“You Can Count on the Lord’s Love”

(Lamentations 3:22-33 – Pentecost 6 – July 1, 2018)

Lamentations 3:22-33 – Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!” The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone and keep silent, because God has laid it on him; let him put his mouth in the dust – there may yet be hope. Let him give his cheek to the one who strikes him, and be full of reproach. For the Lord will not cast off forever. Though He causes grief, yet He will show compassion according to the multitude of His mercies. For He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.

Dear Redeemed, beloved of God in Jesus Christ:

Are there certain people whose love and friendship you can count on, no matter what? Can you think of someone who will always be there for you, even if all others forsake you – someone who will be faithful to the end? Can you think of someone who will still accept and befriend you, even when they see your greatest failures and imperfections – someone who is merciful and forgiving? Can you think of someone who would help you or give good counsel in a time of need – not just passing off your need or saying what you want to hear, but truly helping in the best way? If you know someone like this, perhaps a spouse, close friend, or family member, what a blessing it is to know you can count on their love, no matter what.

In our text the prophet Jeremiah speaks to people who feel forsaken in their trouble, rejected in their failure, and helpless in their great need. He reassures them that all hope is not lost. There is still one to whom they can always turn for help: “Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” Today’s message is: “You Can Count on the Lord’s Love.” It is a love that will see us through, no matter what. 1) It is a tough love, 2) It is a merciful love, and 3) It is a faithful love.

1) It is a tough love

First, when we say that the Lord’s love is a tough love, we mean that He will do what is best for us, spiritually and eternally, even though what He tells us in His Word and carries out in our life may not be comfortable for us. It is like the loving parent who disciplines a child, causing some discomfort, removing some privilege, so that the dear child may learn a much needed lesson and not end up going astray in wrong and hurtful paths. Proverbs 13:24 says: He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.” Again, tough love may have to be shown when someone is caught in some addiction or destructive behavior. Instead of providing a quick fix for them that only enables their habit, the rug might have to be pulled out from under them to show the real destructive results of their behavior – in order that they might repent and reform and be truly helped in the long run.

Here we come to understand the background of the book of Lamentations. It had become necessary for the Lord to show tough love to His chosen people, because as wayward children they had strayed from Him in their sinful ways. They had become addicted to the false gods and sinful lifestyles of the nations around them. Therefore, because God loved them He did not spare the rod. He showed them the painfully destructive consequences of their sin and wayward paths, so that they might repent and return to Him in faith and be saved from eternal destruction.

Therefore, throughout this book we hear the Lamentations of the people, as they see and feel the devastating consequences of their sin. A powerful foreign nation had been allowed to conquer the nation, and destroy Jerusalem and the temple. They had slaughtered kings, priests, prophets, and common people. Times had become so desperate with poverty and starvation that we even hear of mothers resorting to eating their own children! Meanwhile, many were taken far away to spend the rest of their lives as exiles in a foreign land. And to add insult to injury, they felt the reproach of enemies along the way, who clapped their hands and hissed at them, delighting to see their downfall. Those who had been called the chosen nation of God had been reduced to severe misery and lamentation, and they knew why. Lamentations 1:5 says:  “For the LORD has afflicted her because of the multitude of her transgressions.” They had no one to blame but themselves.

How often have we had to face the tough consequences of our own sin? When we stray from the Lord’s commandments, when we follow the temptations of Satan and the world, when we follow the lusts of our sinful flesh, we end up facing the destructive results. How many of us deal with regrets of the past? Sometimes it seems the guilt and shame consumes us, as we think of what we have done wrong. Sometimes the pain and trouble weighs heavy on us, when we see how our sin has caused broken relationships, loss of what is good, stress, ill health, and other adverse effects. Sometimes we feel the reproach of enemies, who would delight in seeing our downfall.

Yet here, in the center of this book of Lamentations, the prophet Jeremiah holds forth hope. Even now, he says, you can count on the Lord’s love. To those mourning the effects of sin in their lives, he encourages heartfelt meditation on God’s Word. He encourages true repentance and faith that clings to the Lord’s unfailing promise of deliverance. He says: “It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone and keep silent, because God has laid it on him; let him put his mouth in the dust – there may yet be hope. Let him give his cheek to the one who strikes him, and be full of reproach. For the Lord will not cast off forever. Though He causes grief, yet He will show compassion according to the multitude of His mercies. For He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.”

