Summary: The sermon seeks to illustrate the steadfastness of a God who is faithful.
The Marine Corps has an interesting motto, Semper Fidelis, the short is Semper Fi. Perhaps you have seen that on windows or bumpers of cars. Semper Fidelis are two Latin words that mean, “Always Faithful”. It is really the code of conduct and character of the gallant soldiers of the Corps. It is a description of their loyalty, and a definition of their lives as Marines. It is supposed to be their driven purpose as honorable and dedicated soldiers to this branch of service – Always Faithful. I believe that the language of scriptures says the same thing about God. When one chronicles and catalogs the actions and attitude of God from the Holy Writ, you would say our God is a God of unfailing faithfulness. I do not doubt that one could identify God’s faithfulness in other passages, but Lamentations is a biblical megaphone that proclaims God’s faithfulness in a voluminous echo of truth and testimony. Lamentations is not a popular book when it comes to studying or even preaching. It is almost like traveling in uncharted waters in both the pew and pulpit. My chartering these waters has nothing to do with any exceptional skills as a pastor/preacher more than any other called servant. It just happens to be the only sermonic mail that I received in my mailbox this week. I was looking for some more mail even after this mail was delivered unto me, because this book is uncharted waters in my own preaching journey. But after being with various members this week, hearing the hurts and fears, the pain and frustrations, and seeing the tears and testings, it was encumbered upon me to remind us today of God’s unfailing faithfulness. Even though there may exist within our community of faith crisis that are critical, challenges that are choking our faith, and just human trials that are tensive, our God is unfailing in faithfulness.
The word Lamentations perhaps provides for the reader an immediate insight to the book. To lament means to cry, it has something to do with grief and grieving. When one is lamenting, there is often expressions of agony verbally and emotionally. So the name itself is indicative of someone expressing their fears and pain. It is Jeremiah the prophet who is grief stricken and verbally expressing his emotional agony. He is lamenting over Jerusalem being destroyed by the Babylonians, he is lamenting over the rebellious sins of Israel and the people of God being carried into captivity. Israel has been once again reduced to nothing and bondage is their plight. For Jeremiah it is a dark and dreary damnation for him and God’s people. The Psalmist captures in words their mindset in captivity, By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the LORD’s song in a strange land? Psalms 137:1-4 “The stench of death has assailed his nostrils”, in Psalms 137 the city is in rubble and ruin, the holy place is now a holy ash pile. Women are widows and children are orphans, the aged men who are maimed are left to die, and the aged who were sickly are left to starve. The young men and maidens are herded off in chains enroute to Babylon. The royal family of King Zedekiah has been made commoners and his eyes put out. The walls and gates have been burned, breached, and broken. The treasury in Israel has been plundered and is now in the hands of ungodly men. The holy vessels of the temple have been confiscated and would be used for un-holiness, the city is left in desolation. The book only has five chapters, but in the midst of chapter 3 are these verses which are almost the middle of the book, Jeremiah pens words of God’s faithfulness. He is able to find some hope, some light, some joy in the middle of his lament. He has experienced darkness, but in the middle he sees some light. He has experienced pain, but in the middle he glimpses providence, he has seen destruction, but in the middle he sees divine destiny. As believers we find that is so true about God, in the middle of our stories, in the middle of our miseries, in the middle of our daily living, in the of middle life’s murkiness and life’s agony, we can see His hand upholding us, His love encompassing us, and His power reveals itself in the middle of our chaos.
God’s unfailing faithfulness means that everything He says and does is certain, and that we can be certain that He will always be one hundred percent God, one hundred percent of the time, or He will not be God at all. Jeremiah discovered in verse 22a that His faithfulness is never partial, but He has an unfailing fullness of faithfulness. He does not speak about God’s mercy, he speaks about the fullness of His faithfulness. Jeremiah proclaims not mercy but mercies. God’s mercies are divinely plural in its nature. The Psalmist talks about the divine plural-ness of God’s mercies in Psalms 51:1: Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions . David in many passages in Psalms speaks of God’s mercies pluralistically. He sees Him as a refuge, a rock, light, strength, his shepherd, a hiding place. He is not a God who is limited to singleness in His sovereignty, but divine plural-ness is his delight. His mercies are not just divinely plural, they are divinely plenteous. The Apostle Paul in Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,” . Exceedingly is enough, but Paul speaks of divine plenteousness when he adds abundantly and above. Our God’s faithfulness is inexhaustible; the cattle on a thousand hills belong to Him. Moses declared His ability to be plenteous in Deuteronomy 29:5 And I have led you forty years in the wilderness: your clothes are not waxen old upon you, and thy shoe is not waxen old upon thy foot. For forty years God maintained Israel and never had a shortage or crisis. Secondly, His faithfulness is not fragmented; His is an unfailing forcefulness of faithfulness. The Babylonians were forceful, but God was greater, they were not destroyed because God’s compassion was with them. Perhaps that is why we are reminded that when we pass through the waters they will not drown us, when we pass through the fire, the fire will not burn us. When the prophet Elisha was surrounded by the Assyrians, his servant was afraid and hopelessness was in his voice. Elisha prayed that the Lord would open his eyes so he could see the forcefulness of God. He looked up into the mountains and they were filled with horses and chariots of fire. Jesus proclaimed out of His own mouth when He was arrested, “there were legions of angels ready to liberate Him if He just asked”. There is a forcefulness with God that no weapon formed against us can conquer.