In the book of Lamentations, the prophet Jeremiah grieves over the fall of Jerusalem and the loss of the nation of Judah. His grief seems overwhelming until he recalls God’s mercies. Then he reflects on another truth: “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness” —Lam. 3:22–23, New King James Version
God’s mercy which caused Jeremiah to have hope was originally demonstrated to our first parents in Paradise. The disobedience of Adam and Eve demanded a response on God’s part. He rightly could have displayed his righteous wrath in annihilating them. Instead God chose to show mercy. This is the marvel of God’s goodness. He reaches out to show his favor upon them because of his infinite mercy toward them. Thus, God spares them and promises eventual triumph of the woman’s seed over the serpent who seduced our parents to sin (Gen. 3:15).
God’s faithfulness to his promise can be traced throughout human history. First of all, God never forsook his people. They often strayed from God and turned to idolatry, but God never left them. He was always ready to forgive their sin and receive them again as his people when they repented and turned to him. As the angel of the Lord made clear to the Israelites at Bokim, “I will never break my covenant with you” (Judg. 2:1). And that was said to a people of whom the Angel could lay charge: “Yet you have disobeyed me” (Judg. 2:2).
Second, as God’s people moved on in history, the Lord continued to add promises which revealed a coming Redeemer. We learn, for example, that the “seed of the woman” would be a male descendant, for Isaiah makes plain that “to us a child is born, to us a son is given” (Isa. 9:6). Once again, we see that God’s mercies “never fail.”
Third, as Jeremiah notes, even in judgment against his people, “[they] are not consumed, for his compassions fail not” (Lam. 3:22). The same is true of God’s people throughout all ages of history. While at times his church became treacherously unfaithful to his Word, yet God did not destroy it. Instead, out of his goodness and mercy, he often sent new leaders to cause his church to be revived again. Thank God for men like Luther, Calvin, Knox, and many more whom God used to manifest his mercy and faithfulness to the church in the sixteenth century.
Finally, we must note that it is because of God’s unchangeable faithfulness in himself that we can continue to have hope. God says through the prophet Malachi: “I the Lord do not change. So you, descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed” (Mal. 3:6). And Lamentations 3:23 reminds us that God’s mercies “are new every morning.” Though his people sin and stray from him, God still calls in mercy: “Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord Almighty” (Mal. 3:7b, New International Version).
The mercies of the Lord which God’s people daily experience continue to prove that God is faithful to his promises. God even promised Israel that at a future time when his people fall into the sin of idolatry and are being punished with captivity by their enemies, “when [they] return to the Lord and obey His voice . . . He will not forsake nor destroy [them] nor forget the covenant of [their] fathers which He swore to them” (Deut. 4:30–31).
As God assured Israel of his abiding faithfulness to his promises, so also he still assures every believer, “Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me” (Ps. 27:10), With this kind of confidence in the Lord’s abiding faithfulness, the prophet Jeremiah says, “therefore I will hope in him” (Lam. 3:24b).
Dear reader, in times of grief and sorrow, trouble and despair, heartaches and tragedies, let us remember God’s abiding mercy and faithfulness to his promises. Let us look to him for our help and so have hope for our future.
God still continues to be active and faithful in caring for his people. He daily provides for our physical and spiritual needs. Our families are generally well supplied. Even those with meager incomes are usually able to put adequate food on their tables. And those with disabilities have many resources available to them for some kind of help. Socially we live in an open society where we can speak freely and form and enjoy human relationships. Above all, in the church of Christ we have opportunity for the corporate experience of worship and praise to the great God of our salvation. What more could one ask for? When we consider these things, surely, with Jeremiah, we can “hope in God.”
Oh, yes, there are times when the thought of our sinfulness may overwhelm us, and we may begin to despair, but a moment’s meditation on God’s infinite mercy and abiding faithfulness will restore hope again. Therefore, keep God’s faithfulness always before you!
Along the same line of thought, there may also be times when we despair at what one might consider the drifting again of the church from God’s Word. Yet a consideration of how God in faithfulness has cared for his church in past ages should lead us again to have hope. God is able to revive his church again as he has done in the past. Remember that our Lord Jesus said, “I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18). Even when the church seems small and declining in numbers, we can exercise hope, because Jesus also promised, “Where two or three come together in my name, there am I among them” (Matt. 18:20).
In conclusion, it is important to take special note of the fact that God’s mercies are great and unending because he deals with us through his Son, “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever” (Heb. 13:8). That means that if we would taste of the riches of God’s mercies, whether in prosperity or adversity, then we must be found to be “in Christ.” As often as we reflect on our past or present experiences, we must do so in the light of our relationship to Jesus Christ, our Lord. As the writer of Hebrews exhorts us, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Heb. 12:2–3).
Dr. Harry Arnold is a retired minister in the Christian Reformed Church and lives in Portage, MI. He is a member of Grace Christian Reformed Church in Kalamazoo, MI.