“Great is Your faithfulness”
(Lam. 3:23b; NKJV)
One of God’s attributes is His faithfulness. The word refers to God’s total reliability – the state of being firm, reliable and trustworthy. And God’s faithfulness, Jeremiah says, is “great.” It is not small or insignificant.
But how is God’s faithfulness great? What does it mean in actual practice? As we experience life it is often filled with tumult and turmoil, with chaos and uncertainty. Where is God/s faithfulness in that?
Jeremiah’s own life, as it turns out, was far from easy or pleasant. God had called him to an extremely difficult ministry. He was called to be a prophet during the Kingdom of Judah’s last days as a nation, during the reigns of Jehoiakim (609-598 B.C.) and Zedekiah (597-587 B.C.). During that period Jeremiah warned the nation of its sins and its impending doom. The message, needless to say, was not well received. He was imprisoned at least twice, came close to being executed, and at one point was thrown into a dungeon. “And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire. So Jeremiah sank in the mire” (Jer. 38:6). It is no wonder, then, that in Lamentations 3 Jeremiah could exclaim,
“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.’”
And at the same time he was genuinely grieved over the state of his nation. At one point in the Lamentation he could say, “My eyes overflow with rivers of water / For the destruction of the daughter of my people: (v. 48).
And yet in the midst of all of that he could say “Great is Your faithfulness.” But how could he say that? How could God be faithful when we are experiencing so much pain and destruction?
First of all, God’s faithfulness – His firm reliability – is reflected in the fact that “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed” (v. 22). When Israel sinned they deserved God’s wrath and judgment. And yet they were still God’s chosen people, and in the midst of their affliction God still cared about them, and it is for that reason that they were not consumed. “. . .His compassions fail not, / They are new every morning. . .” (vv. 22b, 23a). And that is because of God’s faithfulness. He is not hot today and cold tomorrow. He is consistent in His love for His people, and that remains true throughout their experience with Him.
Moreover, when God brings trials and tribulations into our lives, they are only temporary. The sun will shine again. “For the Lord will not cast off forever . . .” (v. 31) We still remain His people; He still loves us, and we will be restored to His favor when His purposes in our lives have been accomplished.
And when God afflicts us He does not do so willingly.
“Though He causes grief,
Yet He will show compassion
According to the multitude of His mercies.
For He does not afflict willingly,
Nor grieve the children of men.”
Trials and difficulties come and go; God’s compassion and mercy remain constant. And when it is necessary to chasten us, God does not do it because He gets some kind of sadistic pleasure from it. Even in our sin and failure God loves us still and looks forward to our eventual redemption. We are fickle and inconsistent; He is not. Great is His faithfulness!
All of this has far-reaching implications for us today. First of all, when we find ourselves in times of trial or difficulty we need to remember God’s faithfulness.
“This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
Through the Lord’s mercies we are
not consumed . . .”
What we need to do is to “hope in Him” (v. 24) and “wait for Him” (v. 25). We should “hope and wait quietly / For the salvation of the Lord” (v. 26). The words translated “hope” and “wait” are nearly synonymous and suggest waiting patiently in confident expectation. The trials of the moment may be severe, but God’s lovingkindness and compassion are eternal. The trial lasts but for a moment; the love of God is forever.
But we must not take God for granted – we must seek Him.
“The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
To the soul who seeks Him.”
We must make a conscious effort to look for Him and find Him – to call out to Him in prayer. And the promise is that if we do so He will be good to us. But it all comes back to patient waiting.
God has the ability, and the right, to do whatever He wants. But what is to keep Him from being arbitrary and despotic? The answer is, His faithfulness. He is consistent; He keeps His word. It is part of His very nature to be faithful. That is what makes it possible to trust in Him and to act on His promises.
“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.”