Sermon: Rely on God’s Resources (3): His Faithfulness

Today Pastor Choi talks about another resource of God that we can rely on in times of need: God’s faithfulness.  Through the eyes of Prophet Jeremiah, the message looks at God’s faithfulness as the best antidote to disappointment and despair.

Rely on God’s Resources (3)

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

Rely on God’s Resources: His faithfulness  Lamentations 3:22-23, Numbers 3:19

Lamentations 3:22-23

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,        
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

 

Numbers 23:19

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

19 God is not a human being, that he should lie,
    or a mortal, that he should change his mind.
Has he promised, and will he not do it?
    Has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

 

Recap: The last two Sundays, I talked about the divine resources that God has made available to us for our life’s journey.  First, the Holy Spirit is with us.  He is our teacher, comforter, and guide.  Listen to Him always.  Next, we have God’s strength.  Those who rely on God’s strength will never go wrong.

Today, I am going to talk about the third resource of God: His faithfulness.  We often talk about an animal’s faithfulness such as a dog’s faithfulness to its owners.  We are also impressed with and appreciative of people’s faithfulness to each other such as in marriage relationships.  However, we seldom think about God’s faithfulness even in the church.  This morning, I am introducing God’s faithfulness to you as one of our resources we can tap into in times of need (disappointment and despair).   If God’s presence is the best antidote to fear, God’s faithfulness is the best antidote to despair.

Let me begin with the definition of faithfulness so that we may stay on the same page.  I looked it up in the Oxford dictionary and this is what it says: faithfulness: noun of faithful.  Being faithful.  So, I had to look further up the word faithful.  And, this is what it says: faithful– Staying with, supporting a particular person/ True and accurate/ Not changing/ Loyal/ Able to be trusted; that you can rely on—I later realized that all these definitions are indebted to ancient Hebrew words such as Hasad and Amuna: loving kindness and faithfulness, the two divine attributes that often go hand in hand.   In fact, those two words appear in today’s text Lamentations 3:22-23:

  • 22 The steadfast love [Hasad:  חַֽסְדֵ֤י]of the Lord never ceases, [deeds of loving kindness never cease: mine]       
        his mercies never come to an end;
    23 they are new every morning;
        great is your faithfulness[Amuna:אֱמוּנָתֶֽך].

 

  • Jeremiah asserts that God’s loving kindness never ceases or comes to an end.  It never runs out.  In God, we find an unlimited supply of mercies and compassion for us.  This surely defies our notion of the Old Testament God who is harsh and cruel, doesn’t it?

 

  • At first, I struggled with this passage as I prepared my message.  Pondering the verses over and over, I felt as if Prophet Jeremiah was saying to me, “You don’t know what I’ve been through!”  Sure, I really don’t know what he has been through.  All I know was the background information of his time.  Since I don’t have the same experience Jeremiah had, I was unable to fully understand God’s faithfulness which Jeremiah talks about; therefore, I felt unqualified to speak about God’s faithfulness.  Furthermore, I was quite struck with his confession despite his affliction.  Such conviction deeply rooted in affliction surely makes his declaration of God’s faithfulness far more powerful, real, and poignant than anyone else’s.  E.g. Holocaust survivor’s testimony on God.  At the end, I reasoned, “Even after such hardship and life’s disappointment, if he can confess that God is still faithful and that God is still worthy to be trusted and hoped for, how much more should I put my hope in God and in His unfailing faithfulness?”

 

  • Historical background: here’s a little background information about Jeremiah and his time.  In the early 6th century, B.C., Prophet Jeremiah was still active.  In front of his eyes, Israel (the Kingdom of Judah to be exact) was destroyed by the foreign enemy in 586 B.C.  They burned the house of the Lord, the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem.  The enemy army broke down all the walls around Jerusalem.  Furthermore, they took thousands of people, nobles and commoners alike, as captives to Babylon (Jeremiah 52:12-16).  This historical event is called the Babylonian Captivity that lasted 70 years.  Jeremiah wasn’t sent away, though.  In fact, he was left behind in his homeland with the weak and the poor.  Day and night, he witnessed and grieved over the utter destruction of his beloved country and her people.  His despair and affliction were thoroughly recorded in the book of Lamentations.  In today’s text, Jeremiah begins the chapter with his anguish about the way the Lord treated His own people (“I am one who has seen affliction under the rod of God’s wrath; v. 1), yet at the end of his lament, surprisingly he returns to God declaring that he still trusts in the Lord and His everlasting faithfulness for His people.  What a confession!  What a faith!  What a tough example to follow!
  • Jeremiah’s theology: The Scripture says, “To the faithful, God shows Himself faithful” (2 Samuel 22:36).  I believe God showed Himself faithful to Jeremiah because Jeremiah remained faithful to Him.  This kind of faith that Jeremiah had only comes from a man who believes deep in his heart that the Lord does no wrong (Deuteronomy 32:4) to His people.  E.g. Job and his wife.  Jeremiah must have known the verse well as this:  9 Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His loving-kindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments; (Dt. 7:9).  He believed that the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful (Ps. 25:10).  To him, the divine works are faithful and just (Ps. 111:7) even though they sometimes mean to His people total ruin and destruction.  He learned anew that God is faithful even when His people are faithless (2 Tim. 2:13).  He says that he experiences such divine faithfulness anew every morning.  His conclusion on God’s faithfulness to God’s people: steadfast and never changing.  God is always faithful in all He does (Ps. 33:4).   He never flip-flops.  He remains faithful forever (Ps. 146:6).  Therefore, he exhorts the audience to stick with God relying on Him and having hope in Him always, especially in times of despair.
  • There must have been a question in Jeremiah’s heart, though:  If God is so faithful to His people, how can any one explain this destruction?
  • Jeremiah realized that the cause of destruction of his country and the ruins of his people lied, not in the Lord, but in their unfaithfulness to the Lord such as worshiping other gods and practicing injustice against God’s commandments.  Their hardship was the direct consequences of the choices they had made: disobedience to God and not keeping His commandments.  In the midst and through the affliction, Jeremiah rediscovers who and what kind of God His God is: the God who holds His people accountable and the God who is faithful to His people and promises.  That leads us to our next verse.
  • Let’s read Numbers 3:19 together in one voice, shall we?
  • 19 God is not a human being, that he should lie,
        or a mortal, that he should change his mind (or he feels sorry for what he has done:   mine)
    Has he promised, and will he not do it?
        Has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
  • God is faithful to His promises.  He faithfully keeps the promises He has made for us (Ps. 145:13) (Heb. 10:23).    I have discovered in the Bible where God demonstrates His faithfulness to us His people in the following four ways:
    • He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear (1 Co. 10:13).
    • He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one (2 Thess. 3:3).
    • He will sanctify you through and through (1 Thess. 5:24).
    • He will forgive you your sins (1 John 1:9).

Closing:  So, in times of disappointment with God, and in times of despair, let us recall to our mind and have hope in God and stick with God.  When we go through fiery trials, let us remember that God can be trusted and we can rely on Him.  He stays with us, supports us, and protects us.  He is true and accurate.  He doesn’t flip flop.  He is loyal to us.  He is faithful to us forever.  Rely on His faithfulness.

Amen.