When we face trials, many of us often feel abandoned by God, left to suffer alone. Yet our suffering not only has purpose; it also helps us see the beautiful character of our Lord! In part 3 of our 4-part series of Divine Portraits of God, Chris walks us through the delicate subject of suffering from the book of Lamentations. The prophet Jeremiah discovered how we can endure our suffering: by knowing God is present with us through it all.
Suffering is not pointless. We are called to be faithful in our suffering, and we know we can be faithful because God is faithful all the time. Jesus knew about suffering better than anyone. He endured the worst pain—physically on the cross, but even more so from bearing the sin of the world on Himself—yet He knew God would remain faithful. We should remember this truth in our suffering! Learn how to find purpose and strength in your suffering in this critically important portrait of God!
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Steve Conover: Welcome to The Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover, and with me as our host and teacher, Chris Katulka. We have a great show for you, but before Chris comes, I'd like to encourage you to visit our website, foiradio.org. There you'll find trustworthy and accurate news on Israel in the Middle East. And while you're there, you can support our ministry by clicking on the donate button, and help us continue teaching biblical truth about Israel and the Jewish people. Again, that's foiradio.org.
Chris Katulka: Steve, we're continuing our series on the Divine Portraits of God. Last week, we looked at God through the 10 plagues, but today we're actually going to look at God through suffering. Do you ever think about God and how we understand who he is through our own suffering? We're going to look at that through actually a whole book in the Bible that's about suffering. It's called Lamentations. It's going to be a great show.
Steve Conover: But first in the news, the Jerusalem Declaration was signed by our president Joe Biden and interim Israeli prime minister, Yair Lapid. The joint agreement denies Iran nuclear arms, and shows the unity and diplomacy of Israel and the United States against Iran's nuclear ambitions. President Biden did admit to a "last resort" use of force against Iran if they don't curb their nuclear program.
Chris Katulka: Steve, here's my take. Israel and the Sunni nations of the Middle East have pleaded with previous president Barack Obama and now president Biden not to enter into a diplomatic agreement with the Iranian regime. Biden's statement shows that he's inching closer towards Israel's more aggressive take on Iran, which calls for a "credible" military threat by world powers. Iran remains the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world.
Chris Katulka: We're continuing our study on the Divine Portraits of God, where it's our desire to show you from the Jewish perspective, especially for here in the Old Testament, the divine portraits of God from various angles of the Scriptures. Now, over the course of the next few weeks, we're going to continue to see God from many different perspectives. And last week, we looked at God through the lens of the 10 plagues. And we see that God desires and is even jealous for his creation. And because he wants his creation to know that he is God alone, the one true God. And there is no other God that should be put before him. And this concept almost seems elementary, but it gets to the heart of all the scriptures. What the scriptures are teaching us about our relationship with God. The entire Old Testament presents the tension between God as the one and only God who instills in the law, the command that the Israelites should worship no other God.
And yet the Israelites continued to break the law. Did you know that there's 613 laws in the Old Testament for the Israelites to follow? Now, I often hear it said among Christian circles that we could never keep the law. It's impossible to keep the law, but think about which laws Israel broke almost immediately. They didn't break law number 321. They didn't break law number 143 or even 18. Of the 613 laws, the Israelites broke number one and number two right away, and they continually did that throughout the Old Testament. I think God's trying to get our attention today in 2022, as Christians, what's drawing you away from God as being the one and only God who deserves our worship and adoration?
Well, if you didn't get a chance to listen to last week's program, then please be sure to visit foiradio.org to get caught up on this series. Again, that's foiradio.org. Now, today we're going to look at God through our suffering. What does God say about himself when we suffer? The Bible is full of suffering, heartache and pain from disease and death to loss and loneliness, to insecurity, and even infertility. Individuals process their relationship with God through suffering. For some, it can be a time to draw closer to the one who created you and for others, their suffering forces God to the backgrounds of their life. They may even get angry at God and blame him for their suffering.
Suffering is real for the followers of God, for the followers of Jesus Christ. Did you know that nearly two-thirds of the Psalms that are written are considered lament Psalms. Psalms that are full of the unanswered questions about one's life. Some that even question the whereabouts of God himself, questions like, "God, do you see what's going on down here? God, do you hear me? God, are you going to act soon? God, how long do I have to wait?" Now, I could take you to numerous Psalms to show you how God enters into our suffering, but today, I want to take you to an entire book dedicated to lamenting. It's actually called Lamentations. How fitting is that? Here's the setting of Lamentations.
