Great is Thy Faithfulness
Reading: Lamentations 3:1-26
This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.
It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.
The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.
It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.
The new year is often a time when people make resolutions. Resolutions to do things better. Resolutions to make changes in their lives or habits. Yet others might be hoping for a fresh start after what might have been what the Queen described in a speech in November 1992 as “Annus Horribilis” or a horrible year. As believers, I don’t believe that making New Year resolutions is a particularly biblical approach to life. I certainly don’t believe that we have to wait until the new year to make changes in our lives or even to receive the benefits of a fresh start.
Today’s study is taken from the book of Lamentations. As the name suggests, the book of Lamentations is exactly that… a lamentation: both from the heart of Jeremiah and more importantly from the Lord.
The book of Lamentations opens with these words:
“How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! how is she become as a widow! she that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary!” (Lamentations 1:1)
Such a doleful statement and especially considering the question which the Lord poses in the book of Isaiah:
“What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?” (Isaiah 5:4)
And we see the evidence of that work made mention of in Jeremiah:
“Howbeit I sent unto you all my servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, saying, Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate. But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear to turn from their wickedness, to burn no incense unto other gods.” (Jeremiah 44:4-5)
Plainly, the Lord had done much in the way of warning the people to turn from their idolatry [among other sins]. The picture of the vine here shouldn’t be lost on us, particularly in view of John 15. Remembering that the Father is the husbandman, Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches.
Nevertheless and despite all that the Lord had done in raising a people unto himself, their continual disobedience would result in death, famine and captivity.
In many respects, the story of Israel is our story; complete with its highs and lows… Its victories and its defeats. Its faithfulness and its backsliddings. But through all this, God is faithful and in no wise cast them out completely.
The title of today’s message is “Great is Thy Faithfulness”
The Remembrance of God Brings Hope:
“This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope…”
In the midst of Jerusalem’s demise, we see Jeremiah’s woes. In the first 20 verses of chapter 3 we read of his complaint to the Lord in regards to the persecution he suffered.
“I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath. He hath led me, and brought me into darkness, but not into light. Surely against me is he turned; he turneth his hand against me all the day. My flesh and my skin hath he made old; he hath broken my bones. He hath builded against me, and compassed me with gall and travail. He hath set me in dark places, as they that be dead of old. He hath hedged me about, that I cannot get out: he hath made my chain heavy. Also when I cry and shout, he shutteth out my prayer. He hath inclosed my ways with hewn stone, he hath made my paths crooked. He was unto me as a bear lying in wait, and as a lion in secret places. He hath turned aside my ways, and pulled me in pieces: he hath made me desolate. He hath bent his bow, and set me as a mark for the arrow. He hath caused the arrows of his quiver to enter into my reins. I was a derision to all my people; and their song all the day. He hath filled me with bitterness, he hath made me drunken with wormwood. He hath also broken my teeth with gravel stones, he hath covered me with ashes. And thou hast removed my soul far off from peace: I forgat prosperity. And I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the LORD: Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall. My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me.” (Lamentations 3:1-20)
Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet and we can see from these verses that he was in a terrible state. He felt that the Lord was against him and not for him. He felt trapped in a hopeless situation. He felt like the Lord had shut his ears to his prayers. He felt like the Lord had put a target on his back and his soul was pierced with arrows. And he was exhausted both physically and emotionally.
With a list of complaints like that, you might be tempted to give up on God. But of course, you know that isn’t an option. Jeremiah definitely had his moments; in particular, refusing to speak God’s word. Only to say that God’s word was like a fire in his bones and he couldn’t hold it in.
It’s not uncommon for the various pen men of the bible to set out with a long list of woes and complaints [even blaming God], and then as it were and take a deep breath… And focus their hearts and minds on the Lord.
Another prime example is Psalm 73:
The psalmist after being grieved by the prosperity of the wicked, receives this revelation.
“Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.” (Psalm 73:17)
It’s always good to have an eternal perspective on things. When we do, we can join with the apostle Paul and his “light affliction”, and say:
“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)
In the case of Jeremiah, there’s nothing in the text to explain his change of heart, except to say that in remembering his afflictions, he was humbled by them. That’s not a bad place to be…
Make no mistake…
Jeremiah was treated unjustly by his people and in no way deserved being thrown into a well and the various other threats to his life.
Not surprisingly, the bible has a bit to say about suffering and persecution as we read in
“But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.” (1Peter 3:14-16)
And so, if you’re still stamping your feet and crying “not fair”, you’ve probably missed a lot of things:
You’ve missed the lesson to be learnt
You’ve missed the opportunity to grow
Most importantly, you’ve missed the opportunity to glorify God. And who are we to deprive God of his glory and Christ of his reward.
