Fresh Mercies for Today

by Paul Tautges | November 26, 2011 7:34 am

The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness (Lam 3:22-23). 

“The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease.” The plural form of the Hebrew word chesed is the first word of this verse followed by Yahweh. Jeremiah’s hope found a sure foundation—the lovingkindnesses of Yahweh. Chesed, or lovingkindness, used 250 times in the Old Testament, is almost untranslatable to English— it carries various nuances of “loyal love,” “faithful mercy,” “unfailing love,” and “kindness.” It is perhaps the Old Testament equivalent to the New Testament concept of grace. The prophet chooses to shift his focus away from Judah’s sin and its consequences and instead look toward the grace of God.

Jeremiah turned his heart back from self, and a very distant view of God’s sovereign chastening (vv. 1–18), to “Yahweh”—the covenant keeping God of Israel and His loyal, unfailing, faithful mercies, kindness, love, and grace. This renewed perspective then fuels him to praise God in the midst of affliction. The phrase translated “indeed never cease” is literally “that we are not finished.” The KJV renders the verse: “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed.” Both translations are theologically accurate and grammatically possible within a poetic context. God’s gracious, loyal, and unfailing love is never finished, and because of it, we are not finished or consumed. Nehemiah would recognize this after Jeremiah’s day, perhaps in part because of this verse (cf. Nehemiah 9:31; see also Malachi 3:6). The grammar, however, favors the translation that “it is because of Yahweh’s lovingkindnesses that we are not consumed.”

“For His compassions never fail.” Using poetic parallelism, Jeremiah says, “For His tender compassions never fail.” Compassions is related to the word for “womb” and communicates a tender care and affection. Fail here is a synonym for cease and also speaks of being finished. Yahweh’s grace and tender care never come to an end. Perhaps Jeremiah remembered the words of Micah 7:18–20 (see also Ps 77:6–11; Isa 49:15). “God’s compassion towards his children does not come to an end no matter how severely he acts against their sin.”

“They are new every morning.” God’s “tender mercies” are “new every morning.” This is evident with each day of creation in Genesis 1. The promise God made after the flood testifies to His faithful Word and tender mercies each morning, as He said in Genesis 8:22: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” The provision of manna every day for forty years in the wilderness also demonstrates God’s faithful mercies (Exod 16:35; cf. Neh 9:20–21). After enumerating his despair (vv. 1–18), Jeremiah’s poem turns to remembering the truth (vv. 19–23a), which in turn leads to renewed worship.

“Great is Your faithfulness.” Here Jeremiah turns to direct worship, affirming God’s trustworthy character. The word faithfulness refers to steadfastness, firmness, and fidelity. It is from the same root as the word amen. Jeremiah cries out, “Great is Your utter dependability. The Lord alone is ever true.” The prophet worshiped Yahweh by affirming His Word back to Him. Psalm 36:5–7 says: “Your lovingkindness, O Lord, extends to the heavens, Your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; Your judgments are like a great deep. O Lord, You preserve man and beast. How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings” (see also Ps 40:10–11; 89:1–2; 119:90).

In times of suffering we must choose these truths as our deliberate focus, “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope” (Lam 3:21).

[Excerpted from The Discipline of Mercy: Seeking God in the Wake of Sin’s Misery[1], 2010]

  1. The Discipline of Mercy: Seeking God in the Wake of Sin’s Misery:

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