[April 01]—Fresh Compassions

As I mentioned yesterday, tradition says that Jeremiah wrote the book of Lamentations, and there’s no reason to doubt it. On the other hand, if we found out someday that he didn’t write it, that wouldn’t change my theology at all, since it’s anonymous.

I believe you ought to be on some sort of plan to read the Bible all the way through, since all of it is breathed out by God and is useful for “"teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." But I also recognize that some parts of Scripture are easier to read than others. And Lamentations in particular—let’s be honest here—can be a beating. 

If you’re not familiar with it, as the name implies, it’s a lamentation by an anonymous author over the destruction of the nation of Judah, the captivity and exile of its people, and the destruction of the temple. It’s actually a long poem and an acrostic: The first letter of each sentence starts with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. In other words, this was probably not composed off-the-cuff. This probably took some time and thought and preparation to write down. 

But in the middle of this short book of lamenting the terrible tragedy, there’s a strong glimmer of hope, much stronger than that which ended the book of Jeremiah. The verses of today’s passage are so filled with light and beauty that one of the most famous and most beloved hymns is based on it: “Great Is They Faithfulness.” 

I have a few points to consider about it today, and we’ll pick up some more teachings from it tomorrow, since it’s so rich. 

It’s because of the Lord’s great love that we aren’t consumed, either by life itself or by his righteous anger. A couple of years ago I presented a short study of the word chesed. It’s translated as “unfailing love,” “lovingkindness” (in the KJV), “mercy,” and “covenant faithfulness.” I love the word. And that’s why we aren’t consumed. Certainly not because of our goodness or righteousness. 

His compassions never fail. Why not? Well, they’re based on his promises, not based on how he feels moment by moment. What do we mean by “compassions,” (also translated as “mercies”)? Yes, you could define them as the “big” stuff like saving us from his judgment, adopting us as his children, giving us his Spirit, making us co-heirs with Christ, etc. But I also think you should include under that heading the littler blessings. Do you have a job to go to? A family that cares about you? A spouse that makes your day easier? You're basically healthy? Like we mentioned yesterday, be on the lookout for little glimmers of his beneficence. 

One of the reasons I think mostly about the thousand and one little kindnesses he gives us every day (as opposed to the big things like salvation) is because of the next thing the author says about the Lord’s compassions: They’re new every morning. I don’t get saved from hell every morning. That’s not new—that issue was settled long ago. But maybe I got a kind smile from a stranger when I was feeling low. Maybe a friend calls to tell me he’s praying for me. Maybe my dog does something funny in front of me that makes me belly laugh. 

I want to camp out on that just for a moment. They’re new every morning. I don’t have to depend on the compassions he gave me yesterday. No, he’s constantly coming up with ways to bless me, to make my life a little easier in this sin-cursed world. 

More on this passage tomorrow.

Father I want to meditate on your goodness to me just for a moment. You always do look for ways to lighten my load. You're so generous and gracious and full of compassion to me and mine. Thank you. 

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