Let me begin by saying that I’m truly honored to have been asked by my dear friend and brother in Christ to compose a 4th Day Letter for him while he’s away on a cruise (allegedly working).
A few weeks ago, I was driving back to the church after visiting one of my members in the hospital. The church that I pastor sits atop one of the highest mountains in the state of South Carolina so, naturally, the route I was taking had me on the back roads winding through the countryside. It was on this rather routine trip that I noticed a beautifully restored three-wheeled John Deere farm tractor sitting in a garage. That may sound peculiar to some folks, but if you’re from the country then you know that restored farm equipment isn’t much different than fine vintage wine to others. It may seem old and utilitarian – a farm tractor – but when someone’s taken the time to restore it to its former glory, well, it just has a way of taking you back to better days.
Today, I want to share with you a passage of Scripture that’s much like that restored John Deere farm tractor. It comes from the book of Lamentations. Like the farmer’s old barn that used to house the tractor, Lamentations is a book in the Old Testament that few take the time to peer into. But when you do, you’ll find a verse or two that has the power to take you back to better days and leave you longing for tomorrow.
The prophet Jeremiah wrote the five laments that make up the book of Lamentations in response to the desolation of Judah and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. And it’s right in the middle of this book, right in the middle of the five laments that we read this, “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.”(3:21-23)
Despite the devastation, the heartache, and the disappointment that Jeremiah spoke about, he still had hope! Like Rocky Balboa, “yet” is a word that carries with it the typical Hollywood symphonic crescendo that indicates to the reader that the story’s not over. There’s more here than meets the eye. “Yet” draws you to the edge of your chair and forces you to bite on your nails in anticipation of something else. In this case, that something else is a promise – “this I call to mind.” “This” makes reference to the promise and Jeremiah “calls it to mind.” He consciously decides to replace the present despair with the good news of God’s love. After all, it’s God’s love that, in the end, is our only true source of hope. Hope for deliverance. Hope for a better tomorrow. Hope in an eternal life with God in heaven. Finally, Jeremiah delivers the promise that was impressed upon his mind and written on his heart – a promise that will never fail, a promise that will last for the ages – “because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.”
The Lord’s great love, that’s the promise! The Hebrew word for “great love” is hesed. It means loving-kindness, mercy, and favor. God is merciful. Somehow, despite our sin, he finds favor in us. How? Why? The answer is, God simply chooses to! How can anyone forget the promise of God’s love? God loves us! And not only does He love us, but because of that love we are guaranteed not to be consumed by our enemies, by our pain, by our sufferings and misfortunes, and by our sin. The Hebrew word for “consumed” is tamam and it means to cease being, to be finished, to perish. We won’t slip under the waves and perish, as Peter was afraid he would. Rather, we will prevail. Why? Jeremiah says, “[F]or his compassions never fail.” “Never” is one of those absolutes. Never is like salt. If it loses its “neverness” is ceases to express its meaning. In this instance, if never loses its meaning, then the entire promise breaks down. Like a house of cards, if one falls then the whole structure falls. God’s compassions never fail! The Hebrew word for “fail” is kalah and it means to be completed, or come to an end. This word, even though it has a similar meaning as the word consume, actually conveys just the opposite. In effect, what Jeremiah says is that our problems seem to never end; they appear to consume us, yet there’s really only one thing that never ends and that’s God’s compassion. They’re new every morning!
When we blow the dust off the pages of Lamentations and remove that pile of despair from our laps we’re reminded once again; if not for the first time, that God loves us and that His love is renewed every day. Then, along with Jeremiah, we can join in and sing, Great Is Thy Faithfulness.
Hey, you want to come see this old tractor I found . . .
“Lord, help me remember your great loving-kindness and mercies when I feel as though the things of this world are about to consume me. May I never forget that it’s only because of your unending compassion and love that I have not already perished. With the dawning of each new day may I remember that your love and compassion are new too. And may I always be ready to sing “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” May I remind others of Your greatest demonstration of that love – Jesus. Amen.”
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Your Brother In Christ,
Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead for the forgiveness of my sins and I profess Jesus to be my Lord and Savior.
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