Hope Amid the Ruins
“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him’” (vv. 22–24).- Lamentations 3:22–33
Much of Lamentations is a seemingly hopeless reflection on the lowest point in the history of the old covenant community—the fall of Jerusalem and exile of Judah in 586 B.C. Yet although echoes of doom and gloom reverberate throughout the book, there are also glimpses of hope along the way. In the first place, the continued existence of the people at all—as evidenced in the fact that Jeremiah could write on their behalf—testifies that all was not lost even when the worst of the covenant curses fell on Judah and the City of David. Moreover, that Judah could call upon the Lord to give its enemies over to the same fate it endured because they mocked God’s people (Lam. 1:21) points to a covenant relationship that endured because of Yahweh’s faithfulness even when His people were unfaithful.
Hope amidst the ruins of Jerusalem shines forth most brightly in Lamentations 3:22–33. Here in the very center of the book, we find Jeremiah’s great expression of confidence for the future of Jacob’s children. Looking around him, the prophet could have easily become inconsolable, for in the famine-devastated, ruinous Judah of 586 B.C., there was little to indicate life could ever be good again. But the eyes of faith look beyond one’s present circumstances, and Jeremiah saw that since Judah fully deserved the punishment it received, the continuing existence of even a handful of Judahites testified to the Lord’s mercy (vv. 22–24). Because the most holy God did not give His people what they truly deserved and wipe them off the face of the earth, there had to be a commitment to Judah that was grounded fully in grace and not in any way dependent on any good in the people themselves. Dr. John MacArthur comments, “As bleak as the situation of judgment had become, God’s covenant lovingkindness was always present, and His incredible faithfulness always endured so that Judah would not be destroyed forever.”
Judah’s exile shows us that we must never presume upon the Lord’s kindness. At the same time, however, regenerate people should expect love and mercy to define their relationship with God. The Lord does not afflict His people “from his heart” (Lam. 3:33), He does not relish the opportunity of punishing His children or find joy by inflicting pain on us. God’s wrath is the necessary response of His holiness to sin, but His love of us is wholly unnecessary because there is nothing lovely in us. He freely chooses to love His people, and so He is far more eager to shower love and blessing upon us than He is to chastise us.
The necessary response of a holy God to sin is wrath, not love. That means that the Lord’s choice to love His people is not the same as His choice to pour His wrath upon the impenitent. His choice to issue judgment is a necessary one based on the nature of the one being judged. His choice to love us is unnecessary and based wholly in Himself. We can trust Him to love us even when we fail and know that nothing—not even ourselves—can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
Passages for Further Study