weeping-prophet1But 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.
Lamentations 3:21-23

It might seem strange that a whole book of the Bible is devoted to tears, grief, despair, and the pouring out of woe.  But here it is, the Old Testament book of Lamentations.  It is the raw, honest expression of that complex of emotions called grief.  It is written by the prophet Jeremiah, whose many lamentations and woes garnered him the title of “The Weeping Prophet”.   Jeremiah is watching the horrific destruction of the nation’s capital of Jerusalem, its’ grinding into the ground by the Babylonians in 587 B. C.  Picture the beheading and mutilating by ISIS terrorists today and you will have a sense of what is happening in Jeremiah’s Jerusalem.

Surprisingly, in the midst of calamity, we see Jeremiah pulling himself together to compose four elegant acrostic poems about his grief.  In chapters 1, 2, and 4 of Lamentations each verse begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet, while in chapter 3 every three verses begin with a successive letter.  This was a popular poetic device in ancient Near Eastern poetry.  It is like Jeremiah is pouring out his grief from A to Z.  He is clearly doing his grief work.  He is not in denial about the loss to him and to his nation.

But then, after the necessary step of fully acknowledging his grief, Jeremiah thinks right thoughts.  Jeremiah makes the decision to remember to “call to mind” what he knows is always true and never changes: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end,” This is the anchor he casts in the storm: “therefore I have hope.”  

In this we are reminded of the importance to our Christian faith of calling to mind, or, remembering.  Hebrew scholar Abraham Heschel emphasized the importance of remembering for the Hebrew people: “To us, recollection is a holy act: we sanctify the present by remembering the past.  To us Jews, the essence of faith is memory.  To believe is to remember” (Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays).   I have a young friend who recently wrote a doctoral dissertation on the role of remembering in the Hebrew Scriptures.  He told me something I find quite remarkable: for every time God commanded His people to have faith, He would command five times for them to remember.  Remember God!  Remember His faithfulness!  Remember how He has always led you!

As Jeremiah stops to remember he is reassured that God’s “mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”  

Thomas Obadiah Chisholm was born in a Kentucky log cabin in 1866 and described himself as “just an old shoe.”  He went to a country school and was made a teacher when he was 16 years old.   He believed in and started following Christ when he was 27, and with no college or seminary education was ordained to the Methodist ministry at 36.   But after a brief, strenuous pastorate he had to retire because of poor health and later became an insurance agent.  In a 1941 letter Chisholm sat down and called to mind, and remembered his life:

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.

Remembering how he had experienced so “many wonderful displays” of God’s providing care Chisholm wanted to express it artistically.  He then wrote a poem extolling God’s faithfulness based on today’s Scripture text.  He called the poem “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” and shared it with His friend William Runyan.  It was his friend who set Chisholm’s word to music.  Perhaps you know the first stanza of that 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!

In the midst of our daily rush, as well as in times of grief and inexplicable pain, it is always good to call to mind, to remember “the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases.”   Yes!  Great is Your faithfulness, Lord unto me!

Grace and peace,
Tim

 

GOD’S LITTLE WORKSHOP

On June 22, 2015 By

Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the tent of meeting.  Anyone inquiring of the LORD would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp.
Exodus 33:7

From the time I was a boy I have been fascinated […]

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HAPPY 800TH BIRTHDAY!

On June 15, 2015 By

When a king takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the priests, who are Levites. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he […]

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LEARNING BY HEART

On June 8, 2015 By

This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it.  For then you shall be successful.                                                                                                                       Joshua 1:8-9

It was my […]

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JUST DO IT!

On June 1, 2015 By

‘Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.  The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock.  And everyone […]

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Praise the LORD, all you nations!
Extol him, all you peoples!
For great is his steadfast love towards us,
and the faithfulness of the Lord endures for ever.
Praise the LORD!
Psalm 117

Ask people what they believe and most will likely tell you what they […]

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God has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of […]

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For you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness.  So then, let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk […]

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O Lord, how many are my foes!?Many are rising against me; ?many are saying to me, “There is no help for you in God.”? Selah

?But you, O Lord, are a shield around me,?my glory, and the one who lifts up my head. ?I cry aloud to the Lord,?and he answers me from his holy hill…? Selah

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Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against […]

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