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. (Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV)
The Book of Lamentations is found in the middle of the Old Testament. The background behind Lamentations is sad. Israel did not live up to their covenantal obligations before Yahweh. Israel did not live up to their promise of being faithful before God. Israel worshipped the other gods and the idols of Canaan. Therefore in 587 BC, God allows King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon to conquer Israel and capture Jerusalem. King Solomon’s temple, the symbol of God’s presence in Israel, is ransacked and burnt to the ground.
The author of Lamentations laments the burning down of Jerusalem and the temple. The author grieves the deaths of men, women and children. Gone are the days of glory of God dwelling with his people in Jerusalem.
How deserted lies the city, once so full of people!
How like a widow is she, who once was great among the nations!
She who was queen among the provinces has now become a slave. (Lamentations 1:1 NIV)
When we read Lamentations, our hearts go out to the people of Israel and Jerusalem. We sense their pain and anguish. As we hear their cries, we understand what it means to groan and grieve when evil comes upon us.
Lamentations has 5 chapters. Almost right at the centre of Lamentations, are these 2 verses of Lamentations 3:22-23. They are a picture of the author clinging onto the goodness and mercy of God’s destruction being all around them.
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. (Lamentations 3:22 NIV). The author rejoices, for although they see death and destruction, they are still alive. They are not consumed because of the Lord’s great mercy. The author senses the compassion of God in keeping them alive.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:23 NIV) In fact, as the author of Lamentations wakes up in the morning, they are grateful to God that they are alive. Their being alive is testimony to the faithfulness of God.
Do the words of Lamentations 3:22-23 sound familiar to you? This is because these verses form the background of Hymn 324 in our hymnal:
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!
Here is what Bill Gaither says about the origin of this hymn:
Thomas Chisholm wrote “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” (in 1925) as a testament to God’s faithfulness through his very ordinary life. Born in a log cabin in Franklin, Kentucky, Chisholm became a Christian when he was twenty-seven and entered the ministry when he was thirty-six, though poor health forced him to retire after just one year. During the rest of his life, Chisholm spent many years living in New Jersey and working as a life insurance agent. Still, even with a desk job, he wrote nearly 1,200 poems throughout his life, including several published hymns.
Chisholm explained toward the end of his life, “My income has not been large at any time due to impaired health in the earlier years which has followed me on 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.”