Great is Thy Faithfulness

“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.” —Lamentations 3:22-26

JEREMIAH wrote the Book of Lamentations after the nation of Israel had been taken captive to Babylon. The opening verse of the book indicates the reason for its name—“How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! How is she become as a widow! She that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary!” The destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion of the people as captives did not come as a surprise to Jeremiah, because he had foretold these calamities. Nevertheless he lamented the fact that the sins of the people had made this punishment necessary.

In the midst of his lamentation over the necessary punishments which had come upon the nation the prophet recalls the goodness of the Lord and exhorts the people to put their trust in him. “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed,” he reminds the Israelites, “because his compassions fail not.” According to the terms of the Law Covenant into which the Israelites had entered with the Lord, he could justly have destroyed the nation entirely, but instead he showed his mercy toward the people and allowed them to be taken into captivity for seventy years. The mercies of the Lord, Jeremiah wrote, “are new every morning.” It is not that the Lord shows his mercy only occasionally. Mercy is one of the elements of Jehovah’s character, and manifests itself continuously in his dealings with his people. We can depend upon our Heavenly Father’s mercy, although we should not presume upon it.

“It is good,” the prophet wrote, “that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.” This was a timely exhortation to the Israelites who had just been taken into captivity. Nothing would be accomplished by resisting the Lord’s providences. The wisest thing to do was simply to maintain their hope of ultimate deliverance, and to quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.

The Scriptures do not indicate how well this advice was followed by the Israelites as a whole. However, in the Book of Daniel we learn of four young Hebrew captives who did put their trust in the Lord. One of these was Daniel himself, and then there were his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, whose Chaldean names were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. These men were highly exalted in the Babylonian government, yet under severe test they maintained their loyalty to Jehovah, and their trust in him.

Daniel was cast into a den of lions for refusing to give up his worship of Israel’s God; and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were cast into a fiery furnace because they refused to bow down to the great image set up by Nebuchadnezzar.

God’s faithfulness was manifested toward these by delivering them. He sent an angel to close the mouths of the lions, and “one like unto the Son of God” joined the other three in the furnace and protected them so completely that not even their clothing was singed. All these servants of the Lord quietly and confidently waited on him, fully assured that whatever his will, that would be the best for them. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego said to the king when threatened by him, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”—Dan. 3:16-18

These three friends of Daniel were willing to continue waiting on the Lord even though he did not deliver them from the burning fiery furnace. Their hope of a resurrection from the dead, as stated in Hebrews 11:35, was one of the contributing reasons for this. It meant that they did not measure God’s faithfulness to them by the help which he might proffer in this life. Paul testified that he believed all things “written in the Law and in the Prophets,” and because of this had “hope toward God … that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.”—Acts 24:14,15

It seems evident that if the hope of the resurrection had been set forth both in the Law and by the Prophets that Daniel and his three friends would be inspired by it, and they would appraise God’s dealings with them from the standpoint of this larger aspect of his great faithfulness. They knew that God had the power to deliver them either from the burning fiery furnace or out from death; and whichever his will for them might be, they would rejoice in his faithfulness, and would refuse to bow down to the gods of the Babylonians.

Hebrews 11:35 declares that the faithful ones of the past endured whatever trials the Lord permitted to come upon them in order that they might obtain “a better resurrection.” They may not have understood all that would be involved in this better resurrection, but it seems reasonable to conclude that they associated this hope in some manner with the messianic promises, and believed that they would have some share in Messiah’s kingdom. We read of Moses that “when he was come to years, [he] refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.”—Heb. 11:24-26

We read further concerning Moses that “by faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.” (vs. 27) None of the Ancient Worthies but John saw the Messiah in person, but by faith they saw him through God’s promises, and were willing to wait patiently for the fulfillment of those promises, whether that would be in this life, or after they had been raised from the dead in the better resurrection. They were all in agreement with the thought expressed by Jeremiah that “it is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.”

Some Delivered, Some Were Not

Daniel’s three friends would have some knowledge of God’s dealings with his people, and would know that he did not always deliver them from their persecutors in miraculous ways, and at the moment they did not know what his will might be for them. This point is enlarged upon by Paul in Hebrews 11:33-40. Referring to the Ancient Worthies, including the prophets, he wrote that these “through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions [as in the case of Daniel], quenched the violence of fire [the three friends of Daniel], escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection.”—vss. 33-35

With the exception of those who were tortured, not accepting deliverance, the apostle here sets forth some of the many times when God’s delivering power was manifested on behalf of his faithful people, and gave them outstanding demonstrations of his love and care. Surely these could say with Jeremiah, “Great is Thy faithfulness.”

Then Paul continues, saying, “And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God haying provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.”—vss. 36-40

The ‘and others’ group of the Ancient Worthies consisted of more than just a few. These, regardless of how much they were tortured, did not accept deliverance at the hands of their persecutors if it involved unfaithfulness to their God, Jehovah. They preferred to endure the trials, knowing that the deliverance from death in the better resurrection was a certainty, for they believed in his faithfulness. Secure in this faith, they were able to endure the afflictions of the present, knowing that God knew what was best for them, and how they could most effectively prove their fidelity to him.

