Summary: Because God is compassionate toward us we are not consumed by His wrath, but we should be consumed by His compassion.
"It is because of the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions fail not." (Lamentations 3:22, Amplified Bible)
When Jeremiah wrote these words his nation, the nation of Judah, was far away from God.
They were so far from God that they didn’t even repent when the northern kingdom of Israel fell.
Jerusalem had become contaminated by indulgence in the sensuous and demeaning rituals of the Canaanite religions.
The people were warned of judgment by God through his prophets time and again yet they would not heed God’s warnings. So judgment came.
The Lamentations of Jeremiah the prophet bewail the destruction of Jerusalem and desolation of Judah in 587 B.C.
Jeremiah wrote acrostic poetry, characterized by sorrow more than any other book of the Bible. Yet, in the midst of his lament, there is a bright ray of hope like a lightning bolt on a dark thunder cloud.
Although the nation of Judah and its capitol city of Jerusalem had been decimated, they were not beyond restoration and renewal. Even though the nation deserved to be totally consumed Jeremiah said,
"It is because of the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions fail not."
The history of man is a dismal record of failure. Even though given the perfect environment at first in the Garden of Eden, the first man failed, and it doesn’t get any better through subsequent generations.
Some say that if we make man’s environment better he will get better. But the Bible says it is not man’s environment that is the problem - it is man himself. (See James 1:14)
Even after the Exodus from Egypt, for which God’s people had prayed for hundreds of years, rebellion spread like wildfire in the wilderness.
Yet God did not deal with the people by giving them the punishment they deserved.
Psalm 78:38 (Amp) But He, full of [merciful] compassion, forgave their iniquity and destroyed them not; yes, many a time He turned His anger away and did not stir up all His wrath and indignation.
Such is the length and width of God’s compassion.
Because God’s compassions "fail not", Jeremiah was able to look to the future with hope.
It is not because man is getting better and better that there is hope for the future. It is because God is compassionate in His nature!
Many things in life fail. Banks and other financial institutions have failed at times. Unfortunately marriages too often fail. Athletes and sports teams fail. Politicians and political parties fail. Automobiles and appliances fail.
But God’s compassion never fails!
The Word of God says of Jesus that He was "moved with compassion." Whether witnessing a blind man in his darkness or a leper in his uncleanness (Mk. 1:41) or seeing the multitudes without a shepherd. (Mt. 9:36)
But Jeremiah’s good news about God’s compassion is that it is refreshed every day!