Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Great Is Thy Faithfulness
Reading  Lamentations 3:22-33

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

Wonderful words, words that bring us comfort when things seem to be against us and life just seems to be too difficult to bear. You know what I mean, those times when illness grips us, or when loved ones abuse us, or when employment forsakes us – when we feel all and alone and hopeless – the we remember! The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end.

Our reading this evening presents to us a man who is in such a dark place.

We find Jeremiah with a broken heart! For thirty years he had been God’s messenger to Judah, and to Jerusalem in particular. The word he carried to the people had not been easy to hear,  the religious leaders were against him and the leaders of the people hated him. He had declared that there was no deliverance for Jerusalem by any league with Egypt, that the defences of the city were hopeless against the Chaldeans, and that the one and only escape was by unconditional surrender. His message was not popular.

The people of Judah refused to hear the word of God, some looked to Egypt to be their deliverer, others looked to themselves and swore they would go down fighting –  but the doom and the destruction upon them would not be stopped.   The land was conquered and Jerusalem fell –  Its walls and temple were razed to the ground, and the wailing multitude took up what little possessions they could and prepared for the weary trek into exile, leaving their many loved ones dead, for many the last view of their homes would be that of destruction and flame. It was during this period  that Jeremiah wrote this  little book of Lamentations.

The politicians had failed with Egypt, the soldiers had failed to withstand Nebuchadnezzar, and the prophet had been ignored. Jeremiah looks on the destruction with a heart that is broken – the splendour of the city of God lies in ruins, but his grief was not just over the ruins but also the emptiness – the city was bereft of its people, they had been carried away in exile to foreign, hostile lands.

For 30 years he proclaimed a warning of the doom that was coming, for 30 years he been rejected and yet as he stands in the desolation he doesn’t engage in any form of self congratulation,  doesn’t exalt as he looks over ruins that vindicate his ministry – rather we see his heart breaking, his tears flowing..

We are given a taste of how he feels in the words that he says – He has led me and made me walk in darkness and not in light (3:2), He has set me in dark places like the dead of long ago (3:6), and the following v7 He has hedged me in so that I cannot get out; And he adds He has made my chain heavy. Perhaps worst of all he exclaims: Even when I cry and shout, He shuts out my prayer. (v8) – these and other verses show us that  Jeremiah is in deep distress of soul and it is in that distress that he gives us the words of the text. V22-23 Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning;  Great is Your faithfulness.

Can you picture Jeremiah standing in the desolation of the city, in the desolation of his life?

He stands in the reality of God’s judgement and cries 3:1-3 I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of His wrath. He has led me and made me walk In darkness and not in light.  Surely He has turned His hand against me  Time and time again throughout the day..

Perhaps you feel like this sometimes. You feel like a man or woman who has seen affliction. It may seem like God has become your enemy. You can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. Aging, illness, affliction, financial problems, family break up’s, distress over the direction your children are going – so many causes of grief we experience in this world! And we wonder where God is in the midst of all this. Sometimes we feel just like Jeremiah when he says of the Lord:  He has also broken my teeth with gravel, And covered me with ashes.
You have moved my soul far from peace;  I have forgotten prosperity.  And I said, “My strength and my hope
Have perished from the Lord
:  3:16-18

Lamentations  means poems of lament, mourning, and sadness. And yet in the midst of the mourning – and this passage in chapter 3 is literally right in the middle of the book – Jeremiah breaks out in this song celebrating the Lord’s faithfulness.  There’s a lesson in this for us today, in our context, both in our personal lives and in the life of our country.

Listen to the laments. The book opens like this:
How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she who was great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces has become a slave.1:1

Destruction and devastation all around – And the cause for this devastation? The prophet goes on to tell us: 1:5 For the LORD has afflicted her Because of the multitude of her transgressions.  

And again, 1:8  Jerusalem has sinned gravely,.  Sadly, Jerusalem herself must confess:1:18 The LORD is righteous, For I rebelled against His commandment.

Dear friends, when we think about our own nation, we too must confess, “We have rebelled against God’s word.” How our land is ripe for God’s judgement! Think of it.

Our nation has legalized murder in the form of abortion, causing the holocaust of millions of unborn children. Our nation not only condones homosexuality but would teach our children it is acceptable life style, our nation has legalised so-called “same-sex marriage,” which is an impossibility.

Immorality and violence–the same vices that brought the flood upon the earth and fire and brimstone down on Sodom and Gomorrah–immorality and violence run rampant in our land and pour out of our televisions. We glory in our shame. We call good evil and evil good. Truly our nation is ripe for judgement, just like Judah was in the days of Jeremiah.

