by Bob Burridge (©2006, 2021)
People are notoriously unreliable at times. Sin causes them to go back on their promises and to break contracts and agreements. Because of self-centeredness our compassion toward others fades and promises are often broken.
But God’s promises and God’s compassions are always reliable.
Lamentations 3:22-23, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
God’s care for us and his promises come from his mercies. We deserve to eternally suffer a horrible punishment for our sins, but because of the mercy which provided our Savior we are forgiven and destined to a wonder-filled eternity. His mercies flow from his compassions which never fail. They are continual. They are there at the beginning of every day for his redeemed children. This is why we can say to God, “Great is thy faithfulness”.
One of the best loved hymns is Great Is Thy Faithfulness.
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 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 6 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.
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 was written by W. M. Runyan.
He was a musician who worked with Moody Bible Institute, and the 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 3:22-23. 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.
But not only is God infallibly compassionate, His compassions make us able to be compassionate too — in Christ. We ought to reflect this attribute of God as something that grows in our redeemed heart.
1 Peter 3:8, “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.”
We need to be faithfully compassionate. It’s what God redeemed us to be.
(Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.)
Thomas O. Chisholm 1923, William M. Runyan 1923
1. “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 forever wilt be.
“Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!”
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
“Great is Thy faithfulness, ” Lord, unto me!
2. Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love. (chorus)
3. Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside! (chorus)