The Faithfulness of God

Bible Book: Lamentations  3 : 21-26
Subject: God, Faithfulness of; Bible, Truth of the

The book of Lamentations records the lamentations of the prophet Jeremiah. This book is filled with tears and sorrow. It is a hymn of heartbreak. It is a psalm of sadness. It is a symphony of sorrow.

Lamentations has been called the wailing wall of the Bible. During Jeremiah's ministry, Judah was growing weaker nationally and militarily and spiritually. For years Jeremiah attempted to call his people and his nation back to God. No one seemed to listen to Jeremiah, and the situation grew worse and worse. This was his message: "Repent, O Jerusalem, or sudden judgment and destruction will come upon you." Sure enough, Jeremiah witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem. As he saw it burn, he sat down in the warm ashes and hot tears streamed down his face. Actually, Jeremiah is sitting in the rubble and ruin of Jerusalem, weeping as he writes this book of Lamentations.

Now, the verses of our text constitute the only bright spot in the whole book, because, in spite of the severe judgment of God, Jeremiah could see the hand of God's mercy. He declares that they would have been utterly consumed had it not been for the mercy of God. If they had gotten what they deserved, they would have been utterly destroyed. They would have disappeared from the earth.

Now, the question is this. Was Judah's deliverance from total destruction due to something in them? No! A thousand times no. Judah's deliverance from total destruction was due to the faithfulness of God. He had promised Abraham that He would make a nation come from him, and this was that nation. He had promised Moses that he would put them in the land. He promised Joshua that He would establish them there. He promised David that one would come from his loins to reign on the throne forever. The prophets all said that God would not utterly destroy this people, but that He would judge them for their sins. God is faithful. He judged the people of Judah, but He did not utterly destroy them. A faithful remnant was preserved. Ultimately they will become a great nation again. That is already becoming a reality as the Jews gather back to their land in the Middle East.

Now, I want us to apply this passage of scripture to our present situation. The first thing that I want us to consider is,

I. The Fate We Deserve

I'm always hearing somebody say something like this: "If God is good, why does He allow all of this calamity? Why does He permit sickness? Why does He permit destruction? Why do we have tornadoes and earthquakes? Why do we have floods and famines?" Then I hear some people say, "If God is such a good God, how could He ever send anybody to hell?"

Folks, I want you to know that has never been my problem. I have never asked, "How can a good God permit such calamity?" or "How can a good God send anyone to hell?" My question has been this: "How can a just God, how can a holy God shower us with so many blessings? How can a just God permit anybody to enter into heaven?" That's my question! Because, you see, I know the wickedness of my own heart. The Bible says in Jeremiah 17:9, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" Jesus said, "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies, these are the things which defile a man...." I think the apostle Paul was speaking for all of us when he said, "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing...." The Bible says, "There is none righteous, no not one." The Bible says, "for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." The Bible says, "the wages of sin is death." So if we got what we deserved, we would be consumed. That is precisely what Jeremiah is saying here in Lamentations 3:22. He says, "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed."

Think with me for a few moments about how God could just wipe us out instantaneously if He wanted to do so. For example, He could just wipe us out universally. In Colossians 1:17 the Bible is speaking about Jesus Christ, and it says, "…he is before all things, and by him all things consist." In other words, "It is by Him that all things hold together." One translation puts it like this: "And in and through him the universe is one harmonious whole."

Now, do you understand what he is saying? He is saying that Jesus Christ is before all things, He made all things, and He is responsible for this universe holding together. He is responsible for the sun maintaining its intensity and heat. He is responsible for the precise rotation of the earth on its axis, and for the tilt of the earth's axis in order to produce the seasons. He is responsible for keeping the earth in its orbit so that it keeps a proper distance from the sun. He has placed a magnetic field around the earth known as Van Allen's belt, which keeps harmful cosmic rays from reaching the earth. He is responsible for the composition of the atmosphere -- oxygen, nitrogen, water vapor, carbon dioxide, and argon, which provide the ingredients vital for the maintenance of all organic life. It is by God's mercies that He maintains all that.

In recent days we have heard a lot about the meteors that fall to the earth. I read in one book that every day the earth is bombarded by meteors. Thousands of tons of meteors hit this planet every year. I have read of meteors falling to this earth that weighed two million tons. On October 30, 1937 a minor planet, Hermes, passed within the orbit of the moon, and a slight change in the angle of its course could have caused it to smash into the earth. But the Lord is faithful. It is by Him that all things hold together in this universe. It is by His mercies that we are not consumed universally.