Spiritual Israel

God’s dealings with spiritual Israel of the Gospel Age have been very similar to the manner in which he cared for his ancient faithful servants. Now also there are times—perhaps more than we realize—when he actually lifts the weight of trial, or the burden of suffering. The New Testament records some such instances. Peter was delivered from prison. (Acts 12:1-11) Paul and Silas were delivered from prison by an earthquake.—Acts 16:22-28

However, the use of miracle-working power on behalf of spiritual Israelites for their physical protection and deliverance has probably been the exception rather than the rule. And with us, perhaps even more than with the Ancient Worthies, it is the hope of the resurrection that enables us to realize the great faithfulness of our Heavenly Father, even though he does permit us to suffer afflictions of one sort or another. We have covenanted to follow in the footsteps of Jesus with the full understanding that it was a narrow way of suffering in which he walked, ending in death. We do not expect to be above our Master. He suffered and died, and we expect to suffer and die.

Surely, then, it is a good thing for us to hope, and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord, that “great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him.” (Heb. 2:3) “In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength,” Isaiah wrote. (Isa. 30:15) Only an unwavering faith in God’s faithfulness will enable us quietly to wait for his salvation. God’s faithfulness is demonstrated in the fulfillment of his promises. Our faith in the fulfillment of his resurrection promises is strengthened by the wonderful manner in which he fulfilled his promises to his faithful servants of the past.

Note some of the assurances given to us by the psalmist: “They that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.” (Ps. 9:10) “As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried [refined, margin]: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.” (Ps. 18:30) “All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.” (Ps. 25:10) The Lord loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved forever.” (Ps. 37:28) “O Lord God of hosts, who is a strong Lord like unto thee, or to thy faithfulness round about thee?” (Ps. 89:8) “He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.”—Ps. 121:3

The Messiah

Important among God’s promises to his ancient people were those pertaining to the great Deliverer, the Messiah, whom he would send for the blessing of Israel and the world. When the Messiah came, his birth was announced by the angels. When John baptized him he saw the outward symbol of the Holy Spirit descend upon the Master, and heard the words, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:13-17) His ministry was punctuated with miracles of healing and of raising the dead, yet he was put to death by his enemies, and it appeared as though the hopes of those who had put their trust in Jesus as the promised Messiah had no real foundation.

But again God demonstrated his faithfulness by raising Jesus from the dead, and thus reviving the hopes of his disciples. The Apostle Paul told about this in a synagogue in Antioch in Pisidia. We quote: “And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulcher. But God raised him from the dead: and he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people. And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David.”—Acts 13:14,29-34

The expression, ‘sure mercies of David,’ is a reference to the promise God made to David that his throne was to be established forever. God’s mercy was manifested in this promise, for while David’s heart was pure toward the Lord, he had many weaknesses, and many of those who succeeded him on the throne were far from righteous, the first of these being Solomon. But God assured David that, despite this, he would not take the rulership from his house, as he took it away from Saul. He promised, “Thine house and thy kingdom shall be established forever before thee: thy throne shall be established forever.”—II Sam. 7:12-16

Jesus was the principal inheritor of this promise. (Luke 1:31-33; Isa. 9:6,7) We know now that it was necessary for Jesus to die as the Redeemer of the world, and this placed him in position, after his resurrection, to extend mercy to members of the sin-sick and dying world. He became a merciful and sympathetic High Priest over his church. This makes it possible for us, if we are faithful to the terms of our calling, to be joint-heirs with Jesus on the antitypical throne of David. Thus our partaking of the sure mercies of David was made possible by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

God’s faithfulness in the fulfilling of his promises as evidenced in the resurrection of Jesus should help us to put our full trust in him, knowing that it is not possible for any of his good promises to fail. Paul wrote, “God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship [partnership] of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” (I Cor. 1:9) We know that we have been called of God to this high position in his kingdom arrangements, and we know that we can depend upon his faithfulness to the terms of the calling.

Accepted Through Christ

God has promised to accept our imperfect works through the merit of Christ. John wrote, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9) Apart from the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, God’s justice would condemn us. But he is faithful, and having provided a “robe of righteousness,” he will forgive our sins. Knowing this, we can “come boldly unto the throne of grace,” confident that we will “obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”—Isa. 61:10; Heb. 4:16

One of our great needs is wisdom to guide us as we walk in the narrow way; and this our faithful Creator has promised to provide. Psalm 32:8 reads, “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.” He leads us beside “still waters,” and in “the paths of righteousness.” (Ps. 23) Again, “This God is our God forever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.” (Ps. 48:14) In a personal testimony which is true of all the Lord’s people in every age, David wrote, “If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uppermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.”—Ps. 139:9,10

In Jesus’ parable of the sheepfold we are given another assurance of divine guidance in the way in which we should go. We quote, “To him [the Good Shepherd] the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.” (John 10:3,4) How important it is to know the voice of the Good Shepherd, the voice of truth, that we might be led in the right way!

