When you think about your future and what the Bible has to say about it, you probably don’t think of the book of Lamentations. But there’s a scripture in the middle of this unlikely book that gives valuable insight for making decisions and planning the rest of your life.
The book of Lamentations is an expression of grief, from Jeremiah (most likely). He was a prophet, someone who speaks for God, who went to warn Judah about the penalty of the sins they were committing. Sadly, God told Jeremiah that the people wouldn’t even listen to him (Jeremiah 7:27). And yet he’s sent on this mission—to warn the people—knowing they wouldn’t listen. What’s more, the nation of Judah was not just some country, they were a part of Jeremiah’s own family. He saw the entire collapse and capture of his family. Everything that identified them as a people went under the control of the Babylonians.
Lamentations 1:8 says “Jerusalem sinned grievously; therefore she became filthy; all who honored her despise her, for they have seen her nakedness; she herself groans and turns her face away” (English Standard Version).
Judah was filthy because of her sins, and everyone knew it. Not even the other nations who worshipped these false gods looked at her with any respect. Verse 9 continues: “Her uncleanness was in her skirts; she took no thought of her future.” It’s that last part I want to get to: “she took no thought of her future.” The people of Judah didn’t consider their future. The New King James Version uses the word “destiny” and the King James Version says “her last end.”
Do you see a problem with that?
What do you think happens when you live your life and take no thought of your future? What does that life look like? Sure, you might have fun in certain moments. Even in sin you can fill yourself with pleasure and fun, or fame and popularity. Hebrews 11:25 calls it “passing pleasures of sin.” But is that the way to live our lives?
Your God has given you an invitation and a choice. When I say you—I mean you. You have been invited to become a son or daughter of God. We see in Scripture that this invitation is already yours because of your parents or your grandparents. Don’t let anything make you doubt that this is a personal invitation. It is. God is inviting you.
Here’s where it gets real: You have a choice.
When you think about this scripture in Lamentations, remember that a key to the downfall of the people was that they “took no thought of their future.”
Throughout your life you’ll face two main types of decisions:
- In-the-moment decisions
- Long-term planning for life
In each of these types of decisions, you need to “take thought” of your future.
You need to become a master of in-the-moment decisions. Work to become a decision maker who comes to well-thought-out conclusions in everyday situations. If you do, you will be strong when difficult peer pressure presents itself. This will also boost your ability to make the long-term decisions. Both kinds of decisions come down to choosing by what you will live your life: by God or by the world around you.
God is building a family that will live and rule the universe for eternity. That is a promise. But the kicker is: you have a choice. You have to consider your future.
In Lamentations, we read how the author shared his emotions about the captured people. In a later book, Haggai, they have come back from exile some 70 years later. (Haggai is a prophet of God like Jeremiah.)
By this time, the people have moved back to Jerusalem and are fixing their homes. But Haggai speaks for God and says that they are leaving the house of God untouched and in ruins.
Haggai 1:3-5 says: “Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, ‘Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways’” (ESV).
When the people came back from exile, they were faced with a choice. Just like all of us. And God has something to say about that choice.
They decided to work on their own homes first. We’re not talking about providing themselves with basic shelter here. The mention of “paneled houses” indicates that they were, in essence, building themselves luxury homes for a comfortable existence. Meanwhile, the temple—God’s house—was still in ruins having been destroyed when they went into captivity. He tells them to “consider their ways.” This is a lot like “take thought of your future.”
God is doing a work in the world today. Even as we see so many difficult things in our world, God is fully in charge. His work is in you. It’s in me. It’s in building His Church. You have a part in the building process. As Rick Shabi mentioned in his first sermon as president of the United Church of God, we are all to be “living stones” for use in the building of the temple of God. Listen to the message at ucg.org/sermons/living-stones-2.
God is building a family that will live and rule the universe for eternity. That is a promise, and one that’s not just to your parents, but to you too. But the kicker is: you have a choice. You have to consider your future. This isn’t just a one-time choice, but choosing to live this way of life every day.
The people of Judah came out of captivity and their priority was themselves. What they should have done was make God the priority in their lives. We can learn from this. We should make sure that we are doing our part to build the Church of God. Become the son or daughter He wants you to be!
Some of you go to smaller congregations or live in families with only one parent in the faith. Sometimes this way of life can be hard. You may face difficulties at school. God’s way of life brings blessings and joy, but it’s not free of trials, difficulties and overcoming.
Judah was warned of the coming doom to their nation. They were warned and chose to ignore the messenger of God. You are tasked with a choice as you go through your school years and beyond. That choice involves looking past the here and now. Become masters of in-the-moment decisions, and do what the nations of Israel failed to do. Take thought of your future.