I’m grateful this week for God’s faithfulness because it is the rock that steadies my own fickleness.
I weary of my fainting faith, of my fickle heart that fills with hope and confidence one moment but is so easily cast into doubt and sent racing off in desperation to do something at the next moment! Could it be my hopes are staked on tangible evidence and not on God's faithfulness—His character and 'track record' as revealed in His Word?!
So this has been a week for reflecting gratefully on God’s faithfulness, realizing that the extent to which I treasure it, count on it, stake my life upon it, to that extent my life will reflect it. And I too will be characterized by a steady confidence, unswayed by externals, grounded in God's unchanging Word, His revelation of who He is.
I sat one morning this week and read slowly through the book of Lamentations . I wanted to see the lead up to those 'famous' verses we love to sing: "Great is thy Faithfulness." How many times have I stood singing this great hymn, my heart brimming with all the 'good things' I can remember, grateful for God's care in multiple situations, sometimes brought to tears at the reminiscence of His steady love for me? But Lamentations does not read at all like this! It's a bleak little book in some respects (as per the title). The measure of God's faithfulness in Lamentations has little to do with feeling good or even seeing His hand at all. It is the record of God's faithfulness to His own Word and His consequent disciplining of His children to bring them back from idols to treasure only Him. This too is God's faithfulness. The sum of God's faithfulness extends far beyond the 'good things' we perceive He's done for us…
"How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become…she weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks." So begins the poignant description of God's beloved Judah now gone into exile: loveless, desolate, afflicted, suffering bitter enslavement to her foes. Why? 'because the Lord has afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions' (Lam.1:1-5)
Israel’s loving God does things we'd expect of a tyrant: He sent fire into my bones; He spread a net for my feet; He turned me back; He left me stunned. To sum up graphically: "My transgressions were bound into a yoke; by his hand they were fastened together; they were set upon my neck; he caused my strength to fail" (Lam.1:13,14) His people have rebelled against His word, (1:18) their prophets have spoken false and deceptive visions of comfort rather than exposing their sin (2:14) and now it is left to God to restore His people to their inheritance but not without first bringing them to their knees in repentance, and what a horrific process follows.
The first two tragically sad chapters capture Israel's situation. Then Jeremiah begins a lament of his own. As God's messenger he has had to suffer with the people of God. And they've gone and plunked him in a mud-filled well to die; they don't want to hear His warnings. So Jeremiah's own life-mission seems like a failure. There's very much to be sad about! But into this chapter midstream of all this grief comes our hymn-- this marvelous statement of God's faithfulness, and in it Jeremiah's own faithfulness is evident:
"But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I will hope in Him.'
The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.
It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth…."
Jeremiah has not lost hope. By faith he sees salvation on the horizon. He knows God is faithful and that his love is not absent even in the most horrendous of circumstances. Recognizing the LORD's unchanging character he urges the people to examine their own ways and return to Him (3:40) Jeremiah chooses to rest his soul in God's unchanging character despite what he witnesses day to day… And eventually his lament ends with the acknowledgement: "But you, O LORD, reign forever; your throne endures to all generations." (5:19) He's still filled with questions of why the agony must last so long but He knows his is a faithful God. And in the hanging on to this knowing Jeremiah shows himself to be in the line of those who will be rewarded with those words: 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant'.
His applause didn't come on earth. The nation of Israel was carried off into bondage never to return. Judah was exiled only to return in straggles some 70 years later and eventually to be overrun for good till recent history. But Jeremiah fulfilled his role in proclaiming the faithfulness of God to His Word and His people.
These are reminders I need. Life is not about success or fulfilled expectations. It's not even about knowing only sweetness with no bitterness mixed in. It's about counting on a faithful God when the streams flow smoothly at my side and through the rocky painful passages too, and in this confidence, walking in faithfulness, a sheep at the side of a very good shepherd.
These ponderings have encouraged my soul this week. I hope they’ll do the same for you. We serve a faithful God--faithful to His Word, faithful to His character. He calls us to stake our lives on who He is no matter what comes.
Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand. Ps.95:6,7
If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.II Tim.2:13
"Return, O faithless sons, I will heal your faithlessness."
--"Behold, we come to You; For You are the LORD our God. Jer.3:22
“There is no Rock like our God.” I Sam.2:2
“God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and he hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it.” Numbers 23:19