The prophet Jeremiah is sitting adjacent to the city of Jerusalem, the Holy City, where God's presence dwelled with the people of Israel and Judah. Jerusalem was and remains to this very day the most sacred place to the Jewish people. The temple in Jerusalem was the centerpiece of Jewish life. And remember earlier, I said there were 613 laws from the Old Testament or better yet from the Torah, the first five books of Moses, something like one-third of those laws are all about temple life, temple worship. So the temple is absolutely necessary to fulfill Jewish law and Jewish life. The city was the chosen capital of the Israelites. The place where the Kings like David and Solomon ruled over the Israelite kingdom.
It was a place that was sacred to the Jewish people. And here in Lamentations, Jeremiah is watching the sacred city burn. He's watching the temple be destroyed. The very underpinnings of Jewish existence were giving out right under the feet of the prophet himself. That's why Jeremiah opens Lamentations like this, "Alas, the city once full of people now sits alone. The prominent lady among the nations has become a widow. The princess who once ruled the provinces has become a forced laborer. She weeps bitterly at night, tears stream down her cheeks. She has no one to comfort her among all her lovers. All her friends have betrayed her. They have become her enemies."
Jeremiah taps into many aspects of suffering in the first two verses of Lamentations. Loneliness, weeping, no comfort, betrayal, emptiness and affliction. Lamentations is a depressing book that not only taps into Jeremiah's personal suffering of loss, but every Jewish person who witnessed the destruction of what they held dear to their hearts. Questioning, I'm sure, their very existence as Jewish people. The same questions that are often heard in the lament Psalms were probably screamed out from Jerusalem as well. "God, do you see what's going on down here? God, do you even hear me? God, are you going to act soon? God, how long do I have to wait? God, do you even exist?" The reality was that God was present in Israel's suffering.
Why else would Lamentations be in the Old Testament canon? God was fully aware of Israel's loss, depression, anxiety, heartache, and pain. To begin, for Lamentations, Israel's suffering came because of their sin. Their sin guided them to this moment. And there are times in our life, the decisions and the choices that we make can lead to either an abundant life or suffering and pain. Lamentations draws heavily on Deuteronomy chapter 28 through 32. I encourage you to read it. And in that section, God tells Israel to choose life, not death. Life is found in following God's laws and commands, while abandoning God and his commands only leads to death. There is suffering in pain for the sins that we commit.
And you know what we don't often realize or think about? Is how much these sins can not only affect our own life, but how they can lead to others suffering as well. The suffering of those around us. There's also the suffering that's a part of just being alive, being a human. Living in a world that's cursed by sin. Solomon writes about this in Ecclesiastes, that there's an appointed time for everything. Ecclesiastes chapter three, starting in verse one says, "For everything, there is an appointed time, an appropriate time for every activity on earth. A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot what was planted. A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to break down and a time to build up. A time to weep and a time to laugh. A time to mourn and a time to dance. A time to throw away stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing. A time to search and a time to give up something lost." And he goes on and on, "A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace." Life is full of moments of joy and moments of sorrow. And the question remains, is God present in our sufferings?. Listen to Jeremiah here. He starts this in Lamentations chapter three, he says, "So I said, my endurance has expired. I have lost all hope of deliverance from the Lord. Remember my impoverished and homeless condition, which is bitter poison. And I continually think about this and I am depressed."
But listen to this Lamentations chapter three, verse 21, "But this I call to mind,” Jeremiah writes, “Therefore, I have hope. The Lord's loyal kindness never ceases. His compassions never end. They are fresh. They are new every morning. Your faithfulness is abundant. Great is your faithfulness. My portion is the Lord, I have said to myself, so I will put my hope in him. The Lord is good to those who trust him, to the one who seeks him." It is good to wait patiently for deliverance from the Lord.” God is present, my friends in our suffering. Notice in the midst of suffering and depression. Jeremiah calls to mind hope, where does he get this hope? He gets it from God's Word.
