Monday, 19 November 2018

This Bible exposition was delivered by Rev. Dr. Gordon Wong, on 19-10-'05, at the Trinity Theological College, Singapore. Rev. Dr. Gordon W, was graduated from Cambridge University (Ph.D), and is now lecturing at TTC.

Thanks for his kindness that his sermon is available in this website.-

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When God Seems like the Enemy

(Rev. Dr. Gordong Wong)
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Lamentations 2

Soon after I got to heaven, angel Gabriel pulled me aside.

Do you regret the things you wrote?

“What things?”

You know, your poem in Lamentations 2.

“Oh, that.”

You said a few shocking things, didn’t you?

“Did I - like what?”

Like verse 2! You said the Lord showed no pity when Jerusalem was destroyed.

“Yes, I remember.”

You said it again in verse 17. “The Lord has overthrown you without pity. He has let the enemy gloat over you.”

“Well, it sure felt like that. The suffering was relentless.”

Yes, but don’t you think the sins of your nation were also relentless?

“Sins? Sure, I know we had sinned and God had every right to be angry with us.”

So how could you say that God was like an Enemy? You said it twice. In verse 4, God was like an enemy and a foe. In verse 5, you even describe God like a monster that opened its mouth and swallowed up Israel!”

“Yes, that was quite graphic, wasn’t it?”

But God was punishing Jerusalem for her sins.

“I know. In verse 14, I rebuked our useless prophets. They should have exposed our sins more clearly.”

Precisely. Let all would be pastors and prophets from TTC take heed!

So do you regret the things you said?

Why should I?

Because God was not acting like an Enemy. He was a Judge, punishing Jerusalem’s sins.

I know that.

So why did you say he was like an Enemy?

Because the punishment seemed too severe.

In what way?

The children, Gabriel, the children. Read verses 11-12. Can’t you feel the anguish? “My eyes sore from crying. My heart broken to see babies dying. Children crying for food, but there was none to give. Children lying in their mothers’ arms, slowly dying.” The punishment was too cruel. God seemed to show no pity. He was like a monstrous enemy, killing thousands, young and old. How could he allow that, Gabriel?

You know the answer. Our sins affect each other. An arrogant ruler declares an unnecessary war, and thousands of citizens suffer. A surgeon is irresponsible – and your wife dies on the operating table. A drunk driver sins - an innocent child in the back seat dies. Jerusalem society sinned – every one suffers. You know this. It’s the simple logic of life.

Yes, but why? And when one cries “Why?”, this is not a cry for a logical answer. It is an emotional cry. A cry of the heart. Just like Jesus.

Like Jesus? What do you mean?

Jesus cried, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus knew the answer. His mind knew the reason for his suffering. But his heart was breaking, and it needed to cry.

I see.

Gabriel, I wish others would see. Most people don’t. Most people forget how to cry. Very quickly, children are taught, “Don’t cry.” When an adult cries in public, we feel embarrassed for him!

Why?

Because our society equates crying with weakness. We are taught to smile, but not to cry.

Gabriel. Do angels watch movies?

Sure. Touched by an Angel is my favourite.

Do angels ever cry?

Sometimes. How about you?

I do. But when I do, I try not to let my friends see.

Why?

Because my friends will make fun of me if they see me crying.

So what do you do?

I develop a few tear-wiping skills.

Like what?

Like pretending to scratch my face with one hand, and then secretly using the other hand to wipe away the tears. Or you cup your face in one hand to hide your eyes. Then you slowly bring up the other hand to wipe away the tears. And if she suspects you are crying, you say, “Nonsense! I’m just concentrating. You mean you are crying?” The best defense is to attack!

How funny!

No, Gabriel. Not funny at all. How tragic! We learn to be embarrassed by tears. We learn to suppress our grief.

Is that so bad?

Yes, it is. Look down to earth. Do you see Mary there in Singapore? Mary’s 13 year old daughter died during a school outing.

How sad!

That was three years ago. Gabriel, can you look into Mary’s heart right now? What do you see?

I see sadness and grief. I see tears and longing.

Yes. She still cries. She still hurts. She still misses her beloved child.

Of course. Who wouldn’t?

Well, apparently, some of her friends don’t! Listen to what Mary told her pastor. “No one understands me. My friends want me to smile more. But why must I? Since her death, I have never really smiled again. I smile politely when I have to. But my heart still hurts deeply. Sometimes I see a school girl on the street, and I think of my little girl. My eyes start to cry. I avoid going out with my friends these days. They are embarrassed when I start crying. Instead of letting me cry on their shoulders, they want me to control my tears. They tell me I should have conquered this grief by now. I don’t want to conquer this grief. I do not want to suppress the deep longing I still feel for her. My grief will only end when we meet again in heaven. Only Jesus seems to understand my pain. He is the only one whom I can cry to freely every day. Only Jesus cries with me.”

That is sad.

Yes, it is sad that Mary cannot find friends who know how to cry with her. Her pain has not crippled her. She comes to church. She helps out in providing refreshments after the service. She attends church camps. Why can’t we let her cry? Her tears are tears of sadness and tears of love.

Gabriel, do angels read the Bible?

Uhh, not much! Why do you ask?

Well, do you know the book of Psalms?

Sure. It’s a collection of prayers and songs of worship.

Yes, and do you know what is the most common type of prayer or song?

The song of praise and thanksgiving?

No. The most common type of psalm is the Lament.

You mean, like your name, Mr Lamentations?

Yes. The book of Psalms shows us that worship is not just about praising God. Worship involves expressing grief and sadness.

Well, we don’t hear too many songs of lament in church worship today, do we?

No, we don’t. We teach Christians to praise, but not to cry. We think worship means praise and not lament. Our limited view of worship is all joy and no sadness. No wonder Mary can’t find church friends to cry with her.

Can’t we do something about it?

I tried.

What did you do?

I wrote a book of Laments!

Oh yes, that’s right. Maybe Lamentations 2 will help people learn how to cry.

I certainly hope so. See what I said in verse 18.

“Let your tears flow like a river day and night; give yourself no relief, your eyes no rest.”

Verse 19 too. “Arise, cry out. … Pour out your heart … in the presence of the Lord. Lift up your hands to him for the lives of your children who faint from hunger … on every street.”

So I guess that answers my question.

What question?

Do you regret the things you wrote?

Not at all. But I have one regret.

What’s that?

I regret not being able to do what King David did.

What did he do?

Look at 2 Samuel chapter 1. Verses 17 and 18.

What does it say?

It says that David ordered the people to be taught a lament. I wish we could do that. Teach people to lament.

Yes. Learn to lament.

Gabriel, do you see? It’s not just Mary. There are plenty of people still crying.

I wonder who on earth will see. I wonder who on earth will cry with them. I wonder who on earth will learn to lament.