But I want you to also think about the fate we deserve internationally. You know, I am surprised that we have not obliterated ourselves through some kind of international conflict. You think about it.

When you've got mad political leaders like Castro and Hussein, you have to think that it's only by the providence of God that we have not experienced a worse fate than we have. Then when I think about the weaponry possessed by some of the nations of the world, I really get concerned. I was reading a report of the World Affairs Council, and it was talking about the first strike capabilities of the MX and the ICBM missiles, and the potential destruction is absolutely incredible. In fact, when Ronald Reagan was President, he said, "A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. Nuclear warheads serve no military purpose whatsoever. They are not weapons. They are totally useless except to deter one's opponent from using them."

There is a book entitled "Secret Warriors" by Stephen Emerson. In this book he tells about the covert military operations of the Pentagon during the last decade. There was a special operations division of the Pentagon that had a reputation for being zealots and almost off their rockers. They became known in the Pentagon as the "crazies in the basement." It's a wonder to me that somebody has not pulled the trigger and obliterated this world internationally. I'm saying that it's by the mercies of God that we're not totally consumed.

But let's also think about the fate we deserve physically. In thinking about our personal sinfulness and wickedness, we must conclude that God is not obligated to keep us well physically. Yet the Bible says "it is in him that we live and move and have our being." He is the one who provides the air that we breathe. He is the one that causes the blood to course through our veins. He is the one who gives us physical strength. Most everyone here this morning is enjoying at least some measure of health. But have you ever thought about how easily you could experience a stroke. You know, the brain must have a constant supply of blood reaching it through its arteries. If one of these arteries becomes blocked, the part of the brain that it feeds will die because of the lack of oxygen and food, which would normally be carried by the blood. When an artery becomes blocked, that's called a cerebral infarction. Another way in which strokes may be caused is when blood vessels in the brain burst. When this happens, the blood rushes into the brain under pressure and severely damages nerve fibers. This is called a cerebral hemorrhage. When there is a stroke, there is a loss of feeling and strength. Sometimes there is a disturbance of sight. Disability can occur. Difficulty in speech and swallowing is commonplace among stroke victims. You see, it is by God's mercies that we are not consumed physically.

Then also think about the fate that we deserve intellectually. I do not believe that God is obligated to give us a clear thinking process, and yet He does. The Bible says in II Timothy 1:7, "God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." The Greek word there for "sound mind" is the word "sophronismos." It comes from two words, "sozo" which means, "to save" and "phren" which means "insane." For example, in our language we have the word "frenetic" which means "mad" or "wild" or "insane." So when the Bible says that God gives us a sound mind, what He is really saying is that He saves us from insanity. He saves us from idiocy. You see, if it were not for the grace of God, we would all be like the Gadarene demoniac. Yet because of some of the stuff we read, and some of the stuff we watch on television and in the theaters, and because of the kind of salacious material that we put in our mind, it is a wonder that God doesn't take away our brain power altogether.

Then think about the fate we deserve circumstantially. Do you remember the earthquake that took place out in San Francisco during the World Series of 1989? It was a devastating earthquake, but do you know how long it lasted -- 11 seconds. We talk about the tragedy of that earthquake and the lives that were destroyed and the damage that was done. But Dr. E. V. Hill, the great preacher out in Los Angeles, said, "We ought not complain too much because God allowed it to last for only 11 seconds. He could have allowed it to last for 11 minutes. It was a 7.8 on the Richter scale. It could have been a 10 or 12 on the Richter scale." E.V. Hill said that God was merciful. God was just trying to get our attention. God was just saying, "I want to remind you that I am a God of justice and judgment."

Think about the tornado that touched down in Arkansas recently. It touched down for 38 seconds, but God could have allowed it to work its havoc for 38 minutes. God was merciful. I don't know about you, but every time I read about an earthquake or a tornado or a volcanic eruption, my thoughts are directed to the majesty and the sovereignty of God. Anytime sinners see the majesty of God, there is an overwhelming sense of fear because we know we deserve to be consumed. In Luke 13 some people came to Jesus, and they said, "We don't understand why God does what he does.

The other day there were some people walking along the road and a tower fell on them and killed 18 of them. Were those people worse than anybody else?" What they were really asking is a profound theological question. "Why did those people die? -  just 18 innocent people walking down the road, and they're dead -- a tower falls on them. What kind of a God does that?”

Do you know what Jesus said? He said, "If you don't watch out, the same thing might happen to you." Then they said, "You know, those Galileans went down to Jerusalem and they were offering their sacrifices. (Now, these aren't innocent bystanders. These are true worshippers.) And they were worshipping and offering their sacrifices. And Pilate sent his men to slice them up, and their own blood was mingled with the sacrifice. Were they worse sinners than anybody else?" Jesus said, "You better shape up or the same thing might happen to you." You see, God is merciful. But there are those times when He acts justly to warn us, and when we get so blinded that when He is just we think He is unjust.

