Union Chapel Baptist Church

Nov

21

The Faithfulness of the Lord

By Stephen Mitchell

Lamentations 3:19-26

A. The Struggling Soul 19-20

Eliphaz the Temanite said to Job, in Job 5:7, “For man is born for trouble, As sparks fly upward

Jesus told His disciples as they walked to the Garden of Gethsemane, in John 16:33, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.

Here in Lamentations, the prophet Jeremiah lamented over the destruction of the nation of Judah and the troubles he was going through.

The people of God, the Jews, have been attacked. The people have been killed. Vast numbers have been taken captive as slaves. Why?

Read Lamentations 1:3-7 Notice again verse 5, “For the LORD has caused her grief Because of the multitude of her transgressions

Hundreds of years before, God had warned them of what He would do to them if they followed the evil of the godless nations around them. They refused to listen, rebelled against God, and God had finally brought His judgment upon the land. The Temple was destroyed, the nation destroyed, and the land became the property of another nation. Many people were slaughtered and many of the rest taken as slaves and torn from their homes and resettled in a strange land.

And Jeremiah, writing as if he is the nation of Judah, wrote, “Look and see if there is any pain like my pain Which was severely dealt out to me, Which the LORD inflicted on the day of His fierce anger.1:12

But what about the prophet Jeremiah? He, too, suffered, as a citizen of that land. Listen to his groaning.

Lamentations 3:1-18

If you read the book of Jeremiah, and the book of II Chronicles, you will find that all the ways Jeremiah felt under attack was actually done by his fellow Jews. But Jeremiah, as we often do as well, laid the blame for all his troubles on the LORD, on God. When we get to verse 18 Jeremiah wrote “So I say, “My strength has perished, And so has my hope from the LORD.”” Jeremiah told God, ‘It’s your fault.’

So when we get to verse 19 of chapter 3, Jeremiah described himself as remembering all the bitterness of his experiences as Babylon captured Judah, destroyed the Temple, killed the king, his family, and many of the prominent men of the land, and took many thousands captive.

He described himself as afflicted: a state of pain due to the circumstances.
He described himself as wandering: unsettled.
He described his life as one of wormwood, a bitter plant, and bitterness, without any sweetness in life.

Then he wrote that his soul surely remembers and is bowed down within him.

Surely remembers” is actually the word “remember” twice. It stresses the abundance of the memory.
Remembering, he remembers some more. The sense seems to be that Jeremiah’s memories of his affliction and troubles kept repeating themselves over and over in his mind.

The result of this is that his soul is bowed down within him.

He is depressed. His heart is bowed down with the weight of his troubles. He is depressed with the recurring memories of his troubles. They run over and over and over in his mind. He cannot escape them.

B. The Hoping Soul 21

How does Jeremiah escape this vicious cycle of bad memories flooding his mind over and over and over again. He wrote how he escaped it in verse 21.

Remember, these are Jeremiah’s own words. He recorded this. He wrote down how he escaped the vicious cycle of bad memories.

This I recall to my mind.

The word translated “recall” is a word usually used in the OT in regards to salvation.

The Bible is rich in idioms describing man’s responsibility in the process of repentance. Such phrases would include the following: “incline your heart unto the Lord your God” (Joshua 24:23): “circumcise yourselves to the Lord” (Jeremiah 4:4); “wash your heart from wickedness” (Jeremiah 4:14); “break up your fallow ground” (Hosea 10:12) and so forth. All these expressions of man’s penitential activity, however, are subsumed and summarized by this one verb šûb. For better than any other verb it combines in itself the two requisites of repentance: to turn from evil and to turn to the good.1

In this context, Jeremiah used it to express a conscious turning of his mind away from the depressing thoughts and turning his mind to new thoughts. Jeremiah intentionally and deliberately, began to think about something else. He changed his thought life.

Therefore I have hope.

This changing what he thought about brought him the hope he was completely lacking. Hope is a confident expectation. Jeremiah went from seeing himself and his condition as hopeless, to having hope in his life.

Jeremiah intentionally changed his thoughts from his afflictions to … what?

C. The Faithful LORD 22-23

The very next word Jeremiah wrote is the word “Mercies / Lovingkindnesses.”

Jeremiah forced his thoughts away from his very difficult circumstances to thoughts of the Mercies of the LORD. What exactly is God’s Lovingkindness, His Mercy? It is His commitment to His covenant obligations.

God has sworn by His own Self, that He would do good to Israel. That He would redeem her. That He would not let her perish from the earth. This never meant she would not be punished for her sins, but it did mean she would not be completely destroyed.

God said, in Malachi 3:6, “For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.

But what about God’s Mercies for the individual such as Jeremiah?

