This room is full of hopes: fans hoping for a championship season, all of us hoping for another beautiful summer. Hopes can be more personal, too—a businessman hoping he gets this next contract; a young employee hoping he won't be laid off; someone who's still looking for a job after months of unemployment; a new member hoping this church will work out; a person hoping someone will like them in that special way. For most people, the normal experience is of days crowded with hopes, which are either fulfilled or deferred, with little notice taken of us by most of the things we hope for.
Greater hopes tend to be for more lasting things. We as a nation simply declared our independence from the rule of the United Kingdom—no referendum needed—because of hope for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Larger, deeper hopes control smaller, more immediate ones. According to some, the basic hope of each person is for power. Others say sex. Many others contend that our most basic desire is for money.
But concerns with power and sex and money can fade when life itself is in question. Then the hope that eclipses all others is for health: for a good report from the doctor, for more time. We will go to extraordinary lengths to secure our life or the life of someone we love. We will travel to visit doctors. We will advocate research. We will give time to volunteer. We will lose our own financial security if it's a question of life itself. And when even that hope for a longer life in this world fades, hope for a right relationship with God—our Creator and Judge—overshadows all other hopes. Even when our finances are gone and our health is broken, we are still concerned to hope that when we walk in the way that all others before us have gone, through the valley of the shadow of death, our hope is that the Lord will be with us and will shepherd us through it. But what do you do when even that last and greatest hope seems in danger?
A reality of hopelessness
That's where we find ourselves in the Bible this morning. We are at the lowest point in the Old Testament history of Israel. In 586 B.C., Jerusalem had fallen after an almost two-year siege by the Babylonians, and the effects of the siege inside the city had been terrible. The despair after the city falls seems almost complete.
Let me remind you that this book was written by Jeremiah or someone very much like him: a lamenter who was in Jerusalem during the siege, and who obviously witnessed the fall in the days and weeks following. He suffered himself; he also saw the suffering of others, and he wrote these laments.
There are five chapters: each chapter is a separate poem, a separate lament. The first four are acrostics. They go through the Hebrew alphabet. That's why, in chapters one and two, you'll notice there are 22 verses because there are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet. Each verse starts with a different letter. He's been very artful in expressing his grief and has composed his thoughts very carefully. Chapter three is much longer because he had three verses beginning with "A," then three verses beginning with "B," and so on, to make that the most elaborate and draw attention to the center of the book. Now we have chapters four and five. Chapter four is an acrostic like chapters one and two. Chapter five, however, is not. Chapter five is different. It has 22 verses still, but the writer doesn't bother to make it an acrostic, and the verses are all shorter. It's as if he's tired in his grief.
(Read Lamentations 4:1-5:22)
So how were they hopeless? What hope did they have? And what about you: what hope do you have? I pray that through staring at these poems of sadness in the rubble of disappointment and defeat, God will show you an even more powerful hope—the hope you can have today in Christ.
First, we have to begin by acknowledging the overwhelming reality of these two chapters, as with the other three. The overwhelming reality is that Jeremiah, the lamenter, is representing the people—and perhaps himself—as feeling hopeless. That's what we've seen throughout these chapters—a near hopelessness.
Maybe you've come here today and you're getting to know this church, and you're feeling that the people in this church are entirely too fortunate, successful, and blessed to relate to you. Well, if that's the case, there are plenty of people in this book who can relate to you. The Bible is realistic about human life and human suffering and trials. There are people here who've recorded their understanding. Lamentations is sober, like the rest of the Bible, about human suffering.
In looking at these chapters more carefully, you see the stones of the temple and the sons of the people there in the first couple of verses of chapter four. Then, in verse two, they are scattered, each really scattered, and they each point to the scattering of the other. It's the completeness of Jerusalem's terrible fate—the buildings are gone, the people are gone. He begins the chapter with that same exclamatory word he's begun with in chapters one and two: "how." Chapter one was about the city; chapter two was about the Lord. Now, in chapter four, we get a kind of close-up of the death of the city and the nation as the Israelites are defeated and exiled.
That strange reference to ostriches in verse three—I think I can explain that to you. Ostriches were understood to be unnaturally cruel. They were understood to not care for their young, to abandon their young. That's the way Jeremiah or the lamenter is saying the people of Jerusalem have become: unnaturally cruel. It's not that these terrible trials created the cruelty so much as they revealed the cruelty that sin had created in the city. Sin is, by its very nature, selfish. That means that sin hardens the heart and tends to make people cruel.