“In the midst of my depression,” Jeremiah recalls, “God's grace and compassion, which never ends, is new every morning because of his faithfulness.” Jeremiah was looking at the suffering and pain all around him and he found God right in the middle of it all. The prophet definitely would hear the audible word of God because he was a prophet. But here notice, Jeremiah relies on God's character and nature, which are found in this Scriptures. And he knows that God is a promise keeping God. And if God made a promise to keep and bless Israel and the Jewish people, then Jeremiah took comfort knowing that even as Jerusalem is burning, God is not through it then because God will keep his promises. God is even present in our heartache, in our pain. And we see that even in the way Jesus ministered to us. And that's what we're going to talk about when we return.
The Bible holds the fascinating stories of Israel's divinely appointed kings and prophets. That's why I'm excited to share with you our Written in Stone: Kings and Prophets DVD. Now you can watch these stories come to life with new archeological breakthroughs. See the evidence for biblical battles, the bones of Israel's Kings, Nehemiah's rebuilding of Jerusalem, and even an artifact called The First Bill of Human Rights. Each discovery testifies to the truth and glory of God's words. And this DVD will help you understand scripture as the real history of God's chosen people. To get your copy of the DVD, Written in Stone: Kings and Prophets, visit us at foiradio.org. Again, that's foiradio.org.
Okay, so we're continuing our look at God, a Divine Portrait of God as seen through our suffering. And I would be remiss if I didn't consider the life of Jesus and God in the midst of our suffering. Let me take you to Philippians chapter two, to summarize what I want to show you with the time remaining that we have. Philippians chapter two, starting in verse five says, "You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ had. And though he existed in the form of God, He did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself. Took on the form of a slave by looking like other men and by sharing in human nature. He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
And as a result, God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name. That at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God, the Father." Listen, Jesus, did you hear that? Philippians chapter two, starting in verse five, "Jesus leaves the glory of heaven with God the Father, he empties himself to become like us and even more so, he takes on the form of a slave, which in itself is a form of suffering. And he shared in all of our pain and anguish as humans, our anxieties, our hurts, our betrayals, but in the midst of his suffering, he remained what? “Obedient to the Father, even to the point of death on the cross."
Now, do you remember the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus in all of his humanity and divinity was being squeezed? He was suffering deeply, knowing death was near. And he even asked God the Father if this cup could pass from him and yet he remained obedient to God's will. And I'm convinced that Jesus, just like Jeremiah in Lamentations, trusted that in the midst of his suffering, God would remain faithful to him. That death would not be the end, and that through his obedience in suffering, God the Father would remain true to his word that he gave to his son, the Lord Jesus. And notice, it's for that reason that Jesus entered into suffering to take our sin.
Even being abandoned by his own Father, he knew that God would remain faithful to him. And God certainly did because Jesus's suffering led to his exaltation. Do you see how Paul does that? He talks about Jesus's suffering and becoming like us, taking on the form of man and becoming a slave that through his obedience, even in his suffering, God highly exalted him that at his name, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. So why do you think Paul was able to write with such confidence in Romans chapter eight, verse 18?
"For I consider that our present sufferings cannot be compared to the coming glory that will be revealed to us." Where did Paul get that? Well, just as Jesus was highly exalted from his obedience in the midst of his suffering, so we too will be exalted just like him. You can't run from suffering. You can't hide from pain and mourning. It's a part of our DNA. But Jesus Christ understands. He knows, and he has experienced our suffering and reveals to us the hope that we have as we wait for His return.
Steve Conover: Israel on the verge of becoming a state, a teenage Holocaust survivor arrives on her shores alone. His name is Zvi Kalisher. Little did he know his search for a new life in the Holy Land would lead him to the Messiah. Zvi, enthusiastic to share his faith, engaged others in spiritual conversations. Many of which can be found in our magazine, Israel My Glory. While Zvi is now in the presence of his Savior, his collected writings from well over 50 years of ministry continue to encourage believers worldwide. Now, Apples of Gold, a dramatic reading from the life of Zvi.
Mike Kellogg: Since suffering a heart attack several years ago, I must go to the doctor every four months for a checkup. At my last visit, an ultra Orthodox man sat next to me, shouting the Psalms. And after a while I said to him, "I do not mind you reading the Psalms, but would you please lower your voice? If this is from your heart, God will hear even if you read silently.” He asked, "How are you so sure he will hear me?" Then he began to stare at me intently and said, "I know you. Your name is Zvi. Were you in Cypress in 1947?" "Yes," I replied. "We were in the same camp, in the same shack for eight months." "Now that I see you closely, I remember you," I said.