And the Lord’s judgement did fall on Judah. Jeremiah laments: 2:5 The Lord was like an enemy. He has swallowed up Israel, He has swallowed up all her palaces; He has destroyed her strongholds, And has increased mourning and lamentation In the daughter of Judah.

But then, in the midst of the gloom and pain, in the midst of the stench of fire and destruction Jeremiah reaches out to God –  3:19-22   Remember my affliction and roaming, The wormwood and the gall. 20  My soul still remembers And sinks within me. 21  This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope.

This I call to mind, and therefore I have hope.   This is the turning point in Jeremiah’s lamentation. His thoughts turn now to the steadfast love of the Lord, God’s great covenant love that he has pledged to all who put their trust in him. And this–this is where we pick up the words of our text: 3:22-24  Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. 23  They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. 24  “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!”

Dear friends, there is hope for you! There is hope for us! This hope is found solely in the steadfast love of the Lord, in His mercies, which are new every morning. The Lord’s great faithfulness to his covenant, his faithfulness to his promises, all fulfilled in Christ–this is what gives us hope and a song to sing every day of our lives!

Think of this: Christ Jesus, the very Son of God – he is truly the man who has seen affliction, once and for all. The man of sorrows, who bore the sins and the grief of his people, when he bore our sins on the wood of the cross. He took the judgement we deserve, each one of us, taking the sentence for our sin on his sinless shoulders. Jesus deserved only praise and commendation. Yet he suffered shame and condemnation, innocently, on our behalf. See the steadfast love of the Lord that he would do this!

Now we are counted righteous and forgiven on account of this righteous one. Through faith in Christ, every believer has eternal life now and on forever into the age to come. In him is life, and this life is the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. God in his mercy has allowed this light to continue to shine in our sin-darkened land. The gospel light has not been snuffed out here in our land. To be sure, more and more of our countrymen are turning away from the Lord in unbelief. But there is a faithful remnant, and the Lord is gracious enough to not allow our land to be destroyed.

His mercies never come to an end. By God’s mercy, our land is still a prosperous land, by world standards, in spite of our many sins. We still enjoy the freedom to practice our religion–although that freedom is being increasingly threatened by our government. The crops of our fields are yielding their harvest in abundance.

But what about when our sight is filled by the adversity of our circumstances? Do you ever feel like God has become your enemy? Join the club. Join Jeremiah in his lamentations. But join Jeremiah also in his hope and thanksgiving, as when he says: For the Lord will not cast off forever. 32  Though He causes grief, Yet He will show compassion According to the multitude of His mercies. 33  For He does not afflict willingly, Nor grieve the children of men..

Martin Luther comments on this passage and says: “God stands hidden among the sufferings which would separate us from him like a wall, indeed, like a wall of a fortress. And yet he looks upon me and does not forsake me. He stands there and is ready to help in grace, and through the window of dim faith he permits himself to be seen.”

It is here in Lamentations where the Prophet remembered that although he is a man of constant sorrows and he has seen many afflictions by the rod of God’s wrath, there is still hope. Jeremiah knew that God was His portion. Therefore, he had hope. He knew God to be faithful because every morning in spite of his sin, God gave him mercy. After all that Jeremiah had endured, among the rubble and ruin of Jerusalem, he is able to stand forth and lift his voice in praise to God for His great, unfailing faithfulness to His people!

Jeremiah was able to do this because he had a great perspective of God. Regardless of the situation or the circumstance, Jeremiah knew that God was still God. He knew God would be eternally faithful to His people. Today, as we go through difficult and trying times let us consider Jeremiah’s witness of God’s faithfulness. When bad times or hard times, come to us, let us realize that God has made the heaven and the earth by His great power and there is nothing to hard for God.

Like Jeremiah, we must face our mountains of success and valleys of failures. Like Jeremiah, we, too, are men and women of constant sorrows, nevertheless there is hope. There is hope because one day on Calvary God showed His faithfulness to the world. There is hope because Apostle John tells us that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

This is the word of hope for you today: Even when the loving God seems hidden from you, hidden in your sufferings, you know a faithful God, who is true to his word, and he will see you through. The message today is this: Because of God’s great faithfulness, thanksgiving is possible even when things are not going so great. Just ask Jeremiah. For because God’s promises are all fulfilled in Christ, then even in the midst of our lamentations, hope and thanksgiving ring out:

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!