Audio for this sermon from February 19, 2006 is available here.

The LORD Is My Portion

Lamentations 3:22-24

Have you ever noticed when you meet someone new and you have time to talk and get to know each other a bit you both ask similar questions like, “Where ‘you from? Where were you born? What do you do? How’s that going? Where do you live now? What do you think about this or that?” We’re really asking about what we call our “lot in life.” Our “lot in life” is “where we are,” how things have “turned out,” “what we’re about,” “our space,” the net of our gains and losses.

Many things can shape our lot in life: our own efforts, the actions of others, accidents, and the providence of God. Most of us think we can approve our “lot in life.” Sometimes we have reversals. In the last 14 months, millions of people around the world have had their “lot in life” reversed. The words tsunami, Katrina, and earthquake, have different meanings now than they did 14 months ago. We all have our own loses. Some are small things like keys or spare change. Some are big things like a family member we love, a friend, a job, a home, an opportunity. Some losses we never recover from. We may feel alone. We judge our lot in life by our gains and losses. In the age of blame, it’s hardest to admit if it’s our own fault.

If you’ve suffered losses or seen your lot in life as dismal, you could probably identify with the man we’re about to meet. You’re travelling to Jerusalem in the 80’s. That’s the 580’s B.C. Israel is in a recession following a time much like our own with riches, materialism, and people forgetting God. You meet a man along the way, for the first time, and you say “Hi,” or more likely “Shalom.” You ask, “What’s Your name?” “My name’s Jeremiah,” he says. You ask, “Where ‘you from?” “I’m from Anathoth in Benjamin just north of Jerusalem.” “Where do you live now?” Well my people are priests. We don’t get land; I’ve moved around, spent quite a bit of time in Jerusalem.” “How many kids do you have?” “Well, none, I’m not married. The Lord wouldn’t let me get married.”

You ask him, “What do you do for work then?” “Well, I’m a prophet, I speak for God.” “Interesting!” “He called me when I was young; I’ve been at it 40 years, a few to go.” “How’s it going?” “Well, not too well, people aren’t listening. People laugh at me. Some others went back to Egypt despite that the Lord told them not to. King Jehoiakim cut up my work, I had to redo it. I got thrown into a cistern and sank in the mud. Sometimes I’ve had nothing but bread to eat. On top of it all God’s hurled my people out of Jerusalem to exile in Babylon. He says it’s their own fault: “‘Then you are to say to them, 'It is because your forefathers have forsaken Me,' declares the LORD, 'and have followed other gods and served them and bowed down to them; but Me they have forsaken and have not kept My law. 'You too have done evil, even more than your forefathers; for behold, you are each one walking according to the stubbornness of his own evil heart, without listening to Me’” (Jeremiah 16:12-13).

“Look at this city: ‘Nebuzaradan….burned the house of the LORD, the king's house and all the houses of Jerusalem; even every large house he burned with fire….all the army of the Chaldeans who were with the captain of the guard broke down all the walls around Jerusalem’ (Jeremiah 52:13-14) and carried off my people. My Israel lost her homes (personal life), the house of the king (government), land (work, future/inheritance), and her temple (religion).

“Look at Jerusalem lying in ruins, smoke rising. Listen to this. I’ve been working on writing this lament, this dirge or ode to express how I feel about my city in ruins. What do you think of it?

How lonely sits the city
That was full of people!
She has become like a widow
Who was once great among the nations!
She who was a princess among the provinces
Has become a forced laborer!
She weeps bitterly in the night
And her tears are on her cheeks; She has none to comfort her. (Lamentations 1:1-2a)

Elders are gone from the gate,
Young men from their music.
The joy of our hearts has ceased;
Our dancing has been turned into mourning.
The crown has fallen from our head;
Woe to us, for we have sinned!
Because of this our heart is faint,
Because of these things our eyes are dim;
Because of Mount Zion which lies desolate,
Foxes prowl in it. (Lamentations 5:14-18).
About 600 years later Jesus overlooked the same city in spiritual ruins and wept: “And when He drew near, He saw the city and wept... He saw the city and wept over it...” (Luke 19:41). Jesus wept over Jerusalem. Sometimes, our lives may feel like a city in ruins.

This is how many families from New Orleans must feel. New Orleans is the image of a city in ruins that we’ve seen. One TV program told the story of a family had to escape from their home never to see it again. A TV crew took photographs of their former life ruins. They lost their home, neighborhood, work and friends. They could not go back to their house, everything was ruined.

We might ask who’s to blame. The insurance people might say it was an “act of God?” Aren’t sunny days an act of God too? Some say God’s punishing the States and the city for their immorality. Some say GOD is angry over lack of support for Israel. We can’t speak for God on this. But if it is partly our fault it’s hard to admit. Some facts point to the extent of losses as partly our fault. For the first time the National Hurricane Centre admits global warming made last year’s hurricanes more violent. The mayor of New Orleans and a professor developed a hurricane simulation that predicted exactly what would happen, the approximate number dead and warned that repairs to the levees were about 20 years overdue.

