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. Lamentations 3.21-23.
Up to this point in the book of Lamentations, lamentations are just about all we have heard — expressions of sorrow, grief, despair, and descriptions of pain and suffering. But now the mood changes. Jeremiah has called something to mind and in doing so he has found that his despair has vanished and been replaced a sure and certain hope. So what is it that Jeremiah has remembered? What is it that changes everything?
It is that because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed. The word translated “great love” here is chesed. As I have written before, that word signifies God’s covenant love, the “love that will not let me go”, the absolute unfailing goodwill that God has towards me, his total commitment to my well being, whatever the cost … even (though Jeremiah did not know this) the cost of stepping down into his creation, taking human flesh and allowing himself to be nailed to a cross. That is chesed … faithful love in action, seeking, saving, rescuing, redeeming, sustaining.
And that is what Jeremiah remembers — that chesed is the love God has for him. So no, he is not consumed and will not be consumed by all that threatens to overwhelm him and make worm’s meat of him. The great love of God will not allow that to happen, for his compassions never fail.
“Compassions” is a lovely word. It is rachamim which is from racham, the word for womb — that which surrounds and holds and cherishes the foetus. “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion [rachamim] on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” says God in Isaiah 49.15. Compassion is mother-love. “I am within the womb of God,” Jeremiah is saying. “What safer place could there be?”
And the wonderful thing about this great love of God which carries me in its womb and protects me and keeps me from all that would threaten me or harm me or try to destroy me is that it is “new every morning”. God’s love for me does not wane or diminish as the months and years go by. Every day, as I wake from sleep and get out of bed, I am met by … picked up by … surrounded by … a love that is as full and fresh and unfathomable as the love God had for me yesterday and every day there has ever been. And so it will be, on into eternity. That is the “faithfulness” of God. The Hebrew root denotes firmness … that which can be utterly relied upon and which never moves or shifts.
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 for ever 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!
T O Chisholm