Now, I want to say this to everybody in this place today, and I want you to think about it. I believe when your thinking is right, you'll have to admit that God has been long-suffering to us. He has been merciful to us. It's by His grace that we're not consumed. I don't know about you, but I know that I do not deserve all of the blessings and all of the mercies that God has poured out upon my life.

Let's think about the fate we deserve spiritually. When I talk to little children about the Lord Jesus Christ I always ask them the question, "Did Jesus sin?" They say, "No." I say, "Have you sinned?" They say, "Yes." I say, "Who deserved to die on the cross more, you or Jesus?" They say, "Well, I deserve to die on the cross more than Jesus." That is absolutely right. It was not Jesus, but it was you that deserved to die on the cross. It was you that deserved that crown of thorns. It was you that deserved those nail-pierced hands. It was you that deserved that separation from God. It was you that deserved that descent into hell. But the Bible says, "Where sin abounds grace does much more abound." So as we think about the fate we deserve, we know that universally, internationally, physically, intellectually, circumstantially and spiritually we deserve to be consumed.

But because God is merciful and long-suffering and faithful, He has preserved us. So let us move then from the fate we deserve to consider,

II. The Faithfulness We Discern

In verse 23 of our text, the faithfulness of God is extolled by Jeremiah. And O he is faithful. He is faithful to preserve us. He is faithful to love us. He is faithful to demonstrate His grace and mercy toward us.

In Deuteronomy 7:9 the Bible says, "Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God...." The quality of faithfulness is essential to His being, and without it He would not be God. For God to be unfaithful would be to act contrary to His nature.

In II Timothy 2:13 the Bible says, "If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself."

In Psalm 89:8 the word of God says, "O Lord God of hosts, who is a strong Lord like unto thee? Or to thy faithfulness round about thee?"

Psalm 36:5 says, "Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds."

Now, as we think about God's faithfulness, I want to say first of all that it is motivated by compassion. Listen to the words of our text once again. "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness." The faithfulness of God is motivated by compassion. It is because He cares for us; it is because He loves us that He is faithful.

We know that throughout the Old Testament God, through his prophets, promised the Messiah. He promised that He would send His Son into the world to be our Savior.

In Genesis 49 we are told that He would be "of the tribe of Judah."

In Micah 5 we are told that he would be "born in Bethlehem."

In Isaiah 7 we are told that He would be "born of a virgin."

In Hosea 11 we are told that He would be "called out of Egypt."

In Deuteronomy 18 we are told that He would "come as a prophet."

In Isaiah 53 we are told, "his own people would reject him."

In Zechariah 9 we are told that he would make "a triumphal entry into Jerusalem."

In Zechariah 11 we are told that He would be "betrayed and sold for thirty pieces of silver."

In Psalm 22 we are told that He would be "…put to death by crucifixion."

In Psalm 22 we are told "…his hands and his feet would be pierced."

In Psalm 22 we are told, "Soldiers would cast lots for his clothing."

In Psalm 16 we are told that He would be "raised from the dead."

In Psalm 68 we are told that He would "ascend into heaven."

Was God faithful to keep His promise? Did God do what He said He would do? Did He send His Son into the world and give Him up to be the Savior of the world? Yea, verily, amen, He did! What do you suppose motivated God to do that? It was His love. It was His compassion. The Bible says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son." We know that the faithfulness of God is motivated by compassion. But it is also marked by consistency.

In verse 22 we are told, "His compassions fail not."

In verse 23 we are told that they are "new every morning."

God is faithful to demonstrate His mercy and His compassion on a consistent basis. The sun comes up every morning. Every day there is a fresh supply of oxygen. God is so consistent that meteorologists can tell you exactly when the sun will rise and precisely when the sun will set tomorrow, and every day next month, and every day next year, and for as long as you might want to know. They can tell you the exact time of the high tides and the low tides. They can tell you the next time that Haley's comet is going to appear. They can tell you the next time there will be a total eclipse of the sun. The reason they can do all of that is because God's faithfulness is marked by consistency. Just as the rising of the sun is consistent, so is God's love toward you. His love, His mercies, "his compassions fail not."

The story is told of a young man who noticed that a farmer had the words "God is Love" on the weather vane above his barn. One day he asked the farmer, "Does that mean that God is as changeable as the wind?" The farmer smiled as he answered, "O, no. That means that no matter which way the wind blows, God is love."