Here in Jerusalem, we see the children were starving and the people were perishing in the streets through this lengthy time of the siege. In verse six, that's how the punishment of Sodom is seen as a lighter thing: because it was instantaneous, whereas this destruction of Jerusalem took a couple of years of siege, with the increasing stranglehold of starvation on the people as they experienced it. The slowness of starvation magnified its ugliness. That's why there's the observation here in verse nine that the victims of the sword are happier than the victims of hunger. That's why you have that unnatural cruelness that we read of in verse 10, cruelness from even compassionate women whom we've seen referred to back in chapter two, verse 20. Things had gotten that bad. Things had gotten so bad that dying seemed better than living. Jeremiah was living through days like that in Jerusalem.
You see, that's what makes this almost incomprehensible to the people of Judah and to Jeremiah, who's writing this. Jerusalem, which they had thought to be invincible, was now consumed by God's wrath. You look there in 4:11: "The Lord has given full vent to his wrath." That doesn't mean what they experienced was worse than hell; he wasn't making that kind of statement. He's saying that God had been merciful to Judah in the past. A century and a half earlier, the Assyrians had come that far and had even surrounded the city, but God had delivered Judah. Well, now it's not that they had been any more sinful than those people a century or two earlier, but it's simply that God had held back the fullness of his wrath for their sins, and now he has not held it back. Now, this time, he had allowed Jerusalem to be taken. Maybe they had gotten a false sense of security from that earlier deliverance, maybe because God had so remarkably delivered them.
Back in Isaiah 36-37, they began to be falsely confident that the Lord would never let the city be taken. In Lamentations 4:12, you see the gates as a focus of the concern. They were the strongest point of the defense of any ancient city; that's where the forces would be concentrated. Those gates had been lost, had been compromised, had been entered, as he says in verse 12. Look again at that verse: "The kings of the earth did not believe, / nor did any of the peoples of the world, / that enemies and foes could enter / the gates of Jerusalem." It makes sense because you've got the walls—nobody could get in the walls. It's the gates people will come in. That's why each of the gates were like a fortress. That's why the gates would be the most strongly defended point. So if you know that your city cannot be taken, you say its gates could never be entered.
By the way, just as a pastoral side note, that really throws some light on Jesus' statement to the disciples, doesn't it? That "the gates of Hades will not overcome [the church]" (Matt. 16:18)? When Peter understands that Jesus is the Messiah, that means the gospel advance will prevail even against the gates of hell. That means hell itself will be threatened and lost, and Satan's kingdom will be ruined by the advance of the gospel. That's a different and altogether more hopeful text.
'The Lord himself has scattered them'
Once the Babylonians had entered Jerusalem's gates, well, then all was lost. If you've taken the gates, you can take everything else. You've compromised the security.
How ironic that it was, at least in part, the sins of the priests that made the people unclean, and so unclean that God exiled them among the nations. He's undone the Exodus, in a way. You know, in the Exodus, he led them from the nations to the Promised Land, but now their sins have been so great that he sends them back out again. He undoes the Exodus.
In chapter four, verse 13, Jeremiah is clear that it's the sins of the priests. If you read the Book of Jeremiah, you see many sad examples of this. You can look at Jeremiah 26 to see when they tried to have him killed because of the message he had from the Lord. Throughout this period, wicked priests and false prophets opposed the Lord's true messengers.
Take a lesson from this: just because somebody is a religious leader doesn't mean they're good. We tend, in our innocence, to think of religious leaders as good, and to be a religious leader should be good—to lead someone to God, to lead them in the ways of God. But it wasn't the case in Jeremiah's day, and it's not the case in ours, is it? Praise the Lord for any godly leaders and truthful teachers he gives us. They are great gifts from him and should be recognized and received as such gifts. Read your Bible. Learn your Bible. That's how you protect yourself from the ravages of bad teachers.
These priests were now defiled; they had become wanderers among the nations as God fulfilled his promise from Deuteronomy 28:64 and elsewhere. The ones whose job it was to gather and to protect had instead sinned and scattered the flock of God. That's chapter four.
