No Justice. No Joy. - As Seen on Sunday
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it.
Prone to leave the God that loves.
Take my heart, here, Lord. Seal it.
For your courts above.
One of the central themes of Lamentations is simply this: When you pursue that which is opposite of God you get what is opposite of God.
Don't be fooled by the simplicity. This is not a "duh!" moment. This is a cosmic truth that people either don't realize or flat out ignore, that is until it is too late.
Throughout the book of Lamentations, the people cry out because their circumstances are approaching unbearable levels. When we get to the final lament - chapter 5 - they are lamenting for themselves.
The fifth poem begins, "Remember us." Up until this point, the lament has been descriptive of a situation. It was the assumed position of the people that they were experiencing the hardships that were being described. They cried out about what was happening around them.
Now, they are crying out what is happening to them.
The fifth lament is massively personal and it reveals the true desire of the people.
Our True Desires
As I grow older I am realizing an important truth: you don't know what you really want until it is gone.
In a deep irony of human life, when our desires are being fulfilled we barely notice them or pay any attention to it. Instead, we simply look around to fill small gaps in our lives that we artificially inflate to make them seem more important than they really are.
If you have ever lamented the need for wi-fi while enjoying your favorite meal, in a climate controlled setting, with your closest friends, at an awards dinner which proclaims you as the most actualized human being to step foot on the planet then you will understand my point.
We can have our hierarchy of needs filled and we still want more The insignificant things we don't have makes us lose sight of the significant things that we have.
Why is this?
We are created as desiring creatures.
Made to love. Made to want. Made to desire...something.
The trouble is we are usually unsure of what it is that we desire. So we search for anything that gives us a clue, a hint, a feeling of fulfillment. Usually, we are left disappointed and thus begin our search again.
But then tragedy strikes and the very definition of our search changes.
Justice and Joy
Our #VOTW gives us some clues to basic human longings - desires that are revealed after they are taken away.
When Jeremiah says that the "Elders have left the gate and the young men have quit dancing" he is saying that justice and joy no longer existed in the city of Jerusalem.
The Elders at the gate were the symbol of the law. They were the authority and the gates were a part town hall and a part courthouse. The elders were the judges who decided the cases and confirmed the legal transactions.
Their absence symbolized an absence of justice.
The Young men were the partiers. They symbolized joy. They sang and produced music and gave off that feel-good vibe. It was the present exuberance of youth that can lift up the dreariest soul from despair.
And it was all gone.
A Terrible Trade
The funny thing is...obeying God brings both justice and joy. Psalm 16:11 says it like this:
Fullness of joy! Pleasures forevermore! Let the young men dance at the city gates!
And what of justice? Well, what do you think the "right hand" alludes to?
The right hand in the Bible is the hand of authority. What the Psalmist is saying is that under the authority of God there is fullness of joy. Because God is righteous and just then we can find rest and pleasure as we seek and serve him.
And the Israelites had this! This was the covenant agreement between the two parties! You do what I say and I will do what I say. You will be my people and I will be your God.
Being God's people was alway meant to lead to justice and joy.
But the Israelite - like us - are terrible general managers. We make terrible trades.
We trade the fleeting experience of partial pleasure that comes with pursuing the opposite of God and then we get shocked when we end up with the opposite of God.
This repeated and drawn out experience led the people of Jerusalem to lament their newly realized situation. They had pursued a life without God - the source of joy and justice and now they lament that they have no joy or justice.
Going back to where you belong
The entire book of Lamentations is the story of trying to get back home - where you belong. It is the realization that you made some bad deals, looked for a way to cheat, served only your own interest, and found out that you've been walking down a dead end street the whole time.
You swore you knew what you were doing, but you were wrong. And it is the worst king of wrong. It is that hopelessly wrong. You invested so much in thinking you were right, only to find out you were so, so wrong.
And when an entire community faces the reality of their wrongness it can get really terrible and even border insanely scary.
But an entire community has a choice - continue on under the delusions of their search or turn back to God and ask for help.
Just as Jeremiah pleaded with the people to turn back and head home, he calls out to us to do the same thing. Turn back.
The EC Challenge
Can you name what it is you are searching for? Is it opposite of God?
Are you doing your own thing? What do you hope to accomplish? Is it what God wants, or what you want?
We provide a recap of the Sunday sermon to encourage you in the faith each week but it's not the same thing as being here.