READ: Psalm 54, Lamentations 1-3, Matthew 26, Romans 5
In Bible interpretation it is often said that “context is king” or “a text without a context is a pretext.” Some of the most popular and comforting Scripture passages are in effect sadly modulated for lack of appreciation for their context. Lamentations 3:22-24 is a great example. We relish the reality that God’s mercies keep us from being consumed, His compassions fail not, His faithfulness is great–but the power of those realities is diminished when we pluck those verses out of context.
We (Jerusalem, God’s people) have sinned. We have betrayed our God over and over. Because we did not consider our destiny, our collapse was awesome (Lam. 1:9). As a result, the following are the righteous acts of God: He sends fire to our bones; He spreads a net for our feet; He makes our strength fail; He tramples us underfoot; He has cast us down; He has swallowed us up; He has thrown us down; He has brought us to the ground; He has profaned us; He has cut us off in fierce anger; He has blazed against us; He has bent His bow and slain us; He has poured out His fury like fire; He has destroyed us; He has spurned in burning indignation; He has abandoned us; He has given up our walls; He has removed vision; He has not pitied; He has caused enemies to rejoice over us; He has slain us all the day in His anger; He has removed refuge and savior; He has given us affliction; He has made us walk in darkness; He has turned His hand against us; He has aged our flesh and broken our bones; He has besieged us; He has surrounded us with bitterness; He has set us in dark places; He has made our chains heavy; He has shut out our prayer; He has blocked our ways; He has been to us a bear lying in wait and a lion in ambush; He has turned aside our ways and torn us in pieces; He has made us desolate; He has set us up as a target and pierced our kidneys; He has taunted us all day long; He has filled us with bitterness; He has broken out our teeth; He has removed our soul far from peace; and He has removed our strength and hope (Lam. 1-3).
THE LORD has done all this to me because I HAVE BETRAYED HIM. This is the context for: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness.” Internal sin, not external enemies, is the reason we need mercy. Oh, the depth of the riches and goodness of God. The depth of our depravity and the righteousness of God’s punishing acts against us simply highlight the great mercy of Jesus. We cannot rush past our sin and shame to embrace mercy, for mercy is magnified by depravity. The Lord’s mercy rises magnificently above the ugliness of our betrayals and is bestowed despite our failures. In order to comprehend the depth of the love of God, we must both honestly grapple with our wickedness and feel the sting of God’s judgment. It is only then that mercy is truly experienced as great.