Hope in Him (Lamentations 3:22-24)

Main Idea: No matter what, there’s always hope.

Text:

Because of the tragedy this week, I want to take a break today from my preaching through Romans in order to preach a message about hope. I think God wants all of us to hear this:

No matter what, there’s always hope.

Lamentations 3:22-24 says this:

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.” (Lamentations 3:22-24)

In my opinion, this is one of the most beautiful poems about love, mercy, and hope in all of the Bible. From this passage we get songs like “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”

Even still, this brief passage raises at least three questions in my mind, and I think the answers to these questions could have a huge impact on your faith and life. So,

What does it mean that the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases?
What does it mean that His mercies are new every morning?
And what does it mean for my soul to say, “the Lord is my portion”?

The context of Lamentations is that the prophet Jeremiah had cried out to God for the repentance of Judah, the Southern Kingdom of Israel. God had told Jeremiah to prophecy to them because they were turning their backs to God, and God was going to allow Judah to be exiled from their land unless they repented and turned back to God.

But Judah didn’t repent. At times, it seemed like they would, but it was always short-lived. So Lamentations is all about Jeremiah going into a deep depression over the faithlessness of his people. It appears that he began writing the book as he walked through Jerusalem, not long after the Babylonian invasion. He saw the devastation, and pain, and suffering of the land, and lamented that this is what it came to.

And yet, it’s in the book of Lamentations that we read this beautiful poem about love, mercy, and hope.

Sometimes we can feel like there’s no end to the pain and suffering we experience, and yet I think Jeremiah is teaching us through Lamentations that no matter what circumstance you’re in, even if you despair of life itself, there’s always hope.

So I want to dive into each of these questions so that we might come to the same conclusion that Jeremiah came to, and say with him, “Therefore, I will hope in the Lord.”

Number one:

What does it mean that the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases?

Jeremiah longed for Judah to repent. He longed for Judah to trust in God. He longed for them to rest in the love of God. But they refused. Over and over again, they refused. And yet, the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end.

I think a lot of Christians think this verse only refers to believers. Obviously God’s steadfast love and mercy never come to an end for believers, because we’ll experience His forgiveness and blessing forever in the life to come. But that’s not really saying much, is it? That’s like saying, “I love those that I love.” But that’s not the kind of love that would have comforted Jeremiah when he cried out for Judah to be shown God’s mercy.

No, Jeremiah himself was already secure in God’s love. He was already resting in God’s mercy. So the love and mercy that Jeremiah is talking about here is love and mercy toward unrepentant Judah. God would never ever give up on them.

And Paul made it clear in the New Testament that everything that happened in the Old Testament was for our benefit. So I also want you to know that God will never give up on you. He will never give up on your unbelieving friends and family. He loves you and them and desires that all people would be saved by coming to a knowledge of the truth, and He’s patient toward you and them, not willing that any perish, but that all would come to repentance. God’s love never ends, and it never fails.

So question number two:

What does it mean that God’s mercies are new every morning?

From the believer’s perspective, we experience God’s mercies as new every morning because we sin every day. We continually need to turn to God in faith, and trust His mercy, and we know that His mercy will always be there toward us, even when we continue to fail Him.

Paul wrote to Timothy that even when we’re faithless, God remains faithful, because He cannot deny Himself. We’ve been seeing in the book of Romans that God made a whole bunch of promises to Israel, so for God to just take those promises back would be to deny Himself. But that’s something God will never do. So Jeremiah rested in the truth that God’s mercies are new every morning, and even though unbelieving Israel continually refused to repent, God’s mercy would never run out.

You see, there’s something interesting about Israel at this stage in history. We often rightly recognize that how God treats Israel represents how God treats believers. God blessed Israel because they had the Lord as their God, and God blesses Christian believers because we’ve trusted in His grace alone, and God gives good gifts to those who trust in Him.

