Today’s reading: Lamentations 1-3:36.
“Hope is faith holding out its hand in the dark.” George Iles
Parade magazine told the story of self-made millionaire Eugene Land, who was asked to speak to a class of 59 sixth-graders. He wondered how he could change the lives of these predominantly black and Puerto Rican children, most of whom would drop out of school. Throwing away his prepared speech, he told them, “Stay in school and I’ll help pay the college tuition for every one of you.” Suddenly the students had hope. As one student said, “I had something to look forward to, something waiting for me. It was a golden feeling.”
Jeremiah maintained his hope in spite of the terrible ordeal of Jerusalem’s siege and fall. He witnessed famine, cannibalism, cruelty, and personal attacks against himself. Yet he still clung to his faith in God and the belief that good would return.
I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call 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. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” Lamentations 3:19-24
Jeremiah’s hope wasn’t groundless, but based on God’s character. The third chapter of Lamentations spells out these character traits.
The LORD’s mercy. God doesn’t give me the punishment I deserve; that’s mercy. For all the terrible things that happened to his brothers, Jeremiah knew that it was less than they deserved for breaking their covenant with God. It came only after a long forbearance on God’s part. He repeatedly gave them opportunities to repent and escape the worst part of his judgment. God had proven his mercy in the past and Jeremiah knew he could count on it in the future.
His compassion. God had shown his love for the Jewish people by the way he blessed them and nurtured them in the past. This word, compassion, describes a strong emotion coming from the deepest part of a person’s being, and that’s the way God loves his people.
His faithfulness. God remained true to his word and to his people, even though they had disregarded their covenant with him.
The LORD was Jeremiah’s portion. God’s resources are infinite, limitless in time and amount. His supply cannot be exhausted, and he desires to bless us.
God uses our trials to strengthen us. “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)
God does not cast us off forever. Jeremiah realized that God may bring grief for a season, but his compassion will return because his love for us is so great.
“Notice that, in all his sorrow, this man still had hope. His soul was humbled, and therefore he had hope. I think that, in the New Zealand language, the word for hope is ‘swimming thought’ — the thought that swims when everything else is drowned. Oh, what a mercy it is that hope can live on when all things else appear to die!” Charles Spurgeon
Image by Rafa Bahlense on Flickr, CC by-nc 2.0