Chapter five is full of these short sentences expressing the people's distress. They've become orphans; they've become captives. In verse six, we learn they "submitted to Egypt and Assyria / to get enough bread": they had agreed to submit themselves by treaty to someone else, to another nation. What the lamenter is doing here is personifying the whole people. They say, "We're starving, we're abused, we're exhausted."
When I was reading about Lamentations I had occasion to read some other ancient Near Eastern lamentations. There are lamentations written for the fall of cities in the Babylonian empire, the Assyrian empire, the Egyptian empire. But an interesting thing about those lamentations is they will recall similar sorts of physical horrors that the people experienced, but they always think it's a sign of the absence of their gods. They always think it's a sign that their god didn't turn up that day; they didn't help them. What's interesting in contrast to the Book of Lamentations is that it sounds so much like the rest of the Bible, where God's people are told again and again that it was actually God himself who was behind Jerusalem's fall, who was behind her people being scattered.
Look there in chapter four, verse 16. We see this: it says "[t]he Lord himself has scattered them." In chapter five, verse seven, we even see the reason. It's because of their sinfulness, the idolatry and unfaithfulness that had marked Jerusalem for decades: "Our ancestors sinned and are no more, / and we bear the punishment." Then down in verse 16, they confess too that they themselves have sinned: "The crown has fallen from our head. / Woe to us, for we have sinned!"
It's good to confess our sins, good for us to do that every Sunday when we gather. As a church, we try to do that regularly. Among other benefits, it casts down pride—that pride that deceives us and confuses us. It's pride that, even in a church, can help to create false expectations and increase disappointment when those false expectations aren't met. Confess your sins.
This church, like every other church, has lots of people who sometimes feel hopeless like these people here. I say the people were hopeless, but they evidently had placed their hopes in something. But the hope they had was false hope.
(Read Lamentations 4:17-22)
Those last two verses, are the people being personified and speaking to their enemies: the Edomites who had assisted the Babylonians in taking Jerusalem. He basically says, "Rejoice now, enemies, because you are about to get yours. We've had ours; your turn is coming."
The cup he mentions in verse 21 is referring to the cup of God's wrath. That image is used again and again in the Bible. Jeremiah uses that image in his prophecies. The Lord calls Babylon the cup of his wrath; Babylon was the cup that Jerusalem would be made to drink to experience the wrath of God. In verse 22, he is saying, "Zion, your punishment is done: now it's your turn, Edom."
But in the verses before that, verses 17-20, see how many wrong places the people had put their hope? It's like they were committed to putting their hope anywhere but in the Lord. In verse 20, we see they had put their hope in the king. Look at verse 20: "The Lord's anointed, our very life breath, / was caught in their traps. / We thought that under his shadow / we would live among the nations." The Lord's anointed is Zedekiah, the king of Judah. "Under his shadow" means under his protection, like in the shade of a tree in the desert heat. That's what they were putting their hope in: this king. They had thought they would be safe.
Then, up in verse 12, it looks like they had put their hope in their military defenses, in their gates again: "The kings of the earth did not believe, / nor did any of the peoples of the world, / that enemies and foes could enter / the gates of Jerusalem." Maybe they assumed the presence of the Lord in this temple, in this city, would protect them.
But Christianity isn't a kind of talisman religion, like a rabbit's foot you put in your pocket and with it you get good luck. That's not the religion of the Bible. The mere fact that the temple was in Jerusalem brought no necessary protection to Jerusalem; what it brought was greater accountability. It's like you thinking that somehow God is going to owe you a good week because you came to church on Sunday. No, it's a little dangerous that you came to church on Sunday. You're hearing a whole bunch of truth that you're now accountable for, having heard it. Jerusalem lived in that, and they had this deception in their heads that somehow they would be safe because they were Jerusalem. Jeremiah confronted this false hope again and again throughout his ministry.
This is so much the case that I want you to turn to Jeremiah 7. This would be a few years earlier, and it gives us a little taste of Jeremiah's ministry and how he is making this warning about their false hopes. This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord.
We're thinking about Jerusalem as rubble, but go back in time now. It's before the siege even begins, probably several years before. Jerusalem is a happy, buzzing place. It's known prosperity for centuries. Here it is, and here's Jeremiah being given this word of the Lord to go and speak.
