A blog by Josh Humbert
“You’ve got problems” is what my wife said to me early in our first year of marriage, as she walked through the living room of our tiny apartment. And you know what? She wasn’t wrong.
Maybe she wasn’t right in saying I had a problem here in this particular area she was addressing.
After all, my team needed me.
The book of Jeremiah records the urgent calls by the prophet Jeremiah to the people of Israel to change their ways and come back to God. God’s people had been forgetting Him and pursuing false idols that would only lead to heartache and destruction, so God graciously sends Jeremiah to sound the alarm. Essentially, the book of Jeremiah is a book of warning.
Tragically, the Israelites do not heed that warning. For decades, Jeremiah’s preaching is ignored. Left on ‘read.’
So, as part of His holy judgment, God allows an enemy army to invade. The Babylonians come in with violent force. Jerusalem is destroyed and the Israelites are killed or enslaved. **Understatement Alert** It is a devastating loss.
Jeremiah then writes the book of Lamentations as a response; a prophet lamenting the destruction he sees. Lamentations is a book of mourning.
Honestly, Lamentations is not an easy read. It is not often taught or preached in churches and it can be downright jarring in places. Jeremiah pulls no punches as he wanders around the burned ruins of his city and cries out to God.
“You’ve got problems” is what my wife said to me – but why? She was witnessing how I would play the video game called Madden.
Madden is a game that simulates NFL football and it was always one of my favorites to play. But here, in this moment, my new bride was witnessing how I sometimes prefer to kick it into a higher gear. You see, if I was ever playing a game of Madden that was close in the 4th quarter, I would call out the play I was selecting as if I was leading a huddle for my virtual teammates. “Shotgun, Trips Right, 4 Verts, on TWO!” Hey…realism and stuff, ok? We all have our quirks.
“You know they can’t hear you, right? You know the ‘teammates’ you are talking too are characters in a video game, right?”
Ok….so maybe she did have a point here. I’ll grant you that.
But wifey’s other Madden-gripe was incorrect. A new version of Madden comes out every August (sometimes even on her birthday!) and she would ask why I wanted the new version. Her question was “Isn’t it the same game every year?”
No, no it’s not. Some years the new Madden involved more change than other years but each version of Madden had plenty of new stuff. New rosters, new rookies, new commentary, new gameplay tweaks, etc. NEW stuff!
All the new was just waiting to be enjoyed!
“You’ve got problems” is what I find myself saying to Jeremiah as I read through Lamentations. This man is in deep waters.
However, in the middle of the book of Lamentations comes an absolutely stunning passage of Scripture. As Jeremiah is, well, lamenting all the suffering everywhere around him…he writes these incredible words:
“Yet, this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end, they new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness!”
Surrounded by burning ruins, broken bodies, and defeated people Jeremiah makes himself remember God and a hope is forged deep within his soul.
Yes, it is right and proper to grieve, and mourn, and hurt, and lament – those are essential (and possibly ignored too often in our churches today but that’s a whole other piece). Yes, it is acceptable and fitting to survey all that has been lost or destroyed. But…hope can exist there too. Lamenting does not have to snuff out the flames of promise – though it may seem strange, you can experience both at the same time.
In the raging waters of suffering and despair, Jeremiah survives by clinging to three life-rafts of hope: God’s steadfast love, God’s new mercies, and God’s great faithfulness. All are abundantly helpful but I’ll key in on the new mercies now, for that is how we get back to Madden.
“Shotgun, Trips Right, Old Testament Prophet Tie-In, on TWO!”
The word is “hadas.” That’s what Jeremiah is using to describe God’s mercies. Hadas carries the idea of not just new, but different or never before experienced. Essentially one of the truths that sustains him and keeps hope burning in his soul is the fact that God has hadas-mercies, these unique and never-before experienced mercies that await you every single day.
Way better than a new video game that comes out once a year, the God of the Bible graciously gives hadas mercies before the sun ever rises. This is a place where hope can begin, even in the midst of pain.
“Why would I need new and different mercies every single day” you ask. Well, maybe wifey says it best, “You’ve got problems.” Every single day, you sin in new and different ways. I know I do. As Dave Busby would say (I’ll paraphrase): ‘I’m way more of a Godly mess than a Godly man.’ I am in need of new mercies every day. I’m in need of never before experienced mercies that NEVER end. This is what God generously supplies.
All the new just waiting to be treasured!
These hadas mercies are secured for us in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Where Jeremiah has a front-row seat to watch the judgement and wrath of God fall upon the sinful people of Israel, Jesus comes to take that judgment and wrath upon Himself. Where Jeremiah calls to mind the mercies of God, Jesus – at great cost to Himself – makes those mercies available to broken and needy sinners.
Though hard times will come – though deep waters of adversity can seem overwhelming – the book of Lamentations gives us a grid for processing grief and finding hope. There is real wisdom here. In the middle of lamenting, there is hope in the mercy of God.
His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. I’m thankful for that. Here is a musical version of the verses from Lamentations 3 by Zach Winters. It is a personal favorite.
Thanks for reading. Your comments and insights are always welcomed. If you enjoyed this, please share it. Want more content? Check the archives or listen to me on the Cross-Cutting Culture Podcast on iTunes.