But at the end of these 20 verses in Lamentations chapter 3
“This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.” (Lamentations 3:21-22)
The mandate to remember God:
Question: How easy is it to forget God?
Quite easily at times [I suspect] and especially in the midst of our wild thoughts.
Because it is so easy to forget [in this case for completely different reasons] the Lord commands the children of Israel, to do just that.
“But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.” (Deuteronomy 8:18)
Notwithstanding we know that….the first commandment is to love God with all our HEARTS and MINDS
The means [method] to remembering God
Needless to say:
We don’t serve the god of wishful thinking and positive confession prevalent within the word of faith movement. Neither do we serve some cosmic Santa. The God who we call to remembrance answers to reality and comes from personal experience but more importantly is founded on scripture. Therefore it is only possible to call to remembrance the things that we have read and know to be true. In doing so we draw on the knowledge of his character and other attributes:
We acknowledge that God is good, and as such, will only do that which is good and right [as in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah].
This was Abraham’s confession:
“That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25)
We acknowledge that God is merciful as we read particularly in the Psalms:
“The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever.” (Psalm 103:8-9)
We acknowledge that the Lord is omnipotent and able to change our situation:
“Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee:” (Jeremiah 32:17)
We acknowledge that God is able to transform our trials into victories.
“For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1John 5:4-5)
In light of these verses how important then, is it to read your bible? It goes without saying that our knowledge of God is limited by the volume of scripture we read.
The merits of remembering God
Did you know that there’s a book written in heaven which records every time you think about God?
“Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.” (Malachi 3:16)
It’s only when we remember God, that we reap the benefits of remembering God. Of course, a change of mind requires a change of heart, since the mind answers to the heart. We see that in Jeremiah’s case that his whole attitude changed when he turned his thoughts towards God. We know that the word of God has the power to search the heart and transform it. We also know that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Is it any wonder then that we should read this in the book of Joshua.
“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” (Joshua 1:8)
If the greatest benefit of meditating on the word of God is to live a life not wallowing in self-pity, then that would be reward enough….but the bible promises you so much more. A transformed life is a continual reminder of the eternal hope which we have in Christ. And a transformed life offers you an eternal reward. And even greater is the knowledge the God gets the glory, both now and forever.
The Faithfulness of God Bestows Mercy:
“It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness…”
The recognition of God’s faithfulness
Whilst we don’t instantly see any change in Jeremiah’s circumstances, we note that there is at the very least a recognition of God’s faithfulness. In some respects he acknowledges that things could be worse that is to say: “consumed” both in a temporal physical sense and in a spiritual eternal sense.
At this point we need to define “mercy”… since it is because of God’s mercy that Jeremiah says that we are not consumed. Both mercy and grace, whilst they might be easy to define, they’re impossible to comprehend. They are often described as two sides of the same coin.
Grace is often defined as unmerited favour; or in other words, receiving something that you didn’t earn or deserve. On the other side of the coin, mercy is described as not getting what we do deserve. In our case, we fully deserve the just recompense for our sins [which is hell]. Through God’s mercy, we haven’t received the just punishment for our sins.
In Jeremiah’s case, he acknowledges that the Lord is completely within his rights to leave them hang out to dry and be totally destroyed by the Babylonians. Nevertheless, he did spare a remnant…those who trusted in God’s word and went into captivity rather than try by their own means, to escape the punishment and consequences of Israel’s apostasy.
It is very easy to be consumed by our circumstances BUT if we take on board the lessons from our first point today…at the very least we will gain the peace and presence of mind to endure the trials we are faced with.
The PROMISE…repeat promise [God doesn’t lie] is that his compassions FAIL NOT. God isn’t in the habit of failing. They are new every morning and therefore available to us EVERY DAY.
AND THE REASON FOR THIS IS BECAUSE GOD IS FAITHFUL.
The bible states that even when we lack faith, he is faithful
“If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.” (2Timothy 2:13)
ONCE AGAIN WE SEE THAT GOD DOESN’T LIE
The realization of God’s faithfulness
Hopefully we all have had experiences and examples of God’s faithfulness actualising or materialising in our lives. As I’ve hopefully explained, the Lord doesn’t necessarily rescue us from our circumstances IMMEDIATELY or COMPLETELY. We don’t necessarily know why we go through various trials [at least not at the time we are going through them]. But what we do know is that “all things work together for good to those who love God and who are called according to his purpose” And that purpose is to be conformed to the image of Christ.
The story of Jeremiah’s life is an incredible one and filled with precious truths, promises and life lessons. Too many for one sermon.
