Great is Thy Faithfulness

adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 17 Sep 2010


22 It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

The book of Lamentation is as its name suggests, a lamentation. The prophet Jeremiah wrote it in the aftermath of the devastation of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 BC. You can’t read this book without a sense of poignancy at the desolation, pain and suffering of the people depicted in it. A good summary of the book may be found in the Acrostic Bible produced by Barry Huddleston, who appropriately outlined the 5 chapters using the acronym DIRGE.

  • Desolation of Jerusalem announced 
  • Israel’s misery lamented 
  • Reminder of God’s mercy 
  • Grimness of Israel’s sin 
  • Exiles pray for mercy

Does such a book contain any promises? Well, certainly! In fact, it contains one of the most beautiful and comforting promises found in the Bible:

22 It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

Well, it is true that this is not exactly worded as a promise. It is worded, rather, as a declaration of faith and hope. But who will deny that a promise is implied. In fact, in the same chapter, the promise implied in our text is explicitly stated, verse 31-32—

31 For the Lord will not cast off forever: 32 But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies” (Lam 3:31-32).

In this installment of the Great and Precious promises of God, we want to consider the promise by studying the more famous and well-beloved words of our text.

We may discern three inter-related thoughts from our text: First, it is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed; secondly, the LORD’s compassions fail not; and the LORD’s faithfulness is great.


1. The LORD’s Mercies

The word translated ‘mercies’ is a theologically loaded word that may be translated ‘covenant loving kindness.’ It speaks not just of mercy in the sense of withholding punishment. Rather, it expresses the LORD’s fatherly love and favour for His covenant people.

Like a father’s love towards his children, the LORD’s mercies towards His people is not dependent on their worthiness or even obedience. No doubt, the Father was angry with His people for their hardness of heart, ingratitude and rebellion against Him.

But His fatherly covenant loving kindness towards them does not change. For that reason, Judah was not completely obliterated despite her apostasy and idolatry.

It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed,” says Jeremiah.

Judah, the southern kingdom of Israel was, in those days, the church under-age. Though not all Israel is of Israel (Rom 9:6), it is clear that God had His elect in Judah, and that He was still looking at her as His wheat field and vineyard.

The day would come when He would sow the seed of the covenant amongst the Gentiles (Hos 2:23); and Judah would no longer be His people. But for now, Judah was His people and covenantally beloved for the sake of His elect.

For that reason, she was not consumed as she deserved.

But there is a related reason. “It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not, they are new every morning” says Jeremiah.


2. The LORD’s Compassion

The word translated ‘compassion’ (racham), occurs 44 times in the Old Testament, and is translated as ‘mercy’, 30 times.

But it is also translated as ‘womb’ four times, and ‘bowels’ twice. So this word has to do with heartfelt pity and compassion.

Jeremiah is suggesting that Judah was not consumed not only because of God’s covenant loving kindness; but because He had compassion and pity for His people.

Now compassion can fail. A man who works in a war zone hospital may initially be greatly moved by all the pain and injuries he sees. He wants to help everyone and spend as much time with as many patients as he can. But week after week of treating the wounded in the hospital will dull his senses. Soon, he would be so used to seeing the atrocities that he does not seem to be affected emotionally even when a little child is brought in with life-threatening injuries.

Likewise, the compassion of an earthly father can fail. A father will pity his children and deal with them compassionately. But if his children continue to be ungrateful to him, and to disobey and rebel against his fatherly authority, there may come a time when the father says, “enough is enough,” and he begins to deal with his children according to strict discipline without any pity for their crying; and he may even walk out of the home.

But the compassion of the LORD, our heavenly Father never fails. The people had incurred His wrath. The nation deserved to be obliterated from the map. But the LORD continued to show His pity and compassion for the sake of His elect; and for the sake of Christ who would be born and nurtured in the nation.

The Jews who remained knew that they were spared because of the compassion of the LORD. Each day when they saw the sun-rise, they knew that they were being sustained yet another day because the compassion of the Lord is new every morning.

Well, beloved brethren and children, we may not be experience war and destruction at the moment. But let us remember that we too deserve God wrath for our sin against Him. But the compassion of the Lord fails not. And we are more assured of this fact today than during Old Testament days for Christ Jesus our Lord has taken on our flesh, and was tempted like as we are yet without sin that He might be a compassionate Great High Priest for us.

Therefore, beloved brethren and children, thank God for His mercies and compassion. Each morning when you get up from your bed and you see the sun rising, do not forget to thank the Lord for His mercies and compassion. And then resolve to walk gratefully before His face.

Indeed, notice how Jeremiah, when speaking of the mercies and compassion of the LORD, broke into prayer to extol the LORD: “great is thy faithfulness.”


3. The LORD’s Faithfulness

The faithfulness of the LORD refers to His steadfastness and His sincere keeping of His promises to His children.

Balaam was referring to the LORD’s faithfulness when he says:

“God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Num 23:19).

The LORD does not only bless His children on the basis of His compassion and His covenant-mercies towards them. He blesses them also because of His promise to do so. And “all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us” (2 Cor 1:20).

God would faithfully keep all His promises to His people because He appointed them to His Son, and His Son suffered and died for them. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Rom 8:32).

Great, therefore, is the faithfulness of the LORD. He would never leave His people nor forsake them. Such as know Him and love Him are enabled to know and love Him by His grace. These can have the confidence that the Lord will never abandon them or cease to hear their cries.

No matter how hard life may be; no matter what knocks and bruises you suffer, remember: The LORD is faithful. Jeremiah remembered this at a time when the situation in Judah appeared hopeless. May the Lord grant that we remember the same in such times of prosperity that we enjoy.


Conclusion

22 It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

This is the LORD’s promise. May the LORD grant us that we shall never forget His mercies, compassion and faithfulness. May He give us the strength and perseverance to run on faithfully and hopefully through all the challenges of life until the day when we shall see Him face to face and enjoy Him in a bond of mutual love that is not coloured by suffering, failure and sin. Amen. Ω