(Read Jeremiah 7:1-20)
Back to Lamentations 4. They had also put their hope in another nation. Look at verse 17: "Moreover, our eyes failed, / looking in vain for help; / from our towers we watched / for a nation that could not save us." Who was that nation that could not save? It was Egypt. There were two great powers that Israel was between: the Babylonians and the Egyptians. When the Babylonians were strong and coming their way, who were they going to go to? They'll go to the Egyptians, and they will look for the Egyptians to save them. But guess what? The Babylonians defeated the Egyptians in battle. The Egyptians couldn't really do anything for them. So they trusted in them, and it didn't work. Now he says here that instead of being delivered by foreigners, they were captured. Instead of being protected, their end came as their enemies pursued them and even captured their king. One thing you have to understand about the God of the Bible is that he is real and he really cares about how people live.
So here in verse 13, he refers to all this happening to Jerusalem "because of the sins of her prophets / and the iniquities of her priests." In verse 22, he refers to the "punishment [of] your sin." Sin requires judgment, because God is good. Now, if you have no sin, that's not a concern of yours. But if you have sin, if you have done things that are wrong, if you have left undone those things that you ought to have done, then it's a concern for you. Then you need to think through carefully what your hope could be, because, according to the Bible, we've all sinned. Therefore, we all need some hope of help.
Here's the crucial thing: what you hope in is more important than how hard you hope. The Israelites may have really believed that their walls or having the temple or Egypt would save them, but they didn't. None of them saved them. What have you put your hope in? What have you thought would save you? I can tell you some all-too-common false hopes that people have: lying preachers who tell you that if you have enough faith you can have health and wealth right now. Those are false preachers. The reason you don't have to write too many books and do too much work against them is because time tells the falseness of them. They just find more people to deceive.
Finding our identity in money is another false hope. That can be either because you have it or because you don't, whichever way it is: being defined by having a lot of it, a job that allows you a lot of it, not having any of it, being defined by society around you because you don't have anything. You're made in the image of God, and money does not define anybody made in the image of God.
Maybe it's your kids—putting your hope in your family. Or maybe you put your hope in your parents. Your identity is in them: you have such good parents, they've provided for you so well and so sacrificially, they've been such good models for you, and you think that's really all that matters, as if you yourself didn't exist, as if you won't give account to God. You know, when I die and stand before the Lord, he's not going to look at me and start criticizing my parents for how they reared me. Mom and dad may have affected some of the things I do, but guess what? I have to make choices all the time as an individual. God is going to judge us according to the word "individually."
Our identity and our hope can't finally be in those things. What false hopes do you find running around your own life? What are those false hopes that tend to deceive you? A friend of mine put it this way: "Really, false hopes are their own punishment. It's like waiting on a cold day for a bus that never comes." I wonder if you're experiencing some of that false hope right now, some of the coldness of that.
The only real hope
Well, here's the good news: if you're a Christian, I can tell you that God has promised that not only will he dash all of your false hopes, but he will give you better ones. He will most certainly fulfill these better ones that he gives you.
(Read Lamentations 5:19-22)
In these verses, the author finishes his prayer here in chapter five after the long description of the desperate state there, and he says to God simply, "Lord, will you restore us, will you restore us?" It's interesting that he begins this prayer in verse 19 by acknowledging God's sovereignty. If you haven't thought much about Christianity, you may think that God's sovereignty—his control of everything—kills prayer. So in the Christian life, you can either be a prayer warrior or believe in God's sovereignty. The interesting thing is that in the Bible, it isn't like that at all. The most vigorous prayers, in the worst times, will start with acknowledging God's sovereignty. So here they are: Jerusalem is looking terrible, things have gone horribly, and how does he begin this prayer? "You, Lord, reign forever; / your throne endures from generation to generation" (Lam. 5:19).
It reminds me of another time several years later in the exile, when Daniel—one of the guys who had been exiled—is praying in a difficult time there in Babylon. Daniel begins his prayer like this: "Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments" (Dan. 9:4). Or you may think of that time in the New Testament when the government was trying to arrest Christians. Remember when Peter and John were jailed and they got up, they came, and they prayed with the Christians? Do you remember that prayer in Acts 4:24? "Sovereign Lord … you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them."