Predestined to be a prophet
Called at an early age
Rejected and mocked by his people
He had his life threatened on a number of occasions
Thrown down a well and left to starve
Thrown into prison
Had his godly counsel ignored [the list goes on]
Only by God’s grace and mercy did he come through the other side.
There’s one amazing thing about Jeremiah’s story that I’d like to bring to our lesson today is this:
The manifestation of God’s faithfulness can come from unexpected quarters. As I’ve already stated, Jeremiah was hated and rejected by his own people. Amazingly it was the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar [an enemy] who would ultimately be blessed through. This is true to the promise that: “When a man’s ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” (Proverbs 16:7)
This episode in his life comes towards the end of the book of Jeremiah. Zedekiah and his sons have been carried into Babylon; Zedekiah having his eyes put out. Meanwhile, Jeremiah is shut up in prison certainly with the promise of God to spare his life.
“Now Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon gave charge concerning Jeremiah to Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, saying, Take him, and look well to him, and do him no harm; but do unto him even as he shall say unto thee.” (Jeremiah 39:11-12)
“The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, after that Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had let him go from Ramah, when he had taken him being bound in chains among all that were carried away captive of Jerusalem and Judah, which were carried away captive unto Babylon. And the captain of the guard took Jeremiah, and said unto him, The LORD thy God hath pronounced this evil upon this place. Now the LORD hath brought it, and done according as he hath said: because ye have sinned against the LORD, and have not obeyed his voice, therefore this thing is come upon you. And now, behold, I loose thee this day from the chains which were upon thine hand. If it seem good unto thee to come with me into Babylon, come; and I will look well unto thee: but if it seem ill unto thee to come with me into Babylon, forbear: behold, all the land is before thee: whither it seemeth good and convenient for thee to go, thither go. Now while he was not yet gone back, he said, Go back also to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon hath made governor over the cities of Judah, and dwell with him among the people: or go wheresoever it seemeth convenient unto thee to go. So the captain of the guard gave him victuals and a reward, and let him go.” (Jeremiah 40:1-5)
As I said,
The story of Jeremiah is filled with many wonderful truths, lessons and promises. This account certainly illustrates God’s faithfulness toward Jeremiah. Hopefully I’ve whet your appetite and you will be inspired to read the entire book.
Hope in God Gives Sustenance:
“The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him”
We saw that the remembrance of God gives hope. And the faithfulness and compassion of God bestows mercy. Now we see that hope [as defined as certain expectation] is enough to sustain us in our trials.
In a biblical sense, the word portion means an inheritance or reward. One of the first [if not the first] mention of this in scripture is in Genesis chapter 15. This comes after Abram rescues his nephew Lot and the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the other kings which were with him.
“And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself. And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich: Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.”
And then in chapter 15:
“After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” (Genesis 15:1)
Incredibly, Abram wasn’t willing to take a reward from the king of Sodom, lest he be tempted to attribute the source of his wealth to a pagan king. And if there were any doubts as to the wisdom of such a response, the Lord appeared to Abram in a dream and confirmed his actions right.
In this next verse, we see the words portion and inheritance in the same sentence, reinforcing the connection between the two.
“And Rachel and Leah answered and said unto him, Is there yet any portion or inheritance for us in our father’s house?” (Genesis 31:14)
This comes after Laban deceives Jacob and changes his wages 10 times. When Rachel and Leah realize that there is no provision in their father’s house, they agree to go to the land of Canaan.
The next significant mention of the word inheritance is in the book of Numbers and refers to the division of the land and obviously the ability to sustain themselves, which would ultimately come through the provision of the tithes given by the other tribes.
“And the LORD spake unto Aaron, Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them: I am thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel.” (Numbers 18:20)
I’d encourage you to do your own word study. The important lesson for us in the context of our text and the eternal implications: is that both in life and in death, the Lord has provided for our needs. Both in a physical sense and a spiritual one…
Firstly remember that:
“man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.” (Deuteronomy 8:3)
Secondly that: God provided himself a sacrifice to atone for our sins and thus eternal life through the Lord Jesus Christ.
We can pursue many things in life: wealth, happiness, popularity [fun, fame and fortune]
But it is only by standing on the promises of God that we receive the hope that sustains us. It is then that we will be able to answer with an emphatic “yes” to the [skeptical] question: “can God furnish a table in the wilderness?”
Jesus is our portion [our bread] in this life and Jesus will be our portion [our reward] in the next.
Whoever believes in him will never hunger or thirst…
HE TRULY IS OUR PORTION
Waiting on God Sees Deliverance:
The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.
It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD”.
