Life can be very depressing. We live in an increasingly chaotic, fragmented world.
You might feel life is like going through a day when dark clouds completely cover the face of the sun. I pray as we explore the passage of Lamentation 3:19-36, you will find your comfort in God.
First, let us look at the pain of Lamentations. Right from the start of the book a sad and gloomy note has been struck, and it has been growing deeper all the time. The book is dripping with emotions. Look at the underlying emotions that come pouring out of its five chapters: loneliness, groaning, anger, desperate pleadings, brokenness, weeping, emptiness, unfulfilment, hunger and deep hurt.
If this is what you are currently experiencing in your life, I invite you to stay with me for the next couple of weeks as we explore Lamentation 3:19-36. What a different atmosphere suddenly greets us as we continue in chapter 3! It is like one of those days when the dark clouds begin to disperse and the days clear for a time.
We left the prophet in utter desolation in verse 18, saying, ‘My splendour is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord.’ Yet while verses 19-20 still continue the same theme, the prospect becomes altogether different. The four nouns of verse 19, ‘affliction…wandering…bitterness…gall’, continue to express the depths of Jeremiah’s sorrow, and the thought behind verses 20-21 is, ‘The more I think of my sorrow, the deeper I sink into despair.
It is high time we set our eyes upon the Lord.’ The thought is, surely, familiar to all of us. Memory, instead of being the servant of despondency, as it so often is, becomes instead the handmaid of hope: ‘I remember…I will remember…yet this I call to mind.’ Herein is the change: the prophet‘s mind and heart settle afresh upon the glorious divine attributes of God in their unchanging and unchangeable beauty. When sin drives the soul from God, its hope perishes. Only as the soul returns to God is its hope restored.
In a sermon on Lamentation 3:21, C.H. Spurgeon uses this illustration: ‘At the south of Africa the sea was generally so stormy when the frail barks of the Portuguese went sailing south that they named it the Cape of Storms; but after that cape had been well rounded by bolder navigators, they named it the Cape of Good Hope. In our experiences we had many a Cape of Storms, but we have weathered them all, and now let them be a Cape of Good Hope to us.’
Having observed, then, from verses 19-21 the connection with what has gone before, we can divide the new sections helpfully into three parts: God’s great faithfulness (3:22-26), Man’s great benefit (3:27-30), and the three great principles about God (3:31-36). The familiar statement ‘Great is your faithfulness (3:23) is demonstrated here in four different ways.
Today, we will look at the first one of the four different ways, ‘God’s faithfulness in the midst of the great afflictions.’ From verse 22 Jeremiah drops the first person singular for a while as he speaks. The testimony here begins: ‘Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed.’ For ‘great love’, the American Version has ‘mercies’, which captures the fact that the word is in plural, denoting the abundance and variety of these mercies.
The word refers to the covenant loyalties or covenant mercies of God towards His people. It is a grand word-incorporating His loving-kindness, grace, favour and goodness. And those mercies are the only reason why we are not consumed’, overwhelmed, destroyed, by the dangers of life and the follies we bring upon ourselves on account of our sin. Psalm 103:10 comes immediately to mind: ‘He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.’
And the verse continues, ‘For his compassion never fail.’ God’s ‘compassions’ are His pity, sympathetic love and kindness, especially to the needy, helpless and destitute. They never fail. This stream runs on and on, but never runs dry. Why? Because these are the compassions of the changeless and eternal God!
Finally, listen to Matthew Henry as he apply this to God’s people, the church: ‘The church of God is like Moses’ bush, burning, yet not consumed; whatever hardships it has met with, or may meet with, it shall have a being in the world to the end of time. It is persecuted of men, but not forsaken of God, and therefore though it is cast down, it is not destroyed; corrected, yet not consumed; refined in the furnace as silver, but not consumed as dross.’
Remember that God never leaves Himself without a remnant and a witness even in the worse days and the darkest hour. By the grace of God, His people (whether in Jeremiah’s day or our day) are not utterly ruined or destroyed. God’s compassions never fail, even when He appears to have shut them up.
By Rev. Eric D. Maefonea