Now, the faithfulness which we discern is motivated by compassion, and it is marked by consistency, but it is magnified by capacity. In verse 23 of our text, Jeremiah describes the faithfulness of God as "great." You know something, I believe that great faithfulness demands great faithfulness. God is faithful to us. "It is by his mercies that we are not consumed." We ought to be faithful to Him.

I was reading about John Bunyan recently. John Bunyan is the one who wrote "Pilgrim's Progress." When he refused to give up preaching they put him in prison, and they said to him, "Mr. Bunyan, you can come out of prison whenever you will promise to cease preaching the Gospel." He said, "If you let me out of prison today, I will preach again tomorrow by the grace of God." They said, "Well then, you must go back to prison." He said, "I will go back and stay there if need be until the moss grows on my eyelids, but I will never deny my Master."

Now, folks, that is faithfulness. Great faithfulness from God demands great faithfulness from us. Now, we have considered the fate we deserve and the faithfulness we discern. Next, let us consider…

III. The Future We Desire

You need to remember that as Jeremiah wrote this book of Lamentations he was seated in the rubble of the destroyed city of Jerusalem. There was not much in the present tense that gave Jeremiah an occasion for joy. He shifted his thinking from the calamities of the present to the possibilities of the future. As he talked about the future he desired, he spoke first of all about the portion received. Look in verse 24. He said, "The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him." The word "portion" refers to, or implies at least a worthwhile inheritance. Jeremiah had received from the Lord everything to satisfy his heart. He lacked nothing. There was nothing he desired that the presence of God had not fulfilled in his life. That was his portion inherited from the Lord. What he had lost was not nearly as valuable as what he had received in the Lord. The truth is that many times we find ourselves in a situation where all we have left is the Lord. We discover that He is more than adequate, more than sufficient, and more than we need. But as Jeremiah thought about the future, he not only contemplated the portion received, but he contemplated the patience required. In verse 25 he said, "The Lord is good unto them that wait for him." That is one of the beautiful promises of the Bible. When Jeremiah wrote this the people of Judah were in turmoil. The city of Jerusalem had been destroyed. The enemy had ravaged their land. The people were being carried away to captivity. Jeremiah said, "You are powerless to do anything right now but just wait on the Lord."

Now, I must confess that I am not very good at waiting. Sometimes I'm afraid that I just do not have the patience that is required. Now, I'm awfully good at working and striving and running here and there, but I'm not very good at waiting.

Some years ago there was a book entitled "What Makes Sammy Run?" It was about a young colt that was always running from place to place in the pasture. Sometimes he was seeking to outrun himself simply because he didn't like Sammy. Sometimes he ran because he was trying to fill up an empty space. Sometimes he ran just because he was scared. Like any young colt, sometimes he ran just because he didn't know how to stop. The tragedy is that we're very much like Sammy. We are running all the time, and life goes by so fast it is but a blur. We drive our automobiles to cassette music. We eat to the sound of a television program. We travel on a timetable. We buy on installments. We join a half dozen clubs. We're besieged by callers and waiters and checkers and telephones. We seldom know what we have missed. There is never really any moment to consider the holiness of God. We manage to evade the moment of mystery. Consequently, there is not much waiting.

But did you know that the Bible gives many promises to those who wait? In Psalm 41 "those who wait upon the Lord are heard."

In Isaiah 30:18 "those who wait upon the Lord are blessed."

In Psalm 25:3 "those who wait upon the Lord shall not be ashamed."

In Isaiah 40:31 "those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength." In Psalm 37:9 "those who wait upon the Lord shall inherit the earth."

In Proverbs 20:22 "those who wait upon the Lord shall be saved."

In Isaiah 25:9 "those who wait upon the Lord shall rejoice in their salvation."

In Lamentations 3:25 "those who wait upon the Lord shall experience his goodness."

The portion received, the patience required, then Jeremiah said we must reckon upon the promise revealed.

Now, of course, the promise to Judah was their ultimate return to the land from which they were being banished. The promise for us is our inheritance of another land.

"There is a land that is fairer than day,
And by faith we can see it afar,
For the Father waits over the way
To prepare us a dwelling place there."

Now, we're talking this morning about the faithfulness of God. God was faithful to get the captives who had been taken to Babylon back to Judah and Jerusalem. In BC 538 Cyrus, the king of Babylon, issued a decree authorizing the Jews to return to the land of their fathers and rebuild the Temple. By the thousands they returned to their homeland, because God was faithful to keep His promise to His people. And God will be faithful to His promise to take His children by faith to their heavenly home.