The LORD is My Portion

Lamentations 3:24

In recent months, millions of people in America and Asia have lost loved ones, homes, jobs, and health, virtually everything we consider basic to life. Here in Canada in recent years many people have suffered significant losses due to ice storms and tornadoes. These losses can impact the spiritual, psychological, social and physical dimensions of people’s lives in deep and lasting ways.

Jeremiah was a faithful man who suffered great losses. He worked approximately 600 years before Jesus came and following about 1,400 years of God’s interaction with Israel after His promise and covenant of faith with Abraham. His career of about forty-five years as a prophet had many disappointments. Despite his powerful preaching of the word of the LORD, which was like a hammer and a fire to him (Jeremiah 23:29), he saw his listeners commit spiritual adultery. Jehoiakim cut up and burned up Jeremiah’s writings without fear (36:23-24). Royal officials cast him into a cistern where he sank in the mud (38:1-6-13). Nebuchadnezzar carried the people of God into exile in Babylon. Jeremiah saw Jerusalem desolate, like a “crown…fallen from our head,” with foxes prowling in it (Lamentations 5:16, 18). Jeremiah’s losses affected the formal religious, inner spiritual, professional and personal dimensions of his life.

In the aftermath of his affliction, wandering, wormwood and bitterness, Jeremiah’s humble soul recalls that the Lord’s steadfast love (Hebrew: hesed) never ceases and His mercies never end (Lamentations 3:22). In fact, “They are new every morning”; God’s faithfulness is great (3:23). Against the smoking background of destruction, Jeremiah recalls that he does not find his lot or portion in life through property, success or fame, but in the Lord . He makes this profound statement, “The LORD is my portion.” The Lord is the portion cut out for him; the Lord is his possession as the Lord possesses him.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that Jeremiah came from Anathoth, a city of the Levites just north of Jerusalem. The land was an important inheritance from God’s promise to Israel. The Levites, however, had no tribal portion (share, part or inheritance) of land like the other tribes of Israel, apart from cities, but they did have close access to God. It was a Levite who entered His holy of holies once per year. Jeremiah recalled the privileges of his own prophetic ministry and access to God. Because the Lord is his portion, Jeremiah says, “Therefore I have hope in Him” (Lamentations 3:24).

The apostle Paul’s life has some striking parallels to Jeremiah’s that reinforce the reality of God’s special gift of Himself to His people. Paul suffered great losses to gain Christ his Lord. He was from Benjamin, the tribe which included Anathoth, Jeremiah’s home. He gave up his prestige in Judaism as a Pharisee to suffer ridicule, lashes from his own people, stoning, and the loss of all things for Jesus (Philippians 3:7-8). Yet, responding to God’s call brought him God’s righteousness, peace and life (3:7-16; 4:4-9-13). For Paul, “to live is Christ” (1:21). For Paul, like Jeremiah, the Lord was his portion. In prosperity or humble means he could “do all things through Him who strengthens me” (4:13).

As part of His goal of redeeming us, God put Jeremiah and Paul into service and sustained them through many trials and losses. He showed them His steadfast love and mercy. The Lord was their portion, their inheritance. The ultimate demonstration of the value God places on people is the offering of His most priceless treasure for our forgiveness: the life, body and blood of His Son Jesus. Jeremiah had a part in the history of redemption leading up to the good news (gospel) of Jesus’ death for our sins and His resurrection. Paul had a part in the days flowing from it.

There have been many mornings since the destruction of Jerusalem in Jeremiah’s time in the early sixth century ca. 586 B.C. and again shortly after Paul’s time in A.D. 70. Jeremiah would want us to understand that the Lord’s steadfast love and mercies have been new on everyone of those mornings. They are new every morning of our lives today.

God calls us all to enter into His presence and accept His righteousness and peace and along with them the sufferings of Christ in His service. We believe the call of God is for all Christians to be active as part of His royal priesthood. He is asking us to be part of His agenda of redemption. The Lord, our portion, sustains us as we work with Him in His cause. Perhaps by God’s grace most of us may not lose our homes and jobs to disasters. Yet, we certainly live in times when the untimely losses of others around us provide opportunities to show them the love of God in Christ Jesus, to show them that the Lord can be their portion. It can help new Christians know the depth of God’s love and grace and to bond with Him as the best thing in their lives. It can help them survive spiritual growing pains.

Personally, relying on the Lord as our portion can relieve us of excessive anxieties from the search for approval of others on one hand and the pain of rejection on the other. It helps us bear our own disappointments and losses. As Jeremiah and Paul relied upon God as their portion when they faced disappointments from the people of God, we too can find encouragement in Him to go on when things in the church don’t seem to be what they should. In our attempts to reach out, we will have disappointments like Jeremiah and Paul. We may not see the fruits of our labours. We may be tempted to retreat into the softness of worldly portions. Jeremiah and Paul would encourage us to hold on to the Lord as our portion and therefore to draw our hope from him. And when we experience success, we need to remember the source of every good gift and give Him the glory. “The Lord is my portion says my soul, Therefore I have hope in Him.”

Paul Birston

November 2005©

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