Sometimes we take part of blame for losses. This is hard. Jesus knows how we feel. He saw Jerusalem in spiritual ruin like Jeremiah, he wept over the city.

As Jeremiah wept over the city He prays for God to remember Him (3:19) and God does

And Jeremiah remembers God’s goodness. Against Jeremiah’s losses and discouraging lot in life on earth. Against Israel’s willful disobedience and decline. There’s a word from the LORD. God breaks through the gloom and shows His gracious love to Jeremiah. God shows Jeremiah what He is like. So Jeremiah remembers and writes these beautiful words in the middle of his lament:

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, His mercies never come to an end.

They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
"The LORD is my portion," says my soul,
"Therefore I have hope in Him." (Lamentations 3:22-24)
Let me rephrase these awesome words:
    The steadfast love of YHWH, the lovingkindnesses of Jehovah (the eternally existing One)
        is never finished, exhausted or spent!!!
    His compassions, His mercies are not finished, exhausted, or spent !!! (even sun will burn out)
    They are new (renewed, made new) in the mornings, every morning
    Great (is) Your faithfulness, Your trust, Your firmness, Your steadfastness
    My lot, my share, my territory, my portion, my land (is) YHWH (the eternally existing One)
        my soul says
    Therefore, I wait, I hope in Him, I’m connected to Him

God says to Jeremiah, your lot in life’s not about your job, your family, your money, your thoughts that are your lot in life. It’s Me, I’m your lot in life... Jeremiah’s soul perceives this and says our real lot in life is spiritual. OUR REAL LOT IN LIFE IS THE LORD. Life not about possessing but being possessed by the LORD. Like God said to the priests in Numbers 18:20 “You shall have no inheritance in the land, nor own any portion among them, I am your portion and your inheritance among the sons of Israel.” Jesus had no where to lay His head. God was His portion, His place to rest. He is ours.

GOD acts to show His character to Jeremiah. There is a thread of hope running through Jeremiah’s Book and Lament. God promises to bring His people back and rebuild their city. God does rebuild Jerusalem over the next 600 years. It takes time and a lot of people but the temple is as beautiful as ever when Jesus comes.

God is acting today to bring us back from exile to Himself, to rebuild our lives, to be our lot in life. He’s working through people. He’s working through His people to rebuild lives. The family I mentioned from New Orleans was helped, given a new life, a home and work in another city. God sent people to rebuild Jerusalem. He is sending people to help rebuild lives today.

Jeremiah writes in the remainder of Lamentations 3 about how God is acting to teach us, to challenge us, to prepare us for good, to give us courage to join God in His purpose of redemption, to take Him as our lot and reward.

God is working today most strongly through the gospel, the good news of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection for our sins. Jesus overlooked the city in spiritual ruins, “And when He drew near, He saw the city and wept...He saw the city and wept over it...” (Luke 19:41). Jesus wept over Jerusalem but He didn’t walk away. He walked into a ruined city and died for the sins of all people, to buy them back to God, their true lot in life. Jesus rebuilds ruined lives, “Ruined lives are why He died on Calvary.”

As Jesus predicted, Jerusalem was destroyed again in A.D. 70 but God promised He will be build the New Heaven and Earth and the New Jerusalem. God is building a New City of God, the New Jerusalem where the Lord the Father, Jesus, and Spirit are our portion forever.

When the LORD is your portion, if we fail the Lord, He is there to forgive, and rebuild our lives. When The LORD is your portion, you need not seek approval of others, His approval is what matters. When the LORD is your portion, you can forgive and seek forgiveness, you are secure, guaranteed a future eternal home. You can face disappointment in sharing the gospel. You can face disappointments in God’s people, like Jeremiah did. You will receive the reward, your share of eternal life. When the LORD is your portion, you may go to sleep exhausted but HIS love, His mercies are NEW the next morning. He has an endless supply. Every morning, Every Day! The Lord is your lot in life! When the LORD is your portion, you have hope in Him!

Please rise and join me in ending this message by singing these awesome words from song number 123:

“The Steadfast Love of the LORD”
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases,
His mercies never come to an end.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
The LORD is my portion, says my soul
Therefore I have hope in Him.
Jesus wept over city, then walked into the city & died for you. That is how much He wants to be your lot in life. Jesus came to reclaim and rebuild your life. “Ruined lives are why He died on Calvary.” Jesus rebuilds ruined lives. The LORD meets us at our lowest points. When we feel like nothing, He is our everything. He wants to possess you and be your lot in life. Jeremiah said,
“The LORD is good to those who wait for Him,
To the person who seeks Him.” (Lamentations 3:25)
If you want to trust Jesus with your life. If you want to make Jesus your Lord, your portion in life, come forward now as we sing, confess your faith in Him, repent of the sins He died to forgive and be immersed into Him.

Paul Birston

February 2006©

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