“Let us search out and examine our ways, and turn back to the Lord; let us lift our hearts and hands to God in heaven. We have transgressed and rebelled; You have not pardoned.” Lamentations 3:40-42
The book of Lamentations is the tearful cries of the prophet Jeremiah as God’s judgment fell upon His people and as the nation and the holy city of Jerusalem were destroyed and those who survived were carried into captivity in Babylon. Jeremiah had testified against the wickedness and rebellion of God’s people and he witnessed the judgment which came upon the people and nation because they failed to heed God’s calls to repent.
The situation today is much the same. Our nation and our people are in rebellion against the Lord God who has so richly blessed us. As a nation, we seek to cast off all ties to God and His Word. We reject Him and His Anointed, the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Psalm 2).
And God’s judgment is beginning to fall but people don’t consider it and heed the warnings of God’s Word to repent of their evil ways and return to the Lord God who gives us life and all blessings and who won for us forgiveness of sins and eternal life through the death and resurrection of His Son, Christ Jesus, in our stead. Cf. Psalm 10:5; 2 Chronicles 7:14.
This, of course, is true for our nation and people as a whole, but it is also true of our churches and those who profess to be Christians. Churches and their ministers have turned aside from the God of the Bible and have attempted to mold God into their own image and likeness. They have rejected God’s Word given to us in the Bible and have substituted their own words and opinions. Instead of preaching God’s commandments and condemning sin as sin, they have preached their own words of tolerance and acceptance of all manner of sin and say nothing of God’s judgment. And, instead of preaching salvation by God’s grace alone and through faith alone in our Lord Jesus Christ and His bloody atoning sacrifice upon the cross, they preach a multitude of other ways to obtain heaven and eternal life.
These words most certainly apply to each of us as individuals. We may assume that all is well with our souls because of our religious worship and works, or we may assume that we can live as we please as long as we go to church, confess our sins and hear the absolution and partake of the Supper of our Lord. But God urges each of us to consider and heed these words: “Let us search out and examine our ways, and turn back to the Lord; let us lift our hearts and hands to God in heaven. We have transgressed and rebelled; You have not pardoned.” Cf. Isaiah 1:1ff.; 55:6-7.
We may like to imagine that we are not living in sin, that we are not in need of self-examination and repentance, but God’s Word warns against such self-confidence and urges us to consider our ways and repent! God tells us: “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5). We are to examine ourselves in the light of God’s Word and repent, looking to Jesus and His shed blood for pardon and forgiveness.
Our catechism (The 1943 “A Short Explanation of Dr. Martin Luther’s Small Catechism,” Question 324) offers us this guidance: “We should examine ourselves to see — A. Whether we truly repent of our sins; B. Whether we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior; [and] C. Whether we have the good and earnest purpose with the aid of God the Holy Spirit henceforth to amend our sinful lives.”
David, in Psalm 139, prayed: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (v. 23-24).
God’s Word urges us to compare our lives with what God says in His Word and to repent of all that is sinful and evil, looking to Jesus and His cross for pardon and forgiveness and then seeking, with God’s help, to amend our ways and to walk in His ways, continuing in the true and saving faith unto life everlasting!
Reveal to me my sinful and erring ways, O Lord, and move me to repentance and true faith in Christ Jesus, my Savior. Amen.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.