But at this stage in Israel’s history, they weren’t representing believers, but unbelievers. They weren’t trusting in God. In fact, entire generations of Israel didn’t trust in God. That’s why they had to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. That’s why they had to be exiled from their land. And that’s why Paul even calls many if not all of them at this stage in their history objects of wrath as we saw in Romans last week. These Israelites were not believers.

And yet, Jeremiah found hope for them in saying that God’s mercies are new every morning. Even in their unbelief, even in their destruction, no matter what, there’s always hope.

So think about those that you think are just so far from God that you might write them off. God hasn’t given up on them, so neither should you. And even as we see God allow us to experience the consequences for our sin, whether it be pain, suffering, or even hell, we can rest that God’s plan is perfect, His mercies are new every morning, and we can declare with Jeremiah, “Great is Your faithfulness.”

Finally, question number three:

What does it mean for my soul to say, “the Lord is my portion”?

That’s what Jeremiah wrote in verse 24, which led to his final conclusion that therefore he would hope in the Lord.

Well, once again, think about what Jeremiah had just gone through. When the Babylonians came and destroyed Jerusalem, and took the people away. Jeremiah lost his people, he lost his land, and he even lost purpose. His purpose was to preach to the people so that they might repent before it was too late. But now that time had come and gone, so Jeremiah had lost everything.

And yet, his soul says, “The Lord is my portion.” In other words, the deepest part of him, his true essence, his soul, recognized that he didn’t need anything but the Lord.

Paul declared in Philippians 4:12-13:

I know how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:12-13)

Paul was simply saying, “The Lord is my portion.”

What is it that you think that you want and need in life? Do you spend most of your life chasing after more money, or a better job, or a bigger influence, and neglect to see that the Lord is all that you need?

Now, I’m not saying we should get rid of everything we have and try to live like Buddhist monks in monasteries far away in the mountains. But I think the Scripture is challenging us to think of our stuff differently.

I love this saying:

Jesus + Nothing = Everything

If you have Jesus, you have everything you need. Jesus experienced our pain and suffering on the cross, taking our sins upon Himself, so that we would die to our sin, and rise to live a new, abundant, everlasting life in Him. And Jesus told us, quoting Deuteronomy, that man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. So even when you’re hungry, or in pain, or sorrow, when you recognize Jesus as your portion, you can say with the Psalms:

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever. (Psalm 73:26)

And as Jeremiah wrote, “Therefore, I will hope in Him.”

Now, you might be saying, how is there always hope? It seems like Judah didn’t have any hope. They had already been exiled from their land. Their cities had been destroyed. They lost everything! And yet, God loves to give hope to the hopeless. God would bring them back to their land. God would bless them with new life, because His mercies are new every morning.

So because the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, and because His mercies are new every morning, and because the Lord truly is our portion, no matter what, there’s always hope.

But I’ve got to be honest. Some of these verses are hard for me to accept right now. The theological part of me knows and believes that there’s always hope. But the practical side of me is screaming as loud as it can all the reasons why things are unjust, difficult, and feeling hopeless right now. I also believe it’s okay for us to think about all those practical things and be upset and mourning. That mourning leads us to dependence on God, leads us to empathize with others, leads us to serve and love others. But at the same time, we’re invited even in our weeping and mourning to focus on the everlasting hope God offers.

So we’re going to close this morning with a responsive reading in order to remind ourselves, even as we mourn, to rest in God’s love and mercy. You all read the part that says, “all.”

READER: The steadfast love of the Lord
ALL: never ceases;
READER: His mercies
ALL: never come to an end;
READER: They are new every morning
ALL: Great is Your faithfulness.
READER: “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
ALL: “Therefore, I will hope in him.”

Pastor Chris Huff

Pastor Chris Huff has been with us since July 2009.  He and his wife, Abby, have four children.  Chris is originally from St. Louis, MO and even though he was raised as a city boy, he has a small town heart. Chris is all over the internet, so you can find him on Facebook, Twitter,… (read more)

Bible Passages: Lamentations 3:22-24
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