God is good and therefore we receive of his goodness. Truly when I think about the goodness of God, I’m speechless; it is almost as indescribable as his mercy and grace.
Nevertheless, if we have any chance of understanding the goodness of God, it pays to examine it in the context of scripture.And not surprisingly, when you trace back the first mention of God’s goodness it is associated with his deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt.
“And Moses told his father in law all that the LORD had done unto Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, and all the travail that had come upon them by the way, and how the LORD delivered them. And Jethro rejoiced for all the goodness which the LORD had done to Israel, whom he had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians.” (Exodus 18:8-9)
What is more, is that God’s goodness is a part of his nature and character. It is a part of who he his. We see this again in the book of Exodus, when Moses asks the Lord for a sign that he had indeed found grace in God’s eyes:
“And the LORD said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name. And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory. And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.” (Exodus 33:17-19)
Despite not seeing God, his presence was tangible. The presence of God is tangible in our lives also; by virtue of the fact that the Spirit of God indwells us.
The key [according to our text] to receiving of God’s goodness is to wait upon him. The key to receiving of God’s goodness is also to seek him. It’s an act of faith and clearly without faith it is impossible to please God who is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.
An important component [if you can call it a component] to our study today, is prayer.
Psalm 27 highlights this point and begins thus:
“A Psalm of David. The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)
David acknowledges that the Lord is the source of deliverance out of all his trials; giving him the strength to endure hardship and resist succumbing to fear in the face of danger.
“Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me. When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.”
This is where we understand the importance of seeking God’s face in prayer. Which incidentally was commanded by the Lord in this instance. It was God who told David to seek his face.
The Psalm concluded with these 2 verses:
“I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.” (Psalm 27:13-14)
These excerpts are perfectly consistent with our text today and help us to understand the processes of human heart as it deals with trials, tribulations and fears. And not only the processes of the human heart but also the agency of God in responding to our need for strength and comfort.
Whilst waiting upon the Lord and seeking him, is an exercise in faith, it is also an act of patience. Deliverance always comes in God’s time and not ours.
Notwithstanding, good things are gained when we wait upon the Lord. Those who wait upon the Lord are renewed in their strength as we see both in Isaiah chapter 40 and Psalm 27.
We find that quietly waiting for the salvation [or deliverance] of the Lord is also an act of patience. It must be said at this point that we are speaking of being saved in a physical sense [being delivered from our trials] and not the salvation that leads to eternal life. The context bears this out…
Here are another couple of examples:
“And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.” (Exodus 14:13-14)
In this example we see the Israelites just prior to being delivered from Egypt. We see Moses command the people to stand still [or quietly wait] and see the salvation or deliverance of the Lord.
[Next 2 examples]
“And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.”
“But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” (Matthew 24:13-14)
In these 2 verses we see the remnant of Israel preserved through the tribulation. Interestingly we read of the patience of the saints in the book of Revelation.
Just as we’ve seen faith, hope and patience working together in our trials and tribulations in our text today, I’m reminded of this verse in Romans:
“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Romans 5:1-5)
I’m sure that we would all like an easy life; free of troubles, trials and conflict. This just isn’t possible. Jesus promised that we would have tribulation in this world… he also said “be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. And this is why Paul is able to say that we glory in tribulations.
The question is “Do we?” I don’t say this to belittle the trials that some people go through.
With every trial there is a temptation to reject God
With every trial there is an opportunity to triumph in which to glorify God
Paul also said that we are more than conquerors through him that loved us…never to be separated from that love.
I pray that today’s message has been a blessing to you. And I especially pray that it changes your perspective on the immediacy of God’s help in any situation.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)
No doubt there have been times when you have wondered and will wonder, “Where is God in this situation and in my life”
Yet we are assured that when we seek God with all our hearts, he WILL be found.
In the words of the prophet Jeremiah himself:
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13)
The context of these verses, whilst they relate to the nation of Israel and their imminent exile into Babylon, they are still true in many respects for the individual. Therefore it is so important to seek the Lord while he may be found.
This is absolutely dependant on the state of your heart…. Do not harden it
Throughout the Old Testament we get many and important insights into the character of God. And the books of Jeremiah and Lamentations are no different. As we see in our passage today, it was only when the prophet Jeremiah “recalled”, that he had hope. The question is: What did he recall?
One thing is certain.
HE WASN’T INVENTING A GOD OF HIS OWN LIKING OR PERSONAL PREFERENCE
Jeremiah had the benefit, not only of his own personal experience but also the Old Testament scriptures.
We too need to be looking at God through the lens of scripture. The more we read, the clearer our view of God will be.
Finally we must also uphold the importance of prayer:
As we read in Hebrews:
“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)