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.
It seems a rather strange title for a book of the Bible – Lamentations! It is a book of tears and the frank, honest pouring forth of pain, exhaustion, and despair. It is written by Jeremiah, whose many tears earned him the title “the weeping prophet”. Jeremiah is writing Lamentations after the horrific destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 587 B. C. Yet in the midst of Jeremiah’s tears, lamentations, and confusion, we see him calling to mind the “steadfast love of the LORD”.
In the midst of pain Jeremiah stops to remind himself that although circumstances change, and people change, the steadfast love of the Lord never changes. Jeremiah knows that his people have broken the covenant with God, yet God will be faithful to his covenant with them. Although they have been faithless, God will remain faithful. Jeremiah knows that “every morning” God’s faithful love and mercies will spring up fresh.
All of us have experienced pain and agony of some sort, whether it is the death of a loved one, financial upheaval, chronic pain, or broken relationships. Lamentations and tears are the honest expression of our pain, and a natural response that God prompts and encourages.
But then, in the midst of our lamentations, the Holy Spirit stirs within reminders of the “steadfast love of the LORD”. And we hope again. Each morning comes up new, awakening us to God’s fresh and faithful love.
Thomas Obediah Chisholm, who described himself as “just an old shoe”, was born in a log cabin in Franklin, Kentucky in 1866. He went to a small country school and became its teacher at age 16. He became a Christian at age 27 and, with no college or seminary, was ordained to the Methodist ministry at age 36. After a brief pastorate in Kentucky he had to retire because of poor health, and later became an insurance agent.
In a letter dated 1941 Chisholm writes:
My income has not been large at any time due to impaired health in the earlier years which has followed me until now. Although I must not fail to record here the unfailing faithfulness of a covenant keeping God and that He has given me many wonderful displays of His providing care, for which I am filled with astonishing gratefulness.
Always interested in poetry, Chisholm wrote over 1,200 poems, of which 800 were published, and some set to music. In the midst of poor health and meager income, Chisholm wanted to leave a record of “the unfailing faithfulness of a covenant keeping God”. Having experienced the “wonderful displays of His providing care” he wrote a poem, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”. He based the poem on Jeremiah’s words in today’s Scripture text. He sent the poem to his friend William Runyan who set it to music.
Perhaps you remember the first stanza of the hymn and its chorus:
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my father!
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not:
As thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
Great is Thy faithfulness, Great is Thy faithfulness,
Morning by morning new mercies I see:
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!
Let us today, like Jeremiah and Thomas Chisholm, “call to mind” the steadfast love and faithfulness of our God!
Grace and peace,