Great is Thy Faithfulness

Great is Thy Faithfulness is one of my favorite hymns of all time. when I was in high school at Permian Basin Christian School, it was our school hymn one year (I think sophomore). It has been one of my favorites ever since. What a great bass line!

Anyway, Todd Burus had a post recently about Lamentations 3 from which this hymn comes.

Todd’s post reminded me about the context of these great words of comfort that I love so much.

The book of Lamentations is not a cheerful one in the Bible as you may have surmised from the name. Jeremiah is basically pouring out his heart to God about all the bad things that have happened to the nation of Judah because of their disobedience and to him because God called him to preach to the nation of Judah that didn’t want to hear what God through Jeremiah had to say.

In Lamentations 3, Jeremiah is explicit in how bad everything is going and he blames God directly for these calamities.

Here are the first 20 verses. Not good times.

1(A) I am the man who has seen affliction
under the(B) rod of his wrath;
2he has driven and brought me
(C) into darkness without any light;
3surely against me he turns his hand
again and again the whole day long.

4He has made my flesh and my skin waste away;
(D) he has broken my bones;
5(E) he has besieged and enveloped me
with(F) bitterness and tribulation;
6(G) he has made me dwell in darkness
like the dead of long ago.

7(H) He has walled me about so that(I) I cannot escape;
he has made my chains heavy;
8though(J) I call and cry for help,
he shuts out my prayer;
9(K) he has blocked my ways with blocks of stones;
he has made my paths crooked.

10(L) He is a bear lying in wait for me,
a lion in hiding;
11(M) he turned aside my steps and(N) tore me to pieces;
(O) he has made me desolate;
12(P) he bent his bow(Q) and set me
as a target for his arrow.

13He drove into my kidneys
(R) the arrows of his quiver;
14(S) I have become the laughingstock of all peoples,
(T) the object of their taunts all day long.
15(U) He has filled me with bitterness;
he has sated me with(V) wormwood.

16(W) He has made my teeth grind on gravel,
and(X) made me cower in ashes;
17my soul is bereft of peace;
I have forgotten what happiness[a] is;
18(Y) so I say, “My endurance has perished;
so has my hope from the LORD.”

19(Z) Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
(AA) the wormwood and(AB) the gall!
20My soul continually remembers it
(AC) and is bowed down within me.

But then a remarkable thing happens. Jeremiah recalls something to his mind. No exterior circumstance changed. Nothing external improved or “got better.” People didn’t start listening to the message.

Nope. All that changed is that Jeremiah remembered something that he knew.  That the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, that His mercies are new every morning, that God is faithful and that we can therefore hope in Him even when we are in the middle of the most terrible affliction.

21But this I call to mind,
and
(AD) therefore I have hope:

22(AE) The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;[b]
his mercies never come to an end;
23they are new(AF) every morning;
(AG) great is your faithfulness.
24(AH) “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
(AI) “therefore I will hope in him.”

25The LORD is good to those who(AJ) wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
26(AK) It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.
27(AL) It is good for a man that he bear
the yoke(AM) in his youth.

28Let him(AN) sit alone in silence
when it is laid on him;
29(AO) let him put his mouth in the dust—
there may yet be hope;
30(AP) let him give his cheek to the one who strikes,
and let him be filled with insults.

31(AQ) For the Lord will not
cast off forever,
32but, though he(AR) cause grief,(AS) he will have compassion
(AT) according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
33(AU) for he does not willingly afflict
or(AV) grieve the children of men.

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2 Responses

  1. Thanks for the reference to Thomas Chisholm’s hymn, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” (Today is the 143rd annivesary of his birth.) The hymn is one of my favourites too. And thanks for putting the text in Lamentations in context. Like a loving parent, even in a time of painful discipline, He did not cease to love His people. As it says in Hebrews 12:6, “Whom the Lord loves He chastens.” That’s a great reassurance!

    If you’d like to know more about Thomas Chisholm, and other hymn-related events that happened on this date, you can check out my blog. God bless.

  2. thank you, Robert

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