Bury Your Face in the Dust

by LA UBF   11/09/2008     0 reads



 Let Him Bury His Face in the Dust

Lamentations 1:1-5:22

Key Verse 3:29 

Let him bury his face in the dust--there may yet be hope.

Lamentations can be seen as an instructor’s manual to teach those who are despairing. If you are a teacher, either at a college or grade school, you will need to give out to students a textbook for the subject you are teaching. At the same time you need an instructor's manual, for it comes with the answers to the review questions or problems you will hand out to your class. 

In a way, the Prophet Jeremiah operated as an instructor for the children of Israel of his day. His audience was not obedient. They were not good listeners. The Lord God warned them again and again through Jeremiah. But rather than to listening to Jeremiah, they tried to kill him. Only by God's grace did Jeremiah escape their killing hands. Yet Jeremiah dearly loved his people. With many tears he prayed for them. Eventually, his students (so to speak) got kicked out of school (that is, they went into exile). Having gone through the afflictions and sufferings of his people alongside them, Jeremiah despaired just as much as all the citizens of the kingdom of Judah did. Yet, as he knew the Lord, particularly the way the Lord helps his children out, he did not despair. In the book of Lamentations he pondered the meanings of the disasters that hit the people of Judah. He mourned for them. He prayed for them. The key verse for today shows that instead of despairing, he saw God's hope persisting still for his people. 

In studying Jeremiah we saw the Lord's wisdom for his children, that is, to teach them a lesson through failures. The remaining question then is, "Are we really learning the lesson(s) the Lord desires to teach us through troubles and ordeals in this life?" Or, "What is the surest way to incorporate into our lives the wisdom the Lord desires to teach?" These are the questions the Prophet Jeremiah is addressing now in the book of Lamentations. 

So let us sit down and have quiet moments to read through this book. If you have done so already, you will find that it is not difficult to hear the voice of the Lord. For the sake of time tonight we are not going to read the entire book in one sitting. Rather, we are going to read 3:19-50. Let us begin. This passage gives out a lot of wisdom. But for our own purpose (campus evangelism) we would like to think about three things: first, the cross of mission; second, QT; and third, the right attitude.  

First, the cross of mission (3:27)

Verse 27 reads, "It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young." Here the "yoke" refers to the yoke of "mission." It also can refer to such yokes as marriage, not just a marriage between a husband and a wife, but between the nation Israel and her husband the Lord God. And even marriage is not without a point: the point of the marriage relationship is the mission from the Lord. 


We can easily understand this concept when we think about the purpose of God's calling upon his children. Why did God call the Israelites? Why did the Lord save them out of Egypt to himself? Why did he woo them and get them into a covenant (or marriage) relationship with him? We find the answer to these questions in Exodus 19:5-6. "Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites." 

When we combine the purpose of the calling that came down on the Israelites at Mt. Sinai with what we have in the book of Jeremiah and then Lamentations (that is, the tragedy of the Jerusalem temple coming down followed by the Babylonian Exile), we can see the connection: Had the Israelites not gotten into the relationship with the Lord, they would not have gone through troubles, such as sword or famine. Some of the troubles, if not all of them that are described in Lamentations, are too horrible to describe. Can you possibly think of a mother cooking her children to fill her stomach? Indeed, had they not been called to serve the mission from the Lord, they would not have had these horrible disasters hit them. 

Does this mean that it was a mistake that they accepted God's calling? The answer is No. No one refrains himself from securing a driver's license to stay away from getting into such troubles as car accidents or tickets. Marriage comes with troubles, for after marriage a husband must work hard to put groceries on the table. And marriage comes with other crosses as well, such as babysitting, dishwashing, vacuum cleaning and much more. But people of sound mind do not stay away from marriage because of the troubles involved. Didn't the Greek philosopher Socrates (469-399 B.C.) say, "By all means marry: if you get a good wife, you will be happy; if you get a bad one, you will become a philosopher"? 

So taking up the cross of mission is the surest way to learn something. In fact, it is one of the first things a young man must do to learn about the Lord and his blessed purpose for mankind. 

"It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young." All of us who are seated in this room received God's calling to live as witnesses of the Lord. Titles vary - some are called pastor, some shepherd, some missionary. But the mission remains the same: we are called to invite people, particularly, those who are young, to the Lord. How are we to serve them? How can we help them learn of the Lord and grow as his disciples? What is the key wisdom we need to help them grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord? The cardinal wisdom is right here: "It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young.” Let us pray for God's wisdom that according to his guidance we could encourage all of our Bible students to take the cross of mission, especially the mission to establish the USA as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. 

[Consider also how at the outset the disciples of Jesus, such as Simon Peter, knew nothing about salvation, but after bearing the yoke of Jesus' calling as his apostles, they all became great servants of God and led many to God’s salvation. Consider also what Thomas Jefferson said, "He who knows best, knows how little he knows." And who knows best but the one who actually goes out to a mission field and does the work the Lord calls him to do? By all means then, if you truly want to know Jesus, endeavor to go out to college campuses to invite students to Bible studies and make disciples out of them. If you really want to teach your Bible students to grow up, by all means train your Bible students to take the cross of mission for Jesus’ name’s sake.]

Second, the QT (3:25,26,28)

The next critical path we want all the students to go through every day in the school of learning run by the Lord is what we call "QT" which stands for "Quite Time." This is what Jeremiah shares with us in Lamentations. Yes, we are to put hope in the Lord. Yes, the Lord uproots and tears down, destroys and overthrows, builds and plants. What then are his servants to do? Lamentations answer the question: “The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him” (3:25). “It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD” (3:26). “Let him sit alone in silence, for the LORD has laid it on him” (3:28). These verses describe the steps to come to the Lord and listen to him. The first step is to put hope in the Lord; the second step is to seek the Lord (based on God's word); and the third step is to sit alone (one on one with the Lord) in silence (in order to listen to and obey the Lord). 

