Sermon #1153 Miscellaneous Sermons
Title: God’s Strange Work Explained
Text: Lamentations 3:32
Reading: Lamentations 3:1-32
Subject: Grief, Compassion, and Mercy from God
Date: Sunday Morning – July 24, 1994
Tape # Q-29
Salvation is obtained by simple, childlike faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. But that faith that does not arise from a felt need of Christ and is not accompanied by a genuine conviction of sin is not true faith.
· No Conviction – No conversion
· No misery – No mercy
· No grief – No grace
The title of my message is God’s Strange Work Explained. My text is Lamentations 3:32 – “But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies.”
All who know the Lord God in the experience of his saving operations of grace freely acknowledge and frankly confess that God is strictly righteous in the exercise of his grace and truly gracious in his righteous judgments. These are the things that Jeremiah learned by deep, painful experience and recorded in this third chapter of Lamentations for our learning and comfort. But I want us to focus our attention on verse 32. In this verse the Holy Spirit calls our attention to three things by the pen of his prophet.
· God’s strange doing – “But though he cause grief.”
· God’s sweet delight – “Yet will he have compassion.”
· God’s sovereign design – “According to the multitude of his mercies.”
Before God shows mercy he causes grief; and both works of grace, the grief and the mercy that follows, are according to God’s sovereign, eternal purpose.
I. First, Jeremiah mentions God’s Strange Doing – “But though he cause grief.”
He acknowledged the fact that the Lord our God is the first cause of all things. He performs all things for his people. He works all things together for good to his elect. The doctrine of God’s universal providence is not some secret doctrine hidden in the obscure pages of one of the minor prophets. It is rather a doctrine taught and illustrated throughout the Bible. It is obvious in the history of every child of grace and the confession of every sinner who is taught of God.
A. When you read this third chapter of Lamentations, you understand that Jeremiah was a man who had experienced terrible grief in his soul; but, being a man of God-given faith, he understood and acknowledged that the cause of all his grief was the Lord his God – “Though he cause grief.”
The prophet of God acknowledged God in all his ways, and owned him as the origin of all things. Twenty-two times, referring to his woes in verses 1-17, he said, “God did it!”
· When he was afflicted, he said it was by the rod of God’s wrath (v. 1).
· When his soul was brought into bondage, he said God had hedged him about and put a chain upon him (v. 7).
· When his soul was bought into bondage, he said God had hedged him about and put a chain upon him (v. 7).
· When he was overwhelmed with grief, he said, He “hath pulled me in pieces” (vv. 8-19).
· When he was, by these things brought to utter hopelessness in himself, he found hope in the Lord God (vv. 21-31).
Oh, blessed, blessed, blessed one those sinners who have been brought down to utter hopelessness in themselves that they might find hope in the Lord God!
a. The basis of hope is the Lord God himself (vv. 21-25).
(1.) His abundant mercies!
(2.) His unfailing compassions!
(3.) His great faithfulness!
(4.) His infinite fullness (v. 24).
(5.) His saving goodness!
b. The only thing an utterly helpless, hopeless sinner can do for God’s salvation is wait (v. 26).
c. The place where a sinner ought to wait and must wait for God’s salvation is in the dust of repentance before the throne of grace (vv. 27-31). You must…
(1.) Bear the yoke of guilt – Conviction (v. 27).
(2.) Personally do business wit the Almighty (v. 28).
(3.) Make your headquarters in the dust (v. 29) – Repentance.
(4.) Justify God in your own condemnation (v. 30).
(5.) Look to God in Christ for mercy (v. 31) – The Publican!
B. This is what Jeremiah is teaching us. I cannot explain it to folks who have not experienced it. But this is the experience of every heaven born soul. There is a felt darkness and confusion in the soul when God convinces a sinner of his personal vileness and hell worthiness.
This is the grief Jeremiah is talking about. It is a spiritual grief caused in the soul by God.
1. We recognize that every event of providence that brings grief is God’s work.
a. He brings the cloud over the earth as well as the sunshine (Gen. 9:14). If there were no clouds, you would never see a rainbow!
b. He makes peace and creates evil in the earth (Isa. 45:7).
2. But the eye of faith also sees that spiritual grief and sorrow are the works of God’s hands.
God’s holy displeasure with sin is seen everywhere. It must be experienced and acknowledged.
a. When Adam sinned in the garden, God made him feel his hot displeasure (Gen. 3:17-19).
b. When God gave his law at Sinai, the thunder and the darkness, and the trembling made known his displeasure with sin in a way that Israel felt it and heard it.
c. And when God comes to a sinner in saving operations of grace, the very first thing he does is make that sinner to know his displeasure. God will never give grace where he does not cause grief (John 16:8-12).