How else should we pray? Do you remember how the Lord Jesus taught us to pray? "Our Father in heaven, / hallowed be your name, / your kingdom come, / your will be done, / on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:9-10). We're halfway through the Lord's Prayer there, and it's all about his sovereignty. The whole first half of the Lord's Prayer is about the fact that he reigns in heaven and he should reign the same way on Earth, and we pray for that.
There is no conflict between sovereignty and prayer. In fact, if you don't believe in God's sovereignty, you are wasting your time praying. Why would you pray to a God who can't do anything? We pray for lost people to be saved because we think God saves lost people. Jeremiah, or whoever this lamenter is, is praying for God to restore the people because he knows they don't have any other hope. There isn't any other way the people are going to be delivered.
What makes this book so remarkable is the fact that this is in these terrible times what they were experiencing. God is still sovereign even when those hard times come. In fact, this book gives testimony to the truth, that he is our only hope in hard times. Even when he asks the questions, "Why do you always forget us? / Why do you forsake us so long?" (Lam. 5:20), he's presuming that God could do something about it. I love the fact that he doesn't try to make excuses for God: like God really would like to, but he just can't. No, he knows that God is God, so he turns and he prays that the Lord would restore them to him. Before the people would return to the Lord, the Lord has to restore them. That's why we pray.
If you've ever wondered why we pray so much, it's because God is our only hope. Part of the way he works is through us telling each other the truth and us singing about it, but he is our hope. We ask God to do those things that we can't do.
Here, it feels like these people in Jerusalem are in an utterly hopeless position. They feel helpless. They are like Jonah in the belly of the fish in the bottom of the ocean, and it is in that utterly helpless position that we acknowledge our sinfulness when we confess our sins. When we did that earlier, that's what we were doing: we were admitting that we are utterly helpless. Our sins leave us morally exposed before God. We are helpless before a completely good God. We can't say he'd be wrong to come and punish any one of us right now.
If you want to know forgiveness from God for your sins, you need to turn from your sins and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. We've read the gospel; we've sung it in our hymns. If you want to know forgiveness from this good God, you need to turn from your sins and trust that what he has done in Jesus Christ is to fully pour out on him the punishment that you and I deserve for our sins. He has taken it for us, and he now invites us to freely receive from him his goodness and love through Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the one God sent as a substitute in our place, as a sacrifice. He is the help that God has sent to us when we were helpless.
Do you understand what it means to be a Christian? We've said it in about 10 different ways in this service. You should make sure that this investment of your time is not lost. You should understand what it means to be a Christian.
If you've identified well with the trials that we've been reading about in Lamentations—if you've said, "Finally, a part of the Bible I feel at home in"—then take courage in the fact that, in this world, trials can often tell us more about the truth than prosperity does. It's not that prosperity is bad: we all want prosperity. But in times of prosperity, your false hopes can look pretty good. You can let your heart ride on things that won't always be there, and you can be deceived by that. In God's mercy, what trials do and what adversity does is teach you the truth about who your only hope is. It teaches you the truth about who can be relied on, and that God is utterly reliable. There have never been trials or adversity so bad that they defeat the Lord in his faithfulness. He is an always-good, always-faithful God.
I wonder if you're believing that in different aspects of your life: maybe your marriage, job, health, or faith. I don't know where it is that each one of you might feel tempted to be hopeless. But I know that Jeremiah's example is to turn to pray to God from the midst of your trials, because God loves to cause his gospel to prosper in unlikely places. I don't know how our brothers and sisters in China are doing right now in jail, but I know—like Daniel in the lion's den—the Lord will be faithful to his promises. He will be there with them. They will know a sweetness of his presence because he is that way. God loves to cause his gospel to prosper where the government opposes it or where the economic basis of the community appears to be gone, and there couldn't be lively church here, where drugs and gangs would seem to make it too dangerous, or where carnal ambition and pride would seem to rule and reign and leave no time for people to follow Jesus in that busy place.
From Nydri to Iran, from China to Capitol Hill to Anacostia, God will get glory by establishing a people for his own name, and he will do it due to no virtue in us. Whatever virtue we have in following him is only given us by his grace, so times of trial can bring clarity. Suffering may make you bitter, or if you understand that it's part of God's plan to refine you as his child, it may make you better. Choose the latter. Choose for it to make you better. Confess your sins, humble yourself, trust him, hope again.
