One Hundred Percent Faithful
The Book of Lamentations was written by the prophet Jeremiah in about 586 B.C. following an eighteen-month siege of Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. During the siege, both the city and Solomon’s Temple were destroyed. God had warned the Israelites in advance through prophets like Jeremiah that this would happen if they did not repent of their wicked ways. Ignoring the warnings, they continued in sin, disobedience, and rebellion against God until their actions finally brought destruction upon themselves. For this reason, Lamentations is considered to be a postscript to the Book of Jeremiah.
Living in the midst of rubble from the walls of Jerusalem and the Temple, Jeremiah was filled with despair and uncertainty, and he expressed his deep sorrow by writing the Book of Lamentations. However, as he did, something sprang up in his heart. We read in Lamentations 3:21-23, “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.” Jeremiah was able to look back on his life to the good times and bad, and see that God’s mercy had always been there. He realized that God’s compassions fail not, and He had preserved a remnant of the people.
God’s mercy was more than something for Jeremiah to reflect on; it was something he could count on, and it was new to him every day. I have come to count on something as well. Each night before going to bed, I plug in my phone, and every morning, the battery power indicator shows that it is at 100%. When I see this, I trust that my phone is fully charged and that the charge will last throughout the day. Then, a couple weeks ago, my phone’s battery was at 100% as usual when I woke up, but by the time I left for work, it had dropped to 76%. Another 5 or 6% came off as I looked in the settings to see what could be wrong. Eventually, I was directed to a website, which among other suggestions, warned against leaving the phone in direct sunlight for an extended period of time. My wife and I had recently returned from a vacation where I had inadvertently done just that. The situation has improved a little, but I no longer have the confidence that I once had in the phone when the battery power indicator shows it is at 100%.
As Jeremiah reflected on the mercies and compassions of God, he had no doubt that they were at 100%. Each day when he woke up in the morning, he could count on the fact that the love of God would be at 100%. He knew this from faithfully serving God all of his life.
Jeremiah wrote Lamentations in the form of five poems or laments which were meant to express the national grief over the fall of the city and Temple. At that time, he was in the last few years of his life. Yet even in the midst of such devastating circumstances, he had faith that God was still in control. No doubt, like King David, who had written years before this, he could say that he had been young, and was now old, and had not seen the righteous forsaken. He realized that God’s mercies are always present, His compassions do not fail, and His faithfulness is great.
Another individual who faced a desperate situation was the widow of Zarephath whose account is given in 1 Kings 17. At that time, the land of Samaria was experiencing a drought and famine, which had begun when the prophet Elijah went to King Ahab with the message that there would be no dew or rain except by his word (verse 1).
The day she met Elijah, she was at the end of her hope. If we were to look at her faith as a battery, we would see that it was quite low. However, God’s mercies and compassions fail not.
It is evident, according to the Scripture, that this widow woman feared God and had known good days; she had married and had a son. She had also known difficult and hard days; she was a widow. The day she met Elijah, she was at the end of her hope. If we were to look at her faith as a battery, we would see that it was quite low. However, God’s mercies and compassions fail not. The Lord saw her as she opened her barrel of meal, looked into it, and realized there was hardly anything left. I like to think that as she did so, she gave God thanks one more time for supplying her daily needs. She planned to go out and gather some sticks and make one more meal for her son and herself and that would be the end of her food supply, but God had provided for that day.
Meanwhile, after Elijah delivered the message to Ahab in Samaria, he obeyed God’s instructions and went eastward about thirty miles to the brook Cherith where God had commanded ravens to bring him food. For a time, the ravens brought him bread and meat every morning and evening, and he drank from the brook. Then the brook dried up. Elijah was given new instructions to go to Zarephath where God had commanded a widow to sustain him. In both instances, Elijah may have wondered how God would accomplish what He said. That would only be natural, but he obeyed because he believed God’s Word to be true. We sometimes wonder how God will accomplish what He has promised, but we can trust that His Word is true.
God instructed Elijah to leave the brook, which was in his hometown area, a place familiar to him, and go to the area where King Ahab’s wife, the wicked Queen Jezebel, had grown up. He didn’t know exactly what he would find, but he went. Perhaps along the way he wondered if the widow might be an heiress of a great estate. If so, she would have the financial means to not only support herself, but to support him, and that would be a good situation. It would definitely help in being able to wait out the drought and the famine. However, after days of walking, he arrived at Zarephath tired and thirsty, only to find a widow outside the city gates gathering a few sticks to cook her last meal—not what you would hope for if you needed someone to sustain you. However, Elijah had a promise from God that he would be sustained, so he told the woman, “Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water” (verse 10), and as she was going to do that, he added, “Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand” (verse 11).
For Elijah, the battery level of God’s promises was at 100%, so he could confidently ask the widow to bring him a morsel of bread.
Elijah understood how the promises of God work, because he had proved them. At Cherith, he had followed the command of the Lord, and the Lord had sustained him. Like Jeremiah, he could look back and see that God’s faithfulness, mercies, and compassions were new every morning. He could look back and see all the promises God had fulfilled. Because the ravens brought him bread and meat every morning and evening, he understood God would take care of him. For Elijah, the battery level of God’s promises was at 100%, so he could confidently ask the widow to bring him a morsel of bread.
The widow’s response to Elijah’s request was, “As the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die” (verse 12). So at first, her answer was that she could not feed the prophet, because she only had enough food for one last meal. However, Elijah gave her an opportunity to extend her faith. He told her, “Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son.” He was asking her to prove God. And he gave her a promise saying, “For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth” (verses 13-14).
It is wonderful to get a promise from God, especially when you feel like you are at your end and there is nothing more you can do. When you reach that place, get hold of a promise from God, and you will find that God will sustain you in your situation. This is what happened for the widow. The Bible tells us, “She went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days” (verse 15). She put her trust in God and found His mercies to be present, His compassions new every day, and His faithfulness to be great.
God’s heart responds to those who have faith. There were many widows in Israel, but this God-fearing woman in Zarephath was the one Elijah was sent to.
During our Lord’s earthly ministry, He was rejected by many, including the people from His own hometown, and in that rejection, He thought about this widow woman from Zarephath. He told His countrymen, “But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; but unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow” (Luke 4:25-26). The Lord was telling them that God’s heart responds to those who have faith. There were many widows in Israel, but this God-fearing woman in Zarephath was the one Elijah was sent to.
The enemy of our souls would like to take away our hope, but we do not need to be discouraged, because we have the promises in God’s Word, promises we can rest our faith and trust upon. These include assurances such as: “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5), and “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20). These let us know that God is with us in every way, for all time, no matter the situation. When we get up in the morning, He is there 100%. As we go through the day looking to Him, He is there 100%. When we say our prayers at night and thank Him for another day in His service, He is there 100%.
God’s mercies are there, His compassions fail not, and His faithfulness is great. We can count on Him!