Remembering the Faithfulness of God: New Mercies Every Morning
A man who has seen affliction
Jeremiah has often been referred to as the weeping prophet. He was a young man when God called him to be his spokesman to Israel. Jeremiah dearly loved his homeland and its people. He dearly loved the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Though he felt too young and inadequate to serve as a prophet, he obeyed God's call and spent his life in service to God. John J. Parsons said of Jeremiah, "His entire mission was to herald sorrow, destruction, and hardship for the people of God." 1
It was one of the darkest times in Israel's history. Jeremiah's heart broke for Israel when over and over again they rejected God's warning of judgment if they did not repent and turn back to God. Jeremiah's heart, soul, and mind were invested in being used by God to bring his people back into a right relationship with Him, but he suffered greatly.
Life was a dark pit of persecution for Jeremiah, afflicting him physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Worst of all, Jeremiah was continuously subject to what the world would call failure. No matter how much he loved, preached, admonished, exhorted, warned and prayed for the people of Israel, they would not turn back to God. It really isn't surprising that Jeremiah uttered a very graphic, bitter discourse in Lamentations 3:1-20, which begins with, "I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of his wrath." This discourse is not only about himself, but he also speaks on behalf of Israel.
Here is a synopsis of all the afflictions he cites next 19 verses:
- He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light;
- He has turned His hand against me at every turn.
- He has made my skin and my flesh grow old and has broken my bones.
- He has surrounded me with bitterness and hardship.
- He has made me dwell in darkness.
- He has walled me in so I cannot escape;
- He has weighed me down with chains.
- He shuts out my prayer when I cry for help.
- He dragged me from the path and mangled me and left me without help.
- He drew his bow and made me the target for his arrows.
- He pierced my heart with arrows from his quiver.
- I became the laughingstock of all my people; they mock me all day long.
- He has filled me with bitter herbs and sated me with gall.
- He has broken my teeth with gravel;
- He has trampled me in the dust.
- I have been deprived of peace;
- I have forgotten what prosperity is.
- My splendor is gone, all that I had hoped from the LORD."
- I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.
In verse 18 he cried "My strength and my hope have perished from the Lord."
Jeremiah wasn't just talking about your average, garden variety, intermittent trials. He was not talking about the worst day of his life. He was talking about a lifetime of terrible darkness and suffering, not just on a personal level, but also for Israel, who is being punished and judged for their wickedness. He seemed to have lost all hope.
His entire mission was to herald sorrow, destruction, and hardship for the people of God."— John J Parsons
A Man of sorrows acquainted with grief
Isaiah, eight centuries before Christ, prophesied the Messiah's suffering and atoning work on the cross in chapter 53. Like Jeremiah's lamentation, Isaiah was very graphic in his account of Christ' sufferings. As many other Old Testament saints, Jeremiah was a type of Christ. He referred to himself as "...a man of afflictions." Isaiah called Jesus "...a Man of sorrows acquainted with grief" in vs 3, and in vs. 7, "He was oppressed and He was afflicted." Both knew terrible suffering; both gave warning to the people to turn to God, out of love and concern for their eternal well-being; both bore persecution from the very ones they sought to save; both wept over Jerusalem.
Jesus was rejected by his own people, and the Jewish leaders of the day. Jeremiah was rejected the same way as well. Both were faithful, despite it all, in obedience to the Father. Both had the attitude "Not my will but thine be done." Jeremiah was a "type" of Christ probably more than any other prophet or person in the Bible because of his suffering. But in his humanity we see that he lamented toward God. But there is good news...
He is despised and rejected my men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. ~ Isaiah 53:3
Jeremiah's last words in the twenty verse bitter discourse are "My soul still remembers and sinks within me." Have you ever had the horrific sinking feeling when you remember some awful circumstance you had recently or in the past? Or when you know something bad is about to happen? Some people call it "a feeling of impending doom." How applicable to Jeremiah and Israel at that hour in history. But in the middle of his grievous lament, Jeremiah suddenly had a "but yet" in his discourse. His recall of God's mercy and goodness kicked in -
"Yet this I recall 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" (vs 21-23).
After twenty verses of saying God has done so many hard things to him and Israel, he then turned an about face saying God was merciful and compassionate, and faithful in doing so. Why the sudden turn? Perhaps he was remembering from the past what God did in the history of Israel, or perhaps some other great work not mentioned. And yet, it could be after thought and prayer he realized it could have been a lot worse - after all, God could have completely wiped Israel off the map as they deserved; Jeremiah could have been killed during his persecution; God had given Israel promises, which he intended to keep if they would repent and return to Him. The promises were forgiveness and that He would be their God and they would be His people. Whatever the reason, Jeremiah's hope returned.
In subsequent verses, Jeremiah realized that if he himself would be patient, and faithful to seek God continually, salvation would come to Israel.
"The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young" (vs. 25-27).
Jeremiah was saying, God is faithful and one day He will deliver. The suffering of the present would be nothing compared to eternal life in the presence of our Savior, just as the Apostle Paul said in 2 Cor. 4:17.
"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:17-18).
"Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Heb. 12:5).
The best offer
Are you in the furnace of affliction that seems like it will never end? Is it so dark you can't remember what the light even looks like? Do you feel God has left you?
Let not your heart be troubled. God is with you. Jesus said, " Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matt. 11:28-30).
He is with you and wants you to come to Him and learn of Him and He will give you rest. That's an offer we cannot refuse.
1. Hebrew for Christians website. The Prophetic Ministry of Jeremiah and Jesus, John J. Parsons http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Holidays/Summer_Holidays/Tishah_B_Av/Jeremiah/jeremiah.html