This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. — Lamentations 3:21-23
Looking at the burned-out shells of cars, expanses of charred earth, and chimneys towering over the blackened rubble that once had been stately homes, my daughter saw firsthand the destruction caused by wildfires. As she worked with the Red Cross handing out supplies to those who had lost everything in the Lake Tahoe fire, her heart cried with those who had experienced such devastating losses. Many times, she observed that those returning to their neighborhoods to see if any of their belongings could be salvaged became disoriented as they walked into the area, because nothing looked the same anymore. The grief she saw on the faces of those whose property had been destroyed was overwhelming.
However, in the middle of that scene of devastation, there were some evidences of hope. While delivering food to the area on the third day after the fire, she noticed that someone had placed an American flag on the lawn of one burned-out home. Not far away a sign stated, “We will never give up!” Bulldozers were already clearing away the debris so rebuilding could begin.
As I listened to my daughter describe what she had seen and felt, I was reminded of Jeremiah and his lamentations over Jerusalem. In our devotional text, Jeremiah gave a vivid picture of Jerusalem lying in ruin. He expressed his deep grief for the Jews who had lost their city, their homes, their possessions, and their freedom. Solomon’s Temple, the symbol of the nation’s connection with God, had been torn down, and fine households had been turned into rubble.
The ruin of Jerusalem was not caused by a natural disaster, but was the result of God’s anger being directed at His people and their city because of their great and continual sins. However, as we see in our focus verses, in the midst of terrible destruction, the Prophet Jeremiah found a ray of hope. He recognized that it was only the Lord’s mercy and love that had kept them from total destruction, and that God’s love to His people would never fail.
Today, we have that same hope. We can rejoice that the Lord’s compassions are still the same and will never fail. When we are willing to follow God’s leading and yield ourselves completely to Him, we will find that with the Lord, there is always hope. Even for those who are serving God, trials may come, but He will never forsake us or allow us one burden too heavy to bear. God will lovingly respond to our cries when we call on Him. He remains ever faithful, and His mercies are, indeed, “new every morning.”
There are five poems in the Book of Lamentations. Jewish teachers call these poems “wailings.” The Latin version of the Bible calls them lamentations. Today’s text is part of the third poem of this book.
This third lamentation was written from a personal standpoint, and all of the thoughts expressed in this text contain the words “I,” “me,” or “my.” The first eighteen verses of the chapter are the prophet’s cry of desperation to God. The fact that it was written in the first person did not negate the use of the poem as a communal song of mourning, because Jeremiah identified himself with the people in their affliction. In some ways, the prophet seemed to picture himself as being typical of the nation. As the people’s spiritual representative before God, he had carried their grief and sorrows, and had felt the rod of divine wrath.
The prophet had been through so much adversity that happiness and hope had all but vanished from his life. In verse 14, he related that his own people had taunted and derided him for his message.
The wormwood referred to in verse 15 was a bitter plant that grew in the deserts of Palestine and Syria, and was a symbol of calamity and injustice. It was commonly associated with gall, another bitter and poisonous herb which was commonly administered before crucifixion to deaden pain.
The gravel stones mentioned in verse 16 of the text referred to a punishment where foreign substances like sand were mixed with food. Because of sin, Judah’s teeth were broken; as a punishment for her idolatry, God had given her stones to eat instead of bread.
Verses 19 through 38 offer the one glimmer of hope in this book of sorrowful laments. After pouring out his complaint before the Lord, Jeremiah remembered the Lord’s mercies and great compassion — things he had lost sight of in his desperate grief. In recalling this, he found hope again for the Jewish nation. He grasped that out of the faithfulness of His promises, God gives limitless mercies, new every morning that never fail. His compassions — love in action — will always be there. Jeremiah went on to express that the Lord is loving and patient to those who trust in Him, so Judah should be patient while waiting for the Lord’s help to them during their awful sufferings.
In verse 29, the reference to putting the “mouth in the dust” related to an oriental method of expressing complete submission, in which the humble one would throw himself down in silent confession of unworthiness. Jeremiah was portraying what should be done by those who were suffering as they waited on God.
Verses 31 through 35 offer three assurances to comfort the afflicted. The prophet promised that there would be an end to sorrow, that God would show compassion according to the fullness of grace, and that God’s chastisement of His children was a necessary part of spiritual growth. God never delights in sending sorrow and pain to those He loves. However, He did not approve of the injustice or cruelty that the people of Judah had been involved in, so punishment had fallen in a mighty way on them and their land. Yet, God in loving mercy would ultimately deliver them.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
III. The lamentation and prayer of Jeremiah
A. The sorrows of Jeremiah (3:1-18)
B. The confidence of Jeremiah (3:19-38)
When things are falling apart around us and destruction seems to be everywhere, God’s mercy is there with us as our ray of hope. His compassions are new every morning. If we call on Him, He will not fail us!