Question: "What does it mean that "His mercy endures forever" (Jeremiah 33:11 and Psalm 136)?"
Answer: The prophet Jeremiah lived and ministered during one of the bleakest times in Israel’s history. The doomed fate of his country had been sealed. He would live to see Solomon’s temple and the great city of Jerusalem destroyed and its people killed or dragged off into captivity in Babylon. Because of their disobedience and unfaithfulness, would God reject and abandoned His people forever? The answer, God promised through Jeremiah, was a resounding “No!” In the future, the Lord would restore His people through a new covenant so that, once again, the city would be filled with His redeemed ones rejoicing and singing: “Praise the LORD of hosts, For the LORD is good, For His mercy endures forever” (Jeremiah 33:11, NKJV).
One can’t help but read this chorus and think of Psalm 136, a corporate praise hymn in which the psalmist exhorts his audience of worshippers again and again, “Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. Oh, give thanks to the God of gods! For His mercy endures forever. Oh, give thanks to the Lord of lords! For His mercy endures forever” (Psalm 136:1–3, NKJV).
The word translated “mercy” in the original language means “loyal, steadfast, enduring love.” The refrain “His mercy endures forever” (KJV and NKJV) is also translated, “His faithful love endures forever” (NLT) and “His steadfast love endures forever” (ESV). Mercy, or loyal love, is one of the most prominent attributes of God’s character. By His very nature, He shows unstoppable, limitless, everlasting mercy, even to those who don’t deserve it: “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy” (Micah 7:18).
If ever there might have been a time for God’s mercy to reach its end, it could have been the sin-filled era in which Jeremiah lived. But, thankfully, the Lord’s faithful love does not depend on the whim of emotion or its recipient’s worthiness. God’s steadfast goodness to those He loves is inherent in who He is: “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). After a time of discipline, God in His everlasting mercy and love would heal His people’s wounds and, like a shepherd, He would lead them home (Jeremiah 32:36—33:26).
Often, when trials come, we feel abandoned by God. Sometimes our sinful disobedience envelops our hearts in such darkness that we believe God most certainly has rejected us forever. Like the people of Jeremiah’s day, we wonder if our troubling circumstances are evidence that God no longer loves us and His mercy toward us has run out. In times like these, we must recall God’s promise through Jeremiah and let these words comfort us, too: “For the LORD is good; his love endures forever.”
The Lord forgives those who repent and return to Him: “You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you” (Psalm 86:5; see also 1 John 1:9). He does not hold our sins against us. God remains faithful because He cannot deny who He is (2 Timothy 2:13). He is “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:8–10).
To the one who feels least deserving of His mercy, the Bible says, “The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning” (Lamentations 3:22–23, NLT).
The new covenant God promised to Israel is ours to experience today through a living and personal relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. Those who trust in the Lord are partakers of His love and mercy forever. Even in our darkest moments when all hope seems lost, we must remember His mercy endures forever.