These steps come with challenges, such as our inclination to lean to our own understanding. God gave us many abilities to do many things. But God's work is done God's way. As far as the work of salvation is concerned, we must settle for the truth that there is no hope whatsoever in a man. It is only in God that we have the hope of salvation. 

Sitting alone in silence in the Lord’s presence also comes with lots of challenges. Life in the 21st century comes with tons of distractions. Our mind also comes with lots of static. Built within us is the tendency to go our own way, not willing to learn from the Lord. We glibly say, "Before you come to the Lord, empty yourself." But is it always easy to really empty ourselves? And what does it mean to empty ourselves? Proverbs 22:15 says, "Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him." One may go with a fancy title like pastor, shepherd, priest, or missionary. But many of them still belong to the category of a small "child" in whom "folly is bound up." They are like a bunch of hard-headed bigots: simply, they are not teachable. How much more would this be the case with sheep? Didn't Isaiah say, "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way"? Indeed, sitting alone in the Lord’s presence in silence and listening to what he has to say is not an easy task.

Yet what must be done must be done. What the Lord did for the slave nation Israel is exemplary. Before sending them into the Promised Land the Lord gave them "daily bread training" for 38 years. Still, most of them screwed up. Consider the example of Moses. Before commissioning him as a shepherd for his flock, the Lord trained him for 80 years and yet still he made a mistake. So the Lord did not allow him to go into the Promised Land! These examples indicate that it is one thing to come to the QT for daily bread; it is another to truly empty ourselves and go by what the Lord has to say.

Third, the right attitude (3:29)

It has been said, "In the school of success, attitude is everything." Through the afflictions and sufferings Jeremiah learned this truth for sure. So he says in 3:29, "Let him bury his face in the dust--there may yet be hope." Here, "him" refers to those who are "young." 

Who then are the "young"? According to one saying, "The youth is the one who does not know what he does not know." The people of Judah in Jeremiah's day fit this description: spiritually speaking, they were still "young." Yes, they did receive lots of training. They had a myriad of teachers, such as Moses, Elijah, or Isaiah. Yes, they were blessed with patriarchs of faith like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Still however they as a nation remained immature: they were yet to discern what is right and what is wrong. So after spending more or less of five centuries in the Promised Land, they all flunked out. They fell victim to the temptations of the world. 

Why? In view of Jeremiah 3:29 their attitude was the problem. They were proud. In their pride they resorted to their own ideas and eventually ran into a dead end. They hit the brick wall real hard. 

So what is the solution? Let us all rise and read 3:29, "Let him bury his face in the dust--there may yet be hope." Let us stop for a moment and think about the meaning of the word "dust." Why must you, a young man, have to bury your face in the dust? We find the answer to this question in the word "dust." What is "dust"? Dust is dust. It is used in the Bible an idiom for "nothingness." In Genesis 3:19, for example, it is written: "By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return." So returning to dust means you are reduced to nothing. 

So here is the problem: you, a young man, think that you are somebody; you maintain that you know something when you know nothing. So you are kidding yourself, for you are contradicting the wise saying, "Those who know the best know how little they know." In their spiritual immaturity the people of Judah thought that they knew better than the Lord. So they did not listen to Jeremiah.  

In the history of the Israelites, however, we are blessed with examples of people who through their humble attitude garnered many victories. One person that comes to mind is Abraham. How does Abraham strike you? What kind of image do you think he impresses upon you? For a serious Bible student, it will not be difficult to see him as a humble person. How do we know? One place to go for an answer is Genesis 18:27, for there he prayed to the Lord saying, "Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes..." He found himself as "nothing but dust and ashes." In the backyard of the children's center we see lots of dust. Just go there and pick up a spoonful of dust. How much value would you attach to it? Nothing! The same is true with ashes. And when Abraham described himself as dust and "ashes" he meant literally a man as good as "dead," for when a man dies he gets reduced to nothing but a handful of "ashes"; he has no opinion! Have you ever seen a dead person opening his mouth and sharing his opinion, saying, “This is what I think”? No wonder that each time the Lord asked Abraham to do something, he always obeyed. 

Conclusion: Salvation is not an easy venture. It is done only through God's way. Jesus called us as his disciples, working on God's way of salvation. A disciple is a learner. Through afflictions and sufferings Jeremiah learned what it is to learn, that is, through taking up the cross of mission, through training oneself to listen to the Lord, and through learning from the Lord and obeying him in humility. 

One word: let him bury his face in the dust 


Class Exercise:

1. Who did Jeremiah say "has broken his teeth with gravel"? What did he mean by this? 

2. Jeremiah says in Lamentations 3:19, "I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall." What does this passage indicate about the life of a [true] prophet (a Bible teacher)?

3. Fill the blanks: Let us examine our _______ and ______ them.

4. Jeremiah says, "We have sinned and rebelled and you have not forgiven." Why (has the Lord not forgiven)? __________________________________________

5. Jeremiah says, "The punishment of my people is greater than that of Sodom." On what basis does he say this? ________________________________________

6. "Those killed by the sword are better off than those who die of ___________.”

7. What Bible verse prophesies that God will make Abraham's offspring like "dust"? What Bible verse predicts that they will be as numerous as the "stars"? 

The end 

      The Living Bible translates verses 27-29, "It is good for a young man to be under discipline, for it causes him to sit apart in silence beneath the Lord's demands, to lie face downward in the dust; then at last there is hope for him." This rendering gives us an insight as to how difficult it is for a young man to sit down quietly and listen to the Lord and learn from him.