶給他們安慰與盼望:不改變的上帝,永遠愛著他們(5:19)。既然永生的上帝是不改變的,該變的就是他們在上帝面前的態度。但是他們自身無力去行,只得求上帝把他們帶回到上帝自己的面前。只要他們帶著謙卑悔改的心去呼求上帝,上帝就會樂意差遣祂自己的靈去重建、更新他們的(5:21)。

禱告

        主啊,我帶著一顆謙卑的心,來向您悔改我生命中所犯的一切罪。求您今天重建我、更新我。使我成為您所要的樣式。奉主耶穌基督的名,阿們!

English

Scriptures:Read Lamentations 3, 4
Key Verse:"The Lord's mercies. ..[and] compassions.. .are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness."(Lamentations 3:22-23)
Overview

        The third poem of Lamentations (chapter three) is the high point in the book. Jeremiah opened his heart to reveal the suffering of his body and soul and he identified himself with the plight of the people. When the Lord's wrath was poured out, everyone suffered — the innocent with the guilty. Yet, as Jeremiah came to understand, the Lord was still showing His mercy, even through these divine judgments, for He was preserving a remnant of His people (3:31-32).

        Jeremiah also understood that these trials served to test the faith of the righteous. Jeremiah was "the man" who suffered from more than the famine; he suffered great national contempt, scorn, ridicule, and persecution, possibly more than any other man of his day, just as did Jesus (3:1,14, 61-63). Unlike the Lord Jesus, however, his troubles caused him to have a momentary doubt about his strength and hope in the Lord, who had promised to strengthen and deliver him (3:18; Jer. 1:19). When Jeremiah cried out to God, he realized that the mercy and compassion of the Lord upon the righteous were "new every morning" (3:23). He realized that every morning when he awoke, still having breath, God was mercifully sustaining him, for all around him people were dying because of the severe conditions in Jerusalem. Indeed, great is the Lord's faithfulness to His own. Our every breath is a gift from God. Although Jeremiah was destitute and had nothing, he still had the Lord as his portion (3:24). The Lord is still the believer's all-sufficiency.

        Though it appeared that his prayers went unheard (3:8), Jeremiah firmly believed that God had not abandoned him. Therefore, with surprisingly great faith, in the midst of describing his distress, Jeremiah proclaimed: "I have hope" (3:21, 24). Since he trusted in the Lord, the Lord comforted him when he was near death in the muddy cistern (Jer. 38:6-13), saying, "Do not fear!"; then God intervened to deliver him.

        Jeremiah affirmed that nothing happens to God's people by accident. The Lord providentially orders the steps of the righteous. Therefore, they are to humbly, submissively, and quietly accept the will of God for their lives, which may entail the enduring of reproach and hardship — something Jeremiah claimed to be profitable, especially for the young person, since early discipline helps one to live all his life in submission to God's will and authority (3:27). Chastisement is often necessary for spiritual growth, and as Jeremiah exhorts, hardships are to be endured without complaining but in waiting on the Lord and never losing hope (3:26, 28, 39). Though it is often hard to understand the ways of God, we must not doubt His ultimate good intentions for the righteous, nor His compassion and mercy (3:25). Jeremiah made it clear that the Lord does not delight to bring pain and grief, nor does He approve of oppression, injustice, or subversion (3:31-36).

        After considering the goodness and mercy of God, Jeremiah exhorted the rebellious and suffering people to do some heart searching and sincerely repent of their sins, for only then would God pardon and deliver them (3:40-42). For many years Jeremiah preached this message, but as the poem in chapter four relates, it went unheeded. Therefore, the cup of God's fury was poured out upon them (4:11), and Jeremiah was a sorrowful eyewitness. Through using many different contrasts, he shows how that which was once lovely had become repulsive. The beautiful Temple was now nothing more than scattered stones (4:1). The once loving mothers had become cruel and cannibalistic — their minds being affected because of the severe famine (4:3-4, 10). Those who were once distinguished, established, clean, healthy, and wealthy were now weak, filthy, defiled, and forced to rumage through the garbage for food.

        Jeremiah gives the reasons for these atrocities: it was because of the sins of the prophets and priests who had shed innocent blood and attempted to do the same with Jeremiah (4:13; e.g. Jer. 26:20-24); it was also because of their vain hope for deliverance from Egypt rather than trusting in God (4:17). The false prophets had led the people of Jerusalem to wrongly believe that they would live in peace under Zedekiah, the one anointed king over Judah. Their king, however, could not give them any hope, for he too was caught by the enemy (4:20).

        The final poem in chapter five is a national prayer of the penitent who now realize that their only hope and help is in the Lord. The conquerors have cruelly subjected them. They suffer from all the horrible aftermaths of war and all joy has disappeared (5:15), for truly sin brings only sorrow. They call upon God to regard their desperate condition and their disgrace. They confess their sins, and the sins of their fathers which still affect them (5:7, 16). This sorrow culminates in the fact that the Holy Hill, where the beautiful and majestic Temple of the Lord once stood, is now a desolate heap where wild animals roam (5:18). The penitent rightly believe, however, that the destruction of God's House (often referred to as His throne) does not in any way lessen His sovereignty, for they confess that He eternally reigns; this gives them comfort and hope that the unchangable Lord still loves them (5:19). Since the eternal God does not change, they recognize that it is they who must change their position with God. Unable to do so on their own, they ask God to bring them back to Himself. The Lord is pleased to send His Holy Spirit to restore and renew those who sincerely call upon Him with humble and repentant hearts (5:21).

Prayer

        Oh Lord, we approach You with a humble heart and repent of any sin in our lives. Restore and renew us today, that we might be the kind of people You desire us to be.


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