What if you're saying, "Thank you, but I know all this, and I'm just having a hard time trusting and hoping"? Can I tell you that even among the inspired prophets in the Bible, you have company? Did you notice Lamentations 5:22? This verse is so bad that in many synagogues, the tradition is when you read verse 22, you then read verse 21 again so it doesn't end on such a bad note. A whole sermon could be preached out of that verse. How could Jeremiah—or whoever this inspired lamenter is—have true faith in God and ask this question? See, the more you believe some of the false teaching out there about faith, the more confusing this will be to you. If you take a Joel Osteen view that faith is expectation of a particular answer, then this makes no sense: you should cut it out of your Bible. But when you understand that the faith we're called to in the Bible is not expectation of a particular result, necessarily, but it's trust in a person, it's knowing God in his character and trusting him in his wise and sovereign goodness, then it makes complete sense. It's humble, it's broken, and it's true.
Jeremiah was confused by his trials. He was left hurting and uncertain, but it didn't mean he didn't have faith. It didn't mean he didn't trust God. He knows God; he knows how holy God is. That's part of what his question's doing there. But he's been disoriented about God's grace because of the severity of the trials. He understands that.
I think that's what we see here so clearly: the real nature of faith is trusting in God. Faith in God isn't the same thing as expecting exactly one particular answer. But we can step back. We can open up other parts of the Bible from Lamentations. We can get more promises, more knowledge about God. We can go to Micah 7:18 where Micah praises the Lord: "Who is a God like you, / who pardons sin and forgives the transgression / of the remnant of his inheritance? / You do not stay angry forever / but delight to show mercy." Griefs like this should not turn us away from God, but should turn us to God.
Remember the promise of the Lord Jesus: "Blessed are those who mourn, / for they will be comforted" (Matt. 5:4). It's natural to want trials to end. We all hope every battle we fight will be our last. That's the very nature of how we enter the combat as Christians. But we can know the Lord will never leave us or forsake us. The whole Bible tells us this, really.
I was thinking about Jeremiah sitting in the rubble of Jerusalem. Although that's a deep, dark point in the history of Israel, in one sense, that situation is typical of the whole Bible. The Bible story is, again and again, a story of utterly hopeless situations. God lets us get into this corner of apparently complete hopelessness so we will learn he is our only hope. Adam and Eve thrown out of the Garden? Well, there goes the human story. But oh, no: there's a whole long one to come. God promises Abram and Isaac they'll have kids when they're old. He brings Joseph and lets him go down into a pit sold by his brothers. Well, that's the end of that story. The people are exiled. Christ goes to the Cross. Again and again in the Bible, God allows there to be circumstances that make it appear we are without hope and without help. When that's not the case, he's grabbing us through circumstances and he's turning our faces up to him to show us that he is our hope. He has always been our only hope, and he will continue to be our faithful hope because this is who God is.
He was sufficient in this particular time, as well. It was right for Jeremiah to hope in God. In fact, this Jerusalem that he lamented over would be rebuilt. Sixty-six years later, the exiles returned to Jerusalem, and the exile was undone with a new exodus back into the Promised Land, led by Nehemiah, Ezra, and others. As best I can tell from reading Haggai 1, it was actually on September 21 of 520 B.C. that they began rebuilding the temple. He did show himself faithful, and that temple would stand for centuries until the even truer temple—the Lord's Anointed, his Christ—would come into that temple.
Look at what God does then. Even then, he lets the Lord's Anointed be rejected. Once again, wouldn't that be the end of hope? Then aren't we helpless? If God has sent his own Son, the Messiah, and we have rejected him, then surely we have gone to the lowest point of complete helplessness.
God is sovereign. This is when the punishment for the iniquity would be finally accomplished and completed as he cries out, "It is finished." He fully drank the cup of God's wrath against us so there is none left for us to drink. It's all done. On that day, the conquerors of Jerusalem hung up for public display one whom they should have respected. They put the cross there as a warning not to cross their own reign, but God meant it as a way to establish his reign. Christ took God's wrath that day so that we may receive his love. Christ was rejected so that we may be accepted. He died so that we might live. Christians are those who believe this—who, even if we're living in the middle of the ruins of a city, we don't finally lose hope. Because our hope's not based in this world. Because "they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them" (Heb. 11:16). You and I live in the unfailing hope of that city.
Mark Dever is the senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., and president of 9Marks.