“New every morning... one day at a time...”
The passage in the Book of Lamentations that every Christian should know. By Colin Sedgwick
I like early mornings. Most days around 6.30 you might find me leaving the house to walk up to the post office for my paper. It’s relatively quiet and still - just a few friendly dog-walkers out and about. It’s fresh and unspoiled, a good time to adjust my mind to what the new day might bring, and to pray.
The little Book of Lamentations is, as the name suggests, full of sadness. For centuries Jews and Christians alike have believed it was written by Jeremiah, though the experts today generally think this is unlikely. But it certainly chimes in with Jeremiah’s long prophecy, written at the time of Israel’s catastrophic defeat by the Babylonians. The prophet pleads with God to forgive his people for their unfaithfulness, and to restore their fortunes.
But right at the heart of the book is one of the Bible’s little gems, a passage every Christian should know. It’s in chapter 3, verses 19-33, especially verses 22-23: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning...”
How beautiful is that? And how simple!
The writer wants us to know that there is nothing stale or second-hand about God’s “compassions”. No, they are “new every morning.”
A meal made of left-overs can be both tasty and nourishing, it’s true; hand-me-down clothes can be perfectly useful. But they are bound to feel a little, well, second-best. The grace and kindness of God are never like that. Each new dawn brings a fresh supply.
So we are encouraged to embark on each new day, whatever its demands and difficulties, with a confident hope that God is there - going before us, walking with us, and coming after us.
Let’s get this little mantra etched onto our spiritual DNA: new every morning... one day at a time...
This isn’t just a passage that we can cull from an obscure part of the Bible and tuck away in our minds. No, it’s part of a fuller thread that runs right through the Bible.
Think of the story of the manna (Exodus 16).
The people of Israel are wandering in the desert after being set free from slavery in Egypt, and they’re becoming grumbly and rebellious. They don’t like the food they are given, even to the point of wishing they had never left Egypt in the first place: “There we sat round pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you (that’s Moses and Aaron) have brought us out into this desert...” (verse 3).
So God responds: You want more food? All right, more food you shall have! And so each evening he sends them quail to eat, and each morning a strange kind of bread they call “manna” (which sounds like the Hebrew word for “what is it?”).
But there is one proviso: the manna must be gathered one day at a time; they mustn’t keep it for the next day, and if they do it will go rotten - as “some of them” discovered to their cost (verse 20).
God is teaching them the same vital lesson as Lamentations 3: you can’t live on yesterday’s blessings and, thank God, you don’t need to; each day is a new start, and calls for a new commitment of faith. New every morning... one day at a time...
Mind you, it’s worth noticing that the manna did need to be “gathered” - it wasn’t landed plonk on their breakfast tables. And in the same way, while God’s new mercies are purely a gift from him, we are still responsible for making them our own.
How do we do this? In essence, by consciously and deliberately opening ourselves up to God through prayer, and by seeking to bring our lives into line with his holy will. (God says to his people in Psalm 81:10: “Open wide your mouth and I will fill it”. There’s a condition there, isn’t there? Have you ever tried to feed a baby with its mouth clamped shut? - then you know how God must sometimes feel.)
Paul, in the New Testament, had hold of this same truth: “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16). And as a result, “we do not lose heart”. New every morning... one day at a time...
And of course we mustn’t forget the words of Jesus: “Give us today our daily bread...” (Matthew 6:11). And, coming from a slightly different angle, the need to “take up our cross daily” to follow him (Luke 9:23).
New every morning... one day at a time... Are we getting the message?
New every morning... one day at a time...
New mercies, each returning day,/ Hover around us while we pray;/ New perils past, new sins forgiven,/ New thoughts of God, new hopes of heaven. John Keble (1792-1866)
Colin Sedgwick is a Baptist minister with many years’ experience in the ministry.
He is also a freelance journalist, and has written for The Independent, The Guardian, The Times, and various Christian publications. He blogs at sedgonline.wordpress.com
Image | Jonas Weckschmied | Unsplash
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