God said, in Isaiah 21:10, “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

So Jeremiah tore his thoughts from his circumstances to His God and to the reality that God had not, was not, and would not forsake Jeremiah. The LORD had strength available for Jeremiah to go through his troubles. The Lord was ready to hold up Jeremiah so he would not fall in his affliction. The LORD had not forsaken Jeremiah, in spite of the affliction he was going through.

And Jeremiah knew this truth. This is why he wrote “The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease.” God’s Mercies / Lovingkindnesses never stop. He is always merciful and kind to His children, even when they go through difficult times. We were never promised a trouble-free life. But we were promised that our LORD would walk with us through those heartaches and struggles, caring for us and giving us the needed strength and encouragement for the day.

Jeremiah stressed this when he wrote next, “For His compassions never fail.”

Compassion” describes the feeling of seeing a helpless person in distress. Seeing an infant hungry or hurting. Seeing a child suffering. Seeing these precious little ones struggling with serious illnesses or disease. Our hearts go out to them. We have Compassion.

God sees us exactly that way but, of course, with a far greater compassion than we have. He knows our struggles. He has Compassion on us. And His compassions never fail. The word “Fail” is actually a word that means ‘to bring to completion.’ Such as when we finish a project, maybe finishing fixing the brakes on the car, or completing a delicious dessert for the Carry-in. God’s compassions on us are never like that. He is never done with us. He never says to us, ‘Okay. I’m done. Now you take it from here.’

God’s compassions never reach their end, They are new every morning. God’s compassion on us is always as if we had just seen a baby suffering. That great tug on our hearts is, in a small way, what God feels about us. While we can become jaded walking through sufferings with someone, almost becoming indifferent to the constant struggle, God never does. His compassions on us are fresh every day of our lives.

Which is why Jeremiah, overcome with the wonder of God’s love and care for him, burst out:

Great is Your Faithfulness!

King David knew that, which is why he wrote, in Psalm 31:19How great is Your goodness, Which You have stored up for those who fear You, Which You have wrought for those who take refuge in You, Before the sons of men!

God’s faithfulness to us is so vast we cannot even begin to comprehend. The Apostle Paul knew that, which is why he wrote, in Romans 8:38-39

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Great is Your Faithfulness. God’s total dependability is unmeasurable. He is always faithful to those who love Him, to those who walk with Him in obedience.

B’. The Hoping Soul 24

In light of that the truth, Jeremiah turned back to his soul and his hope.

“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,

What does that mean? Ever since God gave the Jews the land of Israel some 3,400 years ago, each Israelite, each Jew, took great delight in his or her portion of the land. It was their inheritance. But what about when the land is taken from them? What about in Jeremiah’s time when God allowed another nation to take possession of Israel? What then?

Jeremiah wrote that he has taken the LORD Himself as his portion. The land no longer mattered to him. He had the LORD. The LORD was his portion, his inheritance, his future.

And because of this, he wrote, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” Jeremiah did not just have hope. His hope was in the LORD Himself. The land can come and go. We can lose property, or never have it. We can lose finances, or health, or all the other things this world values and holds dear. But we can never lose the LORD. He is our true portion, our true hope in this world.

A’. The Patient Soul 25-26

So Jeremiah, after looking at his affliction and troubles, had struggled greatly in his soul. The memories of what he had and was going through ran over and over and over in his mind. Then he tore his mind away from his struggles to thoughts of God Himself. What was the effect upon Jeremiah?

The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him.

The word “Good” has the sense of ‘a practical benefit.’ To the person who seeks the LORD, to the person who waits for the LORD to do His work, the LORD is a practical benefit. It greatly benefitted Jeremiah to tear his thoughts away from his circumstances and put them upon the LORD. Jeremiah began to experience peace in his soul. Instead of distress, focusing on God brought Jeremiah hope.

And it brought Jeremiah from a struggling soul to a soul who patiently waited for God to do His work.

It is good that he waits silently For the salvation of the LORD.

As we wait quietly for our LORD to do His work in this world, we can have hope. We can have peace. We can have souls that are at quiet rest in the hand of the Lord.

As we focus on God and His goodness, His faithfulness, His compassion, we can have souls that are settled and secure in our hope for God’s deliverance, His “Salvation” from the distresses of living in such a sinful land and among the rebellious, wicked people of this land.

We know God’s judgment is going to fall on this world because of the great wickedness, because of the slaughter of innocent blood, because of the rebellion against His rule.

But while we are here, we can, like Jeremiah, speak God’s Word to a rebellious and disobedient people. And we can rest secure in the hope of God’s deliverance from all suffering and sin.

We can rest at peace because we focus our hearts upon God Himself and His great Faithfulness.

1. Victor P. Hamilton, “2340 שׁוּב,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 909.

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