As the Lord may help us, we will meditate this afternoon on a few verses in the third chapter of the Lamentations of Jeremiah, from the 22nd verse: “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassion fail not.” (Read on to the close of verse 26.)
On these verses we will meditate this afternoon. I never undertake, according to my own judgment, to choose a subject for meditation. When I have the prospect of preaching, I wait on God, and ask Him to direct me to a subject. So I have asked Him repeatedly for a portion for this afternoon, and this is the portion to which I felt directed. And now, may the Lord grant us a blessing! We have particularly, in the first place, to consider the circumstances under which Jeremiah wrote these words, “It is of the Lord’s (Jehovah’s) mercies we are not consumed.” We have to consider the state in which, as a nation, the Israelites then were.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF SIN.
Almost all the Jews had fallen victims either to the war, or to famine, or to pestilence, or had been carried away as captives to Babylon. Only the poorest persons were left in the land, and even these were in very small numbers. In order that the whole land might not be desolate, the king of Babylon gave orders that a few men should be left behind.
Further, Jerusalem was burned and destroyed. The walls had been broken down round about the city, and the Temple was burned. Under these circumstances the prophet says, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.” He meant to say, if we had what we deserve, we should be utterly destroyed. Not a single man would be left alive; not a single house in the country but it would be destroyed. And if any should be left, they deserve no longer to be taken up by Jehovah. That is what we deserve on account of our sins. The prophet finds that all this has come upon them in consequence of their sin.
Now, in order to make this practical to ourselves, let us ask, If we had what we deserve, what would it be? We could expect nothing but entire destruction. If we were treated in the way of justice and judgment, and not according to mercy and grace, what could there be but destruction for us?
I ask you to put the question each one to himself with regard to this: Have I been convinced that I am a sinner—and such a sinner as to deserve punishment, nothing but punishment? If you have never been convinced of this—that you are a sinner, and that, as a sinner, you deserve nothing but punishment, then I ask you affectionately to consider it now; and to consider the only ground of salvation, and whether you have yet seen that your punishment has been laid on the Lord Jesus Christ. And if you are thus a sinner, and deserving of punishment (whether you see it or not, it is a fact, revealed by the Holy Ghost), then consider that God, in mercy, that you might not be punished, has sent Christ, His only-begotten Son, to bear the punishment in our room and stead, as our Substitute.
God, in the riches of His grace did that, in order that we might escape the punishment and destruction due to us, which punishment must have been visited on us, unless He had done this. Therefore was the Lord Jesus visited with stripes, and it was that which nailed Him to the accursed tree, in order that He might bear the punishment, and that we might be saved, eternally saved; that we might be happy, eternally happy.
Now do we all see this? And if not, I ask you, prayerfully to read the first three chapters of the Epistle to the Romans. There it is plainly stated, what we are by nature and what we merit. And if you do see this truth, then I especially ask you to entreat God to help you to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ; for thus, and thus alone, you can escape the punishment. If you trust in Him, you shall not be punished; for through Him do we obtain mercy, even “the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace;” and if we believe, we become the children of God; “and if children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ,” Through believing the gospel, we are “delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son.” And thus there is before us the bright and bleed prospect of eternal joy and happiness, through the Lord Jesus Christ.
Notice particularly also here, that the prophet does not say, it is of the Lord’s mercies that these wicked Jews are not consumed, but “that we are not consumed.” In this he includes himself. This is particularly to be noticed, for Jeremiah was one of the holiest men then living; and yet he includes himself when he says, it is of Jehovah’s mercies that we are not consumed—that I among them am not consumed.
So it is with those that fear God, and are believers in the Messiah; whether believing in the Messiah which was to come, as in Jeremiah’s days, or as now, in looking back to the Messiah as having come. The more they know of God, the more they see their own corrupt nature, their own sinfulness and shortcomings. And, instead of having a proud, haughty spirit towards fellow sinners, we include ourselves with them, and say, with the prophet, “it is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed.”
The heart of God was still towards the descendants of Abraham; the compassionate heart of Jehovah was still towards the literal seed of Abraham, and the blessings which had been promised to that seed were not forgotten; so that the prophet could say, “new every morning.”
