by Bob Burridge ©2011
People are notoriously unreliable at times. Sin causes them to go back on their promises and to break contracts and agreements. It makes the hopeful light of the seeming compassion we saw in their promises fade quickly into the shadows of self-centeredness.
In contrast to lapses in the assurances people so easily offer us, God’s promises and God’s compassions are always reliable. In Lamentations 3:22-23 it says,
“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.”
God’s care for us and his promises come from his mercies. We deserve to be consumed, but his mercy provided the Savior. His mercies flow from his compassions which never fail. They are continual. They are there every morning.
Therefore those who are redeemed by grace can say to God, “Great is thy faithfulness”.
One of the best loved hymns is Great Is Thy Faithfulness. Verse one is based upon this passage in Lamentations. (The lyrics printed here are for study purposes only.)
Great is thy faithfulness, O God my father,
There is no shadow of turning with thee:
Thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not;
As thou hast been thou for ever wilt be.
The words were written by Thomas O. Chisholm. He was born on July 29th, 1866 in a log cabin in Franklin, Kentucky. After finishing grade school, instead of going to college, he became a school teacher in Franklin at the age of 16.
After teaching for a few years, at the age of 21 he was made associate editor of the town’s weekly newspaper, The Franklin Favorite. It wasn’t for another six years that Thomas became a true Christian.
He moved to Louisville to work as an editor and business manager of a religious publication. In time he was ordained to serve a brief Pastorate, but had to resign for health reasons. He eventually settled in Vineland, New Jersey selling insurance. He retired in 1953 to the Methodist Home for the Aged in Ocean Grove, New Jersey. He died there in 1960.
During his life he wrote over 1200 poems, many of which were widely published in periodicals like the Sunday School Times, the Moody Monthly, and the Alliance Weekly.
In 1941 Thomas wrote these words, “My income has never been large at any time due to impaired health in the earlier years which has followed me on until now. Although I must not fail to record here the unfailing faithfulness of a covenant-keeping God and that He has given me many wonderful displays of his providing care, for which I am filled with astonishing gratefulness.”
The music usually published with his lyrics was written by W. M. Runyan. He was a musician who worked with Moody Bible Institute, and Hope Publishing Company. He received some of Chisholm’s poems in 1923 and particularly was moved by the words of this hymn based on Lamentations 3:22. Runyan tells of how he prayed that God would direct him to write a fitting tune for such a profound and important message. The Hymn as we know it was completed within the same year.
Not only is God infallibly compassionate. His compassions also make us able to be compassionate too by our redemption in Christ. We ought to show this attribute of God as something that grows in our redeemed heart.
Be faithfully compassionate — It’s what God redeemed you to be.
(Note: The Bible quotations in this article are from the New King James Bible unless otherwise noted.)