The Steadfast Love of the Lord Never Ceases (Lamentations 3:21-23)
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: 22 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. —Lamentations 3:21-23
Several weeks ago, before most of the United States was sheltering at home due to the coronavirus global pandemic, my 19-year-old daughter and her friend asked, “Is Jesus coming back?” My immediate response was an emphatic, “Yes!” Now, I know what they meant. They were wondering out loud if the “signs of the times” was an indication of Jesus’ immediate return: the coronavirus, the H1N1 flu in the Philippines, and swarms of locusts in Africa in seemingly unprecedented numbers. You have to admit, when you put it together it does sound apocalyptic.
As Christians, we believe that Jesus is coming back. But are these “signs” that it’s happening now? I don’t know. No one does. What we know is that Jesus inaugurated the last days by his death, resurrection, and exaltation to the right hand of the Father. We now eagerly await Jesus’ return on the last day to judge the living and the dead. What does this have to do with Lamentations 3:21-23? Well, Judah was facing similar questions about God’s judgment.
In 587 BC, King Nebuchadnezzer sieged Jerusalem and exiled what remained of the Southern Kingdom of Israel. Lamentations looks back on what and why that happened. Yahweh is a covenant God. He promised Israel he would bless them if they kept the covenant, but he warned that he would curse them if they broke it (Deuteronomy 27-28). Because of their rebellion, the siege of Jerusalem was God’s promised judgment, but thankfully, it was not God’s final judgment. While the prophets warned of God’s coming judgment, they also promised that all who returned to the Lord would be spared and received back into the people of God. These same prophets also foretold of a day when God would restore the kingdom to Israel through a descendant of David. Why? Because God would always be faithful to his covenant. Every promise he made, he would keep. That was the basis for Judah’s hope (Lamentations 3:21-23).
The faithful Jewish remnant rightly lamented the loss of their city, the destruction of their temple, and their slavery in Babylon (Lamentations 1:1-7). They rightly acknowledged their sins (Lamentations 1:8-7-22). They rightly embraced God’s righteous judgment (Lamentations 2-3:17). Additionally, on the basis of God’s character, they rightly cried out to him for mercy (Lamentations 3:18-20). This is what they “called to mind”—the truth of God’s character, his covenant faithfulness (v. 21). Rather than lose hope as they looked around at their circumstances, they trusted that “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases” (v. 22). The word translated “steadfast love” (chesed) often refers to God’s covenant faithfulness, his lovingkindness.
So, despite what their lives may look like in Babylon, these exiles held to the hope that the God who cannot lie would be faithful to his covenant promises. Consequently, while they were presently under judgment, “his mercies would never come to an end” (v. 22). That is, no matter how bad their lives may be, and no matter how long they suffered under God’s judgment, they trusted that God would continually display his mercy toward them—his goodness or love to those who deserve judgment (v. 23). That is why they could declare, “great is your faithfulness” (v. 23).
Is this the end? I don’t know. What I do know is Jesus taught us that, rather than trying to figure out why a particular bad thing happens to a specific group of people, we should instead take that opportunity to reflect upon our own sin and repent (Luke 13:1-5). We know that God is already judging the unrighteous around us (Romans 1:18). As we look around us and witness all the chaos, evil, and rebellion, we are right to lament. But, we must also cry out to God for mercy, believing that he is faithful and that he will keep all his promises. Jesus is coming back. And we pray that it would be soon. Until then, we ground our hope in the character of God. His covenant love will never come to an end, and he will continue to display his mercy toward his people. So, let us walk by faith in this God and not by the sight of our circumstances. For great is his faithfulness!
How do you process the difficult circumstances and the suffering you face in this life? Reflecting upon Lamentations, how does it help you process them?
Are you afraid of the coming judgment? Why? Where is your hope?
How does meditating on the character of God and his covenant faithfulness encourage you during times of trials and suffering and free you to long for Christ’s return?