This is the language of all who really know God, of all who are acquainted with God, and who have watched His hand in any small degree. Daily do they say that the compassions of Jehovah are indeed new every morning, and that great is His faithfulness. And if it were not thus, what would become of us who have known the Lord Jesus Christ? We should soon fall back, if left to ourselves. We should soon fall into that corrupt state from which we were delivered, if left to ourselves. It is by God’s grace that we are what we are; just because He is faithful to us. Although we should be unfaithful for a time, yet He abides faithful to His people. How blessed is it to know this!
Again, “Jehovah is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in Him.” This comforted the prophet in the midst of the sorrows which surrounded him. The people were almost all slain by the sword, or had perished by famine or pestilence; and the few who were left were for the most part carried away captive. The city of Jerusalem was destroyed, and the Temple burned.
Very few of us can enter into the full sorrow of the prophet under these circumstances; but this is certain, that it was an immense trial to him, especially the last circumstance, that the Temple was destroyed. Yet mark, he is not overwhelmed; there is yet hope. Hope in what? Hope in the living God: “Jehovah is my portion, therefore will I hope in Him.” The living God remains to me. Though the people are destroyed, though Jerusalem is destroyed, and the walls thereof broken down, and though the Temple is burned, yet God is my portion. That is the special point of our meditation--
“JEHOVAH IS MY PORTION.”
God was all to him, and that is particularly my message to all my fellow disciples this afternoon. How is it with us regarding this? Is the living God our portion? Do we find Him to be our all? Is the living God our portion and our hope? Remember, whatever else we have, He must be our portion. Suppose for a moment that all our friends turned their backs on us, yet if God Himself be ours, how rich are we? If we were possessed of much wealth and property, and were to lose it all, yet with God Himself as our portion, we should be rich. And if we were to spend the remainder of our lives in a dungeon, yet if God remains with us and goes with us there, we can be unspeakably happy. What are all these things if we have God? Have we, my dear friends, Him for our portion? I do not ask you now, are you religious people? I suppose you are, because you are here today. I do not ask if you read the Bible; I suppose that you do. I do not ask if you go to a place of worship; I suppose that. I do not ask if you now and then pray; I suppose you do. I do not ask if you give a little money to the cause of God; I suppose that. But, I ask more than all this, far, far more than all this. Do you find in God Himself your all? I ask you nothing short of this, that you ask yourself now, as before God: Is my wife my portion? Is my husband my portion? If so, then a poor portion you have. It is right to have natural affection towards your wife or your husband. It is right and proper for parents to love their children, and for children to love their parents; otherwise it would be sinful in the highest degree. But, none of these relatives are to be our portion as the children of God; Jehovah Himself must be that. He would have us satisfied with nothing short of Himself. I ask you whether this is the case with you? With some, the treasures of this world are their portion—what a poor miserable portion You will find such are unhappy, and have guilty consciences. You will never be satisfied by the treasures of this world—never.
But others make their business their portion. They are very earnest in attending to their business. Quite right in its place this. I do not wish at all to encourage idleness in any way in reference to this; for Christians should attend carefully and attentively to their business; if they do not, they will not have God’s blessing on their business. But yet, if the business is our portion, if money-making, or rank, or standing in life, or anything in this world be our portion, or what we seek to find satisfaction in, then I say it is a poor, miserable portion, by whatever name it may be called. But if, on the contrary, we have God for our portion, if in Him we seek to find satisfaction, and in nothing else, then have we a rich portion indeed. Is He only our joy, our hope, our happiness? Are our hearts in Him? our hopes in Him? our everything in Him? Have we all this? Let us be honest before God. Let us be honest with ourselves. Have we one thing we care about, and is that God Himself? Or, have we two things, or ten things that we care about? There is one thing only that should be uppermost in our hearts, and that is God Himself; one thing that should be our portion, and that is God Himself. The prophet Jeremiah had this portion, and therefore could never be miserable, poor, or forsaken. All is right so long as the living God Himself is our portion. As was the case with the Lord Jesus Christ Himself when on this earth, He had only one object, and that was, to live for, and serve God, His Father, to do His work. “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me.” And so it should be with us, that everything we do should be done for the praise, and honour, and glory of God. This should be our ruling motive. All our thoughts should be occupied with God, either directly or indirectly; even our corning together to meet our friends should be with reference to God—even our eating and drinking should be with reference to Him. Do we seek strength to live and labour for God, and do we spend the strength for Him, which we may have obtained?