The need for guidance is so great that it should be made an important part of our petitions to the Lord. Psalm 5:8 reads, “Lead me, O Lord, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies [the world, the flesh, and the Devil]; make thy way straight before my face.” Again, Psalm 25:5: “Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.”

James knew of the Lord’s faithfulness in responding to prayers of this sort, for he wrote, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men [in the church] liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (James 1:5) Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would guide his people in the way of truth, and he encouraged us to pray for the Spirit. He used an illustration of a father whose children ask for bread, and asked if the father, in response, would give a stone instead of bread. And then the lesson: “How much more shall the Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him.”—Luke 11:11-13

Strength and Protection

We also need spiritual strength, courage, and protection to keep on walking in the narrow way, and this need likewise is supplied by our faithful God. The Apostle Paul wrote, “The Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.” (II Thess. 3:3) I Peter 3:12,13 reads, “The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers. … And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?” And again, “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.”—II Chron. 16:9

This suggests that God searches for opportunities to give strength to his people, and is aware of their times of need. This is because they are precious to him. In this connection Jesus gave us an encouraging lesson. He said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.”—Matt. 10:29-31

The psalmist wrote, “As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people from henceforth even forever.” (Ps. 125:2) And again, “The Lord upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down.” (Ps. 145:14) How often we may be bowed down with grief, or discouragement, or with weariness! But the Lord lifts us up again and gives us courage to press on, that we may attain to that great salvation. Great, indeed, is his faithfulness!

God has not promised to shield us from trouble and trials. We need these experiences to test our faith; and the trial of our faith is a very precious thing in God’s sight, more precious than gold that perisheth. (I Pet. 1:7) At times the trials are very severe, and may threaten to overwhelm us. We may even lose a sense of the Lord’s presence in these times of severe testing.

Our Need of Trials

God has a purpose in permitting us to be tested by trials. If we are rightly exercised by them, they will yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness, and draw us nearer to him and to a better understanding of his faithfulness. (Heb. 12:11) It was so in the case of Job. While for a time he could not find God, finally God revealed himself to this faithful patriarch, and then Job was able to say to the Lord from the heart, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”—Job 42:5,6

We, also, from the Scriptures and as a result of the Lord’s providences, realize more and more that in our flesh dwelleth no good thing, and that it is only by his mercy and grace that he continues to deal with us. (Rom. 7:18-25) Peter wrote, “Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator.” (I Pet. 4:19) It was appropriate that Peter used the word “Creator” in this context, for it reminds us that a new creation is being brought forth, that we are new creatures in Christ Jesus, and that our Heavenly Father is supervising the divine work of grace in our hearts as a Creator, the Creator who is faithful. In the creation of the material universe, Jeremiah writes, “He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heaven by his understanding.” (Jer. 51:15) Surely we can trust such a wise, powerful, and faithful Creator to care for all our needs!

Paul wrote, “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” (I Thess. 5:24) It was because of God’s faithfulness that Paul could write, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform [finish, margin] it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 1:6) Again we read, “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised.)”—Heb. 10:23

God’s faithfulness to his people is also evidenced by his humility in dealing with them. Paul speaks of his willingness to take into consideration their need to be assured. We quote, “God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil.”—Heb. 6:17-19

God Is Able

The testimony of the Word of God and of our own experiences as children of God gives assurance of his faithfulness in fulfilling all his good promises. The Bible also confirms our belief that our faithful Creator is abundantly able to accomplish all his good purposes. Reason tells us that this is what we should expect, yet it is encouraging to have the Lord remind us of this, as he does in so many ways and places throughout his Word. Even so, we can understand the powers of the Almighty God only in part. Moses said to the Lord, “O Lord God, thou host begun to show thy servant thy greatness, and thy mighty hand: for what God is there in heaven or in earth, that can do according to thy works, and according to thy might?”—Deut. 3:24

To assist us to comprehend in a measure the great abilities of our faithful God, the writers of the Bible employed the most outstanding demonstrations of them they could think of, yet even these come far short of the reality. Isaiah wrote concerning God, “Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?” (Isa. 40:12) Again, “Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number; he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.”—vs. 26

And more directly related to his plans for his people, and for the salvation of the world, the Lord says, “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure. … I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.” (Isa. 46:10,11) Isaiah also wrote, “The Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear.”—Isa. 59:1

The Apostle Paul explained that “the exceeding greatness” of God’s “power to us-ward who believe” is the mighty power which raised Jesus Christ from the dead, and exalted him to his own right hand. (Eph. 1:19,20) In Ephesians 3:20,21, Paul also wrote, “Unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end.”

Truly, great is the faithfulness and the ability of our God, our loving Heavenly Father! It is this faithful God who is our “refuge,” and underneath, to support us in our every time of need, are his “everlasting arms.” (Deut. 33:27) Shall we not, then, “both hope and quietly wait for the [great] salvation” to which he has called us, and for which he is faithfully preparing us? He is our portion, and we know that he is good unto all them that wait for him.—Ps. 73:26; Isa. 25:9; Rom. 8:25; Gal. 5:5

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