He asked why I was in the doctor's office and I told him about my heart attack. He asked many questions as anyone would upon meeting an old friend after 44 years. I then asked him what he had been doing since arriving in Israel in 1948. And he replied, "I have become a real Jew. I studied the Talmud in the Yeshiva all the time. Do you go to the synagogue even once a week?" I replied, "I do not pray so others will hear and see me. I pray to the living God, and I know he answers my prayers." He then said, "You were not so serious in Cypress. What changed?" I replied, "I have learned to whom I belong." Many others were listening to our conversation. One man asked, "What are you trying to say?"
I could not quickly say, "I believe in Jesus." In Israel, you must go slowly. I told him, "I have never studied in a Yeshiva. I came to know the Lord through reading the Bible and praying. I found what most of you will never find even after spending a lifetime studying rabbinic writings. Also, I've never boycotted the Word of God as you are doing." One yelled, "We have never boycotted the Bible." Then I read to them, Isaiah 53. I asked, "Why is this chapter never read in the synagogue? It is part of the Bible and was written by the Holy Spirit of God." As soon as I said that, another man said, "Now I know who you are. I would tell them, but I do not want to cause you trouble."
I responded, "I will be happy if you tell them. I'm not ashamed of the testimony of our Lord." And then said in a strong voice, "I believe Yeshua, Jesus Christ." No one made any derogatory remarks. And just then, I was called into the doctor's office. I was grateful to the Lord for the opportunities I had that day. All of those who were in the waiting room have problems with their physical health as I do, but they have a more serious problem than mine. They are spiritually dead. Please pray that what they heard in the doctor's office will drive them to their knees before the great physician, and that they will recognize and accept him as the Messiah and Savior.
Chris Katulka: The impact of Zvi's life and ministry in Israel, it didn't end when he went home to be with the Lord. In fact, Zvi's legacy lives on. Our Friends of Israel Ministry representatives continue to share the gospel in Jerusalem, Israel, and really all throughout the world. We also serve Holocaust survivors and their families. We provide free food, medicine, and clothing, and we even promote the safety and security of the state of Israel and the Jewish people everywhere. So when you give to the Friends of Israel, your donation actually allows us to advance the Gospel of our Messiah. Jesus. You can give online by visiting foiradio.org. Again, that's foiradio.org. You can click right there on our donate link. Also, be sure to let us know where you listen when you contact us.
Steve Conover: Thank you so much for being with us today and you can join us next week as Chris will conclude his series on the Divine Portraits. We want to create content that we know is enriching your life and drawing you closer to the Lord. And also in a deeper understanding of his Word and his program for Israel. You can reach us at our contact form to let us know how we're doing at foiradio.org. Again, that's foiradio.org.
Chris Katulka: Also for our podcast listeners on Apple, would you please take the time to rate our program? Your comments and ratings will actually expose The Friends of Israel Today to new listeners. So if you believe it's important to teach about Israel and the Jewish people, please leave us a comment so that others can benefit from FOI Today. Also, be sure to visit foiradio.org, to get Written in Stone: Kings and Prophets DVD.
Steve Conover: Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione. Our theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong. Bob Beebe engineered this week's program. And Mike Kellogg read Apples of Gold. I'm Steve Conover, executive producer. Our mailing address is FOI Radio, PO box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey, 08099. Again, that's FOI Radio, PO box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey, 08099. The Friends of Israel Today is a production of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide evangelical ministry, proclaiming biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah, while bringing physical and spiritual comfort to the Jewish people.
Written in Stone: Kings and Prophets DVD
Discover the fascinating world of archaeology that makes the Bible come to life! This DVD’s archaeological evidence focuses on the era of Israel’s kings and prophets, including a look at Jewish life during Babylonian exile, the bones of kings, and the rebuilding of Jerusalem under Nehemiah. You’ll find your faith in Scripture strengthened through these phenomenal discoveries!
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Apples of Gold: I Am Not Ashamed of the Testimony of the Lord
Zvi’s check-up at the doctor’s office began with a man shouting the Psalms in the waiting room. As he asked the man to speak more quietly, Zvi assured him that God would still hear him. Coincidentally, the two men remembered each other from their time serving in the military together. This caused the man to listen closely, as Zvi had become so much more serious since their time together. As the conversation drew others to listen, Zvi took this opportunity to preach the truth of the Messiah.
The Friends of Israel Today theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.
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