Jerusalem is a living hell. Utterly destroyed. Desolation. Bodies everywhere, rubble and ruins.
Starvation stalks the living. Mothers eating children. This is the crushing reality confronting Jeremiah, the prophet in the wasteland that is the city.
This is the judgement of God brought about by the Babylonians in 582 BC. In Lamentations chapter 3, Jeremiah reflects on the heavy hand of the Lord that has come to rest on him amongst the wreckage.
'He has driven and brought me into darkness without any light' (3:2)
'He has made my flesh and my skin waste away' (3:4)
'He has made my chains heavy' (3:7)
'He turned aside my steps and tore me to pieces' (3:11)
'He has filled me with bitterness' (3:15)
Then something remarkable happens, amidst the wreckage, Jeremiah worships, amongst the rubble he remembers.
'But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope' (3:21)
In the carnage, the character of God becomes Jeremiah’s compass. In this profound national crisis, in the personal calamity, God’s character is Jeremiah’s compass. Who God is... is what Jeremiah rests in. Who God is... is what Jeremiah holds on to. Who God is... is what gives Jeremiah direction.
'The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies are new every morning' (3:22,23)
'For the Lord will not cast off forever' (3:31)
'but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love' (3:32)
These are not easy days, the challenges of ministry are multiplying, the weight of responsibility is growing, and the emotion and spiritual toll on shepherds is increasing.
If we are in places and spaces where we cannot see a way forward, God’s character can be our compass. If we feel our ministry hopes are rubble, God’s character can be our comfort.
(I'm grateful to Darryl Purdy for his reflections on Lamentations at the CCCNZ PastorLINK Retreat which sparked the material for this devotion).