The Surprising Anthem
The Surprising Anthem
“The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is your Faithfulness.” (3:22-23).
Lamentations 3 is the third poem of the book. Like the first two, the song is an acrostic broken into a series of three verses beginning with the same Hebrew letter. In the first six sets of three, Jeremiah descends into a deep depression. Jeremiah feels abandoned and rejected by God. Not only has heaven abandoned him, but God has become his adversary driving Jeremiah out of his presence and into the darkness. Instead of God being the fortress to which Jeremiah flees for protection, God has built around him a fortress of bitterness and hardship. Jeremiah compares his life to that of the walking dead. But even more shocking is his despair in verse 8. The God who promises to hear the prayers of his people is no longer listening. God has become his adversary who is attacking him. In a cry that reveals the depth of his hopelessness, Jeremiah cries out, "my soul has been rejected from peace; I have forgotten happiness.” Jeremiah has reached the end of his rope and lost all hope of deliverance.
Yet, when it seems as if Jeremiah is abandoning his faith and ready to forsake God, his song suddenly turns. Amid his darkest despair, we find Jeremiah shouting forth one of the most significant affirmations of God’s grace and lovingkindness found in scripture. “lovingkindness” refers to God’s loyal love, grounded in his faithfulness to his covenant with his people. This love is never ceasing. The word “cease” refers to what comes to an end in time or extent. In other words, God's faithfulness never ends and continues for eternity, and it has no limits that can be reached. Every morning they are as new and fresh as the previous day. God’s compassion never gets old, never wears out, or diminishes in any way. Every day his lovingkindness and faithfulness are just as genuine and present as before.
In verse 3, Jeremiah feels God has abandoned him and left him in darkness. But now God has become his portion. The word describes something that belongs to someone. Amid Jeremiah’s despair, he realizes that the God of Israel is all he has. Because his life has been stripped of everything, he comes to grips with God being his only hope. We do not fully understand the depth of God’s faithfulness until everything else has been stripped away. When Jeremiah hit rock bottom in his depression, he realized God was still faithful. Our trust and realization of God’s faithfulness are not fully grasped until everything else is taken away, and all we have is God. When life is completely empty, we realize that God is still present. When Jeremiah saw God's judgment and God's righteous anger being poured out upon the nation, he was broken. Yet then he realized that God was still faithful to the covenant and would restore the nation and each individual. Even though Israel abandoned the covenant and God, Jeremiah realized that God had not abandoned them.
Verses 25-27 begin with the Hebrew word “good.” Good has a broad range of meanings: It can refer to practical or material good. It can refer to abstract goodness as well as what is morally good. It is the same word God used to describe creation in Genesis 1. Even after the judgment, God can restore Israel and make everything good again. This is our hope as well. No matter how much our lives are destroyed by sin and by the broken world in which we live, if we turn to God, we discover his absolute faithfulness and power to restore life to what is good.