Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him. The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” Lamentations 3:21-26
Dear Faithful Seed-Sowers,
Do you know the famous hymn, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness?” The verses are familiar to many Christians, it is a well-known hymn written by Thomas O. Chisholm (1866–1960):
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father!
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not; Thy compassions, they fail not:
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.
The story of how Chisholm came to write his great hymn reveals a profound truth about God’s faithfulness. Some of our great hymns are written in response to a dramatic spiritual experience. That is not the case with “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”. This hymn was not the product of a single experience but of a lifetime of God’s faithful care. Not long before his death, Chisholm wrote:
“My income has never been large at any time due to impaired health in the earlier years which has followed me on until now. But I must not fail to record here the unfailing faithfulness of a covenant keeping God and that He has given me many wonderful displays of His providing care which have filled me with astonishing gratefulness.”[i]
Great is God’s Faithfulness!
Do you believe that? Have you seen God’s faithfulness? What is faith? What does it mean to be faithful?
I would like for you to take a few moments and read the above passages from Lamentations out loud and read them slowly. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you with His Words.
Lamentations was written by an eyewitness of the siege and fall of Jerusalem. Many scholars give Jeremiah credit as the writer. The book has some descriptions of these terrible events. They are fresh and vivid. They bear all the marks of firsthand experience. In all likelihood, Lamentations was written in or near the ruined city itself—if not by Jeremiah himself, then at least by one of his contemporaries. To set the stage so that we can enter the story and then let the story enter into us, Jerusalem has finally fallen around 587 B.C. After a long siege, the city fell to King Nebuchadnezzar. Immediately, the best and brightest citizens were deported to Babylon. The others were left behind in a destroyed and desolate city that had been ransacked and ruined. Are you with me in the story? Are you with the best and brightest in Babylon or are you stuck behind in the ruins of Jerusalem?
Maybe Jeremiah wanted to remind the people that just as their ancestors had to rely on God’s manna to descend new every morning, so even in a dark time of destruction, death and desolation, God’s mercies and compassions were going to be new every morning. Think of that: manna and mercies—new every morning and we can only collect enough for the day because tomorrow—they will again be new. Also notice that the word for compassion is plural. That God has many and varied ways to shower us with His compassions. The word for “great love” or “steadfast love” depending on your translation is one of my favorite Hebrew words — “hesed.”
I remember when my seminary, Hebrew teacher first taught me that word … “hesed.”
It means “loyalty, devotion, fidelity, faithfulness, goodness, graciousness and steadfastness love.”
I drove 125 miles each way to go to seminary. As I drove, I used a special tape recorder to help me memorize my Hebrew and Greek. I listened to my own recordings on a cassette tape which I had talked into. Now friends that is old technology from the mid 1990’s! I went to seminary 4 days a week and worked Friday through Sunday. One Friday early on in seminary, I went to the preschool where my wife was teaching. I wanted to tell her the meaning of “hesed.” When I tried to explain it, I began to cry. The thought of God having a “loyalty, devotion, fidelity, faithfulness, goodness, graciousness and steadfast love” for me and my wife was overwhelming. You know how your brain burns into itself precious memories? I remember well writing the Hebrew word HESED down for Jac and trying to explain what it means. After I was done teaching my preschool teacher/student, I secretly went into her closet where she hung her coat and purse each morning. I wanted her to know that God’s HESED was always with her, even on the days when I wasn’t. I wanted her to have a sign that God’s Hesed was new every morning for her in 1994–just like manna was thousands of years ago for the Jews.
Pause and ponder the “hesed” —- the “loyalty, devotion, fidelity, faithfulness, goodness, graciousness and steadfast love” that God has for you! Friends this “hesed” love — this steadfast love is new every morning. It does not matter how far you have gone or fallen. The prophet Jeremiah says, “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:” To call to mind in Hebrew means to bring it back — to turn back and recall over and over.
GREAT IS THEY FAITHFULNESS…GREAT IS THY: firmness, steadfastness, fidelity, faith, faithfulness, honesty, responsibility, stability, steadiness, trust, truth. Yep. Can you put yourself into this story and then…Enter in and put this story into you. This is great stuff here.
Jeremiah, the prophet, declared that “the Lord’s loving-kindness indeed never ceases, for His compassion never fails. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness,” (Lam 3:22)
William Carey demonstrated faithfulness when he asked his friend John Williams to pray for him after serving eight years in India with few visible results. He needed encouragement and asked his friend, “Pray for us that we may be faithful to the end.” In the end, William Carey was a faithful witness in India and a great missionary. GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS!
Faithfulness means being committed to what God lets us have the chance to do, whether it looks like a big assignment, or a small one. You might be given a big assignment–leave all you know and go be a missionary. Or…you might be given a small assignment, like saying, “Yes” to a church leadership position. Maybe God is asking you to start a small group or work with the youth. One thing I know for sure, big or small–our God is GREAT and Great is His Faithfulness!
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23
One tribe of native Americans had a unique practice for training young braves. On the night of a boy’s thirteenth birthday, he was placed in a dense forest to spend the entire night alone. Until then he had never been away from the security of his family and tribe. But on this night he was blindfolded and taken miles away. When he took off the blindfold, he realizes he had been left alone–in the middle of thick woods–by himself. All night long. Every time a twig snapped, he visualized a wild animal ready to pounce. Every time an animal howled, he imagined a wolf leaping out of the darkness. Every time the wind blew, he wondered what more sinister sound it masked. No doubt it was a terrifying night.
After what seemed like an eternity, the first rays of sunlight enter the interior of the forest. Looking around, the boy saw flowers, trees, and the outline of a path. Then, to his utter astonishment, he beheld the figure of a man standing just a few feet away, armed with a bow and arrow. It was the boy’s father. He had been there all night long.
Can you think of any better way for a child to learn how God allows us to face the tests of life? God is always present with us. God’s presence is unseen, but it is more real than life itself.[i]
Friends, we have a heavenly Father who is always watching out for us. GREAT IS HIS FAITHFULNESS!
Your SO WHAT? For this week is to put yourself into God’s story so that God’s story may live in you. Get ready. You are going to be given daily opportunities to live out God’s great HESED: great is thy faithfulness! Enjoy. Be blessed and be a blessing. It’s the only way to live. Ask Jeremiah….and whether you are part of the best and brightest, or whether you’ve been left behind in the ruins–know this: OUR GOD REIGNS and OUR GOD HAS PLANS for YOU! (Jeremiah 29:11) And just like the young warrior, our father watches over us. His compassions for us will never fail. Before I close, in 1985 I started reading 5 psalms a day and a chapter of proverbs; that’s 37 years ago. I’ve shared with you that I write in my bible–and I have notes in my bible on these psalms and proverbs from 35 years ago and from last year. God’s word is new to us every morning–not because we are faithful but because HE is faithful.
I urge you to put the living words of life into your story today and every day. It’s even better than manna!
See You Sunday!
God loves you and so do I,