Tough love is not easy – not for those who have sinned, not even for God, whose nature is to show mercy and compassion. But tough love is necessary; and in the end, it would turn out for the spiritual and eternal good of many. In desperate times, in exile, many would contemplate the folly of their sin, repent, and turn to the Lord. How fervently they would cling in hope to His promise of forgiveness and be saved for all eternity.

2) It is a merciful love

Then the faithful would see that the Lord’s love can always be counted on, for it is a merciful love. They could say: “Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning.”

Though things looked terrible for those in Jerusalem surrounded by destruction, and for those in exile surrounded by enemies, yet there was evidence of the Lord’s mercy and compassion on His people. After all, He had not just annihilated them; nor had He sent them to hell as the wages of their sin. Instead, He had preserved them for His purpose of grace.

Whenever we hear of the mercies and unfailing compassions of the Lord, we are reminded of His Gospel covenant. Long before, God had given His covenant of grace to Abraham and his descendants. He promised to send the Seed of Abraham through whom all nations would be blessed, the Savior of sinners who is Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:16). This Gospel covenant did not depend on the worthiness of the people; it depended only on God’s purpose of grace. He would faithfully keep His promise simply because He is a God of mercy and compassion.

So even though the people had broken God’s covenant of Law, straying from His commands innumerable times, yet they could hear that His mercies and compassions were new every morning. His Gospel covenant declared: I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jeremiah 31:34).

Likewise, though you and I feel the guilt of our sins and its destructive effects, we can count on the Lord’s love, because it is a merciful and forgiving love. Though we daily sin much and deserve only His punishment, He does not consume us in anger and send us to hell. Instead, He did this to His own Son. On the cross, God poured out all His wrath against our sin on Jesus. As our innocent Substitute, He suffered and died for us so that we are spared the wages of our sin. Now that Jesus has risen, He declares His never failing mercy and compassion. Morning by morning, we begin a new day in His grace, refreshed by His Word of forgiveness. Through Baptism, Jesus applies His new covenant of grace to us, cleansing us of all sin and clothing in His righteousness. In His Holy Supper, He gives us the new covenant in His Blood for the remission of all our sins. Day by day, He renews us by His never-failing mercy and compassion.

3) It is a faithful love

Thus we can say with believers through the ages: Great is Your faithfulness.” Because of the Lord’s covenant of love to us in Jesus Christ, we know we can count on His love – no matter what – because it is a faithful love. The Lord will never leave us nor forsake us; He will be there for us to the end.

This is good for us to know, especially when we endure hardship in this life. Here we should note that not all suffering is due to some sin in our life. Jeremiah himself bore a cross of suffering and reproach at the hands of the rebellious, because of the Word of God he faithfully preached. Likewise, there was always a faithful remnant in Israel who listened to God’s Word and trusted His promises. Yet because of the sins of the rebellious, they too felt a cross of suffering. How important it was for them to know that no matter what, God remained faithful to all His promises. They hoped and waited quietly for the salvation of the Lord; they looked to the coming Savior to deliver them forever from all these troubles.

As believers, God does not promise a life free of trouble. How often have we felt a cross in this world because of our faith in Jesus? How often have we felt the reproach of enemies of Christ, who would delight to see our downfall? 1 Peter 2:21 reminds us: “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example.” His example teaches us to commit our cause to the Lord, because no matter what, His is a faithful love to the end. In all things, even in suffering, even in death, He is working all things together for our eternal good.

Therefore, we join the ranks of believers through the ages, declaring with our text: “‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him!'” He is with us day by day, faithfully giving us all that we need for life in this temporal world. He is with us day by day, guaranteeing to us a lasting portion in His heavenly inheritance.

Do we have someone whose love we can count on, no matter what? Yes we do! As He cares for us with a Fatherly love, we can be sure He will always give us just the help and counsel we need; for His is a tough love, always doing what is best for our eternal good. And even though He sees our greatest failures and imperfections, yet He still accepts and befriends us for Jesus’ sake; for His is a merciful and forgiving love. And even if all others forsake us, He who gave His life for us will remain with us to the end, and for all eternity; for His is a faithful love.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.