“When sin is not felt and hated, salvation will never be enjoyed. Where wrath has not been dreaded, love will not be experienced. The heart that is a stranger to misery must be a foreigner to mercy.” (Thomas Bradbury).
“when God deals with a sinner in mercy, he takes him to hell first.” (Harry Graham).
C. This is God’s strange doing, his strange work. He causes grief so that he may bestow grace!
He created “the waster to destroy” (Isa. 54:16) all earthly, creature comfort, to bring us down to hell (Ps. 107), so that we might look to the crucified Christ and find all comfort for our souls in him alone.
Illustration: God’s dealings with Ephraim (Hos. 5:14 – 6:3).
Eliphaz to Job (Job 5:17-18).
It is my prayer that God will bring you to grieve over your sin. Those who are grieved by God, God alone can gladden. Do what it will, the world cannot comfort when God convicts. “Blessed are they that mourn.”
Illustration: My own experience.
II. That, I hope, will explain God’s strange doing. But I must move on. Secondly, Jeremiah speaks of God’s sweet delight – “Yet, will he have compassion!”
How sweet! How blessed! “Though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion! He who wounds us will heal us. God, who makes us to know and feel our ruin, will also make us to know his remedy for our ruin in Christ. “He will have compassion!”
A. What is compassion!
Compassion is co-passion. It is sympathy with the sufferings and sorrows of others. It is exhibited in making one’s self a companion with sufferers and mourners.
1. The unfailing compassions of the Triune God are made known to sinners in the gospel (Eph. 1:3-14).
a. The Father’s election!
b. The Son’s redemption!
c. The Spirit’s call!
When hell gaped for me as its coveted prey, when satan roared against my soul until my very heart quaked and trembled, God almighty, in sovereign grace interposed himself. He stepped in between my soul and hell. And, instead of pouring out upon me the wrath that I know I fully deserved, he showed me that he had spent his wrath against me upon his dear Son, and embraced me in the arms of his everlasting love! (Eph. 2:1-4).
2. Nothing moves God to compassion but his own purpose of grace and the sovereign inclination of his own love.
· Ps. 86:15
· Romans 9:11-18
B. The Lord God sends his messengers of compassion to sinners (2 Chron. 36:15).
· His Son to redeem (1 John 4:10).
· His servants to proclaim (Isa. 40:1-2).
· His Spirit to convince (John 16:8).
C. Who can read the biographies of the earthly life of the incarnate God, and doubt his compassion toward sinful men?
· The fainting souls (Matt. 9:35-36).
· The hungry multitude (Matt. 15:32).
· The blind eyes of poor men (Matt. 20:34).
· The cry of a poor leper (Mk. 1:40-41).
· The widow of Nain (Lk. 13:15).
· The Good Samaritan (Lk. 10:30-35).
1. Our great God is full of compassion toward his sinning people (Ps. 78:38).
2. Our great Savior is a compassionate High Priest (Heb. 5:2).
3. The Holy Spirit of grace is a Spirit of compassion (Eph. 4:30 – “Grieve” requires compassion.).
III. Thirdly, Jeremiah speaks of God’s sovereign design.
He causes grief that he might have compassion “according to the multitude of his mercies.” Did you ever notice how those words “according to” are used in the Scriptures to explain God’s works of grace for and in his people?
· Predestination (Eph. 1:11).
· Spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3-4).
· Redemption and forgiveness (Eph. 1:6-7).
· Supplied needs (Phil. 4:19).
· Grace to help (Eph. 4:7).
· Divine providence (Rom. 8:28).
Everything God does or allows to be done is by design. He says, “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isa. 46:10). He purposes! He performs! He perfects! Hell itself and all its influences do no more than serve his purpose!
Great is the mystery, truly great
That hell’s designs should hell defeat.
But here eternal wisdom shines,
For Satan works what God designs!
That misery of sin that God brings by conviction is the forerunner of mercy, which God purposed to perform in eternity. Felt misery for sins we have committed is a hopeful sign that the mercy is near which God predestinated!
Let me wrap this message up by telling you about God’s mercy.
A. Lot called it magnified mercy (Gen. 19:19).
B. Nehemiah called it “Manifold mercies” (Neh. 9:27) - Mercy for sinners of every kind and clime.
B. Jeremiah here calls it multitudinous mercy. What a revenue of mercy there is in God! He is “rich in mercy” (Eph. 2:4). “He delighteth in mercy” (Mic. 7:18). God’s multiplied mercies remove our multiplied miseries.
· Eternal mercy!
· Sure mercy!
· Forgiving mercy (Ps. 51)!
· Daily mercy!
Application: Isaiah 55:7 – Illustration: The hankerchief